A Story About Myself
Once upon a time I was a kid, just full of life, maybe a little too creative but always looking for an adventure.
This is a series of short stories about being a kid with no computer, I Phones or I Pads if you get my drift. We were kids when kids were just that, not spoiled, carried a few marbles and maybe a slingshot or BB gun.
I found a beat up canoe on a neighbouring property when I was about 9 or 10. The homemade canoe was made of galvanized tin and the joints were hand riveted and soldered. Looking back I think it was around 9′ long and about 3 1/2′ at the widest point.
I claimed that canoe as mine as there had been no one living on the adjacent property for a number of years. A few dents and bruises but a superior find for any kid. But if you had a penchant for adventure, the sky was the limit.
A couple of questions about ownership and a discussion with my dad and voila- my first boat!
Looking back, I am sure my father felt that I had fallen on a big rock. Anyone who understands metal knows how heavy it can be and how hard it is to keep metal on metal from leaking, especially a homemade canoe.
On a early spring weekend, my friend Martin and I loaded it cross ways on a wagon and pushed and pulled it almost two miles to a small creek. It was quite an ordeal as we worked our way down a dusty gravel road.
We were so tired after that memorable trek, we decided not to launch the canoe and were barely able to drag our butt’s home before dark.
Our adventure would have to wait until the following weekend, before the Titanic made her maiden voyage.
We kept the location of the Titanic a secret from our parents and friends, lest they interrupt our grand plans. We did not know the need for decent paddles or life jackets. A couple of narrow boards trimmed with an axe were our paddles and a lunch bag full of treats from Martin’s mom was the beginning of our adventure.
The first weekend came and went without a hitch. We were now seasoned canoeists and masters of our own destiny. You could call us coureurs de bois or at least that was what we thought of ourselves.
The spring run off
It was early April and the snow was melting way too fast. The meandering creek changed from playful to downright dangerous. But the faster the water flowed, the harder we would paddle. Running the rapids was the highlight of the day and way too short a distance! The tow back upstream was tough but we only managed to get a boot full of water once in a while.
By the third weekend, we noticed that much of the snow had left and the creek was beginning to slow. We knew our adventure was soon to end, so we decided the next weekend was going to be one to remember.
That was one of the longest weeks of school I ever attended. Every warm day meant less and less snow. Less snow meant less water in the creek. Would we have enough water left to by the weekend to make the final runs with the Titanic?
The Sucker Run
I had never seen a spring spawning run of suckers before. All you could see were the bronze backs of hundreds of fish of all sizes, holding in their spawning area. They came from the river to spawn in the creek. I guess the added flow attracted them and brought them to us. We delayed the usual running of the rapids with the Titanic and decided then and there to become bow hunters.
Kids in my day carried pocketknives. They were not used to stab or threaten people but to whittle wood, cut string, make wiener sticks or just play a game called stretch. I made a bow from a red willow sapling and butchers’ twine, cut a bunch of crooked arrows with sharpened tips and no fletching and even tied line to the arrow to retrieve my catch. Martin and I were in bow hunter heaven and the suckers were about to take a licking. The suckers held in shallow rapids. They did not seem to be alarmed as we approached and only repositioned in the current. They had their minds and eyes on the work at hand. We must have thinned out the nearby willows because I remember I was tired of remaking my bow. The saplings could only take so much abuse before they lost their strength and the arrows lost their zip. After a day of playing the masterful archer, I realized my catch rate was somewhat below par. Because we were resourceful, we decided there had to be a better way.
My dad’s garage (workshop)
My dad’s garage was such a treasure trove for the kid who was never afraid of looking but always short on asking. Tucked away, in a dust- covered box I spied something of real interest.
On the box was stamped C I L. Below that was stamped- Stumping Powder.
I think I overlooked the word DANGEROUS- DO NOT USE, etc., etc., etc. Now this looked like just the ticket to do some real damage to the sucker population! Just another over sized firecracker.
Now- if I just took a few sticks, my dad would never miss them and like a pack rat, I was off to my friend’s house to show him the ultimate in sucker fishing.
All about timing
It was all about timing; tie the stick of stumping powder on the arrow, light the fuse and send the arrow on its’ way. Later on, as we washed our faces in the creek, we decided this plan had too many faults. Some fuses burned really fast and it was a race to see if the arrow would be far enough away before the blast. Others were slower and the arrow might drop into the water and the fuse would get wet. Thank the Lord I never stole more sticks of stumping powder or I might not be writing this story.
