June 2, 1917 Statten’s Boys

June 2, 1917

The day was beautiful, the sun was shining and the clouds were billowing in their glorious forms. It’s on days like these that the afternoon winds become capricious and powerful against your will. It was a gentle wind from the West but then it shifted suddenly from the South and swept up through the islands northward through to Joe Lake. The serene surface can turn into frenzied white caps seeking your destruction.

I heard the cries from the verandah. I was working behind the lodge in Annie’s garden. I came around and saw the the guests frantically pointing to three small specks on the lake amongst the white caps grasping onto what I could make out was an upturned canoe.

I didn’t hesitate. I rushed down to the shore. Fortunately Shannon had the good sense to have a life ring installed down by the dock. I grabbed it along with a section of rope, threw it in my canoe and launched myself into the water. It took me less than two minutes to reach the stricken souls. The waves were high and I stayed as low in canoe as I could. I didn’t want to capsize too.

I tied one end of the rope to the ring and the other end to the rear thwart opposite me. I made a slip-knot in case I had to let the ring loose. I paddled closer, but not too close, because I didn’t want them to grab my canoe in a panic and upset it.

“Grab the ring!” I threw it toward them. I could see they were three young men. “Stretch out your arms. Try to float along, I’ll tow you!”

They grabbed on. I started to tow them in the direction of the Lodge but they started to frantically point to Little Wap Island. Taylor Statten. They must be staying with Taylor Statten. The wind had died down, I made a wide arc and started paddling to Little Wap. It wasn’t any further than going to the Lodge. As I approached Little Wap, it became shallow and the three drenched souls rose up and ran to the shore.

I saw Taylor on the shore. He waded into the water to greet me.

“Tom, where did the boys come from?”

“Taylor, you’re asking me? Where did they come from? From a capsized canoe in the middle of Canoe Lake!”

“Lord heavens, no!” Taylor had an ashen expression on his face, “Tom, I got to get back to these boys. I’ll explain things later. It’s touchy right now. Thanks.”

“The canoe’s still out there. Want me to get it?”

“No, Tom. That’s fine. The wind’s turned this way. I’ll fetch it later.”

I paddled back to Mowat. I knew Taylor was setting up a boy’s camp. These boys must have been his first. By his face I could see he was in shock. I had averted an inconceivable disaster for him. Otherwise he’d have to explain three dead boys, putting an end to his new venture, or putting him in jail.

Upon return to the verandah, the questions came fast and furious from the guests.

“Statten’s boys,” I replied. “He’s glad they’re safe. That’s about it.”

“Where are they from?”

“Don’t know. Didn’t ask.”

I went back around to the garden behind. I still had work to do.

June 2, 1917 Letter to Florence

June 2,1917

Mowat P.O.  Algonquin Park

Florence McGillivray, Whitby

June 2, 1917

Dear Florence,

I’m hoping this letter gets to you before your exhibition. I want to wish you the best. Your calling card stays in my sketch box for my good luck. Weather here has been poor. I put in the garden for the Frasers. The time for good sketching is over. I’m at the Lodge but have set up my camp across the lake. I’m staying close to the Lodge in case of guiding work.

Are you going to Ottawa later this summer? I may go myself later. I would like to visit Mr. Brown at the Gallery but I hear that the Government has taken over the building. Charlie Scrim plans to be back later, I can stay with him. I am going to the eastern part of the park in early August. If you are there, I can stay for a few days because this might be my last stopping point in Ontario before I go west. I could stop in Toronto, but I don’t think I will.

With all that’s going on and the black flies, I haven’t had a mind for sketching. I have some guiding work, but it will be scarce this summer. The summer tourists don’t seem to be coming. With the war, I can see that.

I’m glad we learned something more than what Cruikshank taught. Van Gogh seems to be the better to follow along with the other French schools.  We seem to be doing the same thing here

All the best,

Tom Thomson