- Gens d'ici -

My neighbor the carpenter and blacksmith

Carole Dansereau, Translated by : nom, John Rhicard’s daughter

Félix-Antoine and John in the forge  Photo : Hugo Lavoie

The meeting between John Rhicard, carpenter-blacksmith of Stanbridge East, his neighbor in Dunham, Felix-Antoine Leclair and the listeners of Ici Radio-Canada Première is uncommon.

Journalist Hugo Lavoie from the Gravel le matin morning show had the lovely idea of presenting workers who, in their own way, make a difference.  To thank them for their involvement and commitment, Mr. Lavoie has created a column entitled Les Hugo d’or. Without fuss and in a very convivial way, anyone could nominate the rare pearl that is part of their entourage.  So, we had the pleasure this fall of hearing weekly chronicles, one just as endearing as the other.

But the one that touched me most and that won the first prize at the Hugo D’or gala on December 20 remains undoubtedly the meeting between two citizens of our region ; a surprising encounter between a young man of 15 years, Felix-Antoine, who nominated John, 80 years young, for this chronicle.

As a listener, I have to do my mea culpa and point out how surprised I was that a teenager could be interested in something other than his friends, his Facebook and all those electronic gadgets.  Moreover, the same adolescent recognizes and values the manual work and ancestral practices of his neighbor, Mr. Rhicard, in a world characterized by the «every man for himself».  Another unexpected point : a young person listening to a morning talk show !

As for Mr. Rhicard, contrary to all expectations, the time to retire has not yet come.  At 80 years young and on the ball, he rediscovered with passion his tools, his workshop, his sugar bush and the outdoors that never ceases to provide him with the essence of his creations.

From the age of eight, Félix-Antoine was fascinated by this craftsman who, with his hands, built a barn for his father.  The trees felled by John in his woods and then sawn in his sawmill, the metal worked in the forge to create and assemble pieces of different dimensions and finally the respect of the latter for the old practices certainly contributed to shaping the imagination of this young child.

Today, Félix-Antoine wants to learn the rudiments of the forge, this forgotten craft.  He also received his first lesson by forging two pokers during the recording of the show.  He must now continue his apprenticeship which, according to his teacher, learns very quickly.  But as the proverb says : «It is by forging that one becomes a blacksmith.»

A living community

This story touches me because it reminds us of the importance of meeting in the community ; a meeting made possible thanks to the openness to the other. John did not hesitate to pass on his knowledge, starting with what he learned from his grandparents and on down the line.  And Felix-Antoine did not see him or perceive him as an old and outdated person.  They alone have managed to transcend intergenerational prejudices.

This story touches me because it uncovers several myths, especially about young people and their lack of sensitivity to heritage and things of the past, as well as that the elderly remain a heavy burden on our society.

This story touches me because it presents a francophone and an Anglophone and shows us that it is possible to go beyond the borders of the language to speak the language of the heart.

Finally, this story challenges me because the past, the present and the future are united in the same space-time.  This encounter creates and evokes above all hope in humanity.

Thank you Félix-Antoine, thank you John and thanks also to Hugo Lavoie, journalist, initiator of these inspiring chronicles.

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