Friday, November 05, 2010

The Ministic Lake Monster

We've had our log cabin for over forty years now, tucked away in a bay in the northern woods. A man named Jack Arthur had three lots on a typical lake on the Shield, pickerel and perch, bass and the odd pike and even whitefish, our neighbour caught one once, pine and spruce forest, thick tangled bush, white birch and tall poplars and maple and gnarled oak, sheer granite walls and enormous boulders scattered about by the retreat of glaciers.
I remember Jack Arthur from when I was a boy. He likely would have been my Dad's age now, in his late seventies, a quiet smiling white haired man who lived in his cabin year round, perched on a plateau overlooking the lake, to get to it you had to climb a steep hill, the path carved into the sheer drop of it. Only boat access and he was there right through the winter, thirty five below, the lake frozen, the wind whipping up that cliff and howling through the pines. We used to make that winter trip once a year, drive up an old logging road, loading our sleigh, we kids piled into it, Mom and Dad on the blue SnoJet, through the woods and then across the lake to the camp with its wood stove for heat. My Dad and his best friend Otto, who owned the camp next door, a couple of pals from work as well and their families. I remember the cold and sliding down the hill that our camp sits on with Otto's son and I remember Dad and his best friend in the sauna and then out and into the lake through a hole they had cut in the ice.

Completely mental.

So Jack Arthur had this land and sometime a half century ago he built a cabin on it. Nobody knows where it is except its somewhere back in the woods. Maybe there is nothing left but a tumbledown of rotten logs, roof caved in by a fallen tree. More likely its still standing somewhere back there although it would take some search to find it. The tangled woods claim everything quickly, a path that once connected us to the cabin on our right is long overgrown, I tried to take my kids down there this past summer and despite having travelled it a thousand times as a boy (the neighbour had the entire collection of 1979 Playboys in his outhouse) I couldn't even make a start to it.

For some reason Jack didn't like his prototype and so it was abandoned. He did build three log cabins along with sheds and outhouses and in two cases, saunas. He divided up the land and sold it. Dad bought the middle camp. His best friend bought the one on our left.

We grew up on that lake. Had some great times as a kid but the thing I remember most is the friendship between my Dad and Otto. They were a couple of hardcore Northerners. Otto was from Porcupine and Dad was born in Wawa and grew up in the Soo and Franz. If a separatist party had ever sprung from the Shield Otto would have led the charge, his mantra was 'Proud To Be A Northerner'. They both had that legendary old man strength but whereas in Dad it was hidden in the sinew and wire of a smaller man, Otto was a bear, a big bearded Finlander with a barrel chest, massive arms and a bigger grin, pipe clenched between his teeth. I remember he and Dad having at a massive tree that had to come down, taking turns at it, first one and then the other, Dad matching him, Otto cheering him on. They were quite the pair, an intercom wire running through the woods, early in the morning, coffee on, the smell of bacon and then Otto's voice booming out of the tiny primitive box in the corner of the kitchen. Good morning Partner! What's on for today?

Usually what was on was working on a project or another. A dock needing work or a roof or deck needing repair. And then that afternoon a few (!) beers and a sauna and maybe waterskiing or company from across the lake and a barbeque and then into the night laughter and talk into the late and we kids would nod off to the rumble of our fathers' voices.

And they were trouble those two. My old man told me about the old days working in some small town and their crew in some hotel on the edge of town and the beer and rum flowing and suddenly brawling with the locals and fists flying and then Otto wading in, roaring, bodies flying about as he cracked heads and tossed men about, my old man chortling at the sheer foolishness of anyone taking on his best friend.

One time they had to go into town to pick up some supplies for a job. They had their money and so late morning they got into Otto's big aluminum boat (the Queen Mary he called it) and fired up the Merc and headed across the lake. Its about fifteen to twenty minutes to the landing and then another fifteen along an old cordorouy road to the highway and then ten into the nearest town with a lumberyard.

So a couple of hours pass and then a couple of more and now its midafternoon and no sign. But there are no worries because the thought is that they've stopped in at the hotel for a sandwich and a couple of beers.

And then its late afternoon and now there's a bit of worry creeping in but not really, they have more than a few pals on the lake, there are two other fellows from where they work and Labine, a madman whose camp sits right outside the narrows, if he saw them with a load of lumber putting along he'd certainly wave them in for a beer and God knows it was impossible to get away from his table once you were sitting at it.

And then supper comes and supper goes and darkness is falling and in the north darkness falls pretty late in the summer and now there is real worry and of course this is before cell phones and even if they had them there's no coverage in the middle of God's country and they haven't a landline even so there's no calling around to see if anyone has seen them. And just as our moms are starting to think about taking the boat across the lake to see if they can track down their wayward husbands we hear a familiar drone from out of the pitch black. (It gets so dark up there that you're flying blind if you're coming across the water after sunset but they and we had done it so many times it was second nature).

And sure enough it was them. They had tied the boat up and stumbled up the hill laughing (our moms' faces getting angrier and angrier) and the door burst open and they staggered in after a good day of drinking and as they faced the music Otto explained that they hadn't gone into town and had a couple and then spent their money at the beer store and come back to the landing hours ago and taken the boat over to a pal's where they had spent a glorious afternoon in the sun drinking cold beer until they finally realized that they could postpone their punishment any longer and so loaded up the boat with driftwood and scrap and then putted across the lake.

