la rive sud – mon oncle joe

sainte croix 600

Joseph Hébert (born 13 May 1914  and died 19 June 1979) was Amabilis’ little brother. He married Rachel and moved to Farnham in the Eastern townships. Rachel’s hugs would smother you, she was as big as Joe was small. He limped his whole life.

In 1923, when he was about nine years old, my brother Joseph was shot by Maurice Laliberté, a cousin. He had just purchased a rifle and proved himself dangerously incompetent with it.

On that terrible day, we went to Lucieville with Papa, my sister Anne-Marie, and Joseph. (Lucieville is in between present day Laurier-Station and Saint Édouard.) The Héberts owned a small plot of land there.

We always had a great picnic when we went there and we had promised ourselves one that day.

Maurice showed up with his new carbine. My father, seeing this, loudly stopped him from coming into the camp with the gun. Maurice turned around, took his rifle, and went away.

Eventually, my father had to go to work, so he left. Shortly after, Maurice returned, carrying his new gun. He came to the door, ready to enter the cabin. When Joseph saw him, he was so scared he jumped on the bed to step back away from Maurice and the carbine. Joe stayed down on the bed, which was up against the window.

I scolded Maurice, “You know what my father said!”

“No danger.” said Maurice, confidently.

I reminded him again about how angry my father would be, and told him again to stay away. He didn’t listen and came through the door’s threshold and into the cabin.

Suddenly, Maurice noticed a small group of kids who were coming back from picking blueberries at the bottom of our lot.

“I’m going to scare the hell out of them,” he said, moving towards the window intending to squeeze just one shot off with his new gun.

I cried out to Joseph, seeing that Maurice was moving towards the window where he sat on the bed, “Get up from there!”

As I said this, the rifle went off. The bullet lodged in poor Joseph’s leg

Joseph is lucky, it could have been a stomach shot, and he would have died for sure He certainly felt as if he was dying now. Poor Joseph!

We used the cleanest handkerchief we carried as a makeshift bandage. Monsieur Abelard Laroche had his car nearby and sped Joseph to the house as quickly as he could.

He stopped by Thomas Poulin’s house, who had a telephone, and called the doctor to tell him to come to our house as quickly as he could make his way.

My poor brother Joe suffered greatly. The bullet lodged itself between two bones and was very hard to dislodge. The doctor, dug into Joe’s leg, using his fingers to try to find and remove the bullet. The wound grew more ragged and wide as he probed. The doctor was not gentle and we worried about infection. Penicillin was not invented yet.

What Joe's leg looked like inside.

What Joe’s leg looked like inside.

We had to replace his bandage every day and disinfect the wound with a very strong medicine which soldiers used in the war, some type of sulfa drug.

Our neighbor, who was surprisingly also named Joseph Hébert, seeing the nine-year old Joe suffer said, “This drug is for horses. It doesn’t make sense to use it on someone so young.”

The doctor changed his prescription, but Joseph stayed very weak for a very long time. He limped for the rest of his long life.

Maurice Laliberté took his carbine to Sainte Anne de Beaupré where he promised never to buy or shoot another firearm.

The Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré occupies a mystical place in Québecois lore on the North Shore of the Saint Lawrence, just 30 minutes outside of Québec City. It’s a place of pilgrimage known for miracles.

One week after Joseph’s accident, one of his classmates, Emile Coulomb, lost both legs to a harvester thresher driven by his father. He didn’t see Emile, playing in the tall hay.

The poor man quickly rushed his  son back to the house.

One foot was completely cut off, and the other was just hanging by skin and some tendons. His father carried Emile with one hand, cradled against him, while holding tight to the severed foot with his one free hand.

Don’t ask me to describe the pain that must have been felt by this man, but he kept his head and saved his son, a good lesson.

He was able to get his son to a hospital where they were able to reattach his feet, quite an accomplishment in 1923. Emile was left disabled, but able to walk.

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