Our encounter had been set up by some of Huibert’s friends after they told him about a young Italian man with the passion for hunting. At the time I had no idea that, half a century later, the legacy would continue with Anke, his surviving wife.
In 1967, a few months after landing in Canada, I arrived in Sutton and knocked at the door of a cottage on Chemin Macey. It was my first encounter with Mr. Huibert VanGinhoven, the bearded man who invited me in.
Because of my poor linguistic skill, our conversation did not expand beyond the conventional but it was soon obvious that our compatibility overcame the meaning of words. That night, I slept under a thick quilt while a snowstorm pounded the window and woke up greeted by a cup of coffee and slices of toasted bread.
The snow was two feet deep when I left the house and, in spite of my youthful energy, I was breathing hard while following the tracks of a deer across an open field. It was impossible to understand in which direction the animal was heading because the wind pushed the snow into the deep holes left by its hooves. Regardless, I kept following the tracks until a pine forest where partridges and rabbits were known to take shelter.
Under the pines, where the snow was not as deep, I noticed that the deer had extended its steps and increased its pace. I began running and there it was, standing still in a corner of the forest. For a short moment, we gazed into each other’s eyes, then I lifted the rifle and pointed.
A loud boom exited my mouth and the animal jumped disappearing at once.
I fell into the snow and looked up at the sky for the time it took to regain my composure and my breath.
Back at the house, I reported the event to Huibert and bragged about my hunting skill while sharing my pride for sparing the deer’s life.
Through the periodic recall of that day, I came to appreciate the sense of hospitality offered by a man who opened the door of his house and made a stranger feel at home in his new country.
This was the Canada everyone spoke about – generosity and unselfishness above all.
When we will surely meet again, I can well imagine Huibert VanGinhoven standing at an open door beyond which all memories are kept for eternity.