Friday, January 20, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Adapting to Changes

In my last Lansdowne Letters post, I shared part of a letter
my father wrote to our extended family describing our early days together
in the remote northern community on Lake Attawapiskat.

My parents were really happy to have us together as a family again;
but even more so, I think, they were delighted to be a couple once more.

Sometimes in the busyness of our lives, we make the mistake
of taking ordinary life and its comforting rhythms for granted.
Much of life is everyday moments, and we should remember
that it is these small moments with our loved ones that come to mean the most.

Path to Our Water Hole
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada 
Winter 1961
Painting by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 2, 1961 ~ Continued...
My father wrote to our extended family:

Sara is looking, and I think feeling, a whole lot better since she arrived in the North.
She is not so jumpy, and in spite of all our entertaining, she is more rested.

She has adopted about two or three of the Indian dogs and feeds them every day!
How those dogs love Sara.
They really recognize a sucker when they run across one.
Seriously though, they are starved,
and we only feed them what we would otherwise throw away.

Canadian Inuit Dogs:  by fgiamma  (can share on social media)

The children are a great help to me
carrying up the water every day, especially Louise.

Roy has begun to find the whole procedure something of a bind.
The ingenuity he displays in inventing excuses
to get out of carrying water amazes me.
I have never seen anyone who can dig up more aches and pains
than he can at water hauling time.

I make him do his share though, for I don't think it hurts
for children to have certain chores at home.

I never allow the children to go to the water hole alone,
and I always fill the buckets for them.
I wouldn't let them near it alone, for it is quite big,
and I am afraid that they could fall in.
They are forbidden to go near it except when I am with them.

A Strategic Roy
Notice how he has pulled the blanket to bring his toys closer.
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Summer 1952
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

A Different Approach to Life
I, on the other hand, had to be constantly tied down with my ubiquitous harness and rope.
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Summer 1952
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thursday night is regular weigh-in time for the MacBeaths.
Sara has gained between two and three pounds since she came up here.
We are stuffing food into her just about every time she turns around,
and in addition, I have her taking Cod Live Oil twice a day.

My weight shot up seven pounds the first week Sara was here.
I couldn’t resist Sara’s home cooking I guess,
especially her lovely homemade bread.

However, the intensity has worn off such temptations now,
and I have gone back on my diet.
In the last two days, I have managed to shed
over a pound of what I had gained back.
I am going to loose it all, for I feel so good when I am light
that I don’t want to ever be heavy again.

Honeymoon Days
My father always struggled to take weight off,
while my mother struggled to keep it on.
Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Early September 1948
Photos by Don and Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For the benefit of my Island subscribers, I should mention
that Sara has become an aunt again.
Louise gave birth to a baby girl the last of January.
Most likely Sara has written everyone about it,
but just in case she hasn’t, I thought I would let you know.
At the same time, I want to send
belated congratulations to the proud mother and father.

It has been snowing quite heavily for the last two or three days.
The damned stuff is just cascading down.

Going to school today I was plowing knee deep in the snow,
and this is on a beaten path yet.  
If I strayed off the path, I would sink almost to my waist.
I know, I made this blunder once today when I was going for water.

You should see poor Gretchen in the snow.
She literally swims through it.
Even Gretchen seems to like the North and
is looking better since she arrived up here.

Bark Post

Louise has bought some beads at the Bay, and she is getting
Anne O’Flaherty to show her how to do Indian beadwork.
She is all excited about the whole thing.
Poor Louise, she gets so excited about things like this, doesn’t she?

We have really been isolated since Sara arrived.
I sent for some aerial wire, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
I haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on in the world.
For all I know, there could be a war in progress.
Even when I do get the papers and magazines, the news is a week old.
I will be glad when we get the radio functioning again.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Chicago Black Hawks 
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, circa 1961

Amphibious Assault Ship USS Boxer (LPH-4) 
at Norfolk, Virginia (USA), in 1961

Two things have happened simultaneously.
I have run out of things to say,
and I have remembered that I have to put oil in the stove,
so I’ll just let the distaff side of the team take over from me.

Bye now,
Love, Don. 

In defense of Roy,  I feel I should set the record straight regarding hauling water.
At first Dad did accompany us to our water hole,
clambering down the hill on the snow-packed path to the frozen lake below.

He would grab the ice pick
stashed upright by our water hole
and chop up the inch or so of ice
that had frozen over it
since the day before.

Then he would fill our metal buckets
and send us on our way
back up the hill
to the forestry shack.

Flickr:  Thirteen of Clubs   License 

This did not last very long.  
Hauling water for a family of seven is a time-consuming task,
as well as physically challenging.
My father soon developed a bad back.

Dad fortuitously realized that Roy and I were
responsible enough and capable of hauling water on our own,
and we two very different people soon inherited the task.

