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· The Troll Whisperer (Moderator)
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Back in '64, my FIL, a fellow member of our gun club and I motored up to Canada for some deer hunting at the lodge and property of my FIL's private club.

It was a beautiful place, about 60 miles of the town of Thesilon, which is right on Lake Huron. The late fall weather was unexpectedly nice and we spent several days tramping around the woods, swamps and lakes trying not to find anything to shoot at until just before going home. Had the place to ourselves - sorta erie in the big open raftered lodge with just the 3 of us, but sure made it relaxing to run around in whatever clothing (of lack thereof) without a fuss being made.

One morning, we found more than 10" of that white stuff had fallen during the night and was still spitting in the early morning darkness. Over breakfast, Chet (the fellow gun club member) and I decided it would be foolish to try walking in the woods with that depth of fresh stuff, we'd take the old canvas and wood ribbed canoe to get to the other side of the lake the lodge was situated on. My FIL elected to stay in camp and catch up on sleep and puttering around.

Chet and I discussed canoeing etiquette and assured each other we could manage, especially as the lake surface was mirror smooth - not the tinest ripple on it. In a sane moment, we also decided it would be best to skirt the shore line just far enough out not to bump any of the hidden granite boulders normally close in. Loading our gear and rifles, donning our heavy hunting clothes and rubber knee high Red Ball hunting boots, off we struck for the distant shore!

Upon reaching the point directly across from the barely seen lodge, we beached the canoe in a space between some rocks having a gravel area. Pulled the canoe up on shore and tied it off with a loop of baling twine someone had provided on the canoe bow. Securing gear and rifles, Chet headed south away from the lake and I chose to slueth west just inside the trees to try cutting tracks if any came to the lake for water. We agreed to be back at the canoe by Noon for the trip back for lunch.

Only tracks that seemed interesting were some very fresh moose tracks - however, no moose tag and the season was closed in this area. Made it back to the canoe a little before Noon and Chet was sitting on a dusted rock waiting for me. By now it had stopped snowing, but the wind had freshened and the lake was getting choppy. We reloaded the canoe, cast off and began our cautious skirting of the shore line.

Not too long after shoving off, Chet questioned the extra long trip around the lake edge, when we could cut directly across and save quite a bit of time. He was 20 years older than me (I was a brash 28 at the time) and had heart/breathing problems. Figuring he was tiring, I thought "What the Heck!" and agreed. Getting out in the deeper water and more exposure, the wind and choppy water was making us work at maintaining a bearing and keeping the spray to a minimum. Working up a sweat, I unzipped my parka coat, stuffed my leather mittens into a side pocket and continued a deep digging stroke with the paddle. Not too long afterward, the mittens popped out of the pocket and went floating past Chet, in the rear of the canoe, on the leeward side. I felt him shift position and immediately counter balanced. He had stabbed for the mittens and retreived one of them. When I found the problem, we paddled backwards to get the other mitten. Chet missed it when it came by him so I waited and then made a stab from it in front. He used body english to help me and I felt the canoe tip on the side. Throwing my self to the up side, it was too late and the canoe rolled bottoms up. Entering the water, it took a second or two for it to invade all my clothing and then the chill hit me. "Dang, this water is cold!" Chet had floundered around and grabbed his end of the upside down canoe, stuffed it under him and was sitting on it, submerged to his chest. Reaching up I managed to snag a cross strut and pulled down until my end reached the water. I grabbed the keel at the bow and hung on. Soon the shock wore off and we tried frantically to figure out what to do. Tried talking Chet into slipping off to see if we could flip the canoe back upright, but he wouldn't budge off the end. Finally, noticing the wind was blowing us 'way off to the left and lengthways of the long lake, I told him to hang on, I'd swing my end around and begin swimming and pushing if he could help out paddling with his hands. Remember, we both still had on all our hunting clothes and boots.

To take our minds off the situation a bit and not get paranoid about the constant hiss of escaping air I could hear coming from the canoe where my ear was, we discussed what we would do upon reaching shore and to get to the lodge. The heavy wool clothing (Chet was dressed head to toe in Woolrich hunting attire) seemed to help insulate somewhat but kept dragging at my strength. I was afraid to stop and attempt to struggle getting the boots off, afraid I'd slip under and not make it back up.

