April 21, 1917 Letter to Dr. MacCallum

Mowat Letterhead-640

Mowat P.O.
Apr 21, 1917

Dear Dr:

I have been here for over three weeks and they have gone very quickly. For the last two or three days the weather has been fairly warm and last night we had quite a heavy thunder storm and the snow is pretty well cleared off.  Just patches in the bush on the north side of the hills and in the swamps so now I will have to hunt for places to sketch when I want snow. However the ice is still on the lakes but it is very thin this year on account of deep snow over it through the winter so it will not last very long.

If you come up here this spring I would suggest that you come some time around the 10th of May as the flies are not going properly until about the 24th.

It is likely the ice will be out sometime this month.

Have made quite a few sketches this spring. have scraped quite a few and think that some that I have kept should go the same way. however I keep on making them

Yours truly
Tom Thomson

April 20, 1917 An Unnecessary Inquest

April 20, 1917

Today, I heard someone died in the Park. Joey Kehoe. He was only seventeen. I heard the news from Mark Robinson. He came down the the lodge this evening and he was visibly upset. We did some small talk first, and when all of the other guests went to bed he did some more talking.

Joey’s death happened on Thursday – two days ago. It happened by Islet Lake, near the rail bridge. Nobody was sure exactly what happened, but he was found dead beside the tracks two hours after the train went through. The train was no regular train, it was a troop train. The troop trains came this way because it was the quickest way to Ottawa. The recruits from out West would come in by steamship at Depot Harbour, and when there was a good load of them, they would go on the Grand Trunk Line to Arnprior, to Ottawa and then to Montreal and Halifax where they were shipped overseas.

Whenever a troop train came through the Park, George Bartlett would get a telegram from Ottawa to make sure the rail lines were safe through the Park. Several Park sections were tricky, but more importantly, the government was worried that enemy aliens would sabotage the lines. It’s bad enough to have a rail bridge or trestle blown up, but it’s infinitely worse to have a load of troops hurtle to their deaths.

Mark Robinson said that Bartlett got the telegram on Wednesday afternoon, and he needed to muster his men to guard the rails for Thursday morning. Now I understood why all of the shelter houses had telephones. Bartlett needed the ability to mobilize the Park Rangers at short notice.

Bartlett ordered the Rangers to get section men to guard the bridges throughout the Park. In the eastern part, the Blue Lake section gang was ordered to watch the bridge at Islet Lake, and it was Joey Kehoe’s turn. He’d have to stay the night and they’d pick him up the next morning. When they came, they found him dead. When Bartlett heard the news he ordered the Rangers to come to Park Headquarters this morning. Mark Robinson went to Cache Lake were he met with other Park Rangers, seven in total to discuss Kehoe’s death. After a brief discussion Bartlett decided that it was an accident and there was no need to discuss the issue any further. Tom McCormick thought an inquest should be held but Bartlett would have nothing of it.  He ordered that Kehoe be sent back to his family on the next train possible.

I could tell by Mark Robinson’s recounting of the story that he agreed with Tom McCormick’s position and that he felt that Bartlett’s handling of the affair was too abrupt and cursory. But Mark’s a good soldier, and he said that what he saw overseas would make your hair curl, and its best to follow orders without question. I believe that’s why Bartlett asked for Robinson to be in the Park back so soon after his service overseas – not because he was a good man (that counted) but that he would follow orders. I think the other Park Rangers, especially McCormick, got the message, that if they didn’t stay in line, then they could go to the Front instead.

So Mark and I sat by the fireplace for a good while. Shannon came over too, and we talked some more. No whisky was in sight because Mark wasn’t a drinker and Shannon knew well enough that he needed Mark’s goodwill in times of need.

As for sketching today. I did go out but not for long. The wind was biting cold this morning and it was strange weather. A thunderstorm last night, rain, and then snow pellets.

As for Joey Kehoe, I feel sorry for him and his family. Mark told me that his father died the year before and Joey was the sole support for his mother and two younger siblings. You think there would be compensation for the families in these situations, but you never hear of it. The Park is silent about these things.

