Chubby’s in charge at Mowat Lodge.
George Chubb, we call him Chubby, was hired by Shannon as storekeeper and postmaster. Chubby is a big help in the summer season doing the bookkeeping and the handling of accounts for Mowat Lodge. At the insistence of Annie, Shannon hired Chubby in 1915 for the summer to get the books in order. Annie runs a tight household on the home economics front but she’s not good with money and numbers. Neither is Shannon.
That’s where Chubby comes in.
Shannon’s good at telling others what should be done, but the details always evade him.
I remember back in 1915, Mowat Lodge was a going concern but Shannon was in for a rude surprise when his order didn’t come in on the train one week. The grocery store refused to extend him further credit. It turned out he wasn’t paying his bills on time and and that’s when I offered to lend him the 250 dollars. The next week, without telling anyone in advance, he bought a fleet of canoes at full store price.
That’s about the time when George came to the rescue. He was camping on Little Wap Island with his friend when their axe handle broke. They came over to Mowat Lodge to see if they could buy an axe handle. Of course, Shannon didn’t let on that he didn’t have one and tried to convince the men to stay at the Lodge for the night. While they were talking, I slipped out the back, found a piece of ironwood and within the half-hour I had fashioned an axe handle as good as anything found in the shops. Shannon was still talking to them when I returned.
“Here you go.” I gave the handle to George.
‘How much do you want for that? ‘ He asked.
‘Nothing.’ I replied.
‘Well, I should do something in return.’
That’s when Shannon hit on the idea, ‘You could help us with our accounts.’ It turned out while I was making the axe handle, Shannon was giving Chubby an impromptu interview. Chubby had a job down in the City as a bookkeeper but he was looking for a change. He didn’t like the air in the city; it was making him sick. That’s why he came up North to see if it was true about the healing air.
So Chubby started the following week. His friend went back to Toronto with instructions to send up his other things for the summer. Since we already had one George (George Rowe) so we called him “Chubby”. He didn’t mind. Chubby was a pretty handy fellow to have around. That summer, Shannon decided to convert the adjoining storehouse into a kitchen and dining room. It was Chubby, George, Lowrie, and myself that did all of the work. Lowrie had just finished his cabin up by the old hospital and rented it to some Americans. He moved in with George Rowe by the old mill and was ready to ply his newly-acquired renovation skills on Mowat Lodge.
We worked hard that summer. At noontime dinner, we’d come into the kitchen like ravenous dogs. Annie always had the table full of food. Shannon’s mother was the unheralded cook of the household, and when we sat round the long kitchen table I made sure that I wouldn’t start before Old Mrs. Fraser said her grace. Chubby would wait too, but George and Lowrie were oblivious to etiquette and form. They dug right in without regard to any ceremony.
It wasn’t long that Chubby got everything in order at Mowat Lodge. He also became the storekeeper, and took care of the mail and telegraph messages. He did the daily mail delivery rounds to the lake residents, but it was Shannon who got the mail from the train on his daily sojourn to Canoe Lake Station.
I was glad to see Chubby around. I knew that with Chubby in charge, the Mowat Lodge operations would be singing, and Shannon could entertain his hands-off management style. During the summer months all of the money came in and Chubby made sure that it didn’t disappear before the bills got paid. He also made sure the guests made paid their proper bill and board. Shannon never understood the workings of a ledger and the calculations that he made in his head were subject to a mysterious order. Annie knew he was off and the money should be more, but as I wrote earlier, Annie was no good with numbers.
In the afternoon, I entertained the guests by catching supper. I was fly-casting down by the shore. The water is getting warmer and the trout are moving deeper, but they still are feeding on the surface, you just need the right fly. I’d use my split bamboo rod – I could cast further into the lake than with any steel rod. The trout have gotten pretty smart in this lake, they knew what to ignore, but I made some new flies with patterns they’d find tempting. I always keep a close eye on the flies and insects on the lake and watch the circles on the water. That told me what the trout were feeding on and I’d adjust. When one took the fly I’d hear the whoops coming from the verandah of the Lodge. They could see the rod bend over and the line going taut and the fight was on. I’d entertain the guests by letting the line run out before I drew it back in. I didn’t have a multiplier reel so it took some fast reeling so I wouldn’t lose the fish. I’d reel it in, drop it in the creel I borrowed from the Lodge, and start for another. By the end of the afternoon, I had caught five handsome trout, and lost three others. It was enough for dinner. Shannon insisted that we take a picture of the catch, all strung on a line, before we cleaned them for dinner. As he was taking the picture, all I was thinking about was that I could have had those other three if I hadn’t been so intent entertaining the guests.