Blood red apples

When I  was a young RCMP recruit in training in Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan there was a strong connection with police activities in the city of Regina and the rest of  the province. Any new crimes caught our attention and we could never get enough information.

In the spring of 1955 a murder occurred in Regina and the details slowly filtered out in bits and pieces. The case was simple and quickly solved. Three elderly seniors were living in a ramshackle house on the edge of town. The woman that owned the house had two male companions living with her and sharing expenses.

It seems a so called senior love triangle formed and the dominant couple eliminated the third party by stabbing him in his bed while he slept. Within a few days the warmer spring weather made it necessary for them to seal the bedroom door to the deceased room as the smell became very strong.  Paper and cloth was used the fill any cracks and holes.

As spring advanced neighbors started to notice the smell and the couple was forced to seal the one exterior bedroom window which was not air tight.  Conditions continued to worsen to the point a next door neighbor phoned the police, who quickly arrived. A simple walk around the house in question left no doubt something was seriously wrong.

In due course the police gained entry and then forced open the deceased’s bedroom door. The crime scene was shocking and hard to comprehend. The body was dressed in long red winter long johns with a knife still protruding from his chest.

The upper half of the body was hanging over the edge of the bed and the bed itself was covered in hundreds and hundreds of maggots. It was impossible to enter the  room as the entire small bedroom floor was a mass of writhing maggots at least three inches deep.

The criminal investigation team and Corners office had to shovel a path to the body in order to extract it.  Gas masks were required during the entire procedure.

In the end the house was crushed and burned, then buried on the lot. During  interrogation the responsible couple admitted everything and were obviously in the early stages of dementia. They were both place in secure mental facilities, until they died.

The ultimate conclusion to the story came when during her interrogation, the woman complained that shortly after the murder she went down the basement to recover a box of fresh apples. Blood from the upstairs bedroom had seeped through the floor onto the apples and she had to wash them all off  before they could eat them!

Very few details reached the public. There are times when it is not necessary to know all the details.

The Johnson Farm

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An old rural mailbox at rest.  The farmer has died and his wife is in the nursing home. The land has been rented out and the house sits vacant. The heartbeat of the farmyard has slowed, and come to a full halt.

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The final act was to tear out the mailbox and post from the edge of the rural road, leaving it hidden from view, leaning against an old shed. A mailbox that has held a lifetime of messages, good news and bad.

4-8-2011 014A typical old red barn sitting in a farm yard which has now turned into a hay meadow. It always seems so quiet when I visit an abandoned farm. I try to imagine the place back when it was a busy working farm with teams of horses harnessed up and hard at work. Milk cows lowing in  the barn and chickens running to and fro, chasing bugs.

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The barn windows have been beaten and weathered through countless storms till only a single pane of glass remains.

4-8-2011 021 The door to this old farm building has seen a lot of activity. Those days are gone and the farm has been abandoned. The boards are weathered to the point you can just barely see the remains of the original bright red paint.

Weathered door & hardware

The door has sagged so the hardware is no longer in alignment. I love the old style latch and handle that was probably crafted in the shop out of left over materials.

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The steps and porch of the house have been taken over by raspberry canes, as life struggles on. Long after these photos were taken the house was destroyed and the remains buried.

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The outhouse has served its time and is slowly being enveloped in vines and ferns.

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I took these photos over ten years ago and in recent years the farmyard has been  purchased by a young couple who have move in another house. The barn has a new steel roof. Children’s voices are once again being heard and so the cycle repeats itself.

Eloise’s Wilderness Trek

img499Back in the mid 70’s, prior to becoming an English Teacher, Eloise ventured into Northern Ontario on a number of canoe trips. In this shot the guide is paddling while she fishes for the next meal. The canoe is piled high with all the camping gear and equipment.

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The guide is multitasking, paddling and trolling for fish at the same time. We are on an unnamed pair of lakes that could only be reached by portaging the canoe and gear through the woods. A small island provides a perfect camping spot.