April 19,1917 Thinking

April 19, 1917

I spent a lot of time thinking today. What am I really doing? I don’t know but I’m sketching every day. Is what I’m doing a true urgency of mission or am I doing it because my energies need to be put into something whatever that is.

We try not to talk about the War that much. It’s supposed to be so far away, but the newspapers come in everyday with stories of Germay’s impending defeat. Every day, slightly different narratives, but the same stories, nothing changes. Like the story about the two brothers, who hadn’t seen each other for seven years. They had enlisted in different parts of the country without each other’s knowledge (I don’t think they were close to begin with). And then they unexpectedly meet each other in the trenches in France. A feel-good story for the newspapers. Until two weeks later one of them gets killed. I wonder why the newspapers don’t write the story about the poor mother in Dorset who lost her three sons over the course of eighteen hours in battle. No, that wouldn’t make it into the paper.

We talk about the war, but we’re careful. Someone said in a newspaper editorial that ‘any difference of opinion should be employed fighting the enemy. There’s no need to waste fighting here’

So what am I doing. I’m sketching. I’m drawing. I’m painting. I find it distressing that we’re fighting the very ones I drew inspiration from. The German Expressionist, their insistence on bold strong colour and harsh depictions. The North lends itself to these techniques and it was me who introduced the rest to what was here. If I hadn’t, they’d still be painting scenes of farmhouse, bland countrysides and maidens sitting on the beach.

It’s good to have a plan, but sometime it’s better to live day by day and catch the moment when it’s appropriate. I just remember when Lismer came up to visit me for the first time, how he was shocked by the contrast of the Park to what he had known of the countryside in England. I knew that too, but maybe not as intensely. The landscape where I grew up in Leith was pleasing but not so inspiring with intensity with what I see here.

Once I finish this series of sketches I think I’ll move on. The sketching should be good until later May before the bugs get too bad. It’s been a cold spring, so that should mean a couple more weeks of bug-free weather. I’ll get some guiding work for May and June and starting thinking about moving on. Most likely out to the Rockies.

April 18, 1917 Zeppelins of Canoe Lake

April 18,1917


I am the artist. Shannon is the dreamer. Or maybe the schemer. We’ve been reading a lot about the Zeppelin raids in the papers. I made a sketch in the summer of 1915 when the storm clouds reminded me of Zeppelins. The big clouds always remind me of Zeppelins now.

Shannon hit on another money-making scheme today. He’d turn Mowat Lodge into the centre for airship tourism. I couldn’t believe what he was saying, but then again he says a lot of things that I don’t believe in, so there was no reason that anything would be different this time. I listened.

Shannon said he was thinking about it a lot. Air travel was the way of the future. The trains were about bankrupt and the government was about ready to take over the Grand Trunk. Some of the trestles were about to fall apart, and it would only take one trestle failure to paralyze the Park. Business was good with the consumptives, but it was the tourists from the United States that had all the money. And that money needed to get into the Park, or more specifically, into Shannon’s hands.

With the War, aviation was advancing at a breakneck pace. Barely a week went by without the papers having an article on some new-fangled flying machine or stories of new exploits of airmen. Night bombing raids were the latest advancement. Submarines were the thing of wonder at the beginning of the War, but now it was aeroplanes and airships, especially the Zeppelins.

The Zeppelins were a sight to behold and they especially terrifying. I remember in the summer of 1915 reading about the German fleet of Zeppelins bombing cities. “Baby-killers” is what the Brits called them. When I saw the pictures in the papers I could only imagine them overhead, over 500 ft in length. I couldn’t the size so I paced the length out on the ground. After that, I couldn’t comprehend how a thing of that size could ever get in the air. Now there were reports were reports that these behemoths could fly over 50 miles per hour. Size, speed and terror.

