Friday, January 19, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: A Mother's Touch

What is your most compelling memory of your mother?
For me, it is my mother's soothing touch when I was sick.

I'm thinking of her a lot as I write this post because I may have the flu,
and I'd give just about anything to feel my mother's cool hand on my flushed forehead.

Right now in the USA, we are experiencing the worst flu season in over a decade.
Fortunately I had my flu shot a few months ago.
My symptoms are milder and will prove shorter, I hope. 

A Mother's Touch ~ Always Welcome
On My Birthday
Mom with Me (center)
Sister Donnie (lower right)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada 1956  
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Whenever I was sick, my mother always cared for me.
She gave me medicine, brought me hot soup and soft custards,
held me when I vomited, changed my sweaty clothes and sheets,
bathed me, and watched me when I had bad reactions to antibiotics. 

My mother did whatever she could to ease my misery;
but the most important thing, the thing I remember most,
was the brush of her cool hand on my forehead comforting me.

When I was twenty and at university, I had an emergency operation.
As I began to regain consciousness, I started batting 
at all these tubes in me, not understanding what they were.
Suddenly there was my mother catching my flailing arms, 
holding my hands in one of hers, and soothing my forehead with her other.

I didn't know where I was,
and I couldn't grasp why she was there,
but that familiar touch calmed me and reassured me
that all would be right in my world.

I later learned that when she got word of my unexpected operation,
she ran out of her classroom, jumped in her car, 
and raced 90 miles (145 kilometers) to be with me
when I came out from under anesthesia. 

My Mother's Greatest Joy:  
Her Children
Mom and I
Stanhope, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Photo by Ella MacDonald
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Fifty-seven years ago medical care in the remote villages
of Northern Ontario was difficult to access.
In Lansdowne House we were fortunate because at least we had a nursing station,
and a dedicated nurse in the person of Mike O'Flaherty.

The nearest hospital and doctors were 150 miles (241 kilometers)
away in Nakina, a small northern rail outpost.  (Source)
However the nearest regional hospital with specialists
was 225 miles (362 kilometers) away in Sioux Lookout.  (Source) 
The only way to reach Nakina or Sioux Lookout was by bush plane,
when weather and landing conditions permitted.

When a bush plane had to fly a critical patient to Sioux Lookout,
a non-medically-trained adult in Lansdowne House
would fly with the patient to Sioux Lookout
and accompany him or her to the hospital,
a task my father undertook more than once.

Austin Airways Norseman CF-BSC 

Flying into Sioux Lookout
Attribution:  Photo by User:  P199 at Wikimedia Commons

You can read about the isolation and remoteness of villages like Lansdowne House,
but I think it's hard to comprehend how remote and isolated they are,
if you haven't flown over the vast emptiness of Northern Ontario.

Even today this region is one of the least visited in Canada,
and, by some measures, is more remote than much of the Arctic.
Even now, more than than half a century after my family lived there,
the First Nations people continue to live off the land
and depend on it for shelter, food, and medicine.
(Canadian Geographic, March/April 2017)

I can't imagine how my mother must have felt,
landing on skis in Lansdowne House with five tired children,
one throwing up, and a shivering dachshund. 
We had flown for well over an hour
across the frozen emptiness from Nakina in a Norseman.

The Only Way in and Out:  by Bush Plane
A Norseman on Skis
Flickr ~ NOAA:  Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren   License 

One thing I'm sure my mother understood quickly
was the risk of illness in the distant North.
I can imagine her taking stock of our medical kit after arriving,
and worrying about the what ifs as she sorted through
the bandaids, gauze dressings, adhesive tape, ace bandages,
calamine lotion, iodine, tweezers, safety pins, aspirin, and morphine.

I don't know what she thought, for my mother never burdened
me or my siblings with her worries when we were children.
She was the rock on which we could weather any storm.
She surrounded us with safety, certainty and optimism.

Fortunately while we were in Lansdowne House,
we children had only the usual colds and flu ~
Well, except for my brother who frequently had severe tonsillitis
and my sister Barb who stuffed an eraser up her nose
while clowning around in kindergarten with her Ojibwa friends. 