Roy, from his earliest days, had demonstrated
an aptitude for accomplishing tasks
by expending the least amount of energy possible.
One of our family stories is how Mom first realized that Roy was very smart
by observing him pulling his blanket toward him so he could reach his toys.
For him, hauling water was a chore and there were better ways to spend his time.

I, from my earliest days,
had demonstrated an aptitude for
covering a lot of territory very fast.

It was Roy, just a few years ago,
who pointed out to me
that almost every photo of me as a child
has me harnessed to a rope
trailing out of the photograph.

Me in My Harness Carrying My Coiled Rope
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Summer 1952
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For me, hauling water was an adventure, and I loved the thrill
of chopping the ice hole open and filling the buckets.

At first Roy tried to wiggle out of the chore, 
but soon he had a legitimate reason for avoiding the task.
He developed serious ear infections and tonsillitis
after arriving in Lansdowne House,
so he was frequently too sick to haul water.

These bouts worsened and resulted in an operation to treat his mastoiditis
and remove his tonsils in the Sioux Lookout Hospital about a year later.

Meanwhile I carried on hauling the family water,
sometimes with the help of my younger sisters Donnie and Barbie.
Barbie, like me, had a lot of fun hauling her tiny buckets up from the lake.

Every bucket had to be strained through cheesecloth
draped over the water drum near the door in our kitchen.
Then my mother would purify it
with a few drops of Javex liquid bleach.
Soon I took over the purification job too.

I would haul every drop of that water again,
if I could go back
and relive those days with my family.
They were the best of times;
but then, being with my family is always wonderful.

Together at Christmas
Donnie and Roy, Louise (me) and Barb, with Bertie in front.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 12/25/2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.   Louise's Baby:  
      My mother's sister Louise and her husband Carl Lindholm
      added daughter Julie to their growing family at the end of January, 1961.

2.   Isolation:  
      As I recall there were several short wave radios in Lansdowne House at the time, at
      the Hudson's Bay post, the Roman Catholic Mission, the Nursing Station, and the Department of
      Transport weather station.  These short wave radios were the only means of communication
      with the Outside between bush plane flights.  The white people all had transistor radios, and
      as soon as Dad's aerial wire arrived, our transistor radio provided us with current news and music.
      I might as well have been on the dark side of the moon, for my world had shrunk to the visible
      horizons of white ice and black spruce against the sky.  I didn't pay much attention to the
      transistor radio until I became a fan of WLS Chicago and it's Hit Parade a few months later.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Lansdowne House
The Hudson's Bay Post and Department of Transport Buildings and Houses, 1960
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

A Quick Sketch of Lansdowne House by My Father
It shows the location of the Hudson's Bay, the Department of Transport, 
and the Roman Catholic Mission on the Father's Island.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lansdowne House, Ontario

Map of Canada


  1. What a help you were to your family and so responsible at a young age...and so willing to help. I know it was appreciated by your father who had to do that previously. I think the pictures of you with the harness on are hilarious. You had wanderlust right from the very beginning. Knowing how you travel so much now I wonder if that was ingrained in you right from the start. And I can see you sitting down with your beads expressing your creativity. So much of what you are joe started way back then.

    1. Happy Friday, Peggy! When Roy and I were sitting together looking over old family photos, and Roy noticed that many of mine had me harnessed and roped, we laughed until the tears rolled down our faces and our tummies hurt. None of my siblings were tied down like me. LOL We joke about the travel gene running through the generations of our family. Traveling is firmly embedded in my genetic code. Have a lovely weekend, my friend! Hugs and love to you!

  2. I would have been the one coming up with excuses not to do it too lol physical labor, who needs that? Rather do that than get real ailments though. You sure were go go go.

    1. Real ailments are no fun for sure, Pat! I guess at this point in my life, I have to accept that I'm always going to be go, go, go! Have a great weekend, my rhyming friend!

  3. And at least you don't have to wear that harness anymore!
    I'd say Roy was ambitiously lazy.

    1. LOL, Alex! Terry has threatened to leash me a number of times over the years! When we were in Calgary at Christmas, Roy asked Terry if I exhausted him. I think Roy actually accomplishes much more than I do, but then he has always been more ambitious than I. It's fascinating to see how different siblings in a family can be. Have a great weekend, my friend!

  4. I was a go go baby too. I had to be watched. My big baby adventures were a near escape when I practically used my chair to hop off and when I snuck into the fridge and ate tomatoes. Still a big lover of those red angels today. Yum! Of course I have to rely on my mother for this info but I'm sure she can be trusted. My parents told me stories of things they had to do as kids. Either way we each had our own chores. Some more than others. Anyway thanks for another post and sorry Roy got so sick. Love the modern group photo!