That’s when Shannon did the math. Zeppelins travelling as the crow flies meant shorter times to the Park. The train ride from Toronto was over 9 hours (if you had good connections). A straight flight from Toronto would be just three and half hours. From Buffalo, it would only be a little over four hours. The way Shannon saw it, the Zeppelins could be flying money machines coming in from the Great Lakes and from the Eastern States. He could see the ad, “Mowat Lodge: Best fishing. 4hr Zeppelin ride from Buffalo”

Shannon started hatching his plan. He could convert the old spur line into a Zeppelin docking area. A wooden docking tower could easily be built (after all there as more than enough wood around). The area was reasonably flat that an aerodrome could be built and with it being close to shore, it could also service floatplanes. Another reason for the aerodrome was the possibility of an airmail service. Carrying post by plane, Shannon claimed, was the next big thing. Carrying post by floatplane meant that whole Park could be serviced. It was a recipe for wealth.

Annie weighed in on the discussion. She forbade Shannon to run a newspaper ad with any notion of airmail or Zeppelin travel. She was not pleased when Shannon ran an ad claiming that they had an open fireplace at Mowat Lodge (they didn’t). They had to scramble to get one built before the guests came. That certainly wasn’t going to happen with Zeppelins.

I enjoyed listening to the conversation. Shannon always had these flamboyant schemes and he liked to entertain the guests with his plans. The consumptives were a captive audience, but the other guests simply disappeared when these types of topics came up. Charlie Scrim and I would stick around, and only after Shannon would leave we would bust our guts laughing.

As for my painting today, I went out in the bush behind. I painted a small 5 x 7 panel but I didn’t really like it. I scraped it out of frustration and turned it over and did some sketching with a pencil. I was thinking too much about Zeppelins.

April 17, 1917 Ugly Shores

April 17, 1917

The shores of Canoe Lake can look pretty ugly. Especially in front of Mowat Lodge. It’s part to blame with the rise in the lake levels. The Gilmour Lumber Company needed to raise the water levels to connect the lakes to the Oxtongue river so he built a dam at Tea Lake and another at Joe Lake Creek . The junk trees left behind and close to shore died a pretty quick death so now you have these corpses of trees ringing around Canoe Lake.

Canoe Lake used to be the Park Headquarters but that moved to Cache Lake. Part of the reason was to be closer to the railway and the centre of the Park but I think the real reason it was so goddamn desolate, the Park authorities wanted to get out of here. Even the Presbyterian missionaries left. Despite the size of the Mowat Village in its heyday, they never managed to establish a church. On occasion they held services and the Lord’s Supper at the Manse – the Rangers residence, but a church never stuck. The scores of shantymen working at the mill were never in the mood for salvation. As for the school, the only other institution of worth in Mowat, never graduated beyond a tar paper shack. I had heard there were several dozen students there at one time, but now it’s down to eight or nine students.

Yes, it’s apparent. My mood is not the best today. I didn’t venture out too far. I just went down to the shore just north of the cottages down below. The clouds were pretty thick today, and the ice on the lake is turning a sickly blue. It’s getting thinner but it’s still a foot thick. It’s probably ok to walk on it, but this is the time of year when foolish men begin to disappear.

So I sketched on the shore. You can see the carcasses of the trees, but there is some second-growth too. The birch trees are the first to come. The second growth attracts a lot of deer. Indeed there are quite a few deer in the Park and a kill is planned to ship the meat to the City. There’s lots of wolves too. But even more deer. The deer are plentiful because the food is plentiful. Mark Robinson told me that he thinks they’re inbred. They’re usually bigger, about 250 lbs for a buck, but they’re coming in well under 200 lbs. Around 150 lbs. Inbreeding. So a good cull is in order.

The weather is getting better, but it’s that time when the spring muck grabs your boots and won’t let go of you without a fight. So I’m staying around the lodge these few days and helping with some the chores. There’s always lots of things to do for Shannon and company.

