April 12, 1917 Moving On

April 12, 1917

Winter Scene

I wrote a letter to Jim MacDonald. I wanted to get it posted this morning so it gets on its way to Toronto. The main reason for my letter was to ask him to send up some paints. I’m not yet running low, but I’m using a lot of white, more than I expected. I also forgot my flyhooks in the Shack so I asked him to find them and send them up. I’m keen to go fishing in the open water soon. I can see the brookies and they will be biting soon.

I walked up the path to Canoe Lake Station. Shannon’s sap pails are still out but it’s nearing the end of the sap season. Maybe a day or two left. It’s the tricky in-between season and the path is snow-slush or mud. It’s still impassable by any wheeled vehicle of sort and it’s tough to get the sled through the mud. It’s hard for the horses to pull through this stuff. This time of the year is hardest for the the horses and in the lumber camps it’s time of of year that they most likely to die from an accident, or exhaustion, having made it through hardship of winter, but unable to cope with the uncertain demands of spring.

The ice was still thick on Potter creek so I decided to cut across where I knew it was still safe and went to Joe Lake Dam.  Below the dam, I walked along Joe Creek, about about 100 yards to a spot where I liked to fish in the summer. This spot stays in the in the shadows and there’s still lots of snow. The creek is flowing clear of ice, but it is still a narrow channel. That was my scene to sketch today.

When I was done, I stopped by to see the Colsons at the Algonquin Hotel. They’re busy trying to get the outfit open by May. Ed and Molly Colson were the managers at the Highland Inn, but during this past winter they decided to strike out on their own and they bought the hotel from the Rochester owner. It’s a big risk for them, but I have full confidence they’ll succeed, mostly due to Molly. Molly’s discipline and resolve to succeed is stronger than anything or anyone in the Park. At the Highland Inn, Molly ran a tight ship and I’m sure she would do the same at the Algonquin. It’s my speculation that their motivation to move was the uncertainty what would happen at the railway hotels. With the Dominion Government considering the nationalizing the railroad, they might also make a clean sweep of the staff of the hotels.

Ed’s older sister, Annie Colson, came along too. She’s going to run the outfitter’s store down by Joe Lake. Annie had the reputation of getting all of the provisions just right for any canoe trip. Nothing to much, or not enough, but just right. She had a knack for sizing up a company just before they left, adding or subtracting provisions, as required.

It was Annie who greeted me at the front door. I could tell she had been working hard but was ready for a quick break. She invited me in for tea in the kitchen. It was warm, the big range was burning full-tilt, heating water for the laundry. Lizzie Dennison was in the kitchen too. She worked for the previous hotel owners. In the winter she was the cook at one of the nearby lumber camps and in spring she’d come to help get the hotel ready for the summer. Molly’s kept her on to work for her.

The tea break was prompt and short. I could sense that Annie wanted to get back to work. I didn’t see Molly but I had a feeling she knew I was around but decided that she had better things to do. I bid good afternoon and moved on my way.

I stopped at the Joe Lake shelter house. I wanted to see how Mark Robinson was doing. I knocked on the door and stepped in. Mark was just getting off the telephone. It was still a novelty for him, George Bartlett had a line installed along the rails connecting from Rainy Lake to Whitney. Bartlett had heard that the Brits ruled India by telegraph and he was determined to do the same in the Park but with the telephone. Mark said he was hoping to get the telephone line run to Scotia Junction so he could call North Bay and Toronto.  On the outside Mark was doing fine, but I could tell that he had something burning on the inside, so I made my visit a short courtesy call, and again, moved on my way back to the lodge.

The day had progressed and it became more beautiful in the afternoon. The sky had the clouds that you only see in the spring. Not the angry thunderclouds of summer, but the cotton puffy clouds that looked like sheep. Over the course of the afternoon, these sheep clouds continued to gather thickly in the eastern horizon while the western horizon was as a clear blue as it could be. I was tempted to sit down and do another sketch but my socks and larrigans were wet. If I still had my camera, I would have taken a photograph.

When I arrived at the lodge, a letter was waiting for me. It was from my father. He wrote that mother was feeling better and the War was worrying everyone. They visited Tom and Elizabeth in Annan, the first time since the beginning of winter. Father and mother visited our former neighbours, the McKeens  but didn’t go to see the old farm. The farm was out of the family now, and it didn’t seem right to visit it any more. I felt the same way too. The farm in Leith had been a good part of my life, but I’ve moved on. I am here now, but I feel like I need to move on.

April 12, 1917 Letter to Jim MacDonald

Mowat P.O. Ontario April 12, 1917

Dear Jim,

I’ve been here at the P.O. for almost two weeks now. It’s been a pretty cold spring and there’s still lots of snow in the bush. I’ve made an arrangement with the Frasers that I’ll be able to stay here on account until July at least. I’ll be doing odd jobs to keep the expenses as low as I can.

The sketching is going well. I’ve been out every day. I don’t venture too far out, which I hope to do when the ice is out most likely in May. There’s more snow than I bargained for, so I’ve been using quite a bit of White. I’ll add a list to the end of this letter of things I’m hoping you can send up.

Mowat is getting busier each day. Shannon seems to have done a good job of convincing the consumptives to come in springtime. He’s quite the publicist – ‘Enjoy the Vista View While Recuperating In Comfort’ was his latest ad in the newspapers. As for us artists, we get to enjoy the ‘Rustic Charm’, meaning the rooms with the least heat.

I plan to keep the sketches here at the lodge. I am going to have a show here on Victoria day and should have about 60 or so by then. After, I’ll have them sent down, and put in the shack.

Please give my regards to Mrs. MacDonald and Thoreau.




I need a few more paints and Lawren said I could put in on his account at the store. For shipping, ask Dr. MacCallum, as he may have some proceeds from some sales.

– White – I’ll need several tubes. I used a lot painting the snow
– Red, Orange, Vermilion, Yellow, Alazarin
– Green – emerald, veridian
– Blue, it’s expensive so just one tube

Also, I forgot to pack my flyhooks. You’ll find about a dozen in the side shed, top drawer in the cabinet. Can you send those along too?