Whenever we were sick, however she cared for us,
the most welcome comfort she gave was sitting by our beds,
tucking our blankets up around us,
and soothing our foreheads with her cool hand.
Under her gentle touch, we knew we would be better soon
and all was right with our world.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Shore of the Annapolis Basin
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
July 24, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Location of Lansdowne House and Nakina
Wikimedia  edited

Route Map for Austin Airways, 1985
with Lansdowne House west of James Bay
Geraldton is near Nakina.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Lansdowne Letters: Melting Ice and Spring Fever

The days grew longer and warmer as May flew by
in the spring of 1961 in Lansdowne House.
We watched the ice and waited impatiently for it to melt.
Everyone hoped that break-up would be short,
but it dragged on and on.

We hungered for every scrap of news that came about the weather
via short wave radio, our community's only link to the Outside;
and a favorite topic of gossip among the adults
was the state of the ice in the more southern villages.

Every morning my brother and I would wake up and run to the front window,
and every morning we would see the ice stretching unbroken
to the nearby islands in Lake Attawapiskat.

Every afternoon we would get home from school
and dash down the hill to our waterhole with our buckets.
Roy or I would test the thinning ice by  jabbing it
with the end of the long handle of our ice pick,
then inch onto the ice making sure it would still support us.

The Path to Our Waterhole
Painting by Don MacBeath
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Winter 1960-61
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Chopping Out a Water Hole
Flickr:  Thirteen of Clubs   License  

Near the end of April we still had to chop away any ice
that had covered the waterhole overnight,
but soon only a skim of ice formed during the dark hours,
and then none.
The sheet of ice spanning the lake
became grayer and splotchier as it rotted.

We'd dunk our buckets into the waterhole,
fill them to the brim, and then lug them up the hill to our house. 
Negotiating the steep hill became trickier and trickier
as the snow disappeared and our path became slick with mud.

We struggled to keep our balance on the slippery path, 
because the more water that slopped out of our buckets,
the more trips we would have to make to fill that water barrel in the kitchen.
Sometimes our feet slid out from under us, 
and we drenched ourselves with icy lake water.

It was always a competition between Roy and me.
Who chopped open the waterhole best?
Who climbed the hill fastest?
Who got to the house with the most water?
Who had the biggest muscles from hauling water?
Boy oh boy we had fun!

Early Rivals, Fast Friends
Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
Photo by Susan MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Then a May day came when we couldn't reach the waterhole.
The ice had retreated about ten feet from the shoreline,
and our waterhole had vanished.
We had to wade out and fill our buckets in the shallow water
as best as we could.
That's when the cheesecloth covering the water barrel
in our kitchen proved its worth by catching debris in the water. 

Once the ice was no longer land-fast, it could shift with the wind.
We'd hear a boom and know a big crack or lead had opened in the moving ice.
The wind would push open a narrow passageway along the shore,
change direction, and pile the groaning, grinding ice against the land.

Farther south wide stretches of water opened on lakes,
and some lakes lost their ice cover all together.
When would our ice go was on everyone's mind.

Rotting Lake Ice

One lazy Saturday, likely the last before the ice went out,
I was walking in a thicket of woods near the Hudson's Bay post.
A tree with low branches by the shore beckoned.
I climbed up into the tree and lounged in the warmth of the sun,
watching chunks of ice drift by in some open water near the shore.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, loud music obliterated
the subtle sounds of slipping water and melting ice.
Startled, I looked across to the Father's Island.
"I love to go a-wandering, along the mountain track,"
blared from Father Ouimet's home in the Roman Catholic Mission.

To say I was surprised is an understatement.
Who knew Father Ouimet had a record player,
let alone one that played that loud?
I rested my head against the tree trunk and listened to 
"Val-de-rie, val-de-ra, val-de-rie, 
val-der-ra-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha ..." 
booming across the ice and water.

Whenever I hear The Happy Wanderer,
I'm in that tree watching the ice glide by on the dark water.
I guess even priests get spring fever.

Frank Weir and His Saxophone, Chorus and Orchestra 
The Happy Wanderer (1954)

Father Ouimet with My Father and Brother Bernier
Roman Catholic Mission Kitchen
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited

Friday, January 5, 2018

Hello 2018!

Hello 2018!  New year!  New start!

December was a lost month for my writing and blogging
My daily life crowded out any time and energy for creativity.
A whole lot happened. 

Terry and I made some important, hopefully wise, decisions
during a hectic and stressful four weeks.
But it's all good, and I'm ready to return to what fulfills me.
I'm welcoming 2018 with wide open arms.

The Navajo Nation
Ganado, Arizona, USA
Nature never fails to lift my spirits.
New Year's Day, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On New Years Day we left Surprise, Arizona
and headed home for Aurora, Colorado.
We made it by Tuesday evening,
and home has rarely looked so good.