I’m also considering getting my Guide’s license. I’m going to stick around the Lodge and spend time with Charlie. Judging by his coughing, he’s not long for this world so I’m going to stay. When Shannon heard that, he said that I better make sure he was doing guiding for him, not for Algonquin or he’d double my board bill. I said I would take the jobs when and where they came from – Joe Lake or Mowat Lodge. I spoke to Mark about getting my guide’s license and he said that George Bartlett likes to have a heart-to-heart chat before he gives out the guide’s license. He’s had a few problems in other years. The guides that were poachers were problems, but the real problem were the ones that would drink. Alcohol is not allowed in the Park and the Temperance act meant it was now an especially grave sin.

I finished my board and now have about two dozen at the lodge. I put some in my room and I’ve set some out in the summer kitchen in the back (not in operation yet). Annie will need that space soon, so I’ll have to figure where else to put them. I’ll probably start leaving some at Mark Robinson’s place or at the Trainor’s

April 16, 1917 Inners and Outers

April 16, 1917

I wrote a letter early this morning to my father. I promised Shannon that I would take the mail to the train station first thing in the morning. Shannon needed to get his order to the Renfrew Creamery so he couldn’t afford to miss the mail today.

Shannon asked me to walk with Mildred on her way to school this morning. Mildred is the daughter of Shannon and Annie. She’s thirteen, and this will be her last year of school (Gr. 8) unless she decides to go to high school. That would be in Kingston where she has some family. My feeling she is going to stick around working at the Lodge, or at most get a job at the Highland Inn. She’s too attached to her mother and grandmother to stay away for long.

Mildred looks like Shannon, but she has the resolve of Annie. She’s pretty smart with numbers too and she’ll probably end up as a store or play clerk, like what Winnie does in Huntsville.

The walk up to the schoolhouse is a good mile or more. That’s if the crow flies. But you have to make your way around the chip yard, so by the time it’s done, it’s almost another half-mile . There’s some other kids from a family that live in a Gilmour shanty house further south on the road. Shannon takes turns to give rides, taking them to school and bringing them back in the afternoon. When the weather gets better the kids will walk alone. But today was a problem for Shannon. He had to put an end to the milk cow (the one with mastitis) and needed the wagon. The other family had an emergency – the mother had an attack of some sort. Molly Colson went to see her last night and the kids were in no condition to go to school today. It’s safe for an adult to to walk along, but with all the deer around, the wolves are still hanging around too. They are fewer in number due to the poisonings, but lately they’ve been getting closer to the houses.  Wolves normally don’t like to be around people, but there’s speculation there’s been some cross-breeding with dogs, or they’re being fed by the poachers makes them no longer scared of people. So that’s why Shannon asked me to walk Mildred up to the school this morning, just to be safe. Shannon said he’d be done with the cow and would be able to get her in the afternoon. Despite his faults, Shannon is a good father to Mildred, and she’ll turn out to be a good girl.

After dropping Mildred off, I decided to pay a visit to Annie Colson at the Outfitters Store. She was busy getting things ready. Said she didn’t have much time, but she made tea and we sat and chatted. She was happy to be on her own venture now. She worked for long enough at the Highland to get sick of the “Inners” as she called them. The city-slicking guests who dressed up and took for granted room-service in the wilderness. At least with outfitters store at the Algonquin Hope, she hoped to deal with “Outers” as she calls them, people who know their way around outside.

I dropped the mail off at Joe Lake Station instead. It didn’t really matter whether it was Canoe or Joe Lake Station it ended up in the same mailbag. I just had to make sure it was the Arnprior-bound bag.

I went to the east shore of Joe Lake and found a north-facing slope and made my sketch. It was similar to what I had painted a couple of days earlier, but it was mostly more mature maples this time. There was a number a sap-pails on the trees. I don’t think these were Shannon’s or Ed Colson’s either. I had no idea whose pails these were, so I left them well enough alone.

The water is running pretty hard at Joe Lake Dam. The streams have all much broken free of ice now. The winter scenes in the woods are becoming a bit tiresome now so I think I’ll try some rapids in the next few day.

I heard what I thought was thunder or dynamite. It wasn’t either. It was the lake ice cracking.

