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Newest book from County’s favourite naturalist shares memories of ‘Growing Up Big Island’

Kathy Fowler (left) of Printcraft, who worked with Terry Sprague to lay out the book and get it printed with Printcraft owner Heather VanVlack.

Terry Sprague has enjoyed an exciting variety of pursuits over his lifetime in Prince Edward County, but none with as many memories as growing up on the family farm at Big Island, on the shore of the Bay of Quinte.

“I often wish I could become a young boy once again and relive those glorious days of growing up on Big Island, of work and play, and of childhood friends,” said Sprague, who just released his new book, ‘Growing Up Big Island’, his fifth literary effort, which relates memories from the 1950s.

Following a rewarding career as an interpretive naturalist with Sandbanks Provincial Park and Quinte Conservation, Sprague retired to Big Island beside the farm where he was raised. Sprague is also well known for his weekly column ‘Outdoor Rambles’ which featured in The Picton Gazette for 50 years, and his ‘Nature Stuff Tours and Things’ website.

His previous books include ‘Up Before Five’ – the Family Farm (2011), and ‘Naked in the Sand’ (2015)—a humorous look at some of his misadventures during his career as an interpretive naturalist.

“So much has changed over the years since I was a small boy growing up on our 350-acre farm. Fields that once grew our best crops of corn, and where killdeers and pipits would scatter from the furrows as I prepared the seed bed, are now quiet … The best years of my life were enjoyed on this old farm where each new day brought forth the sounds of farm animals,” Sprague states in the prologue.

Contained are stories of the one room school he attended on the north side of Big Island, the friends he had, milking temperamental cows, ice travel in the winter, operating farm machinery while still in his pre-teen years, growing tomatoes, and the memory of a tragic plane crash in 1955 on a neighbouring farm that still affects him today – some 65 years later.

“Both outhouses were partly concealed by healthy clusters of lilacs, their lavender flowers and delicate perfume working overtime to mask the unspeakable odours emanating from the structures,” one snippet recounts. “The boys’ toilet suffered horribly through the years. Numerous times, the door was missing and boys using the facility sat on the seat and communed with nature as they watched Borden cultivate his field just across the fence.”

Terry Sprague with a Jersey cow he remembers provided milk for the family.  “The house in the background is still there, although it was renovated by new owners after we sold the farm in 1976. Incredibly, I think the same hydro pole in the background that carried the wires to the house and barn is still standing after all these years, well preserved, I suppose, with creosote.”

‘Growing Up Big Island’ also includes a section written by his late wife, Nola, on her memories of growing up in Coe Hill. The book contains more than 75 vintage photographs.

Growing Up Big Island, 200 pages, is $30 at Books and Company, The Local Store, Printcraft, The Birdhouse Nature Store in Brighton, The Demorestville Cafe and from the author.

UPDATE: A book launch at Books and Company, in Picton, planned for Dec. 20th has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns as local cases have been rising. It is expected to be rescheduled for the spring.

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