Lots to Unpack
Aurora, Colorado USA
January 2, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Yesterday was the first Wednesday of the month,
the day when members of the Insecure Writers Support Group
get together on-line to share posts and encouragement.
I haven't missed one first Wednesday
since I joined the group nearly three years ago.
That says a lot about how much the IWSG means to me.

Since I arrived home Tuesday evening
I've been mulling over what I want to accomplish this year,
while unpacking, getting groceries, doing laundry,
tackling that crate of mail, and cooking.
It's amazing how mundane chores free the mind.

I had been so worried about my blog and writing in December
that I was having nightmares about chucking it all in,
walking away from my memoir and blogging.
I was missing my blogging friends
and feeling badly about not connecting with them.

Then on Christmas Night I opened an unexpected gift from my sister Donnie
who said she had to get it for me because it was so me:

Standing Into Danger
Photographic Art by Kas Stone
Image from Taylor Head, Nova Scotia, Canada
 October, 2010

The crashing waves, rocky shore, tuckamore, and dwarf shrubs
cleared my head and banished those unsettling nightmares.
December had me Standing into Danger,
but I was not going to founder.

Waiting in that crate of mail when I arrived home was a second piece of art,
very different, but every bit as uplifting.

Tender Hearts
by Stacy (Magic Love Crow)

Stacy's art is mystical, magical, and her baby crows fill me with delight.
If you're familiar with her blog (Magic Love Crow),
you know how unique and inspiring her art and her life story are.
If I feel doubt and inadequacy growing inside me,
I can look at Stacy's special gift and beat them back.

One gift fills me with fortitude, the other with hope.
It's hard to top that combination.

I sorted out a lot as I restored some order to our home.
I don't like to tempt fate by laying out my plans.
I'll just say that I'll keep my two special gifts close by
for inspiration as I tackle my writing and blogging in 2018.
I'll be back next Friday with a new Northern post.

My Father's Words
Photo by Louise Barbour 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Shore of the Annapolis Basin
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
July 24, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG: Wednesday, January 3, 2018 ~ A Timely Question

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:
Tyrean Martinson,  Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,  Megan Morgan,  Jennifer Lane,  and Rachna Chhabria.

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 steps have you taken or plan to take
to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing? 


This month's question could not be more timely.
I have not written one word since my last IWSG post:
zilch, nada, zip, zero.

In last month's IWSG post I wrote
that if I could backtrack in 2017,
I'd be less anxious.
Be careful what you wish for.

The rest of December gave me the best opportunity
of the year to practice being less anxious.
I failed spectacularly part of the time,
but during other parts, I succeeded in quashing it.

But as my sister Donnie often says to me:
"It's all good, Louise.  It's all good."

Sisters and Best Friends:  It's all good!
Donnie (back) and I (front)
Christmas Eve 2017
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

And it is.
I'm fine.  Terry's fine.  Everyone I love is fine.

It's just my writing that has gone down in flames,
and I'm about to rectify that!

December was a month of stressful turmoil,
that included among other things,
finding a new home in Surprise, Arizona,
my dream home, (evening19th), 
buying it after two viewings (morning 21st),
financing it and planning for furniture and temporary renters (22nd),
inspecting it (afternoon 23rd),
and cancelling the contract (mid-Christmas Eve),
after the inspection report raised some concerns.

Every day of the month had something
that disrupted my opportunity to write.
The stress and frustration reduced me to raging tears at times,
but it's all good.

Relaxing and Opening Presents
Terry and I and Traveling Christmas Tree
Christmas Night, 2017
Surprise, Arizona, USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

So it's mid-IWSG Day, and I'm just now writing my post.
On New Year's Day we loaded the last few things in our car and headed for home.
We got in last night after driving from Gallup, New Mexico yesterday.

Wide Open Spaces:  My Kind of Country
Approaching Wagon Mound, New Mexico, USA
January 2, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

#1 on my list, after warming up the house
     and pouring a cup of coffee this morning:  my IWSG post.
#2 getting some essential groceries
     (milk, orange juice, bread, salad, and chocolate).
#3 visiting IWSG members today.
#4 making a plan and a schedule for my writing and publishing.

I'm making this post short, because I've got a full rest-of-the-day;
and I'm channeling calm, not anxiety.