    1. Hi Sheena-kay! I can just see you hopping off in your chair and eating tomatoes with delight! LOL Chores are good for everyone. I think they keep you grounded. Have a lovely weekend, my friend!

  5. What a wonderful post, Louise, and I love all these photos!!! Thank you so much for all you share, and I am sorry to hear Roy got sick.

    1. Happy Friday, Linda! Rather an historic one. I just watched the Obamas lift off from DC for the final time. Interesting times are upon us for sure! Once Roy had his operation in Sioux Lookout, he has been pretty fortunate health wise. We all have our challenges, don't we! Have a lovely weekend! Sending you hugs and much love!

  6. I always so loved being out and helping my Dad on the farm, much better to me then than being inside. But we didn't have snow. Did I mention that our older daughter and family will be in B.C. from 22nd, for 10 days skiing! I see it is 1Celsius at Kelowna right now, and here , in the middle of our summer, at 6 a.m. Saturday, we have 5 Celsius.Almost a ground frost!!!. A harness, what a laugh as you have the extra rope all coiled up. Love the Friday letters, as always. When do you hear about the short story?

    1. Hi Jean! I hope that your daughter and family have a wonderful time in BC. My sister Donnie and her husband were skiing in BC last weekend and had a great time. It's great that it is so warm there, because it can be a whole different ballgame when it's way below zero on either temperature scale!

      That photo of me with the ball of rope cracks me up! And the photo is also striking to me because I was so serious. I was a very serious child a lot of the time. btw, I became very adept at untying knots, but because I was serious and respectful, wherever I went I dutifully tied myself on, even if it was at the top of a ladder! LOL

      My short story didn't make the anthology! :( But in a way I'm glad, because I'm going to revise it and add in some more, because I think I was trying to cover too much in 6,000 words. I so appreciate that you spent time reading it and helped me with it. And next year, whatever the genre is, I'm going to enter the anthology contest again.

      Sending you and Hugh lots of hugs and love. Wishing you a warm, sunny weekend!

  7. Enjoyed your analysis of the differences between you and your brother Roy! Very funny!

    1. Thanks, Debra! It was fun to do! wishing you and your Rare One a happy weekend together!

  8. It's nice that your dad singled you out for recognition of your hard work. With the inauguration today, I would like to be cut off from the world for a while. Your harness is hilarious, you wild child.


    1. Hi, Janie! This is a tough day for those of us who voted for a different result, for sure. I'm trying to be optimistic and give our new president a chance, but it is not easy. I am certainly concerned about women's, minorities' and gay's rights, and I don't even want to think about international affairs, etc., etc. We shall see! Hang in there! Sending you a big hug!

  9. A wonderful post, Louise. I am beginning to see and appreciate the bond you have with your siblings.
    An experience such as this time spent in the north, and many others I am sure, has really kept you all together and very close. This is something I know you cherish. You are very fortunate.
    You in a harness!! lol....not at you but just at the thought of you being tied down!! Must have felt great when your parents decided not to use that any longer, eh? Do you remember when this happened?
    Hope you weekend is going well, Louise.

    1. Thanks, Jim! I'm so glad that you enjoyed my post! We lived in a number of small places which drew us together. Also, we were moving all the time, so my brother and sisters were the constant in my life. I don't remember getting free of the harness. I'm sure it was around the time I turned four. I think may parents gave up once I became adept at untying knots!

      I've been having so much fun here in Riverside RV Resort! I've been taking Texas Hold 'Em Lessons and playing. I've been playing Mexican Poker which is a card and dice game. I knew I was breaking into the social circles on my own without Terry and his pickleball connections when Gloria (kitty-corner) across the street banged on my door and asked me if I could substitute for her in a bunko game, because she had to take a friend to the hospital. She threw me a bag of lettuce, two lotto tickets, and told me Maria (down the street) would pick me up at 3:45 pm. I didn't even know what bunco was! LOL Oh yeah, the lettuce was what I had to bring for the dinner. Bunco's about the simplest dice game you can play. Makes yen look like chess. But it was a lot of fun. I've been taking my line dancing classes, and I have to go get ready for the Saturday night dance in a few minutes. I'm going to wear my brand new cowboy boots!!! I can't wait!

      It's been raining a lot here in the desert, and now thin, spindly, patches of grass are springing up. I bet the desert will be filled with flowers in a month or so.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friend!

  10. Relating to Roy just might be my angle on your post today, Louise. I too was sickly and I believe when one is like this, they find ways to accomplish tasks the most easiest route possible. So high 5 Roy! When you mentioned mastoid issues it reminded me of a student in our WHS classes who had the same problem. I sat opposite him in the class in HS. He disappeared for almost a month then returned with a massive scar behind his ear. I used steal stares at it because I had never seen anything like this before. Small memories like this are ignited so easily aren't they!? Winks.

