May 26, 1917 Waterspout

UrNBbm4May 26, 1917

I decided to stay the night at my camp site at Hayhurst Point. The past few days I had been staying at the Lodge because the bugs had gotten real bad. But after the events at Mowat Lodge, I needed to get back some space and solitude.

My tent, now set up was as good as a Ranger’s shelter house. The balsam boughs I cut, made some nice bedding underneath my blankets. My kerosene lamp was hanging on the nail on the tree. It made for a nice reading light in the evenings. My set up was as nice as, or better than, the guest tents outside of the Highland Inn. And more private. My silk tent and a cot that I bought a couple of years ago, I’ll be using that when I travel. It’s packed up in the store house and I’ll be sending up to my friend Tom Wattie in South River for safekeeping. For now this tent will do the job, it won’t go anywher and I don’t mind leaving it behind if I need to.

Despite my solitude, I’m staying close to Mowat Lodge in case some guiding work comes up. I’ll be fishing most days from now on, but I’ll be stopping into the post office daily to check for mail. After the exhibition (and the drinking) things seem subdued at the Lodge and I feel I need to make myself scarce for awhile.

The water was rough today. Frightening, actually. I was out fishing near the south end of the lake, near Gill Lake portage when the weather changed for the worse. Not unexpected in spring, but  around 3 p.m. the sky turned a sickly yellow and the pressure dropped suddenly. I felt it in my ears. The lake all of a sudden became a sea of whitecaps. I knew it was dangerous so I canoed quickly over the portage point. There was a clearing where I could pull my canoe completely out of the water. I did that and then I saw it. The waterspout.

It came out of the clouds, descended and and touched the water. From my vantage point, it looked like a tiny wobbly thread, but where it touched down near Gilmour Island, it must have been 15-20 feet thick. The waterspout moved north from between Gilmour and Cook Island and up the east side of the lake.  As just as it came, it picked up and disappeared into the clouds. It was on the lake for less than a minute. I’m sure I was the only one who saw it (the east shore only has a few cottages). The sun came back, the whitecaps disappeared and it was as if nothing happened.

When I canoed back to my site, my tent was blown down and the blankets and boughs were strewn into the bush. I couldn’t find my lamp so it must have been Heaven-bound. My sketch box and it was bashed off the hinges. I recovered the contents (including a few notes and letters – miraculous that they didn’t fly away, like the  lamp). Like my poison oak, I could concluded that this was a bad omen and the shaking up of my camp site was a warning. Maybe Nature was telling me to leave or join up, and if I persisted in what I was doing, another act of God would be wrought on me. God made this abundantly clear with signs of destruction further downshore. Two large pines were snapped off at the middle about 200 yards away. The spout must hit land before it went back up. Other than the broken trees and my campsite everything else looked intact. So God did spare my campsite, but not without a good shakeup.

It only took a few minutes to get my site back in order. I had heard of waterspouts, but this was my first one. I looked across to the Mowat Lodge dock and saw that the canvas canoes (not the board one) were picked up by the wind and floating upturned in the water. I canoed over and fetched them back before they floated down the lake. I first thought that Shannon should count himself lucky that he didn’t lose them. My second thought that maybe this was a necessary act of redemption that I was obliged to carry through. I’ll tell Shannon tomorrow that I fetched his canoes, but I won’t bother with telling him the true reason why I did it. He’d use that aspect of truthful admission and honesty to somehow charge me more.

So despite the weather, drama and destruction, I’m camping alone tonight. Fate knows where I am, regardless. I’m sure God would have trouble ordering up a second waterspout on the same lake on the same evening. I figured I was safe for the night at least The bugs must have known a waterspout came through because there wasn’t one in sight. Unusual for this time of year, but appreciated nonetheless. I didn’t catch any fish this afternoon, either. They, too, must have sensed something so they stayed deep and didn’t bite. They must have known a couple hours ahead, because it was the worst fishing afternoon for me. I caught nothing.

I settled in the campsite. I made tea and biscuits soaked in heated bacon grease for supper. The sunset was a fine red through streaks of clouds. I’ll write a letter to Winnie tomorrow.

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