Friday, August 11, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: The Occasional Dog Fight in the Kitchen ...

The forestry shack that our family rented in Lansdowne House
was smallest place we ever lived in,
with the exception of a tiny log cabin at a fish camp on Lac Seul.

In one way the house was well ahead of its time, 
for the kitchen opened into the living room
forming a kind of great room that is so popular today.

Not that it was great ~
when we were not sleeping in the two tight bedrooms,
our family of two adults, five children, and one dachshund
crammed into a living space crowded with a kitchen table and chairs,
a 25-gallon water drum, an oil burner, a couch, a coffee table, a daybed,
and a bookcase, perhaps all of 325 square feet.

The Forestry Shack
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Drawing by Donalda MacBeath, Age 7

Text:  Dear Nana, This is a picture of our home.
Note:  Indian "Gods" (Dogs),  Buckets of Meat Hung from the Eaves, 
a Box of Groceries on the Roof,
and the Weather Vane on the Chimney 

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Inside the Forestry Shack
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Sketch by Maureen McRae 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Everyone was on top of everyone.
If Mom was teaching Roy and me to play Bridge at one end of the kitchen table,
Dad was at the other typing while our three younger sisters
played around the couch and coffee table,
and Gretchen found a spot wherever she could.

In mid-April 1961 the approach of break-up on Lake Attawapiskat
prompted my father to dash off a series of personal and professional letters
before the ice became too weak to support mail-carrying bush planes from the Outside.

In an excerpt from an April 16th letter, 
my father wrote to his mother Myrtle
about our "semi-disorganized" life in the heart of our home.

Father Ouimet, Dad, and Brother Bernier (left)
Myrtle Pratt MacBeath (right)
Lansdowne House and Charlottetown
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Apart from the possibility of the new job in Sioux Lookout,
the nearness of the break-up, and the occasional dogfight in the kitchen,
life in the MacBeath household is proceeding in its usual semi-disorganized manner.

The last mentioned occurrence was something that usually happens to me,
but darned if I didn’t sleep through the whole thing.
I guess that Sara told you about it.

Apparently, she was in the kitchen working, when the door burst open
and in ran a dog closely pursued by a dog team of four other dogs,
intent upon committing mayhem on the body of the first dog.

A Dog Team on the Yukon River
NPS Photo, By Ranger Josh Spice

The dog team was in turn closely followed by the driver of the dog team,
and a more embarrassed Indian you never saw in your life.
For a time life in our kitchen was complicated, crowded, and exciting to say the least.

I wish I had awakened, for I bet it was amusing.
However Sara won’t tell me too much about the whole thing.
If I had seen it, most likely I could have written several pages on the subject.

Incidentally, the dog team mentioned earlier was complete with sleigh and load,
including a large pair of snowshoes, and our kitchen is not very large.

I don’t see how they were going to find room to fight,
but this little consideration of space didn’t seem to worry the dogs too much.

Dog Team on the Ice
Location Unknown, 2017
pxhere   Creative Commons CC0

Sara is trying to start Louise and Roy at Bridge.
The first lesson is in session right now.
I don’t know just how successful the attempt will be, 
but I don’t think it hurts for anyone to learn this game as soon as possible.
Louise for certain is ready for the game, and I think that Roy is too.

If nothing else is accomplished,
I hope that we can get them started playing together
and perhaps do something towards overcoming
the intense rivalry that seems to have grown up between them.

Right now they don’t know what cooperation means.
It would be wonderful if they learned to cooperate through Bridge
which is a game requiring cooperation between partners.

Early Rivals
Three-year old Roy laughs as the photographer tells four-year old me
to pull down my skirt because my underwear was showing.
Living Room, Our Apartment, Charlottetown, circa 1954
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Sara is glaring at me right now
(the Bridge lesson ended in a fight between Louise and Roy),
and now she wants me to get away from the table
so we can have our dinner.
I will finish this after dinner...

I think the only person
besides Dad who doesn't
remember the dog team
plunging through
our open kitchen door
is my baby sister Bertie.

Bertie in her cousin's home
Montreal, Quebec, February 1961
Photo:  Thanks to Dawn MacDonald White

It was all Whitey's fault!
The dog team belonged to our Ojibway neighbors the Jacobs,
and the lead dog on the team was Whitey.
On this day he looked healthy and fattened up,
but that was not how he looked when we first met him

I don't know what the Jacobs called "Whitey."
That was the name we kids gave him.
He was one of the scrawny Ojibway dogs that bedded down
in the snow near our house,
the "little god" Donnie drew in her letter for Nana.

Our mother and we children were terribly distressed
when we first moved into the forestry shack 
and saw how malnourished the Ojibway dogs were.
Whitey was the runt of the bunch, and he often lost out
to the bigger dogs when scrambling for scarce food.

