Militum Sigillum

Militum Sigillum

June 2, 1917

I finished my first sketch for George Bartlett this morning. I decided to use several design elements of the secret society seals that I’ve seen. There’s a lot of them out there. As a finishing touch, I added the phrase from the Knights Templar “Sigillum Militum.” It means the “The Seal of the Soldier of Christ.” I switched the order of the words and I’ll let him catch the error if he sees it. I also figured he’d like the All Seeing Eye on top of pine tree along with Sun, Moon and Stars. It gives the seal an omniscient flair and I’m sure he’ll like that too. I’ll get this to Mark in the next day or two. I’ll hide it in my sketch box between my sketching papers and boards. Annie knows enough not to open the box, because it’s difficult to close again. I purposely left it that way so I would know if anyone was snooping. I have letters from Florence and Winnie in there too.

As I promised to Annie, I visited Taylor Statten on Little Wapomeo Island. He had arrived with his family a couple of weeks ago. He’ll be staying until the better part of June and then he’s going to a YMCA course in the States for a month. In 1912, shortly after he got the leasehold on the Island he envisioned setting up a summer camp for boys. He isn’t quite there yet. That’s why he was going down to the States to get some training on how to set up a boy’s camp.

I got to Talyor’s around noon. I timed my visit so I would get a lunch out of the deal. They were always very gracious hosts and I returned the favour by giving them catches of trout. Taylor greeted me as I pulled up to shore.

“Morning, Tom.”

“Morning, Taylor”

Taylor helped me pull the canoe onto the shore and, just as I had predicted, invited me for lunch with Edith and Taylor Junior or “TJ”, as I called him. TJ insisted on sitting on my lap during lunch pulling at my hair. I didn’t mind, but Ethel, seeing my distraction, swept TJ away and disappeared into the other room of the cabin. I didn’t ask her to do that, but most wives of the day automatically follow the “out of sight, out of mind” rule when the men start talking seriously.

I delivered my message, “Annie wants to have an Ecumenical Service tomorrow. It’ll be at the Algonquin Hotel. Part of Ed’s lay service.”

“That’s fine. We can be there. It’s at 11?”

“Yep, Annie’ll be happy if you can come”

“OK, I can bring a reading from the Institutes of Calvin, that should be a real barnburner.”

With the ecumenical business dispensed with, we got on to other topics. Sims Pit, to be exact. When I asked him about what was going on there, he gave me a strange look.

“There’s a camp there, you know. An internment camp or a prison labour camp. I’m not sure which. But I do know there’s several kids there, not older than sixteen or eighteen. And they can’t speak English.”

The news of the kids at the camp was surprising, but still didn’t count for the strange look he gave me. There was something more.

“Bartlett’s asked me to teach English to these boys, a couple of times a week.”

Now that was a surprising request by Bartlett. But upon reflection, it wasn’t that too far out of order. Despite his stern measures, Bartlett considered everyone under his watch to be his charges and he was ultimately responsible for their welfare. Whenever there was a death in the Park, Bartlett made sure that things were wrapped up tight. He didn’t like loose-hanging ends, and he would make sure that lumber companies paid the families for their loss but also to keep them quiet. Death wasn’t good for tourism. Forced labour camps didn’t help the tourist trade either.

Bartlett didn’t like the internment camps, but he had no choice to follow orders from the  Dominion Government and the Province. But when he found out there were kids in the camp, he went through the roof. He called his friend Sam Hughes to fix the situation, but with with Hughes diminished influence in the Government he could only manage to get a few concessions. Reduced work for the kids and an allowance for English lessons. Since Taylor was closest to the Sims Pit, Bartlett asked Mark Robinson to approach him for the job and he and he accepted. I was surprised the Mark never mentioned this arrangement to me. Mark and I talked about everything else, but then again Mark was a man who followed orders and gave his unquestioned loyalty. You couldn’t fault him for that.

