Friday, November 13, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: The Inevitable Happens

It was bound to happen and it finally did,
on a cold November afternoon in 1960
on Lake Attawapiskat in northwestern Ontario.

An Island on Lake Attawapiskat
Near Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960 
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 2, 1960
My father wrote:

Hi There:
Well, I finally did it today.  
I upset the canoe and pitched myself into the lake.  
It happened when I was going back to school this afternoon.

 Looking toward the Mainland of Lansdowne House
This was the route that my father canoed to get to school.
Lake Attawapiskat
Fall 1960 
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My first action that contributed to my misadventure, 
though, happened when I was coming home for dinner.  
When I was getting out of the canoe on the Island, 
I tripped over this old paddle that was in the bottom of the canoe.
It was broken and not much good.  
When I tripped, I got one foot wet.

This afternoon when I was starting back, 
the first thing I did was to pick up 
the old broken paddle and heave it away.  
Then I started across.

There was a stiff wind
in from the north, and
the temperature was about 20 above. 

I was paddling like blazes, 
but because of the wind
and the current, 
I was not able to make
the HBC dock, 
so I laid a course
for the DOT dock.

I was doing wonderful, 
when all of a sudden my paddle, 
which was pretty well covered with ice, 
slipped out of my hand into the water and was away on me.  

I was only about fifteen feet from shore when I lost my paddle, 
and the old broken one would have gotten me in.  
Oh how I regretted throwing the old paddle away!!!!!!
Well there I was, as helpless as a newborn babe.  

Now I know exactly what is meant by the expression 
‘up the creek without a paddle.’ 
I was soon drifting rapidly out into the lake.  

Fortunately for me, Bill Mitchell was watching me 
paddle across and saw me lose the paddle and start to drift.  

Very soon I saw Brian and him come out of the house, 
run to the beach, launch the HBC canoe, 
and set out to my rescue.

By the time they got the canoe launched though, 
I had drifted over by the end of the Island 
and had fetched up on some submerged rocks, 
about twenty feet off the point of the Island.

They came across the lake after me, and 
because they were traveling with the wind, 
they were going almost as fast as if they 
had an outboard motor on the canoe.  
They almost hit me broadside and upset me, 
but at the last moment they managed 
to turn the canoe and miss me.  

In the excitement Brian tried to throw me the paddle, 
and it landed just out of my reach.  
I tried to reach for it, and splash, 
the next thing I knew 
I was above my waist in ice-cold water.  

Just at the time that I upset, 
Bill and Brian hit another rock, 
holed their canoe, and had to beach it on the Island.  

Well, I pulled my canoe ashore and emptied it, 
and left it there and ran up to the cottage to get warm and dry.  
An old Indian came down and paddled my canoe 
back to the beach in front of the Father’s.

The Father's Beach
Fall 1960 
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


Bill and Brian left their holed canoe on the Island 
and managed to get back by way of 
the partly finished causeway.  

Goodness, but I was cold!!!!  
After I got undressed, dried off, and into warm dry clothes, 
it took me about two hours to stop shivering and get warmed up.  

Finally I succeeded in getting warm, 
and then I borrowed TWO paddles from the Father 
and went over to the HBC store 
and thanked Bill and Brian for my rescue. 

Did I ever get ribbed.  
However, they were surprised 
that I was brave (or foolhardy enough) 
to take the canoe out so soon after my misadventure.

Anishinaabe Thunderbird
Emblem of the Ojibwa and Other Anishinaabe Peoples

I believe that I promised you 
the Lord’s Prayer in Ojibway.  
Here it is.  
It is the Catholic version though 
(I got it from the Father), 
and it ends at “but deliver us from evil.”

“Nossinan, kitci-kijikong eiaian, 
apatec kitcitwawinikoian,
ani tipenimiweian, kaie nanaitakoian aking, 
tapicko kitcikijikong.

Nin tassokijiko-pakwejikaniminan nongom mijicinam;
ponentamawicinam ki nickiiwe-iang, 
eji ponentamawangitwa neckiiiangitwa; 
keko pakitinicinakang tci matci aciikoiang.  
Maianatak itac ikonamawicinam.  

Apatec ing.” (Amen)

Flag of the Neskantaga First Nation
The Ojibwa or Oji-Cree of Lansdowne House

Well, there it is.  
Please excuse any typing errors.  
It is awfully hard to copy a language like this.

I am awfully tired after my swim in the lake, 
so I will wind this up right now, 
and I will get this ready and send it out tomorrow, 
because there is a plane expected in tomorrow, 
and at this time of year, it could be the last one. 

Photo Likely by Uno Manilla
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

See you all next week, 
if we aren’t frozen in by then.  
If we are, then I will be talking to you
after freeze-up.
As you can see, 
I am so tired that I am making
a lot of mistakes.