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The tent is up, the cooking area erected, and the evening campfire site is ready. The island is about a quarter of a mile from the mainland and we are at least twenty miles from civilization.

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Fishing for a big Northern is a daily activity.

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At least we won’t go hungry this evening.

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Future English teacher, substituting as camp cook.

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This is what she looks like when the fish are not biting. Many a student of English experienced this look when things were not going well. (I am going to die when she sees these pictures!)

The sign of the bear!

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One of our regular black bear visitors left his mark on one of the kitchen windows. The size of the paw print can best be appreciated by the size of the window frame. I consider this a good luck sign as the bear his given us his stamp of approval.  Any lesser bear, upon seeing this signature, would be sure to move on.

It also has an effect on uninvited human visitors, who would also get the message.

Last night while driving home in the dark and prior to reaching my driveway I had a small bear cub race across the road in front of me and dash into our woods.  Obviously he had been visiting the bee hives nearby.

This a good sign that at least one of the local bear cubs has survived and continues his residence in our woods. It also confirms that Browne’s woods are not yet bare of bears!

 

Time capsules

Many forgotten old storage sheds are hidden on the prairies. The farm has been abandoned, in many cases the house has been salvaged, burned down, or moved to another site. Visits to the old farm become less and less and finally no one even visits the place because only old rusted junk remains. The trees and bushes take over and soon the buildings disappear.

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How many times have you driven by one of these old sheds and been curious as to what lies inside?  Here is a peak into the past.

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For starters, the roof is in the last stage of destruction and collapse. Caution is primarily as the wrong touch or bump can launch and landslide of debris on your head. This shed hold very old auto and truck parts from the early 1900’s.

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Obviously the body of an old car with fenders, hoods and miscellaneous parts scattered about.

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This view shows the rear tires and frame of a vehicle, accompanied by more fenders and the springs from the car seats. Many other parts I am unable to identify.

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I was surprised by the great condition of the tire tread, but the wheel itself is in poor shape. The owner must have put the vehicle in storage because of mechanical problems, soon after putting a new tire on.

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A couple of 1951 license plates suggests there has not been much activity on this site for about sixty years.

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Now your curiosity has been partly satisfied, take a good look as the next storm or falling tree could reduce this time capsule to a junk pile.

Bears, Bears, Bears.

Early this morning, when I was checking my bird feeders through the kitchen window I suspected the bear was back again. Someone had licked the platform and ground and not a sunflower seed was left.

Two nights before the suet holder and a  fresh fat cake of suet had been stolen. My local black bear was becoming a regular visitor. This is my second suet holder this year – gone!

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Bear licking the suet holder clean.

I keep all my seeds in two steel pails with lids in my kitchen porch.  The Suet stash is in the kitchen. The kitchen door from the kitchen into the porch has a glass window. As I approached the door to get more sunflower seeds for my feeders, my eyes met the eyes of a visitor.  The bears was sitting in the porch after finding the seed containers and partaking in a early breakfast.

Bears look bigger when sitting in your porch and peaking in the kitchen door window!!!

We both got a surprise, eyeball to eyeball, but he flinched first and headed for the woods with a bit of a trot.  The porch floor was a bit of a mess where he had opened the first container and licked its partial remains clean.  The second can held twenty five pounds of sunflower seeds (shelled) and that was half empty, lying it is side.

I am sure the bear felt he had stumbled on the mother load and certainly had plans to return. I on the other hand resolved to close the kitchen porch outside door each night. In addition I am going to take my suet in each night and leave the feeders empty.

Had I flung open the kitchen door and stepped into my porch in my usual manner this story might have been even more interesting.

I will remember Sunday, July 1st, the day when I had an opportunity to examine the head and features of a bear, up close. All the teeth were clean and shiny.

Gas/Time travel wagers – Part 4

img645 While we drove the canoe through the chain of lakes, rivers and rapids I though about the number of meetings we held the winter of 1967-68, to work out the details of the trip to Rowdy lake.. One of the earliest decisions agreed upon was that we would go in early spring of 1968. We had to wait until all the lakes and rivers were free of ice but soon enough to take advantage of the spring run off, which would improved passage through any rapids.