I went back to Mowat Lodge and told Annie the outcome of my chat with Taylor. He would do a reading at the service tomorrow. Annie was happy. I could see that this was important to her. Despite the different religions, she wanted some demonstration of harmony in the community. None of the anti-Catholic nonsense from the Orangemen. She was glad there was no Orange Lode around these parts. I didn’t tell her what was going through George Bartlett’s mind.

Afterwards, I walked up to Hotel Algonquin to relay the successful liturgical addition to Ed, but I saw Molly first. Molly was outside by the linens and she had her whistle in her mouth. She blew a three short tweets and a long one, and Ed showed up a minute later. Molly had a summoning system that had a different whistle for each employee, including one for her husband. I could tell she was proud in showing that could  summon up any one of her staff at a moment’s notice. I’m sure the guests can’t stand hearing the whistles. I know I can’t.

I went to back to Mowat Lodge. The poor weather (rain drizzle) and Annie’s good cooking was too much of a draw to stay the night at the campsite. Besides, I was planning to write a letter to Florence tonight, and it would be better to write it by the lamplight.

Saturday night was games night at Mowat Lodge. The crokinole board was out and so was the chessboard. After some convincing, Shannon hauled out the shuffleboard from out back and put it on the dining room table (he didn’t like heavy labour. That’s why it took convincing.) We played late into the evening, and when the quests trickled back to their rooms I sat down and wrote my letter to Florence. I was also thinking about Winnie. Still no news from her. The next mail wouldn’t be until Tuesday, so that would be the soonest I’d hear anything. She wouldn’t dare send a telegram.

Planning for the Sovereign’s Birthday

June 1, 1917

It was Annie’s idea, but it was Shannon who took credit for it. Annie would still do all of the planning and work in the end. Sovereign’s Birthday was coming up on June 3rd. Since it  fell on a Sunday, the holiday was supposed to be observed on Monday. It didn’t really make much difference – until Park Superintendent George Bartlett heard about the pageant plans.

“Nothing on the Sabbath. All celebrations must be held on Sovereign’s Day, Observed, June 4th”

The King’s birthday fell on a Sunday this year, so the holiday would be observed on the following day, Monday. It didn’t really make much of a difference in the Park. It’s mostly a bank Holiday. So the banks were closed on that day, most everybody worked that day. To my knowledge  there are no banks that would crimp activities in the Park, but George made sure that Mark Robinson we knew the edict – no celebrations on Sunday, or there will be consequences.

To observe the day (Monday, that is), Shannon was thinking about having day-long pageant. He had read about these affairs in the US papers. It was a popular thing with the American, as they sent their boys off to war. A pageant consisted of parade, a sporting event, a contest, a musical performance and picnic or a banquet to wrap things up. A pageant was usually presided over by a local dignitary and Shannon could think of no better dignitary than himself. His regatta was a bust on Victoria Day, so this was a chance to redeem himself. Monday was only a few days away, so Shannon had a chance of putting something together. He was thinking about log rolling contest for the women, but I reminded him that a fully drenched women’s dress amounted to her death warrant in the still cold waters of Canoe Lake.

That’s when Annie hit on the solution for Sunday – an “Ecumenical Service”. Shannon was puzzled at first, he thought he heard “Economical Service” and began talking about Mowat Lodge being the most economical place in the Park. Annie corrected him graciously by saying it was a movement to promote greater Christian unity. In more practical terms it was Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans worshipping together in the same place.

I could see Shannon’s eyes light up. He finally put it together. Now he understood why Annie didn’t mind going up to the Algonquin Hotel for the Sunday lay service that Ed Colson  held. It was an “economical” thing. But then, just as quickly as his eyes lit, they began to glower. There was no way in hell that he could see himself worshipping with Protestants and Anglicans. I couldn’t see him either. Indeed, I’ve never seen him attend a service or perform an act of worship the whole time I’ve known him, so this new non-possibility was not a stretch for me to imagine. The closest thing I ever saw him perform as a religious rite was hen he tripped over the axe and fell into the woodpile out back.

