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

June 1, 1917 Chubby’s In Charge

June 1, 1917

Chubby’s in charge at Mowat Lodge.

George Chubb, we call him Chubby, was hired by Shannon as storekeeper and postmaster. Chubby is a big help in the  summer season doing the bookkeeping and the handling of accounts for Mowat Lodge. At the insistence of Annie, Shannon hired Chubby in 1915 for the summer to get the books in order. Annie runs a tight household on the home economics front but she’s not good with money and numbers. Neither is Shannon.

That’s where Chubby comes in.

Shannon’s good at telling others what should be done, but the details always elude him.

I remember back in 1915, Mowat Lodge was a going concern but Shannon was in for a rude surprise when his order didn’t come in on the train one week. The grocery store refused to extend him further credit. It turned out he wasn’t paying his bills on time and and that’s when I offered to lend him the 250 dollars. The next week, without telling anyone in advance, he bought a fleet of canoes at full store price.

That’s about the time George came to the rescue. He was camping on Little Wap Island with his friend when their axe handle broke. They came over to Mowat Lodge to see if they could buy an axe handle. Of course, Shannon didn’t let on that he didn’t have one and tried to convince the men to stay at the Lodge for the night. While they were talking, I slipped out the back, found a piece of ironwood and within the half-hour I had fashioned an axe handle as good as anything found in the shops. Shannon was still talking to them when I returned.

“Here you go.” I gave the handle to George.

‘How much do you want for that? ‘ He asked.

‘Nothing.’ I replied.

‘Well, I should do something in return.’

That’s when Shannon hit on the idea, ‘You could help us with our accounts.’ It turned out while I was making the axe handle, Shannon was giving Chubby an impromptu interview. Chubby had a job down in the City as a bookkeeper but he was looking for a change. He didn’t like the air in the city; it was making him sick. That’s why he came up North to see if it was true about the healing air.

So Chubby started the following week.  His friend went back to Toronto with instructions to send up his other things for the summer. Since we already had one George (George Rowe), we called him “Chubby”. He didn’t mind. Chubby was a pretty handy fellow to have around. That summer, Shannon decided to convert the adjoining storehouse into a kitchen and dining room. It was Chubby, George, Lowrie, and myself that did all of the work. Lowrie had just finished his cabin up by the old hospital and rented it to some Americans. He moved in with George Rowe by the old mill and was ready to ply his newly-acquired renovation skills on Mowat Lodge.

We worked hard that summer. At noontime dinner, we’d come into the kitchen like ravenous dogs. Annie always had the table full of food. Shannon’s mother was the unheralded cook of the household, and when we sat round the long kitchen table I made sure that I wouldn’t start before Old Mrs. Fraser said her grace. Chubby would wait too, but George and Lowrie were oblivious to etiquette and form. They dug right in without any ceremony.

It wasn’t long before Chubby got everything in order at Mowat Lodge. He also became the storekeeper, and took care of the mail and telegraph messages. He did the daily mail delivery rounds to the lake residents, but it was Shannon who got the mail from the train on his daily jaunt to Canoe Lake Station.

I was glad to see Chubby around. I knew that with Chubby in charge, the Mowat Lodge operations would be singing, and Shannon could entertain his hands-off management style. During the summer months all of the money came in and Chubby made sure that it didn’t disappear before the bills got paid. He also made sure the guests paid their proper bill and board. Shannon never understood the workings of a ledger and the calculations that he made in his head were subject to a mysterious order. Annie knew he was off and the money should be more, but as I wrote earlier, Annie was no good with numbers.

In the afternoon, I entertained the guests by catching supper. I was fly-casting down by the shore. The water is getting warmer and the trout are moving deeper, but they  are still feeding on the surface, you just need the right fly. I use my split bamboo rod –  I could cast further into the lake with that than with any steel rod. The trout have gotten pretty smart in this lake, they know what to ignore, but I made some new flies with patterns they’ll find tempting. I always keep a close eye on the flies and insects on the lake and watch the circles on the water. That tells me what the trout are feeding on and I adjust. When one took the fly I’d hear the whoops coming from the verandah of the Lodge. They could see the rod bend over and the line going taut and the fight was on.  I entertain the guests by letting the line run out  before I draw it back in. I didn’t have a multiplier reel so it took some fast reeling so I wouldn’t lose the fish. I reel it in, drop it in the creel I borrowed from the Lodge, and start for another. By the end of the afternoon, I had caught five handsome trout, and lost three others.  It was enough for dinner. Shannon insisted that we take a picture of the catch, all strung on a line, before we cleaned them for dinner. As he was taking the picture, all I was thinking about was that I could have had those other three if I hadn’t been so intent entertaining the guests.