All I can say was the first explosion was frightening and the second exciting. The third and fourth might have been the ones that gave us a hint of what not to do or not to be near. I can still see the mud and sticks flying towards me. My mouth was probably open and that is why I had to rinse it out with muddy creek water.
So the idea of managing the sucker run came to a dubious halt. It was time to make the final runs with the Titanic.
The End of an Adventure
The water was getting pretty skimpy by Sunday and we had to look for channels to float the canoe. It was now or never! There was one deep channel that carried a little extra water and a lot more speed. We decided that this was the only route suitable for such accomplished canoeists.
We put the Titanic into the stream, jumped in and paddled as hard as we could. We had water splashing off the bow and hoped the hollering would encourage more speed.
———-And then we hit a submerged stump——— Bang and the canoe started to tip, nose first.
Just like the real Titanic, we were doomed. The riveted seams broke free of all our diligent patching and the canoe broke up.
I was worried about drowning in that cold water that day- but looking back, I probably did the Australian crawl faster than an Olympic swimmer, even with my clothes on.
Now you know why I named my first boat the Titanic.
I thought I had the world’s best fishing reel back then. It was a Bronson level wind with 20-pound black Dacron line on a Fiberglas Shakespeare rod. I didn’t care if I needed more than a 1-ounce sinker to launch my baited hook into the water. She was a beauty in the eyes of the beholder.
About the time I got good at casting, the gears were pretty much worn out. She didn’t sing on a cast; she made an awful high-pitched grinding screeching sound. You never knew when the gears would lock up and the weight was heading back at you at twice the speed. Maybe that’s why I’m such a poor catcher. I’d rather duck than get hit.
Country boys’ fishing
My favourite set up at the time was green cotton cord fishing line with at least two pre-snelled Aberdeen hooks a gob of worms on each hook and a nut or bolt for weight. When I got my allowance or got paid for the odd job, I would go straight to the hardware store to buy more hooks. Sometimes I would experiment with the analogy- more hooks, more fish.
I had hand lines with over twenty hooks and was quite adept at tossing the whole rig into the water. It must have been the day I tried to toss twenty-one baited hooks. I still carry the scar where the last hook left a furrow across my arm.
I knew about strike indicators before they were commercialized. My favourite strike indicator was a ball of Red River gumbo molded to the line.
We caught lots of Channel cats and yellow Bullheads. We sold the days catch to the Porters who worked the Trans Continental train that passed through our town. I could never understand why the Porters would pay two bits for any catfish.
My favourite bait was the earthworm.
Our family garden really didn’t need cultivation. It always had the look, as if a family of pocket gophers moved in.
I remember when the first lead head jigs came into the stores. I told my friends that this hook would never catch a fish and it would be soon destined to oblivion. I was such a dumbass. You should see my jig collection today!!
I accidentally dug up my first night crawler and had to ask myself if I was man enough to put it on a hook.
Fishing has always had its’ high and low points. Skipping school and going fishing got me into a lot of trouble with the teachers and my parents. My only defence was a patented, well rehearsed; well– they don’t teach anything I need to know or like to do! That usually got me between one and four days holiday. ——————————————————————————————————————————–
I spent one summer holiday with my parents in the Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba.
There I found out the differences between a leech and a bloodsucker.
Driving my first powered boat
I actually got to drive a boat on that trip. It was the last boat I drove until my parents forgot about the incident.
Our good friends had offered us the opportunity to use their cottage for two weeks. With us came the property owners’ son. We had the use of their Peterborough runabout with a “massive” 35 h.p. motor. I don’t think there was a day went by when we weren’t asking for gas money. We tried just about everything we could with that boat and speed was the key.
My friend was as fearless as I was stupid. One evening, I took him over a ski jump that wasn’t in use. I think Bruce hit the dry ramp and his skis dug in. He came over the top doing cartwheels with no skis.
When I turned around to pick him up, he asked to go to shore. I could see by the rug burns on his body that the trip home would have to be quick.
Fearing the worst, I managed to get Bruce back up on the skis. When we approached the beach in front of the cottage, I made the turn to drop him off. I guess in my excitement, I forgot to throttle back and Bruce dropped the ski rope. When I turned the boat around I saw ski tracks across the sand beach and Bruce, skis still intact, hugging a birch tree.
I will have to work on some more of my childhood history. The memories bring back many embarrassing moments but a bunch more smiles.
September 20, 2006