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2 Minutes with Merle Sullivan

Merle Sullivan of Nuttby is shown on his 95th birthday, Nov. 26, 2014. He passed away just shy of his 96th in August 2015 after a long and happy life.
Merle Sullivan of Nuttby is shown on his 95th birthday, Nov. 26, 2014. He passed away just shy of his 96th in August 2015 after a long and happy life. - Harry Sullivan

The night the 'Gypsies' came to 'Hillbilly Mountain'

The old man mind-walks back to his youth.

Like a black-and-white reel nearing the closing credits, one more story yet to unfold.

“Well, what was I going to say… 1933 or ’32? I was, of course, going to school then and one rainy, stormy, windy, one of the worst nights, the gypsies came.”

At the time of telling he’s 95, daily routine from a nursing home bed.

About 13 when the “gypsy” family took refuge from a November storm in an unused camp on his family’s property. Nuttby Mountain, minutes north – today, at least – of Truro, N.S.

“The next morning, of course, word soon got around, that these gypsies moved in there. So, everybody was curious and wanted dad to kick them out. But dad never turned nobody out.”

Grandma and Grandpa gypsy, they came to be called. Buster gypsy, early 20s. Chubby gypsy, late teens and a 10-year-old girl. Unnamed. Two horses. Two wagons.

One morning, he and his father stopped by.

“They weren’t thieves or bad people. All they was doing was just trying to get by.”

“They were sitting there cooking their breakfast. You talk about third-world poverty. They were mixing flour and water up and frying that for their breakfast. You’d go in there and they’d be just like gypsies. Dark eyes glaring right through you.”

His family helped where they could, provided Christmas dinner. Come spring, those gypsies were gone.

Eighty years on, final days upon him, the memory of that winter still rested heavy on his soul.

“They weren’t thieves or bad people. All they was doing was just trying to get by.”

But the community didn’t trust them.

“If that had been today, the church would have been in there helping them.”

My old dad, Merle Sullivan, died shortly after.

“But it’s a nice little story to know,” he’d said. “I just thought I’d pass it on to you.”

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