The most up to date map of our route showed we could make the trip in one day, but we would have to travel lite and keep moving as fast as possible.  We would start out early and carry sandwiches for one meal only. The major portages between the rivers and lakes were obvious, but very few of the rapids and falls were shown. Because our equipment was very limited we could move fairly quickly on a portage.  We carried no tent nor sleeping bags. Any unforeseen delays meant sleeping on the ground around a fire and going hungry till we reached our destination or back tracked to our starting point.

If we failed to show up at the rendezvous the plane could be used the next day to find us  and it could land on the closest lake to provide food or assistance.

Our route was easy to determine because there was only one chain of lakes and river available to us. It should not be difficult to find us if anything went wrong.

Many discussion evolved around how long it would take to make the journey and how many gallons of gasoline would be required.  Rather than carry and portage all our gas we solved that problem by filling a number of plastic gallon containers with gas then used the plane to drop them off in three places along the route. I flew with Dave a week prior to the trip and we hid one or two gallons on prominent island locations, on lakes that were large enough for us to fly into. This way we never had more than a couple of gallons to carry at any one time in the canoe or on a portage.

All the many discussions as to the length of time the trip was going to take were interesting and highly varied.  We never came to a common decision. Because of my canoeing experience I argued that it would be a race to get to the rendezvous before dark while William insisted we would be there by supper time. The winner would receive a bottle of scotch from the loser.

Another bet involved the amount of gas that we would use during the trip. David bet me an hour on the camp woodpile splitting wood that we would use all the gas we cached on the route while I was of the opinion that we would use a couple of gallons less.

As the miles and hours dragged on we all started to get hungry and at the same time watched the sun racing across the sky.  We ate the sandwiches at noon and picked up a couple of milk jugs of gas. It did not appear gas was going to be a problem but the diminishing hours were making William feel the bottle of scotch slipping from his grasp.

When I finished my turn at the helm I moved to the bow of the boat which allowed a person to lean back on a life jacket and have a nap. David was again running the motor.  Before and during the trip I had spent considerable time examining the map and the route.

 

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When I wok up I felt refreshed.  I looked around me at the shore lines.  I did not recognize anything. As I looked at the shore that lay ahead I could not see any opening.  Half in jest, and half seriously I said, “How long have we been going the wrong way?”  William laughed heartily while David’s eyes darted around the shoreline and his heart sank.

We stopped the motor and closely examined the map.  It was obvious there was no opening on the north side of the lake.  About a mile back, David had failed to notice the river entered from his right. The lake we were on was called Wrong Lake. The hidden lake to our right was called Right Lake. Since the lakes were labeled this way on the map it was obvious prior travelers had had the same problem. David had obviously not been reading and following the map.

I was sorry for what I had said initially in jest.  There was no point in saying more. David was mortified, his face was beet red and looked like he  might die of a heart attack.

We soon were back on the right route and other than the hum of the motor there was deathly silence.

 

Sturgeon River portages – P3

Now we were on the Sturgeon river our travel conditions changed.  No more open water, no more high waves, and we were protected from the wind.

On the other hand we now faced impassible water falls and rocky rapids. Some portages were short and we simply dragged the loaded canoe around the rocks and shallows. Others necessitated removing the motor and all the gear.

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While the scenery was breathtaking and the weather was improving, the inter-personal petty behavior continued. In one of our early winter planning meetings, before William was there, I was instructed that we all had to see that he, William, did not carry heavy loads or overtax himself as he was the oldest and had some heart issues. I agreed and had no problems with that.  I was the youngest, the biggest and the strongest and was willing to do more than my share.

When we hit the big water fall we learned the portage was about fifteen minutes in length. Once the canoe was out of the water David grabbed his pack sack, slipped it over his shoulder and headed off across the portage with out a word to either of us.

