June 20, 1917 Aliens in the Park

June 20, 1917

There’s a reason why everyone wears long sleeves in the Park. Yes, even in the middle of summer. Bugs, thistles, hawthorne bushes, raspberry thorns, poison ivy, blood root, water hemlock.

Lowrie came back with a report that he saw some water hemlock in the swampy area on near the dump. Shannon and I decided to investigate. We were in for a surprise. There weren’t just a few – there were hundreds. They were all waist-high now and by the end of the summer, they’ll be taller than an enlisted man. The water hemlock masquerades as a pretty wildflower. It smells sweet, like parsnip because it’s related to parsnip, but don’t try to eat it, it’s deadly poisonous. The sap, just a little bit, is enough to kill a full grown man. We all knew the story. Back in 1914, two American guests at the Hotel Algonquin set out for a three day canoe trip, never to return. After a week, a search party was sent out and they were found – dead at a campsite. They found a collection of water hemlock roots beside the dead men. The roots had bites out of them. .

 

We’ve all learned not to touch the stuff. Last summer, Lowrie got the sap on his arms and he couldn’t show his skin for the whole summer. Each time he exposed him arms to sunlight, he got burns ten times the worse than what you’d ever get from the sun. Shannon brought his scythe along, and he decided the best way to deal with it was to cut it down and keep an eye on it.

Giant Hogweed is an alien species in the Park. Someone brought it from overseas to decorate their garden and it got out in the wild. It looks like a wild carrot – a wild carrot from hell actually. It’s also surprising to know that many of the flowers in the meadows are not native either. Like Hogweed,  many of the garden flowers brought over from England have established themselves in the Park and are pushing out the native species. Once the pine trees were cut and cleared away, it gave these alien species opportunity to establish themselves. It’s ironic – we’ve sent our men to England to fight, and in return they give us flowers that grow in the land that should be worked by these very men who’ll never come back. It’s also ironic when people come for the ‘untouched nature’ of the Park, what they are really seeing is alien second-growth.

Aside from plants, there are other aliens in the Park. Enemy aliens as they’re called. The camp at Sims Pit has enemy aliens, and by rights, Martin Blecher Jr. is an enemy alien too.

Earlier in the morning I canoed by the Blecher boathouse. The doors were open, and I could see inside. Martin’s putt-putt boat was parked inside. Inside there was a workbench and repair tools. Martin was pretty handy with tools and he had all the expensive ones. I guess he has it pretty good; his father is a retired furniture magnate. I’m sure his father is the the one paying the bills.

I figured that Martin was sleeping once again in the boathouse. I heard the fights over at the Blecher cottage. He and his sister get into some pretty nasty fights and you can hear the yelling all the way up to the Lodge. The day before yesterday, I saw that  furniture had been thrown into the lake. I could only speculate that the nature of that fight resulted in some sort of eviction and Martin moving into the boathouse.

Martin saw me out front, “Just remember I got a gun for trespassers,” Martin gestured towards his workbench and to the gun mounted on the wall.

“Yeah, Martin. I was only passing by to say hi.” I drew my paddle back into the water and glided out of his line of sight. There was no need for him to be unfriendly. I think it’s more out of habit that he is so gruff. I’m pretty sure he learned it from his battle-axe of a mother, Louisa. Once she chased me off their property with a broom.

I try to think of other things, but Winnie is on my mind almost all the time. It’s been a few days since I sent the letter to Billie Bear Lodge. I haven’t heard anything back yet, so I’m getting worried. I am starting to think of another plan, that Winnie and I will rendezvous up in South River and then go out West from there – to North Bay, and then to the Soo. My friend, Tom Wattie and his family live in South River. If I don’t hear from Billie Bear soon I’ll  ship some gear to South River. That way, when I do leave from here, it won’t look like I’m leaving for good. I’ll wait a few more days before I decide what to do.

I went up to Joe Lake to fish this afternoon. A girl guest from the Algonquin Hotel came down to watch me. I ignored her, then she said, “You are a disciple of Izaak Walton!” I smiled and kept on fishing. I knew the game. Annie Colson gave the girl that quote. I’m sure the girl was quite smitten with me and wanted something smart to say to me. It’s happened before. The girls always seem to go to Annie for advice on what to say to me and this is the quote she gives them. It’s a game between Annie and me. The girls don’t know they’re part of a game. It’s harmless game, and I don’t do anything with it. I’d never want to get into that type of situation if the game ever got serious.

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