A ecumenical service would be a challenge. Mowat Lodge, Canoe Lake  and its precursor, Mowat Village, was the finest collection specimens that demonstrated a failed religious mission. At the village’s height before the 1900s there was a Presbyterian Mission, and that’s how the Trainor Cottage, the Manse got its nickname. As I understand, they tried to set up a church  but the lumber men were more interested in sleeping on their day off, than going to church. The men didn’t have to account to anyone that they went to church and unlike the Catholics, the Protestants didn’t need a pastor for confessions or to receive dispensations. Then there was some sort of scandal. Nobody would talk about it, but the missionaries suddenly high-tailed out of the Park, and out the Province as I last heard.

As for establishing a church, Catholics were few in the Park. The Frasers were in good company, they were the only Catholics around, so a church was a complete non-starter.Shannon would say, “The pines in the Park are my cathedral”.

I replied that Park was just like Rome after the Visigoths got through with it. Shannon didn’t get the joke, so I moved on.

The non-Catholics counldn’t get their act together either. The Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians and the occasional Fundamentalist could never get along to establish a church. The age-old rule applied: “Two can make a congregation, but three makes a schism”

At least a school was established, but it was pretty anaemic  with the few children it had, and the main competing priority – child labour. Even establishing an Orange Lodge was difficult going. The only one left in the Park was the one in Rainy Lake. (Little did anyone know that a  Sam Hughes variant of an Orange Lodge would sooon be established at Cache Lake)

So Ed Colson’s lay service at the Algonquin Hotel was the closest thing to a regular service. Annie thought it would be a good idea, for the Soverign’s Birthday, to make this into an Ecumenical Service. The least it would do is get a few more people out. I told Annie, I would put the word out tomorrow. I would go over to the Statten family on Little Wap Island. I’m sure they would come. Taylor Statten is a big proponent of the YMCA and is strong believer. Besides, I could call in a favour because I helped him build his fireplace by hauling the stones from Sims Pit a couple of summers back. I may even pay a visit to the Blechers for entertainment’s sake.

Despite Annie’s excitement, I could tell that Shannon wasn’t too warm to the idea. That was OK. I would help her out.  Shannon preferred to give appearances being in charge of whatever event he was participating in and that wouldn’t be at an economical service. And there was no way in hell that he was going to be caught kneeling at the Hotel Algonquin. He was going to expending his efforts and planning skills on the day after, Sovereign’s Day Observed. Shannon would stay out of the way. That was a blessing for us.

I got a letter from Dr. MacCallum today. I looked at the postmark and it looked like it was a day longer than usual in the mail. I’ll need to keep an eye when the mail comes in as I am expecting a letter from Winnie.  I have a feeling the Mowat Lodge tea kettle gets a workout steaming and opening letters.

I’ve been sketching the seal for George Bartlett. I’m basing it on and Orange Lodge seal and have incorporated a few elements of the Park. I’m also trying to squeeze in a Catholic symbol, but that’s for George to find it.

Letter from Dr James MacCallum

Toronto 28/V/17

Dear Tom.

We got home all right – made a good connection at Scotia Junction having only to wait for half an hour. I have deposited to your credit a cheque for $25.00 given me by Bill Beatty for a sketch of yours which he had sold to some chap from South River. All the fellows backed down and I had to go up to the Georgian Bay alone, returning last Saturday. Had a rotten time of it – snow, rain, sleet, more snow and only two decent days the whole week. Vegetation is not nearly so far advanced as in the Park – I quite understood why you prefer to paint up there – the two places are so different. In the Georgian Bay there is in the spring practically none of the brilliant colour from the vegetation of the Park – There were really only two soft maples in bud while I was there – The birches have not even begun to change – all day the water was beautiful a fresh wind and a good sea into clear sky – I have not seen any of the chaps yet to find out what the news is. You had better send down a lot of those sketches of yours as soon as you start in guiding and see if I cannot sell some of them and increase your bank account – remember me to the Frasers and their guests. Must close and get to work.