William unfastened the motor and head down the trail with it in one hand and the gas tank in the other. I stood there looking at the empty  16 foot canoe, then lifted it on my shoulders and followed. When I arrived at the end of the portage Dave stood there looking at William and his load, then staring at me with disgust on his face.

I never did find out what David was fuming about. The small motor and gas was certainly lighter than the canoe. William was a very positive individual and he was at least twenty years old than I was. He was not going to listen to me and he was certainly going to do his share on the portage.

I could not help but reflect that had this been 150 years ago, David and I would have settled the issue once and for all, right there in the wilderness.

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Instead we put the canoe in the water, motor back on, and the gear loaded. We soon pushed off shore into the current and sullenly and silently sat and watched the shoreline slide by.

I now understand the stories I have read about canoe travel in the past and how men crammed into a small canoe got into knife fights and not all of them arrived at the distant destination.

English River Maze – Part 2

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Once we crossed Goshawk Lake we immediately went ashore and David started a fire.    We soon got warmed up and our wet clothing dried. Note the fresh snow covering everything and which continued to fall to the north of us. William is back in the boat and ready to proceed. Note the square stern canoe and small motor.

We had an agreement that David would run the motor across Goshawk lake and I would then take over. In the distance you will note a log boom blocking our way. In 1958 when the White Dog Falls Dam was built this whole area was flooded. This was one of the areas in which the trees were not removed before the flooding occurred. It has taken years for the trees to rot at the waterline and fall over.

This results in hundreds of floating trees along the shore and tree stumps just below the water surface. Boat travel is restricted to a slow pace as there are multiple collisions between our propeller and the tree stumps. This slowed us down for a couple of  miles. The log booms kept the logs from floating out into the English River and floating to the intakes at the dam.KODAK Digital Still Camera

This map shows how we crossed Goshawk lake and then went ashore. Once we were dry and warm we had to proceed from the fire site through the narrows until we entered Umpreville Lake at the top of the map..

Once free of this section we had to cross the east end of Umpreville Lake then cross the English River which entered it at this location. From there we had to locate the Sturgeon River which flowed into the English River from the North. It was best described as a maze as the route was also confused by many islands and bays.

On the map below the largest section of open water near the lower portion of the map is the east section of  Umpreville Lake. The English River enters from the north and is marked. We then curved to the north east and continued almost east until the opening of the Sturgeon River, shown by a right angle bend near the top of the map.

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To make the journey even more interesting we moved north into thicker snow fall and visibility was again reduced to about fifty feet. Since it was my  turn to read the map and steer the canoe my companions began to question what direction I was going in.  We all knew it was going to be difficult to find the opening of the Sturgeon River.

David felt we were going too far to the east while William felt we had gone too far north. These questions, when added to our previous disagreement only increased the tension in the canoe.

Without getting too irritated I said, “It is my turn to navigate and if I fail to find the  Sturgeon River, then someone else can take over.  In the mean time the wind continues on my left cheek while the rising sun shows a slight glow in the snow fall to the east. I intend to continue in this direction until we meet the current of the English River. Once into that current we will follow the north shore to the north-east till we meet the current of the Sturgeon river which enters from the north.”

The rest of the trip was suffered in dead silence and the tension continued to increase as time passed. Finally after about a dozen miles, we hit the mouth of the Sturgeon and there were smiles all around.

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Because this river was much narrower we were no longer bothered by the snow fall and restricted visibility.  The temperature continued to rise and the snow finally stopped. I took this photo as we entered the Sturgeon River and the current is obvious. The chance of getting lost was now diminished and we all relaxed. David in particular was not so intense and the rest of the trip looked brighter.

 

 

Goshhawk Lake snowstorm

 

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Goshawk Lake, heading north, into the face of a spring snow storm

It was early May of 1968 and three of us were in an 16 ft. aluminum canoe crossing Goshawk Lake, forty miles north of Kenora, Ontario. As we pushed off from shore the  wind from the west started to pick up and to the north, the direction we were heading, it started to snow.

