Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old Family Canoes XIII

Conclusion of  the "Wooden Canoe" article:
Grandpa complained that the one thing they could count on throughout the trip was that the wind would always be in their faces, no matter which direction they were paddling. The same phenomenon held true for the smoke from campfires---always in the eyes.
The year 1948 was back in what Grandpa called the good old days when smoking was fun and guilt-free. The veteran's habits had been nurtured during the war by the availability of cigarettes at five cents per pack in the PX or ship's store and free in field rations. The point in his telling about their low-cost addition was to try to explain away why, after leaving their last pack of cigarettes on a rock towards the end of the trip, two grown men would paddle back several miles to retrieve the fags and travel an equal distance to get back to where they turned around. Grandpa said the one consolation was that one of these legs was downwind
It was four skinny, hard muscled, sun tanned, mosquito bitten, unshaven, smelly canoeists who successfully and happily arrived back at Rainy Lake. Ken, Ned and Jim, freshly graduated from engineering school, went on to start their careers and John went back to college.
The 1921 Otca survives. It is now hanging in the barn of the old family place where Grandpa grew up, stripped of its canvas, keel and gunwales. It's been there ever since it flew off a car and did a forty mile per hour upside-down slide on US 31 upon returning from a duck hunting trip. It patiently waits someone with the time and skills to restore it. Maybe I'll learn how and just do that some day.
That was the end of the article. The editor added a note based on our corespondence back and forth. It said in part: "...This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to one who fell in love shortly afterwards and had to spend the next decades making a living and raising a family. Ken, Ned and I were recent graduates of the Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado, where they make Coors beer) and my late brother, John, was going to Michigan State. Ned and Ken pursued careers as mining engieers all over the world and never canoed again so far as I know....
Emailed August 20, 2008

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