We made Whitey our special project by driving off the bigger dogs
and feeding him the choicest scraps left over from our kitchen.
We fed the other dogs too, but we made sure Whitey got the most.

When Donnie and Barbie went to the door to scrape off their lunch dishes,
they had no idea that Dad's student George Jacobs
would be heading off to the bush with his family's dog-team.
It was muskrat season, and he was leaving for the traplines.

Whitey took one look at my sisters on the doorstep and raced for the door,
dragging the rest of the team and George behind him.
The other dogs knew exactly what was going on,
and they rushed for their share of the leftovers.

Donnie and Barbie fled into the kitchen
toward my mother who was washing dishes,
as the snarling, viciously-snapping dogs exploded into the kitchen
and squeezed between the water drum and kitchen table.
Roy dove over the couch, and I jumped up on the daybed
as the fully loaded sled tangled up in the kitchen chairs.
Bertie and our dachshund Gretchen scattered.

With the growling and yapping and shouting and screaming
of dogs and people and the crashing chairs and smashing sled,
it's a wonder that Dad didn't wake up from his nap;
but then, my father was a master napper.

A frantic and cursing George managed to unhitch
the dogs and drag them out the door.
Then, mortified and apologizing, 
he untangled the sled from the pile of chairs,
yanked it out the door, and disappeared.

George on the left, Simon on the right
in Dad's Classroom
Photo by Don MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Fortunately for George, by the time he returned
from the trapline with his family,
the pandemonium had died down ~ but was not forgotten!

Meanwhile Roy and I continued our own dogfights
in the kitchen, on the school grounds, and around the village.
To this day we battle fiercely over cards,
every game of which is meticulously recorded in
the diary of my generation's answer to Samuel Pepys, 
my brother Roy.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petite Passage
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My Three Younger Sisters:
Donnie with Bertie and Barbie
Grammie's Backyard, Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
Summer, 1960
Photo by Sara MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Unit Conversions:
     325 square feet = 30.1 square meters.

2.  Muskrat Season:
     George Jacobs was one of my father's older male students.  In mid-April 1961 he was expected to go
     to his family's muskrat traplines as break-up approached.  Ojibway fathers often considered their sons'
     training in traditional hunting and trapping skills more important than attending school.  The Ojibway
     primarily trapped muskrat and other small fur-bearing mammals for their furs which they traded
     for supplies such as flour, sugar, lard, and tea at the Hudson's Bay post.  Sometimes the animals' meat
     supplemented the Ojibway's food supplies.

3.  Samuel Pepys:
     Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was an administrator in the navy
     and a Member of Parliament in England.  He is famous for the
     private diary he kept from 1600-1609, with its detailed accounts
     of the Great Plague of London, the Great Fire of London, and
     the Second Dutch War.  Pepys' Diary is an important primary
     resource for the English Restoration period.  Wikipedia 

     My brother Roy has consistently kept a daily journal since the
     mid-1960s.  Roy takes great delight in recording events big and
     small, and he often writes in his meticulous small script in his
     latest leather-bound journal while enjoying a glass of scotch or

     I am happy to report that I beat everyone playing Thirteen
     in the one game I played while in Calgary recently.  Thirteen
     is a great card game that Roy and his wife Susan learned
     while traveling on the Mongolian Steppes last summer.
     I know my brilliant win is recorded for posterity in Roy's
     current journal.  Pepe's Portrait:  Wikimedia

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited

Lansdowne House
Sketch by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Rough Sketch of Lansdowne House
by Donald MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This sketch shows the Father's Island and the tip of the "Mainland" peninsula
that contained the community of Lansdowne House.         
                                                                    #23 My Father's Church of England Indian Day School
                                                                    #15 Forestry Shack (Our Home)
                 Black Dots ~ Indian Homes

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: On My Father's Mind

As April 1961 flew by in Lansdowne House,
my father had two things foremost on his mind,
the approach of break-up with its complete isolation from the Outside
and the possibility of a promotion to District School Superintendent
in the Sioux Lookout Indian Agency office.

Saturday, April 22, 1961
(with excerpts from an April 16th letter
and minor editing for clarity)
My father wrote:

Dear Mother:

This will most likely be the last letter
before break-up, as the ice is getting
pretty bad for planes to land on.
It is still safe enough to walk on,
but there is a lot of slush on the ice.

Donald MacBeath Walking Louise (Me)
Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, 1950
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Last night when Roy and I went over to the Island to get the Brother to cut our hair,
we had to wear rubber boots, and the slush almost went over the top of Roy’s.
Besides, when you consider the ice, you have to remember that
it would be twice as bad down south as it is here.