James MacCallum

Revelat Naturam Honorem

May 30,1917

First thing in the morning I wrote a letter to my friend, Dr. John McRuer. I wrote it in time so that Shannon could get in the post today and so that Annie couldn’t try to read it, if I left the letter lying around.

Since I stayed at the Lodge, I decided to make myself useful. The day was cold and overcast but it was a good day for working in the garden. The chance of frost was pretty much past, so it was fine to plant the rest of the garden. Earlier in the spring, Annie had started about two dozen tomato seedlings inside the lodge. The seedlings were strategically placed on the window sills around the rooms, including the guest rooms. It was now time for the mass exodus of the tomato seedlings. I helped Annie bring them out back to plant. Shannon was with the horses going to the station to deliver the mail and to pick up guests, if any. Annie knew better than to track him down afterwards for help because all he would do is tell Annie that she was doing it wrong and order her around. Annie knew that I just did the work and didn’t say too many words. I never had too much to say about my paintings, and no need to waste my breath on tomato plants.

While I was working in the garden, Mark Robinson came by for a surprise visit. At first I though it odd that he would come down outside of his normal routine and unannounced. I thought it was about my canoe up by Joe Lake, He knew I’d pick it up today, it wasn’t missing so I was a bit mystified on what the business was.

“I need to check the bush phone lines. I’m sure a moose got them down somewhere along the track, I need to find the break and report it. Do you want to come”

What Mark was really looking for was a friend to accompany him on a walk. I was more than happy to oblige. I just needed a few more moments to put the tomato plants in line and I was ready to go.

“Sure. Let me finish the plants, first.”

Once the gardening operation was complete, we started to walk toward Canoe Lake Station. When we were well out of earshot of anyone and anything, Mark began, “Tom, I need to ask you a few things”

Not unusual for Mark to request something of me.

“Tom, you shouldn’t have disappeared with Fannie, yesterday. Bartlett wanted to ask you something. He asked me to relay the request, but only if you can promise the utmost secrecy.”

Now this was an unusual request.

“Bartlett’s been talking to Sam Hughes again. That telephone of his, he can get calls from Ottawa and Lindsay.”

Sam Hughes was fired by PM Borden last fall. He was the Minister of Militia and Defence, but after the Ross Rifle failure and other shenanigans to undermine Borden in Britain, he was forced to resign. Hughes was now a back-bencher spending his time between Ottawa and his hometown in Lindsay. In Lindsay, it was hoped, that Hughes would have nothing better to do. But it was inevitable that he was hatching some other dubious military equipment scheme. It looked like there was yet another scheme afoot.

“Hughes and Bartlett are Orange Lodge Brothers.” Mark said. “Remember before the War, the Canadian Corps of Guides that got disbanded. He wants to start another Corps, but a modern intelligence unit. A Secret Ranger Corps.”

Immediately, I recalled that visit back in March I had in the Shack in Toronto. I wondered if the two were connected. As Mark described Hughes’ scheme, I’m became convincedit was.

“Bartlett has sworn me to secrecy with my job on the line. Hughes wants to start up a Secret Ranger Corps, like the Corps of Guides,. He wants to set it up first in the Park. It’ll start as a secret affiliate of the Lindsay Orange Lodge.”

I had heard Samuel Hughes was becoming unhinged, but this was taking the cake. Besides, I never had much time for the Orange Lodge, or the Masons for that matter. It also sounded too much like the Episkopon that John McRuer told me about at Trinity in Toronto.

“Not really interested Mark, why are you telling me this?”

Mark replied, “They need a secret seal made, and your name came up. They want you to draw it.”

I paused for a moment, “What’s the motto?”. Every secret organization worth its salt has a motto. I never dreamed I would get a commercial art job in the middle of the wilderness for an upstart secret society. But it was intriguing.

“Revelat Naturam Honorem.”, Mark replied, “Nature reveals honour”

“OK, I’ll think about it. What about the image? An All Seeing Eye on the top of an eastern white pine?”