April 16, 1917 Letter to Father

April 16, 1917

Mowat P.O. Canoe Lake

Dear Father:

I have been up here for two weeks making sketches. Had intended going up home for a day or two before coming here but wanted to be here before the snow was gone so could not spare the time. The lakes are still frozen over and will be for two or three weeks yet and there is still about two to three feet of snow in the bush so I expect to get a lot more winter sketches before the snow and ice are all gone.

Tom Harkness and Walter Davidson were in to see me the day before I came here also Miss Andrews and Low Julian (I don’t know if the last name is spelled properly or not) but I don’t think they enjoyed the show a great deal as they are taking lessons from Manley the worst painter in Canada.

Am stopping at the Post Office here until the ice goes out when I will start to camp again. have tried fishing thru the ice two or three times but have had no success yet have caught some ‘ling’ which is a cross between an eel and a fish but they don’t use them up here.

I did not send any paintings to the O.S.A. Exhibition this year and have not sold very many sketches but think I can manage to get along for another year at least I will stick to painting as long as I can.

I got quite a lot done last winter and so far have got some pretty good stuff, since I came here and expected to do a great deal between now and June.

Have not decided if I will stay here the whole summer or not.

Hoping you are all well. I remain your loving son.

April 15, 1917 Catching Ling and Field Glasses

April 15, 1917

It’s Sunday today. I thought of going to the Colsons at the Algonquin Hotel. Ed Colson is a lay preacher and they hold a service 11am but I decided to stay back for Annie’s Bible reading.

Despite its larger population in its glorious history, Mowat Village never had a decent church. Despite the village being named after the Provincial Premier, Oliver Mowat, it never gained any stature. There were missionaries that came to minister to the souls of the village – that’s how the Trainor cottage, the “Manse” got its name, but a church was never established. The leases down by the shore were once owned by a Reverend Turk, a Methodist minister from Owen Sound. The Manse (now the Trainor cottage) was large enough to hold services for those interested, which wasn’t very many. Back in the day, there were a lot of French Canadians in Mowat Village. They didn’t have a priest or a church. And I’m sure that the Methodists just assumed that the French, being Catholics, were destined to Hell and not worth saving.  Thus the French never viewed the area as being home, and  were the first to clear out when the village began its decline. Shannon said there were are a few left when he first arrived in 1907, but they were gone soon after. “Gone to Hell, I think” Shannon said.

A couple of years ago I asked my parents if they ever heard of Rev. Turk in Owen Sound. The answer was an emphatic “No! Why would we know any Methodists? They’re worse than the Baptists!”. Rev Turk, according to Shannon, was an odd missionary and that he was rather ‘loose in his beliefs.’ I thought this was a judgemental statement by Shannon, because his belief system, in my view, was on one of the lower rungs of the religion ladder.

Rev. Turk finally came to his senses in 1910 and decided to leave his calling and cash out his village investments. He had a lease on a large shore lot, and sold part to the Blechers (the southern part), another part to the Trainors (the Manse on the southern part) and, between these two, another lease to the Hayhursts. The result was three unrelated vacationing families, living in  close quarters by the shore. In the evenings, there was much entertainment to be had on the verandah on Mowat Lodge. Shannon has a pair of field glasses, and the pastime of many evenings was to pass these glasses around to observe the comings-and-goings near the shore. The Blechers were especially entertaining because the younger ones would fight like roosters. Once there was something floating in the lake; it took the field glasses to discern that it was a chair that originated from inside the Blecher household. Over time, the passing of the field glasses become an illicit and secret ritual known only to the Mowat Lodge residents. Everyone was forced to swear not to reveal this secret to the cottagers down by the shore. Shannon was gracious enough to let the consumptives in on the secret;  it helped them to pass the time while on doctor’s orders.

My friend Charlie Scrim had arrived the other day. He was in rough shape when he first arrived so I let him alone. I promised to take him ice-fishing when he felt better and before it’s too dangerous to go on the lake. Today, he was feeling better, and the ice was getting more rotten, so today was the day of opportunity because tomorrow might be certain death. We decided to go after the Sunday noon dinner.

