We were Very fortunate to have Bucky Hayes as a father. He provided us with fish and game year round and he loved doing it. New Bethlehem is not all so far away from Canada, thru Toronto that we would go 5-8 times a year. Dad always had station wagons…the first employing real wood. They would put me the oldest and my two younger sisters to bed on Fri nite In the stationwagon, then they’d leave about 3 or 4 a.m. and we would be in Canada by noon. It was always a source of restraint and inhibitedness as Dad always carried a loaded 22 pistol in the car (he was an excellent shot) to shoot Partrige for dinner when we arrived. We would go thru customs in Toronto area and Dad would always warn us not to talk about the gun or where it was hidden as it was a very serious offense. I’m sure all they had to do was look at wide eyed kids and knew. I learned my first foreign word on that trip. Glace…which is French for ice. I would be sent in the birch bark canoe a hundred yards across the lake to get ice from the ice house which was a tightly sealed wooden building with strange doors and dark inside. Ice, cut from the frozen lake would be hauled here and packed in saw dust and was still very much natural ice in July and August. Lake Timiskiming is the only one I remember but there were so many. We rarely went to the same site twice. The first one had children, a boy Patty Stevens, (Or is is Paddy)? my age and a girl Veronica my oldest sister Donna’s age. The couple that owned the lodge were charming people to me at age maybe 8 but Paddy and I had a good time exploring and fishing. Paddys Dad Morey Stevens was a jovial person with cheeks reddened like rouge. Naturally Veronicas hair was red.They also had a real indian…no I don’t remember his name, I only remember him paddling the canoe in a straight line (describing to me how to do the J stroke), whilst we trolled our lures for fish like northern pike and muskie and pickerel. We caught a Lot fish and seeing bigger fish than what we had in New Bethelem was always exciting. The two special things were, besides having a real indian paddle for us, are the fact that we did it from a for real birchbark canoe. Yes…the real thing. I could make one now if I had birch trees like that. The other was that the indian could open a beer bottle with his teeth.
We went on portages, paddling across a lake, unloading and carrying canoe and all supplies across to the next lake…usually not far and usually around a waterfall. So beautiful and thunderous as to capture this kids imagination. Oh how I’d like to see them again. One night we slept in a log cabin that was just there for passersby. They were always left with matches, wood for a fire, and some small amount of food that would be safe from bears and raccoons. This cabin however had huge air spaces between the logs and it was the job of us kids to gather sphagnum moss to chink the gaps to prevent air from coming in or getting out. Therefore holding the heat. It was cold that night, but I made up for it by catching a large pike right under the dock. On one special trip we took a family friend as babysitter Naomi? and we had to travel literally many miles across “corduroy road” to get to the fishing site which was at the base of a gold mine with the power coming from a dam separating two lakes. My Dad has Alzheimers so I can’t ask him them name of these towns or people and I feel sad. The lakes up there had wild cranberry plots and moving islands. Literally islands that float. When you walked on “land”, Dad would warn me where to walk and how to keep from punching thru into the depths. On occasion you’d go to be on the shore line next to this island and the next morning the island had blown all the way across the lake. Fascinating. It was spooky because the water was rarely clear…it was loaded with tannin and therefore like strong tea. I like to swim underwater and see where I’m going. Well, this trip across the corduroy road was long and tiring to all of us. The roads were called corduroy because they were made of trees…saplings…maybe 6-8 inches in diameter and laid down side by side to allow the weight of a car to cross this swampy wetlands. They were unique and not forgotten. The fishing was great and all the effort we made was definitely worth it. Naturally there would be an occasional flat tire and this was back when tires had tubes and tubes came with rubber cement and patches and a cap on the patches that was sharp and roughed up the rubber of the tube to allow for nice sealing of the glue. They also came with a LOT of 4 letter words. My Dad could cuss such a stream. And he was the same way in winter when he had to put chains on. But he got the job done. So, we had a nice cabin to stay in when we go to this place and we ate like kings. Partridge and rabbit and froglegs and fish, pike and pickerel and muskie and yellow perch. And meat that mom brought from home. So, the night before we were to leave to go back to Penna, there was a big storm that washed out a very large section of the corduroy road and it would take 2 weeks to fix. Now we had been there for a week and had eaten lots of nice fresh fish etc, but now we were a little in trouble. We ate fish, and froglegs and occasional partridge and anything that Mom could make with flour for 2 more weeks. It was a VERY long time till I ate fish again and even then wasn’t too happy about it.
Another time in Canada, with parents friends Vida and Bill. I was 12 and we were in 2 boats. Dad told me he and Bill were going off to catch some big ones and I was to stay there and take care of the women. Yeah, right. sigh. I was so let down. So I just sat there and fished. Nothing biting. Let my lure sink to the bottom which was pretty deep and I just sat there for a while. Then I went to reel in and dang, my lure was caught on the bottom. Dang, it was my favorite red and white Daredevil lure. So I yanked one way and then the other trying to dislodge it. After that failed, there was no choice but to pull straight with the rod and hope it broke free. But it didn’t….it gave just a little. Hmm..must be a branch or log on the bottom. So I sat there tugging and pulling for close to 20 minutes when finally the log came to the surface, Only it wasn’t a log. It was the biggest fish I had ever seen (to that date). Huge! Dad had taken the net as well as the gaff hook. It had not even fought me, just laid there heavy as a log. And here I am in a boat full of females not of which is anxious to grab this monster. Aha. Dad left his “goody bag”, as we called them…a small canvas gym bag with a zipper, usually used to carry gym clothes, only we carried our hand guns and binoculars and sunglasses and things of importance. So, with the fish on the surface in my right hand, I got the 22 cal. pistol in my left hand and I shot that fish right between the eyes. It never even wiggled. It was 42 inches long and almost that many pounds. Dad and Bill came back and Dad held up a string of pickerel saying Aha! Look what we caught! And then I said Aha! Ever after that, I was allowed to fish with the big boys.
Another time in Canada, with Dad and my sisters in one canoe and Mom and me in the other, we were cast fishing and I happened to notice what looked like a triangular fin near a lily pad about 50 ft away. I cast close in that direction and the fin went under water and shortly I had a strike, and pulled in an illegal sized small northern pike. I released it and went on casting when I noticed that fin again. I pointed it out to Dad, cast my lure and repeated the catch. We could hardly believe it…I caught that same fish 17 times! Must have been starving!
One more maybe final time in Canada we were there with Vida and Bill and I was in one boat with Mom and Vida. Vida had gotten sleepy and was laying on the middle seat crossways to the small boat. I was casting off the opposite side of the boat when all of a sudden there was a loud splash and a scream. Vida had fallen asleep with her lure just barely touching the water. A fish had taken the lure, yanking the pole which awakened Vida whose hand was frozen on the reel. All in one motion. The line broke and she screamed. I had cast about 50 ft in the other direction when I had a strike, and I yanked, and fought for a short time, then reeled in a nice Northern Pike….with Vidas lure in it’s mouth. No camera. sigh
I had a lot of good times in Canada. Why, back then you could take your pocket knife out and cut a penny postcard size of bark off a birch tree, write on it and put a stamp on it and mail it. It was acceptable in those days.