Mark laughed, but then he turned serious.

“Yep. But don’t tell Shannon. He’s Catholic. Bartlett doesn’t want any Catholics involved. It’s my job on the line, remember?”

Typical Orange Lodge, pressure and control tactics, I thought. That was the end of the conversation for now. We walked along the rail line and found the break in the telephone line. It wasn’t a moose after all. It looked like one of the glass insulators broke and the wires got grounded. A heavy wind or a lightning strike.

“Tell Bartlett, the Germans took the line down. Tell him we saw them running away.”

Mark smiled and we began the walk back to Joe Lake. I picked up my canoe and Mark went up to the Joe Lake Station Master to report the location of the break.

On the way back, I found a crop of new mushrooms that sprouted up overnight on a bed of dead hemlocks. Thriving on darkness and death – just like a secret society.

“Nature Reveals Honour.” Nature reveals dishonour too.

Letter to John McRuer

Mowat P.O.  Algonquin Park            May 30, 1917

Dear John,

How is Denver? I am sure the air is much better than Huntsville, especially with the dampness and cold we have here. The weather is miserable and it never seems to want to warm up. I spend a lot of time reading,  doing odd jobs and fishing. Got a Guide’s license too, but don’t expect too much work from it.

I had Shannon send you a sketch a few days ago. Did you get it? It’s from my sketches this spring, one that didn’t end up in Potter Creek.  I hope it cheers you up and reminds you of our trip on the Mississagi. If I took pictures I would have lost the rolls by now.

I am considering going to the Rockies this summer. I may go further North, Yukon, maybe, but as you are sick I may make it down to Denver to visit you.

Here in Ontario conscription talk is getting louder.  I thought I might make myself scarce later this summer as the bill might pass in July. No thoughts of going back to Seattle but I may need to go out of country, Denver could be a good choice.

I’ve gotten along well with Winnie this Spring. She was up earlier and she is fine. We had a good time together. She wants to marry. I’m not sure because it would change everything for me.

I am planning first to go to the Northern part of the Park late July/ early Aug. Possibly to Ottawa for a few days. I should go to Owen Sound because I didn’t  visit my father this spring. They would be especially pleased to see me and  I could help out my brother-in-law Tom for a few days in Annan. The colours of the bay are nice there in the late summer. Worth a visit by itself.

That’s it for now.  If you wish to mail me, send to P.O. Mowat Lodge. Don’t write too much. Annie likes to read my letters. I’ll be here mostly, until late July. Camping away maybe one or two nights away but nothing longer. I hope you are feeling better. Please give my regards to the Mrs.

Yours Truly,

Tom Thomson.

Miss Fanny Case

May 29, 1917

I awoke late in the morning. After the previous night’s drama, my clothes smelled of cinder and soot. Ordinarily, the smell doesn’t bother me, but the fire on the tracks must have been burning something else than just brush or wood. It was oil or grease and that left a heavy unpleasant smell on my clothes.

I had another change of clothes back at Mowat Lodge. When I did go camping, Annie said that I didn’t have to vacate the things from my room unless the lodge was full. And that certainly wasn’t the case so far this spring. The numbers were down and Shannon had fewest number of guests around this time of year since 1913.

It was a similar story at the Algonquin Hotel and the Highland Inn too. The numbers were down all around. Shannon said that he thought that people might be scared to take the train. German saboteurs ready to blow up a trestle at a moment’s notice. The “eye witness” accounts regularly published in the newspapers led many to believe an attack was imminent. And the sighting of sentries posted on the major trestle bridges made the passengers nervous about getting to the other side. I had noticed when I took the train north in the spring that whenever we crossed a major bridge, the passengers in the car would go quiet. Nothing was said, but you knew everyone was nervous. The conversation only started up again when the bridge was far behind.

The other reason, Shannon said, that folks were worried that the trains would nationalized. Most people thought if the trains were nationalized, they would stop running; the whole point of nationalization was to keep them running. Almost every day there was an editorial in the paper that the railway should be nationalized. The Grand Trunk had heavily over-extended itself with the GT Pacific and it was keeping the Government hostage.