Going to Surprise:  About to Enter an Ice Fog 
Walsenburg, Colorado, USA
November 28, 2017
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Coming Home:  Clear and Dry 
Walsenburg, Colorado, USA
January 2, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Surprise to Aurora

Congratulations to all the winners of the third annual IWSG Anthology Contest:
Top honors go to Gwen Gardner for her story, A Stitch in Crime

The winners were announced today on Alex Cavanaugh's post.
Our third anthology will come out late spring.

The other winning stories: 
Three O’Clock Execution - S. R. Betler
Until Release - Jemi Fraiser
Cypress, Like the Tree - Yolanda Renée
Gussy Saint and the Case of the Missing Coed - C.D. Gallant-King
ResetTara Tyler
Center Lane - Christine Clemetson
One More MinuteMary Aalgaard
The Little Girl in the Bayou - J. R. Ferguson
The Tide WaitsRebecca M. Douglas

Special Mention: HeartlessC. Lee McKenzie

Wishing all of my fellow IWSG members a Happy New Year
and success with your writing and publishing.
I can't wait to visit your posts
and read about your writing and publishing plans for 2018.

Leaving Colorado 
Raton Pass, Colorado, USA
November 28, 2017
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Coming Home 
Raton Pass, Colorado, USA
January 2, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG: Wednesday, December 6, 2017 ~ Hello from Surprise!

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:
Julie Flanders,  Shannon Lawrence,  Funny Blue (that's me), and Heather Gardner,.

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:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?


2017 has been an odd year, from beginning to end.  
I'll be happy to turn the calendar to 2018.

About to Enter an Ice Fog
Walsenburg, Colorado, USA
November 28, 2017

I'll finish it where I started, in Arizona, 
with lots of places between Bullhead City and Surprise.

Back in the Sonoran Desert
Land of the Saguaro
New River, Arizona, USA
November 29, 2017

2017:  Great people, fun, experiences, and learning ~
one serious health challenge and one new eye.
Not nearly enough writing.
If I could backtrack, I'd be less anxious.

Near the Summit of Raton Pass
 (7,834 ft/ 2388 m) Mountain Pass on the Colorado-New Mexico Border
November 28, 2017

My life fell into disarray near the end of July,
and everything came tumbling down:
health, order, blogging, writing.
I couldn't get back on top of it.

Navajo Nation
Near Gallup, New Mexico, USA
November 28, 2017

In the last month, I gave up and let it all collapse.
In the last week we drove to Arizona skirting the Colorado Plateau
from Denver to Sante Fe, to Albuquerque, to Flagstaff, to Surprise
through some of the loneliest real estate in the country,
especially when dressed in its late November browns and grays.

Aurora to Surprise

My kind of country,
restorative and soul-filling!

Big Rock Country
Lupton, Arizona, USA
November 29, 2017

Drawing Near Flagstaff
Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
November 29, 2017

Despite all my anxious worrying, the world did not stop turning.
I'm ready to jump in again.
Happy holidays with your family and friends!
And happy writing in December!

Here's to Good Friends and New Adventures!
Jon, Terry, Louise (Me), and Cindy
Surprise, Arizona, USA
November 30, 2017

P.S.  My apologies if you visited my post earlier in the day.
Somehow I managed to post an incomplete draft.
This is my story of 2017:  
If something can go wrong with technology, it will.

Fortunately, I was able to quickly rewrite the rest.
I will not be anxious.  I will not be anxious.
I'm going on a hike in the White Tank Mountains
this morning for some restoration and soul-filling.
If the world stops turning, you can blame me!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Happy Thanksgiving

This is the Thanksgiving weekend in America,
and it is my favorite of all the American holidays.
It's a time for family and friends to get together, 
share a bountiful meal, and reflect on the blessings in life.

Today I am especially grateful for the gift of sight.
Terry and I had cataract surgery on Monday, 
and we are both recovering well.
I didn't realize that my eyes were that bad!
I can't believe how sharp and vibrant the world is
after having just one eye fixed!

Eye surgery has made it difficult to write this week.
Consequently, I am sharing parts of two previous posts
about my father's Canadian Thanksgiving
shortly after he arrived in the North in the fall of 1960.

Flying was on my father's mind as the holiday weekend arrived.
Until he flew into Lansdowne House from Nakina,
my father had never flown on a bush plane.
The small sturdy workhorses of the North fascinated my father, 
and he enjoyed watching them land and take off.
Even more, my father loved talking with the pilots.

