May 8, 1917 Violets, Trilliums and Groundhogs

May 8, 1917

I was sent on a mission today by Annie. To pick some violets, trilliums and leeks.

As for the trilliums, Annie read in the paper that the government was thinking about making the trillium the national emblem for Canada. Someone in Ottawa said the white trillium represented purity, the trinity and the foundations of the British Empire – England, Scotland and Ireland. The government wanted to make the trillium the official flower to mark the graves of soldiers. Judging by the number of trilliums I saw in the bush, they won’t run out anytime soon. Another reason to conscript soldiers – too many trilliums in the bush. Annie wanted to set up a bouquet in the dining room to honour the fallen soldiers.

It was only now, almost a month after Vimy Ridge, that we started to learn of the numbers of casualties. Shannon observed that while Canoe Lake did not get many telegrams, the telegraph line was awfully busy. A busy telegraph meant only one thing, lots of death notices being sent to families. I had heard the casualty list was sent to Ottawa first, and then they were divided up to be sent as individual telegrams across the country. Every rail station and post office across the country had become the first bearer of grim news to the families.

As for the violets and leeks, Annie had more interesting plans. The secret to Mowat Lodge’s success was not due to Shannon’s business acumen, but rather Annie’s cooking and culinary skills. She always knew what was the best of the season and could prepare something that was at the pinnacle of the season at hand. She wanted the violets not for its colours, but for its leaves. She was planning to make soups, salad and omelette with the leaves The same with the leeks, she was going to make her famous leek soup.

I went out and got what Annie ordered. I also picked a bouquet for Daphne. When I returned and gave her the flowers. I painted another mason jar. I used the paint I scraped off from my sketches yesterday as the ground for the jar (I added some turpentine to soften). After the ground was done, I painted a nice floral pattern and then I set flowers back in the jar. I asked Daphne to leave the flowers beside the white trillium bouquet as it made a nice contrast.

Annie was grateful for the trillium bouquet but I could see she was a bit put off by the newly-painted jar. Either it was ugly to her, or she was jealous that I didn’t paint one for her. This was my second for Daphne.

I saw Martin Blecher Jr. in the distance today. He has gotten his putt-putt boat out and is making the inaugural voyage to Canoe Lake Station (via Potter Creek). He has a pet groundhog on a leash. I can’t fathom that he brought a groundhog all the way from Buffalo. He must have gotten it here. A groundhog – it’s an appropriate mascot for an American draft dodger. I’ll mention that the next time I’m close enough to talk to him.

May 8, 1917 Letter to Dr MacCallum

May 8, 1917

Mowat Lodge P.O.

Dr. MacCallum,

Dear Sir,

Could you not stop off at Canoe Lake on your way up. It is eight miles this side of the Highland Inn and is the best starting point going either north or south. If you wanted to see the outfit at Cache Lake would you come back to Canoe Lake on the afternoon train which leaves there at about 2:30 pm and you would be back here in about 20 minutes otherwise I would have to pack the outfit over about 2 or 3 miles portage and we would have it back again where we could see the same place from Smoke Lake going light.

You can get any extra blankets or stuff from Fraser and I have all the supplies including:

1 gallon maple syrup, pail of jam, plenty bacon, potatoes, Bread tea, sugar, all kinds of canned stuff, tents, canoes cooking outfit plates etc. I tried to get some chocolate and failed have no Klim, & no coffee. That I think is everything we need for two or three weeks including Williamson. The weather for the last two days has been fine and warm.

Will expect you either Friday or Saturday and will not go over to Highland Inn unless you want specially to start out from there.

If the weather is bad, we may arrange to get in one of the Rangers Shelter Huts.

Yours Truly

Tom Thomson