So nobody up here talks about art, literature or poetry anymore. Just conscription, sabotage and nationalization.

I canoed over to Mowat Lodge and got a change of clothes. Up in my room I noticed a few things were rearranged. It looked like Annie was looking through my things again, my letters in particular. The harmless letters, I let her read, but the more private ones, I kept with me in my sketch box or I burned them after I read them.

Once I changed, I went downstairs and I scrubbed my own clothes in the back kitchen. Shannon’s mother was there too doing laundry for the guests. She’s there most days doing laundry. Shannon likes to keep her in the back. She said she could do mine for me, but I said she had enough of the guest laundry and I could do it myself. Once I finished, I hung it out back. It was a humid day and I doubt it would be dry by evening.

I then canoed up to Joe Lake Dam. I left my canoe and walked up to Mark Robinson’s shelter house. He was there but said he would be going over to the headquarters to talk to George Bartlett about the fire incident last night. He was going to use the bush phone, but the line was out. Probably a moose broke the line again. Another project – to find the break and to string the lines even higher.

We took the train to the Algonquin Headquarters. It’s situated on Cache Lake by the Highland Inn. The Rangers had free passage on the train between stations, and they could take anyone with them (me today). On the train were a bunch of school girls coming in from Buffalo. I immediately knew where they were headed – Northway Lodge, the girls camp set up by Miss Fannie Case. Fannie’s quite the modern woman. Back in 1908, Fannie set up an all-girls camp on Cache Lake and it’s now quite the operation. Taylor Statten is trying to do the same on Canoe Lake, an all-boys camp, but I say the Fannie has Taylor beat in terms of the better camp. Fannie must have arrived a week or so ago to set thing up and this must be her first batch of girls.

The train stopped at the Highland Inn, and sure enough Fannie was on the platform welcoming the girls. And so was Ralph Bice, the 18 year-old holier-than-thou Park Ranger who knows everything. He was looking for poachers. When I stepped off the train, I eyed Ralph and presented myself with a flourish to Fannie. I said with a mock accent, “At your service, Madam”. Fannie giggled, and the girls, as they disembarked the train, stared in awe. I knew I had their rapt attention, so for show, I lilted a few lines of the “Wreck of the Hesperus”

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

When I finished, the girls shrieked in delight. Ralph stared at me like I had just skinned a poached beaver before his very eyes. In truth, my motivation for the impromptu performance was not for the delight of of Fannie and the girls (although this was most enjoyable), I did it to antagonize Ralph. I could see the smile on Mark’s face. He knew exactly what I was up to.

I decided to help Fanny bring the girls’ stuff to her camp. After that was finished Fannie revived me with a cup of tea and sweetbreads. She asked me to come back and to teach the girls some sketching and fishing. I didn’t oblige immediately, but I said I might be back in a week or two.

I set on my way to go back by canoe instead of by train. I took one of the loaner canoes from the Highland Inn. The hotels shared loaner canoes for those who made the canoe trip from one hotel to the other and then took the train back. The loaners usually balanced themselves out, because the canoe travellers would look to see if a canoe was available, and decide whether to take the train as the first part of the trip or the latter. The loaner I took had “HI” painted on it to indicate the Highland Inn. “AH” is Algonquin Hotel, and “ML” is Mowat Lodge. I had “TT” painted on mine. It’s not meant to be a loaner.

I made it back late in the evening. I pulled the canoe onto the dock at Mowat Lodge. I checked my laundry and it wasn’t yet dry on the line. I was too tired to walk up and fetch my canoe at Joe Lake, so I decided to stay the night in my room. My feet had gotten wet, the water had seeped into my moccasins. It felt good to put on a pair of dry woolen socks for the night. As I went to sleep, the final verse came into my mind.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman’s woe.

