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One Chance

  The tiny antique silver pin lay in my hand. I stared hard at the solemn face looking back at me from the oval frame. I was looking for some resemblance between my ancestor and myself. Her brow was broad and strong, the eyes kind and forgiving. She wore a stiff black bonnet(无边小圆软帽), a high white collar and a coarsely woven shawl(披肩) around her shoulders. In examining her face more closely, maybe I could identify some similarity around the eyes and the nose. An inner strength shone from the eyes of this diminutive lady who had helped lead her family from Ireland to the New World.

  The times, in Ireland during the 1770’s, were difficult for everyone. John and Lily Love and all the tenants(租地者,佃户) of the Barren’s Court Estate were suffering after terrible floods destroyed their crops. The landlord was generous in allowing the land rent to fall into arrears(拖欠,还款), due to the difficult times. However, as weather conditions continued to worsen, the little family became pessimistic and felt desperate about the direction of their lives. Nearly every family at this time had at least one member of their family who had left for the New World. The ugly face of famine was lurking(潜藏,潜伏) everywhere. It was not possible with one acre of arable(可耕作的) land to make a living.

  Late one night, after the children were in bed, John and Lily discussed the possibility of making a reservation aboard a sailing ship bound for America. John had noticed a poster in the town square, that posted by a ship’s owner trying to recruit people for his ship. John knew that conditions aboard ship would not be ideal for Lily, her new infant son and the two elder boys; however, she acknowledged that settling in America would be the only way for the family to gain some independence and to earn a living. More importantly, it was rumored that land was free in the new country. Lily gave her consent to leave.

  In port, the sailing ship, Hannah, under the command of Captain Mitchell lay at anchor. The adventure of crossing the Atlantic Ocean bound for Philadelphia would take two to three months. Passengers were assured there would be the best provisions and plenty of barrels of fresh water. Storms could be fierce and living conditions below deck would be primitive. John joined the long queue and eventually after a lengthy wait, reached the revenue table. He affixed(签署名字) his signature to the contract promising to pay five pounds per person for berths(卧铺) aboard ship. The clerk returned the receipt to John indicating that the sum of money had been paid.

  Once under sail the three hundred passengers found themselves crowded into miserable conditions. The smell of so many people crowded together was offensive. The breadth of the vessel was narrow and the headroom(净空,头上空间) below deck minimal.

   As the tiny craft sailed out of Lough Foyle, and entered the Atlantic Ocean, it started to roll ominously(不吉利的) and those aboard wondered if they would survive the long voyage ahead or be swallowed up by the enormous waves. Seasickness(晕船) was everywhere and people had no appetite. The food, instead of being of high quality as promised, was too often rotten and the water was brackish(有咸味的).

  Eventually, the winds lessened and the Captain was able to set his sights towards America and become ably steering the ship on an even course(航线). Eight weeks later, plus on day, the Hannah made landfall(着陆) and the Love family disembarked(离船上岸) in America and became American newest immigrants. Gazing at the mainland after so many days of sailing was indeed a glorious sight. The difficult days aboard ship seemed worthwhile. Porters hurried along the docks pushing baggage. Little girls with ribbons in their hair scanned the ship’s decks hoping to get a first glimpse of their father arriving. It seemed to Lily that it took forever to register and to pass through immigration.

  John said that he would go ahead to scout out some land in the far west of the state. He would push on to the frontier with a bunch of other Irish chaps. Lily and the children could follow more slowly, harnessing the horse and cart to convey their scanty(贫乏的,少的) possessions. The stuff in the cart would include a kettle, dishes, blankets, a chair, a bucket and an axe.

