Doc and the Mrs. and Margaret got along fantastic, so much so that he asked me one time, "If I buy a boat, bigger than a fishing boat, one we can haul tourists around in, will you be the captain ?" Sure Doc, go for it.
Thus we went to Kenora, looked around and found one, maybe thirty years old, a pleasure boat and about twenty feet long. It had an old Fordson farm tractor engine, converted to marine use. The price was right so the deal was completed.
Now to get it home we had to get the help from Albert, our main Indian guide. Doc drove us to Kenora where we boarded our new ship, and sailed home, probably a 60-mile trip by water. I was already the captain and Albert the navigator.
At home, I had to remodel the ship a little. It had a 12-foot mahogany deck and 5-foot space for passengers. So I cut the deck down to get enough room to accommodate ten to twelve people.
Now we are in business, except it had to have a name. Albert suggested we call it "NIKA" which meant "GIRL" in Ojibway Indian language, he explained. Doc said Okay, so I painted "Nika" on the bow.
We also had overnight cabins, which were popular then. Several parties who stayed overnight enquired about the sightseeing trip we advertised. "Hop aboard, we'll go for a ride."
First, I took a little loop over the lake, then turned straight for the famous wooden bridge, largest in the world. Then we headed for the abandoned gold mine. Some people stood in awe when they saw the huge piles of crushed rock speckled with what looked like gold flakes, carelessly dumped in the lake. "Oh, can we have some?" "Sure take as much as you want."
It looked good, but a lot of work was involved to get the real gold out. Still, it made a nice souvenir. Many pieces disappeared into pockets and purses of visiting tourists. Then we turned toward a ranger station: a nice building on a little hill with a nice landscaped lawn toward the water. Something you didn't see easily in this wild inhospitable country, then back home.
Doc was really going to town: he hired Walter, a swedish carpenter, to build an outpost camp, twenty miles away, accessible by water only. First six miles by boat to the Indian reserve, then they portage you to the next lake, and from there you have to find your way, man, what a trip.
Now I started to realize that I did have a good sense of direction, because for 14 miles, or 20 kilometres to find your way around islands through narrow passes, then open water to get to the exact opening in the far shore, which could not be seen until you were there, was a fantastic experience. I loved it. It was such a challenge.
To transport the heavy stuff, like roofing shingles, etc. Doc had an idea. He wanted to buy our Model A and take that over the ice in the winter. I said fine but you would have to invent something so it could go over the snow. I suggested, "Put big skies in the front instead of wheels, in the back big drums with cleats." We went to work: the local garage had a 200-litre oil drum cut in half, drilled holes to fit it on the axles and welded pieces of angle iron for traction.
Other people also wanted to haul freight the same way, so let us go together. When the appointed day came, we had four vehicles, and a four-wheel army truck with a heavy load of fuel.
Who was going to lead the way? And I hope that they knew the way. You see, we had to follow a different route than the way by water, since there was open water in the narrows. I followed along fine. We bypassed an Indian reserve until we had to go overland for a spell. Here it happened: the army truck went through the ice close to shore and settled on the bottom, maybe about 75 cm deep, impossible to move.
There we were: Albert the Indian was with me. He suggested we kept on going. We moved around the other vehicles and kept on going by ourselves. We made it about half way when we had to make another portage. It started to come to the end of the day too, so I said to Albert, "We camp here for the night."
I went to cook something to eat. Albert said, "Okay, I'm going to shoot a wolf." He left, and never came back, the dirty rat. There I was 15 km from home all alone, except for a few howling wolves, and silent moose and deer. After eating, I tucked myself in the sleeping bag and closed my eyes.
Next morning, I looked around and thought I was gone: no more sleeping bag, no more fire, everything white. Then I realized it had been snowing and covered it all. I got up but could not continue. I did not know which way. Albert the dirty dog had walked home that night. Now I knew for sure whom not to depend upon. Nothing for me to do but walk home too.
When spring came and Doc came back, how were we gonna get the truck to its destination? We could build a raft and float the truck over. "Oke, you tell us how."
Harvey, a new man, Doc and I left early one morning. We cut some trees, lashed them together and drove the truck onto the contraption. Doc did the driving, I sat in the boat watching. I told Doc, "I am afraid we are not gonna make it. It seems very unstable." "In that case," he said, "I'd better get my knife ready." "For what, to kill me?" "No, to cut the rope." No trouble, we moved right along, but then we had to cross some open water. I could see it coming. The wind got hold of it and slowly it tipped over. I had my camera and took a picture seconds before the truck disappeared into the depth. No need to cut the rope. Doc and the boat were still here, only the Ford was gone.
When we got overhead and looked down, we could see the two sealed beam headlights looking back at us. The reason for that was I had a rope tied to the bumper and the raft, so when it tipped over, the rope stopped the truck from going down, thus it was hanging on the bumper.
Doc said, "Let's go home." "Please, Doc, don't worry. Give me one man and some equipment, and I will get him out and take it to the camp." He said, "Okay, but we don't have no time now. We have to get the camp ready."