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The Last Resort - Chapter 10|
Arthur’s brother Frank, whom I had never met, had a large tourist camp at Ear Falls called “Little Canada.” He had written to Arthur asking him if he would like to run his hunting and fishing lodge at Wine Lake. I asked Arthur what kind of lodge that was. He said it was cabins out in the wild where hunters and fishers could stay during hunting and fishing season. Well, it didn’t sound very exciting to me so when Arthur asked me to go with him, I said no. It was only Indians that lived in places like that. I suppose I shouldn't’ have said that but I did. I was very surprised when Arthur agreed to go without me. That meant that I would have to get in the wood, water, see to the garbage and do the shopping. It was the water that I didn’t like getting. I had to go up the lane, cross a field and get the water from a well. It was hard work and I hated it. I couldn’t believe that Arthur would go and leave me alone
Gladys came in every morning and she would get my mail for me. We would have a nice visit over coffee then in the afternoon we would go shopping. Usually we would go to Bernier’s store as it was the closest and also because Mr. Bernier had two sons who used to tease us unmercifully. Emil was seventeen and Leo was fifteen. They loved to get our goat by running England down. They said that if England wasn’t fastened down with air balloons that had been put up during the war, that England would float away. Also all the taxes that Canadian paid would go to the Queen to keep her in luxury while the people of England starved. Boy, we used to get so mad. They would go on and on and on until we got livid then they would laugh their fool heads off. At Christmas time, they would take us unto the back room and give us a glass of wine so they did have hearts instead of swinging bricks! One day we were going up to the store to ask them which war bride had a face like a horse. We had heard that one of the pilots had gone into Bernier’s store and said: “Well, I don’t reckon much of the English war brides. One has a face like a horse.”
What a nasty thing to say. Anyway we were going to find out which one of use the pilot meant. Those two miserable boys wouldn’t tell us so to this day, we still don’t know!
Arthur came back from Wine Lake to ask me again if I would go back with him. I really didn’t want to go but I said I would so I started packing. I had no idea where we were going. Maybe I would have changed my mind had I known just how far we had to go. Miles don’t mean a thing over here. I know people who have gone three hundred miles just for a weekend. I know that wherever we were going would be a long way. When I first came here, Arthur asked me if I would like to go to Winnipeg for the weekend. Of course I said I would. Then he asked me if I would like a sleeper. I said “A sleeper? However far is Winnipeg?” When he told me, I changed my mind as I had no intentions on sleeping on anymore trains just yet.
We got on the train in Hudson and went as far as Red Lake Road where we were met by Charlie Jones, a friend of Arthur’s. He took us to Quibell where we spent the night. Early the next morning, Charlie drove us to the landing where Arthur had his canoe. Now I had never been in a canoe before and I certainly wasn’t looking forward to going in this little flimsy canoe. When I asked Arthur if it was safe, he got mad and said: “Get in and don’t move.” I got in and I was almost afraid to breathe but as we chugged along, I began to relax and enjoy the scenery. I had just found out how cold and long the winters were over here and now I was about to find out how large some of the lakes were.
At noon, we came to our first portage. Of course, I didn’t know what a portage was and though that Arthur had stopped so we could have something to eat. He started taking everything out of the canoe and told me to follow him through the bush. He took Sally Ann and Richard and I followed closely behind. I didn’t want him out of my sight for I could see nothing but bush and water. I don’t know how long we had been going through the bush but I was getting tired and I know little Richard was. Poor little boy. How strange he must have thought this was. All this rough bush which doesn’t seem to have an end. He started to cry and Arthur told him to shut up. I put my arms around him and told him as soon as we reached the water, we could have something to eat. When we finally reached the other side of the portage, Arthur laid Sally Ann down and told me to wait there. He needn’t have worried as wild horses wouldn’t have dragged me from that place. Arthur had to go all the way back to get the pack sack, motor, gas tank and axe. The next time he would get the canoe. he must have been dog tired although he never once complained. When we had everything loaded back in the canoe, Arthur lit a fire and warmed up some pork and beans and some Spam which tasted delicious. This was the first time that I had drank coffee out of a sardine can which we had found and washed out. It tasted pretty good to me. Anything I learned that you cannot be choosey when you are in the bush. I also learned that I could do things that I never dreamed that I could.