My Father with Brother Raoul Bernier 
Kitchen, Roman Catholic Mission
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I got your wire today, and I am glad that you liked the painting,
but I am badly confused about what you say about selling the house.
Who is buying it?  How much are you getting for it?
When are you selling it?  Will you still live there?
These are just a few of the questions that run through my mind.
How about answering them, eh?

My Grandmother MacBeath's Apartment Building and Home
(We lived in the two-story apartment with the red and white door in the mid-1950s.)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

I came over to the school to type up these letters that I have to get out before freeze-up,
and I see that I have forgotten to bring over your last letters, so I can’t answer them,
but I believe that there were no questions that were pressing for answers,
so I can just make this a newsy letter till I run out, and then I can sign off gracefully.

I finally heard from Ottawa regarding that proposed position in Sioux Lookout.
They wrote telling me that an interview would be arranged at the end
of the school term at a place mutually convenient to both the department and myself.

It looks as if they are very interested in obtaining my services.
But, even if I don't actually land this position,
it is very gratifying to know that they think
highly enough of my work to consider me at all.

However, I think from the latest letter,
that if I make out all right in the interview,
the job's mine for the asking.
I also think that the interview is not so much to assess my suitability for the job
as to thoroughly brief me on my duties.

However, I may be deluding myself with wistful thinking.
Perhaps they are corresponding with a half dozen candidates;
but never-the-less, it is still nice to know that my name is under consideration.

If I get to the interview, I think I will stand just as good a chance as anybody else,
and perhaps better than most teachers,
as I have had a wide experience in meeting with and talking to highly-placed officials.
It sure would be wonderful to get that job.

Hindsight is 20/20 
Barbie and My Father, School Superintendent
Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Enclosed you will find a letter from Brigadier A. W. Rogers which is self- explanatory.
I am sending it to you just to show you what loyal friends I have.
I think it is wonderful to have friends who will stick by you, isn’t it?

Of course, I must have pleased Rogers when he was in the regiment,
or he wouldn’t have been so generous in his praise,
so I guess the time I put in for the regiment wasn’t wasted after all.

Letter from A.W. Rogers, Brigadier 
Privy Council Office
Charlottetown, Price Edward Island, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Now I know for sure that it was Foss who recommended me for this position.
Please return the letter to me.

Incidentally, I have already written to Brigadier Rogers
thanking him for his recommendation.
Originally I had written him, as soon as I had answered the first letter from Ottawa,
telling him that I had referred everyone to him for references.

It appears however that Foss was well ahead of me,
for he wrote to Rogers before he recommended me at all.
At first I could not figure out where Foss got the name,
but I remember now that I gave these names when I first applied for this job.

Don MacBeath ~ Prince Edward Island Regiment Days 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I really have been painting like mad since I finished the picture of the church.
Each one seems to be better than the one before it.
I gave the one I did of the Island to the Father for his birthday,
and he seemed very glad to get it.

Since then I have done two lovely scenes of the lakes
and the woods around here, beautiful snow scenes.
One I gave to Sara and one to Duncan Sr. for his birthday.

There was someone visiting the Father, and he saw that picture
that I painted for the Father’s birthday and the other two that I did.
He was so impressed with the one of the Island he came over to see my other work.

I don’t remember what his name was,
but he is connected with commercial art in some way.
He told me that my work is way above average
and that I should paint up as many as I can and contact Eaton’s
or some other art gallery in Toronto and try to arrange to sell them.
He said I could get anywhere up to $50.00 for a picture
the size of the church and more for larger ones.

The Anglican Log Church
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Painting by Don MacBeath, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved
                                     Lakes and Woods
                                     Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
                                        Painting by Don MacBeath, 1961
                                          © M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
                                                                 All Rights Reserved

Naturally, I have no intention of forsaking the teaching profession
and trying to make my living as Kelsey does, but it is a great
satisfaction to know that strangers think my work is good,
although I really don’t think it is good enough to sell.

Perhaps in another ten years, if I keep it up, I might be good enough to sell a few.
It would be a lovely and relaxing way to earn some extra money.
I have no intentions, though, of pursuing my art to the detriment of my profession.

If I paint another real good one, and if you would like to get another one,
perhaps I would send one to you.
What I am trying to say is that I would most definitely
send one to you if you should want another.
The doubt that I am trying to express is not that I would send one,
but whether you would want another one.

Well, I have to sign off now and get on with some other letters
that I have to get out before break-up.
Any news that I forgot to put in this letter
will be in the circular letter anyway.

Bye now,

Playing with Paint and Perspective
Winter Lakes and Trees
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Painting by Don MacBeath, March 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It's difficult for me to hear the mix of insecurity and hope
in my father's long ago words to his mother.
As he mulled over his prospects and shared
Brigadier Roger's letter with his mother,
I know he was trying to bolster his spirits.