The View from a Norseman
on the Way to Lansdowne House
Photo by Don MacBeath
September 13, 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Have you ever flown on a small plane?
I have a number of times.
It's a noisy, vibrating, raw experience,
and the trees, rocks, and water sliding below
look starkly, solidly real.

Taking off isn't the hard part for me.  
It's the landing!

Two skis on ice, two floats on water, or in the belly of a seaplane, 
it's mesmerizing to watch the ice or water racing at you
as the plane closes in to land.

Oh thank you, God! 
always flashes through my mind
when the plane slows in a splash of water or in a rooster tail of snow.

Austin Airways Norseman CF-BSC 

Bush flying can be treacherous,
and I have never forgotten my father's 1960 Thanksgiving letter. 
I think of it every time I fly in a small plane.

Friday, October 7, 1960 
My father wrote:

Hi Everyone:
Here we go on another Lansdowne Letter.  
I hope that it will be more interesting than the last one.

I had a very bountiful mail this week:  
five letters from Mother, five from Sara, 
two from Louise (daughter), and one from Grammie.  
I had a wonderful time reading and answering them.  
I am greedy, perhaps next week I’ll do even better.

Today was wonderful, 
a veritable Indian summer!!  
I went about all day in shirtsleeves.  
The lake was just like glass, not a ripple on it.

I was amazed when I talked to the Austin Airways pilot 
and found out that it is very dangerous to land
on the lake when it is as smooth as it was today.  

When it is real glassy, 
it is almost impossible to tell 
where the air ends and the water begins.  

After I was talking to the Austin pilot, 
I watched Harry Evens, 
a pilot for Superior Airways, landing.  

He glided just about two miles 
about three feet above the surface of the lake.  
Even after a long glide like this, 
he misjudged and landed 
about 2½ feet above the surface.  

This may sound strange, 
but it actually happens.

Norseman Taxiing
Wikimedia  edited

The pilot does everything he would do on landing, 
except actually touching down.  
After he has cut down the motor, etc., 
the plane just drops like a brick 
and bounces several times before it really lands.  

This can really jar your back teeth,
if the pilot lands about ten or twelve feet above the surface.


They had a bad accident last year at Armstrong 
when one of Superior’s pilots misjudged the water level 
and tried to land about ten feet below the surface.  
He went right in!!  

Two days later they managed to get his body 
out of the plane which was at the bottom of the lake.

Northern Ontario Lake

Some more of our furniture arrived yesterday: 
a nice large bookcase. 

Our little cottage is beginning to look quite homelike.  
I would not mind living here with Sara for the winter, 
but it would be pretty crowded if I had the whole tribe up with me.

This is the start of the long Thanksgiving weekend.  
Three whole lovely days with no Indian children to worry about.
As I said in one of my previous epistles, 
I love them all, but at times it is nice to love them from a distance.

I don’t know if I told you 
about Maureen making curtains for us, or not; 
but she did, 
and it is the most wonderful thing to have curtains, 
especially in our bedroom.  

She made café curtains for our bedroom, 
and now she is making full- length curtains for our front room.  
We just bought some printed material from the Bay, 
and she whipped them up on her electric sewing machine.

Dad and Uno's Bedroom
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved 

The reason that we wanted the curtains 
is because of the insatiable curiosity of the Indians.  
They are always looking in the window, 
and this begins to bug you after a couple of weeks.

Considerable difficulty was encountered 
when I tried to explain to the children 
why there was going to be no school Monday.  

They just could not seem to grasp the idea of Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving in America ~ 1621

I took over some of my books
and spent most of this afternoon 
reading them stories and poems about Thanksgiving.  

I told them about the first Thanksgiving in the New World.  
I suppose it is ironic for the poor creatures 
to have to talk and think about Thanksgiving,
because the poor creatures have so little to be thankful for.

The First Thanksgiving in Canada ~ 1578 
Martin Frobisher in Frobisher Bay

Well, I guess that just about ties her up for today.  
Will be back again tomorrow.

Dad Typing His Nightly Lansdowne Letter
Photo by Uno Manila, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All rights Reserved
When my father my father went north in 1960,
he made some wonderful friends.
One of his closest, Father Ouimet, might seem unusual
for someone with strong Baptist roots nurtured in a Green Gables world.

A Prince Edward Island Boy
My Father, circa 1930
(most likely his grandfather's home in St. Peter's Bay)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved 

St. Peter's Bay
Prince Edward Island, Canada
flickr ~ Steve Elgersma  license 

The teacherage for Dad's school had burned down, 
leaving him with only two options for a place to live
in tiny Lansdowne House.