David was running the small motor, William was sitting in the front seat, while I sat on the floor of the canoe in the middle. We were off on an adventure to deliver this canoe to a temporary hunting camp located at Rowdy lake, fifty or so miles to the north.

We had about three miles to go across the lake, while the width of the lake was at least four miles. As we moved away from the shore the wind increased as did the waves. Because we were traveling parallel to the waves the canoe was rolling badly as each wave passed under the canoe. As the minutes passed I became concerned about the canoe filling with water and leaving us with a half mile swim in very cold spring water.

Earlier in the winter my partner in business, VM, came to me with a request. He and two other men owned a temporary hunting camp on Rowdy Lake.  It was a fly in camp and consisted of two large tents, one inside the other for insulation purposes.  It all sat on a large plywood floor and could be taken down and removed at any time.  Rules and regulations set out what was considered a temporary camp and this site followed the rules.

The camp had been in use for a couple of years for hunting deer and moose. A couple of aluminum boats and small motors had been flown in by bush plane but the canoe was too long for this form of transport.

The many swamps and small creeks could not be used by the boats when recovering downed game as the water was too shallow and narrow. The three owners of the camp had decided they needed a canoe to improve their transportation of moose meat in particular. It could not go in by bush plane so the only alternative was to take it in through a system of lakes and rivers that flowed from Rowdy lake. In other words the whole trip would be up stream.

My partner came up with the bright Idea that I should accompany the them on the trip north since I had considerable canoeing experience, which they all lacked.

We had been in a business partnership for four years but I only knew the other two men casually. I was about 35 years old, David at least 45 and William at least 55. We met a number of times to make the plans. My role in the trip was  rather limited so I played a small part in the actual plans of what we were taking and or the route north.

And now, here I  was in a cold northern lake traveling in a loaded canoe in an unsafe manner. I kept my mouth shut until we were in the middle of the lake and the situation was becoming critical. Finally I turned and said to David, “David, if you turn into the waves and increase your speed a little, I  think you would find the canoe would ride better and there would be less chance of shipping water.”

In an instant he exploded and yelled in what I took as a frightened cry. “Here we are, hardly off the shore and you are trying to tell us what to do! Then, like a child having a tantrum, he suddenly turned the canoe into the waves and increased the speed. In an instant the next wave climbed the side of the canoe and deposited about five gallons of cold water on us all. At the same time the sudden increase in speed caused the bow of the canoe to dive into the following wave, once again adding to the water in the canoe.

It was a very frightening move and I felt sorry for William in the front as he had no warning of the sharp turn and no doubt was seriously frightened when he was doused with cold water.

Almost as soon as soon as David swerved left he swerved back so once again we were rolling in the trough of the waves and creeping our way north to the distant shore.

I can remember sitting there in the cold water and considering my options. I was a good swimmer but cold spring water could bring on hypothermia very quickly.  If the canoe filled with water it would barely support three grown men from sinking.  I looked at the shore and guessed we were less than half a mile away to my right or east. it would be an easy swim in warm water. Under these conditions I would have less than half an hour to make the shore before I would be slowed down by the hypothermia.

I actually started considering loosening the laces of my boot and unzipping my jacket. I knew there was no way I could save either man by towing them to shore.  I was thinking rationally and certainly considering looking after myself, but finally decided to let the situation run its course. I was so disgusted by David’s behavior I probably would have tried to only save William.

It was at this  moment the snow from the North moved in over us, limiting our vision to the length of the canoe. The heavy thick snow seemed to dampen down the waves and at the same time David cut our speed by half. In this little world of snow we crawled forward with no idea where we were or where we were going. The snow built up thickly on our hats, shoulders and legs.

Eventually the far rocky shore came into sight and we all agreed we need to get a good fire going and get dried out before we continued. The mood was dark, each of us were very disturbed by the turn of events and realized it was not going to be a pleasant journey. Worst of all we were only three miles into a 50 mile trip.

David and I were not on speaking terms.  Things did not bode well for the rest of the journey, but I was ready to face it and make the best of it.