Charlie and I are very good friends. We met the previous summer when he came from Ottawa for recuperation. He was diagnosed with the consumption and immediately dispatched from working in the family business in Ottawa to recuperate here in the Park. The Scrim’s have a florist business in Ottawa and a big part of their business is flowers for funerals and memorials. Since consumption was a major driver of the flower business, I suspect that Charlie’s condition became an awkward reminder that his demise might be the next occasion for flowers. More likely, the family didn’t want the word get out that there was a consumptive working in the flower shop. It would be bad for business. So Charlie, as a consumptive and like many out-of-wedlock pregnant women, disappeared without notice to visit a distant relative. And that’s how many of the consumptives show up here at Mowat Lodge. I am not sure where the pregnant women go, but it certainly isn’t anywhere in the Park.

Since Charlie was in better spirits, we spent the morning catching up on the goings on in Toronto and Ottawa. I told him that it was exceedingly unpleasant for a single man to be seen alone in the city, hence my early departure up north. Charlie said much the same of Ottawa, but he said the city was still pretty jittery after the Parliament fire and reports of night-time air raids threatening attacks from over the border. The possibility of raids were never substantiated, but after Premier Borden ordered a blackout in 1915, anything was credible. Other reports of sabotage put people on edge: the Black Tom explosion in New York, the trestle incident on the Vermont border, and attempted bombing of a munitions factory down in Windsor. The official word on the Parliament fire was that it was an accident, but the perfect act of sabotage always looks like an accident. The report said flames came out of nowhere in the Parliamentary reading room, most likely from a forgotten lit pipe. But the speculation by many that it was a incendiary fluid poured on the newspapers by a German saboteur.

I told Charlie that Park Superintendent George Bartlett was getting jittery too. I told him that Mark Robinson just came back and is staying at the shelter house by Joe Lake Station. Mark’s supposed to keep an eye on Sim’s Pit and the trestles. Bartlett trusts Robinson more than any other ranger. A few years ago, Mark single-handedly apprehended a suspected killer and disarmed his from his gun. Bartlett commended Mark on his bravery and duty, but then ruled the incident as an accident and let the man go. Within the Park, the Province gave Bartlett the powers of judge, jury, police and coroner. Everyone jokes that while God is the supreme ruler of the Dominion, he plays second-fiddle to Bartlett in the Park.

After our chat, I went out for a quick sketch and was back in time for 11:00am Bible reading. I like this time of day in the spring time because of the contrast and angles of the shadows. Between 10 and 11 is the perfect time of shadows and bright sunlight and I wanted to catch a good scene before noon. I hiked up not too far away from Canoe Lake Dump. The path to the dump was pretty much cleared off. No bears to be seen. Shannon had mentioned he was going to make a trip when it was dry enough so I told him I’d have a look and let him know the condition of the path. It’ll be at least another two weeks before he can make the trip. Despite the dump in the foreground, I had a good and view of the lake. I sketched, sitting on old chair with no back. I’m not sure why the chair was still in the dump. It could be easily fixed. I’m sure if Shannon sees the chair he’ll bring it back.

In the afternoon, I went ice-fishing with Charlie. We went down to the shore of Canoe Lake just in front of the Blecher cottage. We walked down from the Lodge, about 250 yards from the cottages and the shore.  A challenging walk for any consumptive. and Charlie was tuckered out by the time we got there. We went out about a 100 yards, and chopped a small hole. We quickly caught some ‘ling’, and eel-like fish. We threw them back into the water, because Annie doesn’t want those things in the lodge.  ‘Any watery relative of the serpent is not welcome in my establishment’, Annie once acclaimed when she first saw a ling. I thought she was talking about Shannon not being welcome.

We tried again an again; no trout, just ling after ling. We came back empty-handed but Charlie was in better spirits after the expedition.

The Sunday finished out as any Sunday should.  A fine dinner, and whisky by the fireplace. The field glasses were on the fireplace mantle. They would remain there unused, until it came close to ice-out later in the spring or when the the cottagers moved in for the summer.

