March 26, 1917 Early Spring

March 26, 1917

Shannon said he wanted to get the ice blocks before the lake ice got too rotten. I said I’d paint in the morning and come back by noon to help out.

After a hike in the bush, I climbed the hill to Mowat Cemetery and I got in a good sketch. I was at a good height that gave a good view of the far hills across Canoe. Mowat Lodge was down below, but the angle from where I was sketching from, I could not see its buildings. Further east, toward the near shore, I could see the square dots of cottages, ragged spruces, and a dark line of melt and runoff making a division between the land and water, of what was, only a few days ago, a white expanse of winter snow. A good picture.

I didn’t get back to Mowat Lodge before 2pm. I didn’t pack a lunch and returned hungrier than a bear. Annie had some stew on the stove for me and after a bear’s filling, I needed to take a nap. I wasn’t out there to help Shannon much before 4pm. I was in pretty good spirits, but regardless, I let Shannon down. I was hoping my good disposition would rub off on him.

Anyway, Shannon had Lowrie Dickson and George Rowe already to help him out. They needed the money, and more importantly, the booze. Despite the booze they’re good fellows and I get along with them well. They’ve made their reputation with Shannon. He hires and fires them regularly. But the Canoe Lake labour market is limited and they’re assured of regular employment with Shannon, whatever the foul-up. As for me, the itinerant and mostly unreliable artist with little money, I have the dubious distinction of being both guest and labourer.

Shannon’s a few years younger than me. He’s thirty-four and Annie is thirty-two. They married young — Shannon was twenty and Annie was eighteen. They have a daughter Mildred, she’s thirteen now. She’s one of the few children here in Mowat. She’s in Grade 8, one of ten students at the school by Potter Creek. If she wants to go to high school Shannon and Annie will have to send her to Kingston. On the weekends she helps with the chores, boiling and washing the guest linens.

We artists discovered Mowat Lodge in 1912. Before Shannon could shake a stick at us to shoo us off, he had more artists staying at the lodge than he could bear. Truth be told, he enjoyed our company because we weren’t very discerning about the lodgings. We joked that whatever wasn’t good enough for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was good enough for us. So long as we had a place away from the bugs at night we were happy. But the real gem of Mowat Lodge had nothing to do with Shannon’s charms and the rustic experience, it was Annie’s cooking.

Then the War hit, and things took a turn for the worse. Tourism dried up. Grand Trunk Railway got into financial trouble. Camp Minnesing after only two seasons was shut down. It was empty once again last summer. The way the War is I doubt it will open this summer. And to top it off, Prohibition was passed. Prohibition hasn’t yet stopped Shannon, George, or Lowrie from imbibing without prescription. Mail order liquor shipments from Montreal are still the way to go.

I’ll have to make a point of visiting Lowrie and George. They live in the shacks on the mill property. Lowrie managed to get himself a Victrola so it’s worth the visit. He said it was a gift, but I suspect there was an alternate means of acquisition. I’ll never question. Never look a gift Victrola in the mouth.

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