  There was a perception by the government at this time that the feisty(易怒的,好斗的) Irish would resist any hostile natives refusing to retreat and thus maintaining the western boundary. The Irish, too, were pleased to settle as far away from the government as possible. Instead of purchasing land, they would “squat(占据)” on the property erecting only a temporary, humble shelter to stave off(遮挡) the weather. Once their families arrived, they would inspire the men to build proper cabins. Neither fancy nor elegant, these log structures would be their first real homes. Property boundaries at this time were not marked out with iron rods or stakes in a standard fashion, but rather designated(标明,标出) by natural objects such as rocks, trees and creeks. Confusion and disputes must often have followed later, when these survey points disappeared.

  After exploring the area around Shirley’s burg, John and his sons rode over Sandy Ridge to survey the property below Black Log Mountain. It was here in a long narrow valley they decided to settle. The valley became known then, and is still called Love’s valley today.

  At the time, drums were used to forewarn(预先警告) that the natives were going to capture the forts(城堡), which guarded the western frontier. Daily life in this new land, for the early settlers, was harsh and difficult. First they needed to tame the land, chopping down trees, in order to be able to plant crops. At times they needed to defend their land and be wary(机警的) of attacks from wild animals, such as wolves and bears. Mosquito bites caused severe reactions of swelling and itchiness(痒痒). Once the work was done, neighbors would gather for an occasional social function. The children would play for hours chasing butterflies and looking for birds’ nests. The boys would catch frogs and then tease(戏弄) the girls with them. There would be a delicious picnic lunch spread on the grass. John asked Lily to bring some freshly squeezed lemon juice for the picnic. He found the sour taste of lemonade(柠檬汽水) was refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Some of the men would have a drink of homemade(自制的) in the moonshine before striking up a tune on the fiddle(小提琴). Square dancing was popular among the young people and the young lads would leap up to dance with the eligible(中意的,合格的) young ladies. Rivals for a young lady’s hand in marriage would tend to compete to walk her home at the end of an evening. The romantic times were few and contrasted sharply with the stern reality of everyday life.

   Neighbors were also few and Lily found she was very lonely. She looked forward to the occasional visits of the minister, Robert Ayers, who was a Methodist circuit rider. Meetings would be held in fields or small barns, three to four times a year. At other times neighbor women from over the mountain would meet to make quilts(被子), blankets and cushions and to gossip(聊天) about their respective lives. They would share their secret fears regarding their new lives, their hopes for their children’s future and enjoy each other’s companionship(友谊,伴侣关系).

  Twenty years slipped by and John Love died at the early age of 47. Several years later, son James and his family, as well as widow Lily, his Mother, made the decision to leave Pennsylvania and settle in Canada. They made the arduous(困难的,艰巨的) trek(旅行) over Indian trails, crossing the Niagara River to settle in what we now call Ontario.

  I am a Canadian. Having traced my roots and followed in the footsteps of these early settlers, I feel a sense of gratitude to my ancestors who faced extreme difficulties and severe hardship to settle in a new land. Liberty, then and in today’s world, is a priceless inheritance(遗产).

  Once more, I glanced at the silver pin before returning it to the velvet(丝绒的) box. Once again, I questioned, “What did I inherit from my Love ancestors?” I realize the answer has been revealed while writing this story. I have determination, strength, loyalty and a love of adventure. This is my inheritance.








  终于风浪减弱了,船长能够看准美国的方向,成功地驾船工行驶在平静的航线上。八个星期零一天之后, “汉纳”号靠岸,洛夫一家在美国登陆,成为美国最早的移民。经过这么多天的航行,凝视着这片大地,的确令人心旷神怡。看来在船上过的那些艰苦的日子还是值得的。码头上的搬运工在忙着搬运行李。头发上带着丝带的小姑娘们环视着甲板,希望第一眼看到他们到来的父亲。对于莉莉来说,登记和办理移民手续好像没完没了。






  20年过去了,约翰洛夫在47 岁时就过早地去世了。几年后,儿子詹姆斯和他的家庭,还有他的母亲——寡妇莉莉,决定离开宾夕法尼亚到加拿大定居。他们经过艰难跋涉,沿着印第安人的足迹,渡过尼亚加拉河,在今天我们称之为安大略的地方定居下来。