    I don't know if I would have survived your childhood existence Louise. Oh I probably would have but I feel that the extreme conditions just wouldn't have been my families road to take. Maybe other extreme conditions were meant to be as they were indeed.

    As always,

    1. 5^ indeed, Ron! See I remember from several years back when you taught me that! 5^ 5^ 5^ Roy had some tough issues to handle growing up. At some point I'll share his wolf story.

      It's funny what kicks off memories! You certainly had your own extreme conditions to grow up under. I can't imagine how your family handled the devastation of losing your dad, for starters. To me, the conditions we were experiencing were adventures. I was living in history. I was seeing and doing things most kids never got to experience. It was very exciting!

      Well, the clock is ticking, and I have a dance to get ready for. I'm going to do some boot scooting! I'm going to get a little more blogging in after the dance ~ perpetually catching up!!! I've got to check and see what Ms SD has been up to! Sending hugs to you all! Take care!

  11. Well, Louise, I have had a wonderful read today, and will try to slowly work my way back later this evening and tomorrow, as every one of your posts is a treasure. I, too, was thinking about your dad's words about Roy, your own explanation of how you saw that situation, and of how I, too, was not above trying to get out of certain household chores if i could. I was not sickly at all but I was built with long limbs that were not really all that strong. Probably, my inclination was not to exercise - I much preferred to read a book or practice the piano. As I grew older, I discovered the joy of a good workout, but it sure didn't happen in my youth. That said, I had a lot of chores that I did more or less willingly including meal prep as both parents worked from the time I was six. Interesting how we remember our youth and how we relate when we read stories like yours, written with such passion and insight. My sister, like you, was often put in a harness for her own safety. My mother took us to Montreal on a bus for almost all medical appointments, and with just 14 months between us, and some significant eye issues for me, she had her hands full on those trips that included navigating busy streets and department stores and hospital clinics too. The harness, she was convinced, was a life-saver. My impression is that you were a kid just full of energy and joy and curiosity and you haven't changed. Loved all the photos and the maps and your father's wonderful letter-writing personality. A beautiful post yet again. Well done, dear friend!!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Carol! We all try to find a way to wiggle out of chores when we were children. I helped with meal preparation from an early age, too. One of the things I loved to do in Lansdowne House was to knead the bread dough for Mom's homemade bread. Just remembering he fragrance of Mom's homemade bread baking makes my mouth water. I'm sure my harness was a life saver. Even today, sometimes Terry says he'd like to put a leash on me! LOL Wishing you a lovely day, dear Carol! Sending a big hug to you and Bill!

  12. HAHAHA! I had a good laugh with your dad's letter and the part about your brother Roy. That was just too funny. And the photos you shared to show the difference between the two of you when you were babies. I think every sibling group has different personalities like that. Makes it that much more interesting!

    Another wonderful post, Louise! Thanks for sharing all this with us.

    1. Happy Tuesday, Martha! You have this wonderful sense of humor which I love! Isn't it amazing how different siblings can be? I'm perpetually playing catch up with reading posts, but I'll get by later today! Have a good one, my friend! Sending you hugs and love!

  13. I have never been so grateful for running, clean water. Crazy! I'm glad you saw it as an adventure and challenge. I can just imagine the stress of trying to get my children to help with that task...

    1. Hi, Crystal. Sorry I'm late replying! I didn't realize there was a new comment. Running clean water is a wonderful thing. I had a taste of carrying water every day up North, from gathering it through a hole in the ice at -40+ ºF to gathering it from rocks in the lake 80+ F. I have great sympathy for the endless hours women and girls around the world spend hauling water.

      Neskantaga (Lansdowne House) now has running water, but the community has been under the longest boil orders in Canada's history. Access to clean water in First Nations communities in Northern Ontario and other parts of the Canadian North is a long and ongoing crisis that remains to be solved.

      Over fifty years ago, my father helped the nurse, Mike O"Flaherty, collect water samples throughout the area. Mike came to our school and gave an unforgettable talk about the water situation in the community way back then. He drew a map of the community's waterholes, ours included; then scrawled "death" over each one. That's why we "purified" our water with bleach!

      Dad went through an experimental phase of boiling water for drinking at our home and school. But it took forever to boil enough water for drinking and to mix powdered milk for 30 some children at school as well as boiling water for our family of seven. Worse yet, Dad and I had to haul buckets of boiled water across the peninsula to the school each morning. That experiment had a short duration, and we were back to "purifying" the water with bleach.

      Yes, I love my running, clean, and hot water, and I'm always aware of how much I'm using. Well, except for some cold winter days, when I sometimes linger in the shower or fill a full-sized tub for a good soak.

      Have a great Weekend!!!


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