No what had happened is that as they had just come out of the narrows an enormous creature had risen from the depths of the lake and overturned the Queen Mary, tossing them into the water and scattering the newly purchased lumber. Why they had barely escaped with their lives! How could there be such anger when they had just survived a harrowing encounter with:

The Ministic Lake Monster


After ten games there have been no traumatic surprises for Oiler fans. Note - put those two words together. Traumatic. Surprises. All of the trauma was seen coming along time ago.

Everything that we thought would be shitty has been shitty. The penalty kill remains abysmal, hard to believe I know. Its only been a couple of years that everyone and his dog (!) have been calling for some help here as what was once an strength has become a disaster. Barely anybody can win a draw and very few players can check their hat. Besides the PK the biggest issue (again not a surprise) is a D where everyone is being forced to play over their head. And a small and young team is getting pushed around. Again.

Despite the presence of Steve MacIntyre! Who knew!

Lets focus on the positives, shall we? Hell, we have to at this point, its been a long four years and counting with little to cheer about. So here goes a little more than nothing.

1/ Goaltending has been decent. Dubnyk had one start and was terrific. Khabibulin as been reasonable (faint praise I guess but what can I say).

2/ Horcoff has rebounded from an awful year with a good start almost right across the board.

3/ Eberle is the real deal. Most importantly he actually knows his way around the ice outside of the opposition's end. Great stuff for a rookie.

4/ Theo Peckham has shown marked improvement. He makes mistakes, sure, but he's neither Matt Greene (always in the box) nor Laddy Smid (hopelessly out of his depth) in their early years. Plus he's an enthusiastic physical presence on the ice. God knows we need more of those.

5/ Ales Hemsky has gusted from good to great for the most part. We love Ales and we need to extend him. He's not perfect but he's serious quality.

6/ Umm, okay running out of good things already. The farm team has been pretty solid. Omark is a bit of a cherry picker but sooner or later he has to get his shot in the show I think. He wins his puck battles, he can skate and he produces at ES.

7/ Hall and Paajarvi have looked like rookies a lot but they have shown flashes of what is to come and really this year is all about hope. So that's good.

8/ Gagner has been solid if not spectacular.

9/ We've had two handjobs out of ten games. I think we had two all year last season. So that's an improvement.

10/ A bunch of players are growing stashes for Movember. For me its every second year so next year I will try and top last year's monstrousity. But good on them for raising money for a great cause so that hopefully someday we won't be getting fingers stuck up our asses as a matter of course. Of course if you're into that, then carry on.

Have a great weekend everybody.


spOILer said...

I don't recall getting 2 handjobs this season already.

Have I been watching the games at the wrong house?

Black Dog said...

Remember the last post. This season is a greyhound bus ride across Canada. The games against Calgary and Chicago were the unexpected anonymous handjobs.

Come on man, get with the program!

Anonymous said...

So when Rome burned... or was it the sauna... it was just a few too many lifters between friends? Ahhhh memories of Ministic.

Spence the Western Kin

spOILer said...

So you're tellin me these aren't real handjobs? They're metaphorical????

The season is a Greyhound bus ride? That sounds utterly horrific.

How do I get off then?

Black Dog said...

Next stop is Hearst. Its a local.

Its that bad.

And yeah no actual handjobs at my house. Excpet for the self inflicted.

macaotim said...

You need to spend some time in the communist wonderland. Buddy and his wife just got back from an "across Asia" bus extravaganza. Turns out the upper level of the bus contained the "sleeping quarters." Paper thin mats side-by-side with only a thin, semi-transparent curtain separating each mat. The kicker was that the bus was full of main-landers who have a very different perspective on personal hygiene practices than we in the west.

Peeing in pails, blowing noses in shirt and spitting on floor/curtain happened frequently. The bus was a death trap in the making with no windows that opened in the top and everyone was chain smoking. My friend retells the story of this 20+ hour trip with fear in his eye. Everyone always laughs, but he stays rather serious and adds at the end that he's sure he'll develop lung cancer and die at a young age from the trip!

One thing in China is that you never fear crime like you do in a Greyhound in Canada. But, the cleanliness and smell are way, WAY worse.

Black Dog said...

Lol Tim as I get older I realize more than and ever that things can always get worse.

And young Fernie buck there were no lifters involved in the great fire of '79 or whenever it was. The cause of the blaze remains a mystery but alcohol was definitely not a factor.

For once.

Dennis said...

I absolutely loved that story, Pat. Otto calling the boat the Queen Mary had me laughing out loud:)

I love your old timey stories:)

Anonymous said...

I remember working alongside Jack Aurthur while helping build my uncles "camp" at the far end of the big lake. I was hammering away and alternately swatting mosquitoes when I looked to my right at Jack who was hammering away himself. His face was covered in mosquitoes yet I don't think any were able to penetrate the leathery exterior of his face. He caught my look of amazement and just gave me that "Jack Palance" grin of his and continued hammering.

From the end of the Lake.

Anonymous said...

This was an interesting read as I spent my summer's growing up at otitis camp. Thanks!