In 1941, my grandfather Antonio ‘Pit’ Allard deserted the army to avoid fighting in World War II, a war that he felt had nothing to do with him. He spent the next four years in hiding, living under a pseudonym in the Matapédia Valley on the Gaspesian peninsula in eastern Quebec. He worked summers as a farmhand and would spend his winters isolated in the forest, working alone as a lumberjack. He spent four winters in this solitary situation living off beans and lard. He broke the monotony of the work and of this desolate diet by trapping hare using snares and shooting partridges with his .22 rifle. This was a time when hunting was a means to a very vital end, not a weekend hobby. It was a way of life and a source of food for many.
When the war ended, Pit eventually settled down in the city of Montreal, started a family and moved on, as did the rest of the world. However, every year my grandmother, Jeanne Bujold, would send her husband on his way to a log cabin, his second home in Northern Quebec. Pit never gave up hunting. It reminds him of who he is, where he comes from and why he is still here today.
My grandfather is known for his storytelling. His stories, based both in historical fact and myth, have become part of our family’s identity. They tell of time spent in the wild and many of them find their origin in these hunting trips. He turned 90 years old in 2009 and announced that it would be his very last year making the trek up north to the cabin. In October, I made the long trip up with Pit, my uncle Jean-Guy, his friend Yvon and my cousins Marie and Vincent. Following him into the woods was an occasion to not only document part of my family’s history, as a photographer, but also to become part of it by actively participating in what would undoubtedly be added to the library of folktales, recounted at the next family gathering. I went to document my family during this transition and to remember who we are, where we come from and ultimately, the reason we are all here.
By Alexi Hobbs