We still had a long, long way to go. It was fairly calm on the little lake that we were on. There was an old tumbled down building on the bank and I asked Arthur who on earth would build in this wilderness. He told me that it used to be an old Hudson Bay trading post and used to be very busy in the fur trading days when the Indians brought their furs in to trade. I little dreamed that I too would be living in the same kind of wilderness. It gets very tiring sitting in the bottom of a canoe with a baby in your arms for hours on end. When Arthur stopped the motor, he was standing up in the canoe and looking ahead, I said “For Heaven’s sake, what are you looking at?”
He said that he was looking to see which was he best way to go so I looked where he was looking and nearly had a fit. Through the channel of rushes, I could see this great big lake and it had mountains of whitecaps.
I said: ”You’re not going on that lake, are you?”
I started to cry and my little Richard was terrified. Arthur told us to lay on the bottom of the canoe and cover ourselves with a tarp so we couldn’t see where we were going.
I’ll never forget that trip as long as I live. I wasn’t going to die by fire. I was going to drown along with my children!
I felt the canoe being lifted right out of the water and slammed back down again. I felt the waves pouring over the tarp. This went on for two hours and then I felt the water getting calmer so I lifted the tarp and sw that we were in quiet water. I said a little prayer thanking God for bringing us safely through. We were socked through but Sally Ann was protected by a little plastic sheet.
Arthur pulled the canoe up on the shore and started a fire to get us warm and dry. We started off again and I didn’t know that we had only crossed half of that dreadful lake which was called Wabaskang. Arthur told us to cover up again as we had more rough water to cross. We had been on the water for eight hours. I wanted to get to Wine Lake as I was dead tired. My children needed to be washed and put to bed. We got across the lake and came to a portage by a waterfall. I thought we had arrived at Wine Lake.
I said to Arthur: “Is this it?”
He assured me that it was just a little longer. As I have said, miles don’t mean a thing over here. We took everything out of the canoe and carried it across the rock. It wasn’t a long portage, thank goodness. I was beginning to think that we would never got to Wine lake. We got everything loaded into the canoe and once again I waited for Arthur to start the motor. I looked to see why he wasn’t moving. He seemed to be fiddling in the water with the paddle.
I said: “What on earth are you doing?”
He said: “I’m trying to get this piece of lumber to shore. What do you think I’m doing?”
I said: “For goodness sake, let us get going. The children want to get to bed and I’m fed up with being on the water all day.”
Well, he finally did get that precious piece of lumber to shore and we took off. By this time, the sun had gone down and everything looked so dark and scary. I’ll never know how Arthur found his way. We were going down a river full of rushes and it was pitch dark. I couldn’t see a thing that I began to wonder if Arthur was really lost but didn’t want to tell me.
Whatever was I doing here anyway? I never should have said I would come way out here. I began to get myself in a very frightened state. When we came out of the river onto another lake, at least I could see the outline of the trees. I asked Arthur again how much further it was. He said that we were just about here.
Soon he was pulling into a bank. Surely this wasn’t it! I could see the outline of a little cabin on the bank. What a dark, lonely place. I was so stiff I could hardly move, let alone get out of the canoe. Arthur took his pack sack and said he would come back for Sally Ann. He went up to the cabin to light a lamp and then he came back for the baby and Richard. I followed and when I got to the top of the bank, I could see two other small cabins. it was in the second one that Arthur had lit the light which turned out to be a candle. Arthur lit the old heater then took the pails to the lake to get the water. I sat on one of the three little beds and wondered what on earth I was going in this place so far away from houses and people.
While I was sitting there, a little mouse ran up onto Arthur’s pack sack and started to wash itself. Oh, good, that’’s all I needed-to be overrun with mice.
Richard was crying and saying: “Mummy, how long are we going to be here? Can we go home tomorrow?”
I told him not to be afraid that I would look after him. I told him not to let his daddy hear him cry. Arthur came in with the water and I started to warm some up so I could wash the children and get them into bed. I managed to boil enough water for the baby’s formula. Richard had a bowl of cereal which Arthur brought in his pack sack along with a loaf of bread, can of milk, a tin of Spam, a tin of pork and beans and some bologna.
Arthur and I were too tired to eat so as soon as I had given the baby her bottle, we got ready for bed. It was nice and warm in the cabin. Arthur went into the other cabin and came back with mosquito bars which he put over the beds. Surprisingly enough, we had a real good sleep.
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