March 30, 1917
Canoe Lake is still frozen solid, but the edges are melting away. The small streams feeding into the lake and Potter Creek are open and running. Shannon needed to finish his his ice-block operation today because it is becoming too dangerous as the weather warms up. This morning I helped him get the last blocks in. Neither George nor Lowrie showed up to help. I’m sure they had a bit too much to drink last night. Today was the last day Shannon’s horses went on the lake. That’s a relief for me, because I’ve become attached to his horses and if we lost them it would be like losing members of the family.
After I finished my duties with Shannon, I cut some boards from the crates he kept for me. Although I brought a fair number of boards with me, I needed to stretch out my supply. The ones cut from the crates are only 6 inches by 8 inches, smaller than the regular 10 1/2 by 8 1/2 boards. I like to bring a couple of these smaller ones, in case I need to do a sketch extra quickly.
Today, I ventured a bit further than I did yesterday. I went north from the lodge and then to the eastern shore. In the summer, there’s a beach — this was a campsite for the the Indians. This is where Canoe Lake got its name, because they made birch bark canoes here – before the railways and lumbermen made them move on.
I did my sketch near the shore of the lake. There’s lots of birch here. They like the low land near the shore. When the pines were all cut and the high water levels from the dams drowned everything else, the birches moved right in. The beavers like it too and there’s a healthy population. They’ve dammed the stream that comes down from March Hare lake. It was once a tiny lake, but it’s bigger now. There’s a beaver dam about a mile away — that’s where March Hare Lake is, and there is another one here, just before it drains into Canoe Lake. Because all of the water is dammed upstream there’s only a pond’s worth of water behind this one. Since it’s not close to anyone, it hasn’t been dynamited. From my recollection, the beaver dam is considerably larger than last year and the pond is much larger. Only a matter of time before someone notices and dynamites it.
I had a nice view back across the lake to Mowat Lodge and I could see in the distance the hill from where I painted several days ago. Another stand of birches presented themselves well in the foreground so I decided to paint this scene. I sat myself near a stand of young maples. Second growth too. When the pines are gone and before the soil washes away into the lake, all bets are off of who’s going to be successful. I see there are willows here too. They like being right at the water’s edge.
It was a stronger eastern wind when I was painting. The wind was coming down from the hills and blowing onto the lake. The wind did not have its usual bitter cold, but it didn’t have any warmth either. The wind was heavy, laden with moisture, and it felt like a harbinger of bad things to come. Winds from the east bring bad things with them. My eyes were watering, and the dampness of the cold was downright unpleasant. I decided I would do a smaller sketch today. After I finished I started back across the lake.
As part of my regular kit, I carry a line and a lure. A small axe too, which I wrap up in my burlap bag. On the way back, I decided to give ice-fishing a try. The wind had died down and the sun was starting to come out. I chopped a hole starting at one of the cracks. The ice is still thick, about a foot where I cut, but it was getting rotten so it was easy to get through. If the weather stays cold, the ice will be here another month. I didn’t catch anything.
When I got to the shore I saw some wolf tracks. They’ve been venturing closer lately. Shannon told me that there’s lots of deer and they’re attracting the wolves. The deer hang out close to the Algonquin Hotel (the guests feed them during the summer) and the wolves are following. Shannon said the the Province is thinking about having a deer-kill in the spring and shipping the meat to Toronto. He heard that from George Bartlett, the Park Superintendent.
When I got back I set my sketch in the dining room to dry. I had to scrub my hands with sand and then with soap, warm water and a bristle brush. We had a fine dinner and Annie made custard for dessert. After dinner, I suggested that we play some cards or crokinole. When I was looking for the crokinole board, I asked where the Ouija board was (we played with it last summer). Shannon said that Annie forced him to throw it out. She didn’t want any unwelcome spirits in the lodge. They still have the chessboard I brought up in 1914. That fall, I played chess most every day with the boys. I could beat everyone, except for this kid that came down every day just to play. He learned from the station master at Brule Lake. To pass the time, the station masters play chess using the telegraph. The boy’s family lived close to the schoolhouse, but they moved away in 1915. After that, I was once again the reigning chess champion of Mowat Lodge.