That’s it for now. I plan to to write a letter to my father later this evening or early tomorrow.

April 14, 1917 Of Sick Cows and Infirms

April 14, 1917

1917 Winter in the Woods

It was Saturday morning breakfast this morning. On Saturdays, Annie likes to put on a bigger selection than the other days of the week. On Sundays she likes to have a humble breakfast, while on weekdays it’s more of a simple working man’s breakfast. Today it was pancakes, bacon, brown beans and maple syrup (Shannon’s maple syrup and it still tasted funny)

I found out there was a crisis in the barn this morning. Annie went out to milk the cow and could get nothing more than a yellowish puss from it. She came back in a panic and Shannon went out to try to milk the cow. After some swearing and a few kicks (both by Shannon and the cow) nothing came out, except for the ooze. It was mastitis. The cow had mastitis. It’s a nasty infection in the udder that turns the milk pretty much into cheese. The cow’s udder was rock hard and it looked in pain. It wasn’t just one quarter, it was all four quarters that were infected. This cow wasn’t going to be long for this world, and a surfeit of old cow stewing beef would be in short order.

That meant Shannon needed milk for the week. In a pinch he could borrow some from the Colsons, but he’d have to start ordering from Renfrew. Grocery shipments came in on the Friday train. They had a special ice-car to ship milk and butter but it only came once a week. You had to place your mail your order in on Monday, and it would arrive on Friday. That meant almost a week of milk rationing. We could make do with cans of Klim (evaporated milk) that was left over from last season.

A few things about the rail services here in the Park. Mail and newspaper delivery was about as good as it gets. Ironically, being in the wilderness here, we had better connections to the outside world than most of the province. The rail stations had telegraphs, Park Headquarters and the Rangers’ cabins had telephones. You could phone to New York, Ottawa and Toronto – if you had friends on the other end with a telephone. They were still pretty new and most business was still done by mail and telegraph. Mail was especially efficient. I could send a letter by noon the one day, and it would be in Toronto or Owen Sound by noon day after next.

Food shipments were another matter. The railwaymen treated food shipments as their own traveling buffet. They would help themselves to the sausage, butter and fruit as they saw fit and to cover their tracks they would feign an unloading accident on the station platform. Once Shannon returned thoroughly enraged, when his orange crates were busted and all of his oranges had rolled down the hill into the lake. In his rage, he neglected to notice that he was missing several pounds of butter, links of sausages and milk. Annie noticed this when she reconciled the shipment with the order but by that time it was too late. As a result of the unreliable food shipments, the Frasers try to order as little as they can or food that takes some effort to steal and prepare – like bags of potatoes or flour. But they needed milk, so they had no choice to start ordering again.

I went sketching in the early afternoon. It was spring in the openings, but it was still as much as winter in the woods. I went due west into the bush and came across a grove of young maple saplings growing beside a pine stump. The stump was over 3 feet in diameter, so the fate of this tree (from many years ago) would have been a mast for a tall ship. You could see the maples were competing for the light and were growing as tall and quickly as they could. Only a few would survive into maturity. I couldn’t help but relate this to Vimy and the boys overseas. Thousand had to die, so only a few fat old men could benefit in their armchairs. Like a lumber baron or an industrialist.

When I returned, the consumptives were out on the porch. It was a miserable day for them. The cold wind was coming straight at them from across the lake ice. One of them was in tears and wanted to go back in. But Shannon wouldn’t let them. He had to follow the doctor’s orders or he wouldn’t get the extra doctor’s allowance they paid him. Fortunately, Molly Colson came by to check up on them. While she is a hotel proprietor, she is a nurse too. She has an arrangement with George Bartlett to keep an eye on the sick and be ready in case on an emergency. She’s delivered babies in snowstorms, mended broken limbs in lumber camps, and now, treating the infirm at Mowat Lodge.

Shannon was happy he didn’t have to pay her any money, but he did send her off with a jug of this maple syrup. The faster he can get rid of the stuff, the better.