Night Fire

May 28, 1917

I was sleeping in my tent when I heard the three whistle blasts – twice. That meant fire. The train engineers were instructed to signal fire if they saw anything on the track, or any fire for that matter. That was the case tonight, despite the time. The blasts came just after 1:30am. I knew it was from the eastbound freight train coming from Depot Harbour. It likely was hauling a shipment of grain from one the lakers.

I knew the train schedules quite well. Whenever I was waiting at Scotia Junction or Canoe Lake Station, I would study the schedule for the Grand Trunk 32nd Sub-Division, or the Booth Line as it used to be called. I had it committed to memory, mostly. It was handy to know the times and intervals between the nearby stations. Scotia Junction to Canoe Lake: 2 hours and 15 minutes; Joe Lake: another 3 minutes; Sims Pit: 2 minutes and the Highland Inn another 18 minutes. It was not on a few occasions that we would ride the rails to save a half-day’s hike between the hotels. More often than not, the Station Masters would let me on the train knowing that I’d return the favour with freshly caught trout.

Train schedules aside, I estimated the whistle blasts to be near Sims Pit. Ever since the big fire near Cochrane last year where over 200 people perished, Park Superintendent George Bartlett was especially nervous that the Big Fire of Damnation was well nigh in the Park. In springtime, it was still the habit of many to burn dead vegetation off the land. But after Matheson and Iroquois Falls were wiped off the map along with several hundred souls, the Province decided to enact fire prevention legislation. This gave the Fire Rangers powers of an arresting officer and the authority to issue travel permits. The expectation was that the Park Guides had the same responsibilities as the Rangers and the unofficial deputation of powers, if necessary.
That was the understood expectation of the Guide’s license. Bartlett informed me that if I didn’t show up when the need arose to fight a fire, he’d take away my license – and my potential livelihood in the Park. He knew that I was a Fire Ranger last year, but he also knew I was an artist. He didn’t think the two should go together, and if he had any doubts about my willingness for duty, he’d be more than willing to take my license away.

“Artists not wanted in the Park.” Bartlett could have said it out loud, but he knew that it had more power left unsaid.

So I got dressed as quickly as possible. I grabbed my spade and took my canoe up Sims Creek as far as I could. It was another quarter of a mile by foot, and as I got near I could see the flames and smoke. Mark Robinson was there too. The shelter house at Joe Lake was a similar distance so we arrived at the same time. Then a few other characters popped mysteriously out of the darkness armed with shovels. Together we managed to get the fire out. Brush that hadn’t been cleared from the tracks had caught fire. It was probably started by sparks when the train was negotiating the curve in the track. The longer the train, the more tendency for sparks. It must have been a long train full of grain, or army supplies on their way to Halifax.

As soon as the fire was out, the mysterious characters went back into the darkness, leaving Mark and me alone. I had a vague notion of who they were but asked Mark to confirm this notion. I was right – Bartlett was looking to set up another internment camp for the Government, and they were looking at Sims Pit. They were testing it out with a few men, about two dozen or so. It’s a suitable spot because of the rail sidings along the main track. Good for loading and unloading and Sims Pit is where the opposite trains wait to pass each other on the line. I heard the men talk, they sounded German, although they spoke English.

I didn’t get back to my campsite until 4:30am. Mark had invited me back to the shelter house but I said I would visit him tomorrow. He looked like a wreck. I could tell his war wounds were bothering him. He invited me out of politeness, but I could see he needed to get back and rest up before he reported the incident in full in the morning. I asked Mark to make sure that he mention me to Bartlett and that the artist showed up for duty.

Mark smiled, “G’night, Tom. I’ll be sure to do that.”

With that goodbye he limped with his shovel back to Joe Lake.

When I returned to my campsite the moon was overhead in its first quarter. The full moon would be in about a week’s time. Tonight, there was enough light that I could see the column of smoke drifting away from Sims Pit, blocking the fainter stars. Hints of dawn were starting to show over the hills. The lake was calm, like glass, I undressed and fell asleep. I didn’t wake up until late next morning.