June 18, 1917
The dew was heavy this morning. I couldn’t walk more than 10 yards and my boots and trousers were soaked. The tall grass in the meadows is already starting to seed so my clothes were covered. Patches of milkweed are cropping up everywhere and I could see hanging from the milkweed a caterpillar pupa that was about ready to emerge as a Monarch butterfly. It’s called metamorphosis – the final stage – turning into a full-blown butterfly to enjoy the final few weeks of its life.
I studied Monarch butterflies when I went with my Uncle Brodie on field trips in Toronto. He was an expert on insects, entomology, I think it is called. We called him “Dr. Brodie” which gave him the air of a scientist and researcher, but he really got his Dr.’s degree by taking a dentistry course which he dropped after two weeks. Needless to say, the Dr. title stuck, and Dr. Brodie became one of the foremost insect experts in Toronto. His reputation was so well regarded, he was consulted in the creation of the the Park.
A fascinating thing about Monarch butterflies is not that they migrate from far down South – they come from as far as Mexico. The fascinating thing is that there are four generations of butterflies when they’re here. Right now, this is the start of the second generation. The first one got its start in early May. They live for about six weeks, mate, lay eggs then die. There’ll be a third generation, and then the fourth, for some mysterious reason, has a longer life and the Monarchs migrate back down South. It goes to prove that while things get passed down through the generations, some generations have what other generations don’t have. I often wondered about this. Did I have a distant relative from far back who was like me? Not my father, nor my grandfather. Not even my great-grandfather, but possibly my great-great grandfather. If I have a son, will he be like me? Or his son? Or his son’s son – my great grandson? What do I have that I do not know? What will I pass down to my fourth generation? Maybe it’s my turn to migrate?
The pondering stopped when I saw Lowrie Dickson down by the shore. He hailed me down and motioned toward his shack. That was an invitation. So I made my way down, wet boots, wet trousers and all.
“Tom, I got somethin’ to show ya!” Lowrie greeted me as I got closer. “C’mon in!”
I entered his shack, and George Rowe was there too.
“We found this at the dump. We heard about them and gave it a whirl.” Lowrie showed me a board of sorts. It was an Oujia Board.
“My goodness, that’s the board Annie threw out. I thought Shannon would have burned it.” Then I remembered, Shannon hid it in the horse barn. It eventually must have ended up in Canoe Lake Dump.
“Yep. It’s a bit worse for wear.” Lowrie was proud of his find. “But you can still see all of the letters.”
I wasn’t really the superstitious type, but I was in the same camp as Annie. I didn’t like these things. “You tried it?” I asked.
“Yep, with an upturned shot glass.”
Oh my goodness. First of all you aren’t supposed to try the Ouija while drinking. Second, you weren’t supposed to use an upturned whisky glass as the planchette. The spirits would get downright ornery.
“Lowrie, I don’t like these things,” I said.
“I know Tom, but I think it’s broken.”
Now how in the world could a Ouija board be broken? Save for the board itself being broken in half, or using of a whisky glass as a planchette, I couldn’t begin to fathom what a ‘broken’ Ouija board would entail.
“Lowrie, you’ll have to explain to me, exactly what is a broken Ouija board?”
“It kept saying the same thing over and over, no matter what question we asked it”
Now I was intrigued, “What was it saying?”
“‘F-A-T-E-7-8’ and then ‘Goodbye.’ Every time.” Lowrie said.
“Fate 78?” I repeated, “Lowrie, you still have your Victrola? What’s the RPM?”
“78 revolutions per minute.” Lowrie paused and his eyes brightened up, “I get it, Tom! You think it’s tellin’ me to play a song?”
“Maybe.” I was feeling pretty smug. On a lark I thought the 78 might refer to a record. When I went down that line of reasoning things started to fit together. I had read in the papers that Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Song in a Storm” had been put to music by Sir Edward Elgar and was called “Fate’s Discourtesy”. The song was recorded as part of “Fringes of the Fleet.” It was available as a 78 RPM for the Victrola. A strange coincidence. A good yarn for Lowrie.
“Lowrie, it’s telling you to buy more music.”
“I ain’t got money for that!” Lowrie objected to the thought of spending money for music. He managed to get his records from the Highland Inn. The manager there gave him the played out ones when they got too scratchy, since Lowrie’s Victrola was the only other one nearby. The scratches really didn’t make much difference when Lowrie played the Victrola on the lake in his canoe. The pleasant surprise of music coming from the lake earned him tips from the guests. Sound quality was secondary to the surprise factor.
“Maybe the board is telling you to expand your repertoire,” I said.
“Yeah. I’ll go to the Highland to get more scratchies.” Lowrie seemed relieved. Message of the mystery spirits is resolved.
That was the end of the Ouija board discussion. I spent the better part of the evening having drinks with Lowrie and George. We must have been loud because Martin Blecher dropped by. He was about to complain, but then George offered him a shot and he joined the conversation. It also turned out that Shannon’s nostrils must have been burning because he showed up too. Together, we had a good time at Lowrie’s shack.
As things were winding down, George Rowe said, “A good time, gentleman. Next time it’ll be up at my cabin. Maybe the weekend after Dominion Day; July 7 or 8.”
The Ouija board message jumped out at me.
“July 7 or 8 – FATE 78.”
I started to put the pieces together in my mind:
Maybe 78 referred to the numeric date “7-8”, or, “July 8th.”
Maybe something fateful was going to happen on July 8th. I dismissed the notion. Nothing more than superstition. I went back to my room for the night.
“FATE July 8th”
I couldn’t get it out of my mind.