My FIL had been looking out the big bay windows of the lodge and could see us in the middle of the lake. He thought Chet was a deer rack and that we were coming back with a buck in the canoe. Some time later he noticed we were farther down the lake and not getting closer to the lodge. Taking the first rifle in the rack, he looked through the scope and realized we were in the water and in trouble. The other boats for the lodge were locked up under it in a storage room and he never thought of them anyway. Rushing out and running down the lake edge, he kept hollering at us, just what I really don't know!

We had been in the water for over 45 minutes (FIL's timing) when we finally got within hailing distance of the shoreline. That gave me extra strength and I began to burn up my remaing energy to try one last spurt to reach shore. When about 40 yards out, my FIL held onto a small tree and extended a dead branch about 5' long and said "What the **** are you two doing?" Temper flashing, I croaked out "Trying to get the **** out of here, what the **** does it look like?" That got the blood boiling and I began to really flail at the water. Suddenly we were brought up short. That dang'd loop of tie twine had caught up on an underwater deadfall! Told Chet to hang on and I swam forward swinging the canoe. My knees scrapped bottom! A stick was waving around under my nose with my FIL yelling at me to grab on, but I didn't have the wherewithall to shove it out of the way. Finally, my FIL gingerly stepped off the bank into knee deep water and yanked the canoe toward shore. Poor Chet almost flipped off the end!

Trying to stand was extreme effort. Finally able to attain a half stoop, I floundered toward shore, stumbling over small underwater rocks. After helping Chet to shore, my FIL came over and supported me out. Here, I must give him credit. Somehow, in all that heavy wet snow he was able to quickly build a fire and threw enough fuel on it to make a nice sized bonfire. Chet and I linked arms across the flames and stood there letting the sopping clothes steam, hair singe and feeling grateful we were out of the lake and had a fire.

As we slowly thawed out and could begin getting our senses back, we talked of our losses. The only thing left in the canoe was a belt axe Chet had taken off and wedged under his seat just before me losing the mittens. His Savage 99 in .300 Sav and my Winchester Mod 70 in .300 H & H Magnum had slipped under to the lake bottom, along with miscellaneous and sundry other items. We agreed it was a cheap price to pay since we did not join them.

Chet stripped down to long woolie undies and took off running for the lodge and a lingering shower that consumed all the hot water. My FIL and I set a brisk (for my condition) pace back, discussing the turn of events. Told him he almost had to service my life insurance policies, as he was my insurance agent as well as FIL! Arriving at the nice, warm lodge, Chet was still hogging the shower so I stripped down buff, took several large terry towels and gave myself a hard scrub until color started coming back to a pasty blue/white skin. Pulled on two layers of wool longhandles, my FIL wrapped a thick blanket around me, helped over to a big overstuffed chair he had dragged in front of this huge walk-in fireplace, sat me down with a tumbler full of Canadian whiskey and told me to sip, not gulp! Warmth returned after a while, peace overcame the evening and the next thing I knew he was asking me what I wanted for breakfast!

Chet almost died of pneumonia - I never even got a sniffle.
The Provincial Police had scuba divers that we paid to attempt to retreive the rifles. They said the tannic acid in the water was so discolored it that they were up to their armpits on the bottom ooze before knowing they were there. Never did find them. At least, that's the story we got.

On returning home, Chet filed a homeowner's insurance claim that someone had broken into the lodge and stolen all our firearms. Got himself a brand new customized Model 99 in .308. I felt the Good Lord did enough getting us out of a tight spot and didn't need me filing a false claim. Sent off to the DCM through the NRA and got a Springfield 1903-A3 for $14.50 (included the shipping) and hunted with that for years after until able to buy another fancy scoped rifle.

Chet and my FIL passed away some years ago - this is the first time I have told this story to the public. Hopefully, others will read and heed - don't do stupid things in a canoe - they aren't built for stupid people! I'm still married to my FIL's daughter - even she doesn't know how close she came to being a widowed mother on that day.
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