He could live alone on the mainland
in an empty forestry building,
or he could share a two-room cabin
at the Roman Catholic Mission
on a small island nearby.

Living at the mission cabin 
had advantages over the forestry building:
electricity, cold-running water,
and meals at the rectory;
but, it required commuting
back and forth to the mainland
in a canoe or on snowshoes. 

My father chose the cabin
because he couldn't bear 
the thought of living alone.

The Father's Island with Roman Catholic Mission
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Dad's cabin is below the wind charger between the church and the rectory (right).
Photo by Father Maurice Ouimet,  Probably 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

So this Prince Edward Island Baptist 
suddenly found himself sharing daily meals 
with a French Canadian Oblate priest,
a French Canadian Oblate brother,
and his Finnish-Ojibway roommate Uno.

The Kitchen in the Rectory
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Father Ouimet (center), A Sleepy Uno and Brother Bernier (upper left and right)
Chicago Bill (pilot) and Mr. Baker (prospector) 
Photo by Donald MacBeath,  Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Father Ouimet and Brother Bernier belonged 
to a Roman Catholic religious community called 
the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
and they welcomed Dad into their home and lives.

The Oblates have been serving in Canada since 1841,
dedicating themselves to working among the poor.
Many, like Father Ouimet and Brother Bernier,
lived in the north among the Aboriginal people.

The steamboat St. Emile:  an Oblate Order Mission Ship
on the Lesser Slave Lake

Dad quickly became good friends 
with Uno and Brother Bernier, 
but the friendship he struck up 
with Father Ouimet was especially close, 
and Father Ouimet remained friends 
with him and our family over the decades.

Father Ouimet was known and respected
throughout Northern Ontario and beyond.
Pilots, prospectors, scientists,
surveyors, stranded travelers, and others 
visited or stayed at his rectory
during his decades in Lansdowne House.

In my research I have tracked down information
about Father Ouimet's hospitality and work,
but it's had to find much about him as a person.

Occasionally my father shared little stories
that showed the human side of this dedicated priest:  
his humor, his interests, and his personal challenges.

Here are several anecdotes written by my father:
I have my Bible up here; in fact, I have two with me, 
a King James Version and a Catholic Bible.
The Father was over to our house the other day
and spotted it right away.  
He was quite surprised to see
a Protestant with a Catholic Bible.  

I told him that I was thinking once 
of being a Baptist minister and thought at the time 
that I should know something about the opposition.  
He got quite a laugh out of this term.
He also was quite amused when I told him 
how I cornered the Bishop at Rotary 
and asked him where I could get one.

We had a rather unusual Thanksgiving dinner at the Father’s.
We had fish and chips, 
but they were well done and were very tasty.  
The fish was deep fried in batter.

The other day we had goose.
The Father was out hunting 
and shot a huge wild goose.  
It was delicious.

The Father made some rice dressing 
for it from an old French Canadian recipe.  
He has a cook, but the Indians don’t know
and won’t learn how to make dressing.

Canada Goose
flickr ~ Heather Paul  license

He has an awful time with this cook and her tea.  
The cook insists on boiling the tea 
and won’t listen to the Father.

Whenever the Father tries to tell her 
how to make tea correctly, 
she gets real huffy 
and tells him that she is older 
and has been making tea longer than him 
and therefore knows more about how to make it.
Things have now reached the stage 
that there are two pots of tea made for each meal, 
one for her and one for us.

Father Ouimet was laughing at my worrying 
about the mail being one or two days late.

He was telling me that 
when he went to the bush 
the first time in 1940, 
he was at a mission on Hudson’s Bay 
and received his mail twice a year; 
once in February by dog team 
and once in the summer, 
about August, by steamer.  

The first year his mail missed the dog team run, 
and he had to wait till August for his Christmas mail, 
including a Christmas cake that his mother sent him.  

The cake was in fine shape though, 
because she had used lots of fruit and wine 
when she was making the cake.

Long after my family left the the North,
Father Ouimet and I exchanged occasional letters.
It has always amazed me that this 
French Canadian, Roman Catholic priest
took time from his heavy duties to write to me.
I wish I had been able to share a Thanksgiving dinner with him.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada

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

Credit: Lansdowne House and the Father's Island, 1935,
Credit:  Canada. Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Library and Archives Canada / PA-094992