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When we left Miller in August and moved into the other camp's cabin, Dr. Motlong, who owned and operated the fishing camp across the narrows from the Millers, came and said, "I have a cabin for you right now, and a job next summer, for both of you." "Sure Doc, we'll come."
Whoever heard of unemployment? In April 1950, we went to work for our new boss. Here was a lodge with a dining room, kitchen and lunch counter. Two kinds of cabins: the housekeeping and the American plan. The American was only for sleeping and drinking, they got their meals in the lodge. Those fellows paid as much as $25.00 per day, plus boat and motor, and usually a fishing guide, too.
Our start up in the spring was the same as in other camps. Repair and clean boats, then paint them green and white. Eight horse Johnson outboard motors, which were the workhorses of the industry at the time, had to be checked over. This was a modern place with its own electric generator: all you had to do was turn on a light, switch the gasoline driven power plant start up, and you were in business.
Doc used to be a dentist in Rochelle, Illinois. Apparently, he liked fishing better, so he bought this place. Now he didn't want anything to do with dentistry any more.
One morning, we had to go to Kenora, fifty miles away to do business. After we came home, I got a terrible toothache. I begged Doc to yank it out. He claimed he could not freeze it. I told him, "I don't care, it hurts so bad, you can't make it any worse." He still refused. He said, "Take the truck and go see a dentist." Mind you, fifty miles up, fifty miles down, I went. The truck was a new half ton Ford, I sure made it go.
In the spring, Doc came first followed by Mrs. Motlong a couple of weeks later. Margaret became the cook and, next to Mrs. Motlong, the most sought after personality, which was most of the time. It seemed eating was a priority for all of the tourists we encountered.
The wood burning cook stove had a top which was used for frying eggs and bacon. Just throw them on top and they would sizzle there. I was officially declared a "Bull cook". I don't know where that name originated, but it seemed to be normal. It stood for, I believe, the boss's right hand man.
When tourists came in, I welcomed them, led them to their cabin, helped to unload their baggage, supplied them with wood, and put ice in their ice box, to keep their beer and/or other refresments cool. Then if they so desired, I got a boat and motor ready and drummed up an Indian for a fishing guide. When business was booming, sometimes all the Indian guides were out.
Doc asked me to take parties out fishing. Oh, oh. In the first place, I would get lost: Lake of the Woods had 14,000 islands. Secondly, I didn't know nothing about fishing.
How would I know if I didn't make a good guide unless I tried? Doc got me an official Ontario Guide Licence. Now I was all set. A party of four: two men and their wives. We took off. Less than one kilometer from base, you couldn't see the bridge no more. I was lost, but didn't tell the clients. I went for a while, but not too far, then told them that this was a worthwhile place to teach the worms how to swim. They liked that. And, to my consternation, they did catch some great northern pike. Phew, so far so good.
At lunch time, they expected me to prepare it. I took an old antifreeze can out off the boat, filled it with water out of the lake, built a fire, found a stick, hanged the can on it above the fire. Then took some freshly caught fish, cleaned them and fried them as best as I could. Slapped the fish on some tin plates, poured the coffee, ashes off the wood fire which found their way into the pot, and hollered, "Come and get it!"
According to the party, the fish and coffee were the best they had ever tasted in their lives! Amen.
So far, the day went well but how in the world was I going to get them home, without them finding out how scared I was. When I heard motor boats going a certain direction, that must be the way home. So I told my party, it was time to leave, better reel in. They did, and I headed in the direction I figured, that's gotta be it.
After a few islands, I was still totally lost. When I had my motor running, I could not hear anyone else, so I stopped and told the party, "I believe this may be a good spot." I stopped the engine to listen, and yes, I heard boats again, going in another direction, aha, thataway. "Hey folks, this is not too good a place after all, let's go." They reeled in again and I headed for home.
I had hoped to catch sight of a boat going home, but it took too much time to get moving, and when I finally got around the island, it was gone. I had one thing going for me - what Margaret called, "An uncanny good sense of direction." I said, yeah, that's the Indian blood in me! Whatever it was, I did have a vague idea in which direction them boats had gone. Lo and behold, I did recognize the back side of the island visible from the famous "longest wooden bridge in the world". That's home!
Subsequent trips weren't as difficult, because I managed to live and learn.