|John Gustavson and family bring us a load of lumber to build the dining room|
There was so much to improve at camp that I'm sure my parents didn't know where to begin but safety probably dictated one of the first moves. Those naptha Coleman stove and lanterns in the cabins were accidents waiting to happen. Customers were unused to the dangers that came with pouring a highly volatile fuel into a device, then striking a match. If any fuel was slopped on the outside of the tanks, the whole device went up in flames. The lanterns were especially hazardous. If you didn't adjust the regulator properly flames shot high overhead. Here is where those gas lights from the Revolutionary War soldier's home came to the rescue. The problem was they were made for natural gas, not propane.
"We've got to make that little hole -- the orifice -- even smaller," said Dad as he clamped the first S-shaped light into a vice. "Propane is a much higher pressure than natural gas. Fortunately, these lights are made of brass, a soft metal."
He took his nailset out of his carpenter's tool box. With the light held in a vice, he placed the end of the little tool near the hole and angled it inward, then gave it a tap. He then did the same all around the orifice. The metal punch pushed the hole close, a little.
"Let's give this a try."
The next thing was to put fittings on some copper tubing that would screw into each side of a regulator and then into a 20-pound propane tank. This type of connection is done by sliding the fittings onto the tubing, then flaring out the end of the tubing so that when the two fittings are screwed together the flared tubing seats exactly against the contours of the fitting. There is a tool for this, called a flaring tool. We didn't have one of those.
"Here, you hold the tubing tight against the sawhorse and I'll put my plumb bob into it and whack it with the hammer," said Dad. He did and the tubing started to spread. After a half-dozen strikes the soft copper looked like a little horn. We slid the fitting in place and it was really close to being right.
"It will seat better when we screw the fitting together." He connected everything tightly with a wrench and turned on the propane. He sniffed the joints -- nothing. Then he took out his lighter and waved the flame beneath. Nothing.
"We're good," he said.
He then tied a silk mantle on the light and lit it on fire with no gas. It went out in a few seconds. The mantle needs to just be ash to make bright light, he explained. Dad turned on the gas and opened the control on the light. He lit a match. The flames shot six feet above the light. The orifice was still too large.
We repeated the above process a couple more times. Finally, the light glowed a brilliant white. One down and eight more to go. Within a couple of lights he could make the orifice the right size in a single attempt.
Hundred-pound propane tanks were brought from town and the lights fitted on the walls of all the cabins. Next, he went looking for cheap propane hotplates. A classified ad from a surplus store in Winnipeg led to getting several cast-iron models. We were in the propane lighting and cooking business.
Our favourite newspaper was the Prairie Farm Weekly from Winnipeg. It had all sorts of helpful articles and advertisements for affordable products, including paint. We got five-gallon pails of it and my Mom and I painted the interiors of all the cabins.
The interior walls were made of pressboard -- like a thick cardboard -- that soaked up paint like a sponge. There were no ceilings in any of the buildings except Bill's old house which we now lived in. Dad would add them as fast as he could over the years.
We needed a dining room in the worst way, so that first year, Dad got a barge load of lumber from John Gustavson in Red Lake and within a few weeks he and Adam Paishk built an addition onto Bill's house, off the kitchen. That 24x24 room became the dining room. Now we had a lodge.
It was near October and we had dozens of moose hunters coming. Mom cooked on the four-burner propane stove we brought from the cabin. It was small but over the years she would turn out pies and biscuits in the oven by the hundreds. Within a couple of years she found a used larger, six-burner commercial stove and the small model went to one of the cabins.
Following Adam's advice, Dad hired a bunch of Ojibwe guides. They had all been born at the west end of Red Lake and knew the area intimately. They also knew something that we didn't know -- how to hunt moose!
The guides were all placed in one of the small cabins since there still was no bunkhouse for them.
The first thing they did was jump in a boat and go looking for birchbark to make into moose calls. It took a wide piece of bark from a big tree. This was folded into a cone and held in place with electrical tape.
Dad sent the guides out in a couple of boats to find dry firewood for the camp. They were back shortly with the boats piled high with cross-loaded dead jackpine. This they cut with a bucksaw in the front yard. The tempered blade of the saw with a man pulling on each end would sing through the dry wood. The two sawyers, kneeling on either side of a sawhorse could cut wood as fast as four men could split it and haul it to the cabins where it was piled in immense rows. We cut wood this way for nearly two decades.
Two nights before the moose hunters arrived, it looked like one of the guides, Tony Paishk, was on death's door. Adam came to the lodge late at night and said something was wrong with Tony's heart.
Dad went with Adam over to the cabin. He wondered if it might be heartburn. Tony, and the rest of the bunch, had been drunker than skunks when they had come to camp.
Adam said something to Tony in Ojibwe. Tony shrugged and said something back.
"Maybe," said Adam.
Dad had a small paper roll of Tums in his pocket. Tony unrolled the entire pack and ate the whole works in one mouthful.
"Let's see if that works," said Dad and went back to the lodge. He was wakened an hour later by Adam. Tony seemed worse.
Dad got a can of whole tomatoes from the lodge. "Have him eat these. It might help." Adam didn't come back.
"We've got to get this Tony back to Red Lake," Dad told Mom. But the next day was too windy to make the 20-mile trip by boat. Tony stayed in the cabin while the others worked.
On the second day the moose hunters arrived by floatplane. Dad wanted to send Tony back on one of the planes but Adam said he was feeling better and wanted to guide. Since every guide was needed for each two hunters, Dad reluctantly agreed but secretly vowed to get a replacement the first time he went to town. That never happened.
Tony and his hunters were back before lunch with a moose. A couple of days later they got another. By the end of the two weeks that we offered hunting, Tony accounted for seven moose. He was the best of all the guides.
At the end of the hunt, Tony floored Mom and Dad when he came into the lodge. "Hey, Del and Don, I want to go to town now." After speaking through Adam as an interpreter for three weeks, Tony had finally decided to speak English!
In the next 20 years, Tony would prove himself an exceptional guide although he frequently ended up shooting the moose himself. He had extraordinary eyesight and could spot moose noses looking out between branches of spruces from hundreds of yards away. When he couldn't get his hunters to see the animals, he would say, "Gimme gun!"
The rifle could be bolt action, pump or semi-automatic, open sights, peep sights or scopes, it didn't matter. Tony never missed. This fact was made all the more remarkable by the fact he shot left-handed and his left arm was impaired, the result of being struck by an airplane propeller when he was a firefighter. Tony couldn't wrap his hand around the pistol grip with his finger on the trigger. Instead he held his arm beneath the gun and pinched the trigger against the guard with his finger and thumb.
Tony always shot until the gun was empty. One time, after unloading at something in the vast distance, he reached out his hand and said, "Gimme more shells." The hunter gave him his second clip. Tony blasted away but then stared for awhile at the bush two hundreds yards away. "Gimme more shells," he said. The hunter reloaded the first clip. Tony shot some more. The hunter said later there was absolutely nothing he could see that Tony was shooting at.
After waiting a bit, they went over to the spot. There were three dead moose, a bull, cow and a calf. Party hunting was legal in those days so all the moose were legally claimed by the party of hunters.
...to be continued
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