The Canadian press stories about my Junior Red Cross project
(the collection of winter clothing for the Ojibwa of Lansdowne House)
had riled up a number of government officials
from the Indian Agent in Nakina,
to highly placed officials in the Indian Affairs Branch,
to the Minister of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration herself,
The Right Honourable Ellen Louks Fairclough,
and my father could only hope that the project had been buried.

But my project wasn't dead,
and my five large cartons of clothing were on the move.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Grammie, Mom, and I,
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  Brother Raoul Bernier:
     Brother Bernier was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church.
     Father Ouimet was a priest in the same congregation.

2.  My Grandmother's House:
     My father's mother, Myrtle Pratt MacBeath, owned a building at the corner of Fitzroy and Edward Streets
     in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.  During the Great Depression my grandparents had a
     small grocery store in the building, and my father grew up in my grandparent's home in the building.
     My grandfather was a Civil Engineer and traveled extensively while my grandmother ran the store.
     At some point the building was divided into apartments, one of which my family and I lived in for several years.
3.  Brigadier A. W. Rogers (1912-1975):
     Brigadier Rogers was a soldier and civil servant.  He attained the rank of Brigadier General in the Canadian
     Army.  He served as an Aide-de-Camp to Governor Generals Michener and Leger and Lieutenant Governor
     Prowse.  He was also the Emergency Measures Officer for Prince Edward Island and Charter President
     of Sport P.E.I.  islandregister

Current Brigadier General
Shoulder Insignia

Headstone for A. W. Rogers and His Wife Joan
The People's Cemetery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Photo by Lynn Ellis

4.  The Prince Edward Island Regiment (RCAC):
     This armoured reconnaissance regiment of the Canadian Army has been active from 1875 to the present.  
     My father was a soldier in the regiment in Charlottetown in the early 1950s.

5.  Painting:
     Both of my parents were painters.  My father preferred oils and my mother watercolors.  Unfortunately 
     the responsibilities of working and raising and educating five children made it difficult for my parents to 
     pursue their passions.  I am humbled by the sacrifices they made for my brother, sisters, and me. 

6.  Kelsey:
     My father was referring to my mother's first cousin, Kelsey Raymond.  My "Uncle" Kelsey was a well-known
     Nova Scotian painter.  He was born in New York City in 1926 and died in 2000 in Digby, Nova Scotia.
     I spent many happy hours in his paint shop in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia when I was growing up.  He usually
     painted with oils applied with a palette knife, and his favorite subject were coastal landscapes and old buildings.

Kelsey and I
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia on the Annapolis Basin
off the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Lansdowne House

Aerial Photograph of Lansdowne House
The Mainland and The Father's Island (Couture Island), 1935
You can clearly see the Father's beach where canoes landed.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development / Library and Archives Canada / PA-094992

Location of Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia

Canada   Wikimedia

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

IWSG: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 ~ Pet Peeves

It's the first Wednesday of the month:
the day when members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and writing successes
and offer their encouragement
and support to fellow writers.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are volunteering today,
along with IWSG founder Alex Cavanaugh are:
Christine Rains,  Delorah@Book Lover,  Ellen@The Cynical Sailor,
Yvonne Ventresca,  and L.G. Keltner.

I hope you have a chance to visit today's hosts and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate a visit and an encouraging comment.


Every month the IWSG poses a question
that members can answer with advice, insight,
a personal experience, or a story in their IWSG posts.

Or, the question can inspire members
if they aren't sure what to write about on IWSG Day.

Remember the question is optional.
This month's featured question is:

What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?


My pet peeves require little thinking on my part.
They've been persistent peeves throughout much of my life.

My pet peeve when reading is lack of time!
I cannot go a day without reading,
and I could literally read day in, day out, all day.

But life doesn't allow that,
so I sure hope there are libraries in heaven!

A Heavenly Place to Read
The Main Reading Room
The Library of Congress's Thomas Jefferson Building
in Washington, D. C., USA

My pet peeve when writing is having to stop!
When I'm writing I don't want to eat, sleep, shower,
or do anything but write.

That means my supportive husband Terry
frequently plops food next to my computer,
often along with the questions,
"Are you sure you're having fun?
Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

Behind every happy writer is a supportive spouse!
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
December 29, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My pet peeve when editing is my need for perfection!
My perfectionism had driven me crazy since early childhood.
I've managed to get it under control in most areas of my life,
but writing ...

I keep repeating my mantra,
"Perfect is the enemy of good!"
But it rarely works when it comes to writing.

Not Enough Arrows on this Flow Chart.
I can loop around almost endlessly!

Maybe I should try a new variation,
"Good enough is the new perfect!"

A Better Mantra, Perhaps?
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
March 2, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I'm looking forward to visiting around
and discovering everyone's pet peeves!

Happy writing in August!