April 13, 1917 Balsam Boughs

April 13, 1917

Path Behind Mowat Lodge

This morning I went out behind Mowat Lodge. The sun was strong, and the ice pellets that fell early in the morning quickly melted away by the strength of the sun’s rays. The snow is still deep in many places and along the paths that have been travelled on by sleds are still solid with the snow. I walked along a path and came upon a nice scene.

The path I sketched is one of several paths that run off from Gilmour Road down towards Canoe Lake. You can see the lake in the distance, still iced over but the ice is getting rotten and blue. Birch trees are on both sides of the path, and there is the occasional spruce tree. These paths were used to haul the pine logs down towards the lake and then towed up toward the sawmill.

After my sketch I helped Shannon to get some balsam boughs. He was going to get George Rowe and Lowrie Dickson to help him out but they had a falling out. Shannon said emphatically, “They were drunk again, so I fired them.” I knew that this wasn’t a big deal, because he’d hire them again the next day.

The balsam boughs are the latest in Shannon’s scheme to promote the health-compelling benefits of Mowat Lodge. Drafty doors and windows provide health-compelling benefits according to Shannon. Every week he puts fresh boughs of balsam in the rooms of the consumptive guests. Apparently the emanations from the boughs are helpful for breathing. For an extra charge, Shannon will makes bed mattresses out of the boughs. He got the idea when he heard that the Nominigan Lodge uses the boughs for bedding. It doesn’t look too comfortable to me.

In the afternoon I decided to pay the newly-fired employees, Lowrie and George, a visit. They live about a half a mile north the lodge on a small point of land just across from where the lake splits into Potter and Joe Creek.  On my walk there, I passed by the cemetery, on the right, up on the hill. It has a good view of the lake, and easy to locate because of a large lonesome birch tree. It must have been there before clearing because it’s  larger than the other birch trees in the area. As it is the only decent tree, it must be the reason why the cemetery was located on the hill.. I could see the path up to the cemetery, but it is still covered in snow.  There’s two graves there – the one is recent, from 1915 when Alexander Hayhurst died from diptheria. The family’s cottage is across the lake, near where I camp. I remember when Mark Robinson had to bring the casket across the lake by canoe and Shannon brought it up to cemetery. That was a sad affair.

I arrived at George and Lowrie’s.  George and Lowrie are the extent of the local labour market (they’ll get re-hired again by Shannon because they are the only option). Their house is one of the old Gilmour cabins. They invited me for the evening (I warned Annie that I might not be back) and the liquor came out fast and furious. Dinner was nothing fancy. George had a stash of ship biscuits, which he soaked in water first then heated up in bacon grease. It went well with the whisky. Truth be told, anything goes well with whisky, even nothing.

George told me that he got a lease from the Province for the northern part of the Gilmour Sawmill. He was planning to build a new cottage on part of the old foundation and use what wasn’t already scavenged by the locals. He wasn’t worried about getting materials because he had ‘connections’ in the Park. He said he wanted to build a private indoor bathroom, just like what Bartlett had at the Park Headquarters. To his knowledge that was the only one in the Park. Even  at the Highland Inn, the rooms didn’t have private bathrooms. George wanted his own private throne in the Park. I had to admire him for his acute resolve and lofty ambition.

We drank the evening away and I stumbled back at midnight.There was a thunder and lightning storm earlier in the evening but we didn’t pay much attention to it. I heard a few parting rumbles of the storm and saw the lightning strike the other side of the lake.