Guide’s License


Guide License, April 28, 1917

I got my Guide License today. I wasn’t going to get it but Mark Robinson thought it would be a good idea and a dollar well spent (that was the cost of the license). Being a guide was the first step to being a Park Ranger. I wasn’t planning to be a Ranger, but Mark said it was a good option to have if there was a call-up for the army. Park Rangers were still needed on the home front.

To get the license, I had to go to Park Headquarters at Cache Lake and have a visit with George Bartlett, Park Superintendent. Bartlett didn’t really like me but Mark called ahead and put a good word in for me. Mark said that the less I said to him, the better. Bartlett didn’t like men talking back to him, and if necessary, he’d put up a fight. Bartlett was a fighter when need be. He got his reputation when he had to put a lumber camp back into order. He just asked that his back was covered and he took on thirty men at the camp. After a half-dozen were knocked silly, he had the camp back in order. No one ever challenged his authority after that.

Queen’s Park gave Bartlett almost absolute authority and that included the guides. There was a strict code to be followed that included no drinking while guiding. One guide went on a bit of a bender one day, and the next day he had his license taken away.

I met with Bartlett in the early afternoon. I hitched a ride on one of the trains from Canoe Lake Station to Algonquin Station. The conductor let me ride on the back of the train. It was fine ride, especially over the trestle bridge near Cache Lake. I could see the guards on both ends of the trestle. Guards were stationed twenty four hours a day, and whenever a train passed by, they were ordered to traverse the bridge, crossing each other in the middle. Their job was to inspect for burning embers or anything that could set the trestle on fire. At the middle, there was a small platform just big enough to hold two men. After each train passed, it was a race to the middle. A brief rest, and then a race to the other side. The trains were pretty frequent some times, so the two men would wait in the middle for the next train to pass before racing to the other side. Some said it was good soldier training – sheer boredom, interrupted occasionally with sheer terror.

Bartlett looked me over, and I could tell he wasn’t convinced that I should get a license. But he had Mark’s good word and gave it to me anyway. I had the license put under Mowat’s Lodge name. Shannon would expect me to work for him, not the Colsons.

I spent the afternoon hanging around the Highland Inn. They were getting ready for the tourists. I visited Tom Salmon who was in charge of the outfitting store there. We talked about fly fishing. His father was a champion fly caster in England. He showed me his father’s rod and some flies that he’d been working on. I also met this kid, Ralph Bice. He was about seventeen years old and he got his guide’s license as well. His father is a Park Ranger and I recognized Ralph from a few years back. He was grown up, but I wouldn’t quite call him a man yet. I could tell by his mannerisms he didn’t think much of me. The feeling was mutual.

I took the train back the same way I came. I could see those two poor souls getting ready to run the bridge. The trestle might survive the war, but I have my doubts that these soldiers would.

Since the better part of the day was for business, I didn’t have much time to sketch. When I got back to Mowat Lodge, I set up on the veranda and did a quick sketch of the lake. I’ll probably scrape it later. Daphne was asking me questions while I was sketching. I answered politely, but I wasn’t really engaging the conversation. The sketch suffered from the lack of my full concentration. Another reason to scrape it.

Someone brought a book on the Colorado and the Grand Canyon. I learned there was a direct route from Chicago. It would be easy to get there – steamships were quite frequent from Depot Harbour to Chicago, the grain ships coming from the west. My good friend John McRuer lives in Colorado. I could visit him. A possible adventure if things don’t turn out here.