Bye now,

And I used to grumble if I had to drive to school
on a cold, windy day in my nice warm car.
I don't know how Dad did it, day after day.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Yours Truly
Freeport, Long Island,
in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo by Roy MacBeath
© All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: Robinson Crusoe

TLL: Bush Planes and the Puzzle of Thanksgiving


    1.  Bill Mitchell:  Manager of the
          Hudson's Bay Co. store  (left).
    2.  Brian Booth:  Clerk in the
          Hudson's Bay Co.  (right).
    3.  HBC:  Hudson's Bay Company
    4.  DOT:  Department of Transport
    5.  Father:  Father Maurice Ouimet, OMI


And for Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Ontario

Location of Lake Attawapiskat
Inland from Akimiski Island in James Bay
Wikimedia   edited

Map of Lansdowne House
10  HBC Dock
11  DOT Dock
8 Tip of Father's Island Dad Was Drifting Past
2  Dad and Uno's Shack


  1. This was some adventure, Think I'll keep my ole Paddle.
    Great story.

    1. Thanks, Yvonne! This is one adventure of Dad's that I'm glad I didn't share! Have a good one!

  2. Your father's adventures go on and on. How your mother must have worried about him. He was a prolific letter writer and those letters showing up in the mailbox must have been a lifeline to her. And to him too. He was lucky that someone noticed his dilemma and rescued him. Close call.

    1. Hi Peggy! Close call indeed. If Dad hadn't hung up on those rocks at the tip of the Father's Island, he would have been drifting on open water with bigger waves and could easily have drowned. Thank goodness Bill saw him! Happy Friday!

  3. Literally up the creek without a paddle lol that had to be cold. An accidental polar bear dip.

    1. I can't even imagine the cold, Pat! I have to tippy toe into tropical waters. We have crazies who do polar bear dips every New Years. Happy Friday!

  4. All because he threw away the broken paddle! That had to be really cold.

    1. I imagine that my father really heaved that paddle away after tripping over it and getting his foot wet. Poetic justice from the paddle's point of view!

  5. Wow, what a story! Brings new meaning to the adage of having to walk uphill both ways to get to school :)

    1. Hi Tess! Yes, paddling across the lake to and from school at least twice a day in all kinds of weather would get old fast; especially when you had just learned to paddle. Have a good one!

  6. Hypothermia sets in so quickly! Your Dad was lucky someone saw his difficulty right away.

    1. No kidding, Debra! I think that people were aware of what was going on around them there. I remember how the adult Indians kept their eyes on us all the time, especially watching my sister Bertie who was just learning to walk. And people helped each other, like the old Indian who paddled Dad's canoe back to the Father's beach. They took the initiative to do whatever was needed. Happy Friday!

  7. Louise, this is an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Linda! I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I'm behind everywhere because I got my first smart phone. As if I don't have enough to get into trouble with. Have a lovely weekend. Hugs!

  8. Another Friday letter, with so much excitement, but for your Dad, rather a frightening time in the water, and his rescuers, that is true friendship to look after your fellow mate. I guess there everyone was aware of what anyone else was doing, where they were, and if out, when expected home. And maybe just as well your Mum didn't know about the danger till it was all over. No such thing as standing under a hot shower to warm him up either. How lucky we are today.

    1. We are so lucky, Jean! Dad had only cold running water and a wood stove. I get the shivers thinking about that cold water. Hope all is well in your corner of the world!

  9. ‘up the creek without a paddle.’ Hehehe...yes, indeed! Your father had a sense of humour amidst all this unique adventure. Thank goodness no harm came to him in all that cold. Things could have gone really badly. Thank you for another awesome post.

    1. Thanks, Martha! Yes, Dad could have drowned. Beyond the tip of the island was a large expanse of open water with bigger waves. He was very lucky. Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Good thing there were alert witnesses to the difficulty. So much depends on our caring for others and acting on that care.

    1. You're right, Geo. Survival in the North depended on exactly that. Have a great weekend, my friend!

  11. It would be difficult to warm up after being in that water. Years ago we saw some boy scouts tip over their scout master's canoe on Lake Union in Seattle. I don't think the boys realize it could be dangerous. The scout master didn't have dry clothes to change into, so he went to the take-out window at Ivar's Indian Salmon House and got some hot chowder.


  12. Very cool post and the pictures are neat to see.

    1. Thank you, THW! My apology for replying so late. I've been going back through my posts to see where I've missed comments. This has been some month for me! Take care!

  13. Good for your dad to get right back into that canoe! It must have been a difficult choice but he knew he had to make.
    How fortunate you are, Louise, to have these letters....but I know you know that!

    1. Hi, Jim! Here I am apologizing yet again for falling so far behind! I've had my back against the wall at different times in my life when I have had no choice but to do very hard things, like getting back in that canoe. When you have no choice, it's surprising what you can do. Have a happy weekend.

  14. Oh my I bet he would have been freezing!!!!!!!x

    1. Hi, Kezzie! I can't imagine how cold he was! I'm fit only for tropical water now, LOL! Sorry I've fallen so far behind. It's been a challenging month for me. Next pleasure, after catching up on missed comments: enjoying all the scavenger hunt posts. Have a lovely weekend!

  15. I so Enjoyed the Lord's Prayer in a Tribal Language! I am of Native American Ancestry on my Dad's side and he had several Hymns recorded in Tribal Language that he got from his Relatives that still live on the Reservation, I have always so Enjoyed hearing them, it speaks to my Soul and my Spirit. Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

    1. Thank you, Dawn! This has been a challenging month for me, and I have fallen behind is every area of my life. My apology for replying to your kind words so late. They thrilled me! Lucky you, living in the beautiful Arizona desert. Blessings back to you!

  16. Cool reading about my sister's husband Brian booth before they met in 1965.


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.