June 17, 1917 Eleventh Commandment

June 17, 1917

In growing up in the the Presbyterian Church there were two additional commandments that I was made aware of. These were unspoken commandments; I don’t remember hearing about them in the Auld Kirk, but they were the two commandments that ruled our daily lives.

The Eleventh Commandment went something like this: “Thou shalt not show any emotions.” The Twelfth Commandment was a bit vaguer: “Thou shalt not show that thou are upset with thine Transgressor.” The Twelfth had an important elaboration: “If thine Transgressor is not present, thou can speak of his transgressions with all Those who are present.” The Twelfth Commandment provided the general framework for dinnertime conversation.

The Eleventh commandment was  straightforward and that was the commandment currently in effect. I’m sure later in the day, the Twelfth would take over dinnertime.

I had breakfast in the back kitchen. It’s amazing when all of the pent up emotions of betrayal and anger could evaporate with a simple, “Good Morning, Tom.” That’s how Annie greeted me. I didn’t say anything and in observance of the Eleventh, I didn’t smile either.

Shannon came in and said his plan for haying would be delayed another week or so. It rained last night (thunder and lightning too) and the way the weather looked, nothing would be dry for another week. The big clue was the direction of the wind. It was coming from the East. When you had an East wind with clouds and rain, the bad weather wouldn’t leave. Besides, it was Sunday today. Shannon would not be doing anything of industry today. I was surprised Annie let him talk about work.

I said I wasn’t going to church. Shannon offered to bring Annie up in the hearse. I noticed a change in Shannon’s attitude.  It looked like he really wanted to go with her.

“Annie, I’ll come with you. I want it to be known that Catholics can be good church-goers too.”

I was surprised by Shannon’s grand statement. Maybe this was some sort of penitence for unacknowledged wrongdoings. My guess that Shannon’s move was to head off some of the anti-Catholic sentiment going around. I had learned in Huntsville, that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was whipping up anti-Catholic sentiments. So Shannon’s motivations might be two-fold: first, to maintain good Protestant-Catholic relations, and second, to ensure the temperance movement doesn’t gain too much traction in these parts.

I replied, “I won’t be going. I’ll be staying back.” My adherence to Eleventh Commandment was in full effect this morning.  I showed no emotion. I sipped my tea.

Shannon spoke, “Tom, I know you won’t be doing this today, but I am short of paddles.” It was Shannon’s oblique way of requesting that I do some work for him – he needed some paddles for his boats. I was the only one who could supply them – by making them.

One thing that’s a problem at these lodges is having a good supply of paddles. Nothing is worse than to have a boat with no paddle. Either they break, or they disappear into thin air.  Unlike canoes which disappear and eventually turn up to make their way home, paddles are another matter. They disappear. Mostly, they get lost or forgotten. I’ve recovered a few on the shoreline or along a portage.  Once in awhile a guest tries to take one home for a souvenir and then there’s an embarrassing scene at the train station. I can understand the temptation. I always had one back at the Studio. Just holding it in my hand reminded me what I was missing and what I was looking forward to. Paddles aren’t that expensive. I can’t understand folk, especially rich folk, trying to steal something to keep a memory alive.

Making paddles was more of a pleasure for me than a labour. So I didn’t mind working on them on Sunday, but I did it out of sight behind the store house. I don’t recall paddles ever being mentioned in the Bible, so I wasn’t worried about a specific prohibition. I wasn’t worried about being struck by lightning because that would have happened last night’s thunderstorm.

When Annie and Shannon left, I walked over to the chip yard and fished out a few end pine planks (the end planks are the ones with the bark that come off either side of the sawed log.) Ordinarily, this is scrap, but it makes perfect raw material for a canoe paddle. Using my axe and hunting knife, I can shape and carve a paddle in about a half an afternoon. It was demanding enough work that that  kept my mind off other things. I made two paddles today.

A few more words about paddles. I would never trade my good paddle for one of these pine paddles on a long trip. But I would lash one, sometimes two in my canoe, for those rare cases when you do lose or break your paddle. If a home made pine paddle got lost or broke, it’s no big deal. It was easier to make another. But I never would want to lose my good ash paddle. It’s thin, sleek, elegant and strong. I never plan to lose it. I’ll keep it until the day I die.

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