It was probably the most exciting thing that could have happened to us as kids. We didn’t understand the purpose or the commitment it involved. To us, my brother, Billy and me, it meant spending summers camping, having fun and freedom. To my father it meant being self-employed, not having to punch a time card every day or answer to someone else. Something he really wanted. To my mother, however, it meant isolation, hard work and loneliness. At least that’s how I see it looking back. She got the sharp end of the stick.
Her life wasn’t easy. It never had been easy, from her birth on an island outside a small reservation to her life with her husband in a small urban northwestern Ontario town. Our house was situated at the end of our street and was not connected to the town water and sewer system. Mom had to carry water in buckets from a well down the street or use the awful well water from one of the wells that Dad had dug in our back yard. It took him three attempts before he found water. A large rain barrel sat near the front door where rain water was collected. That water was used for bathing and hair washing. We got to have a bath once a week. During the winter months, mom collected snow and melted it for our baths.
Dad, who had been born on a farm in Saskatchewan, worked at one of the gold mines in the area most of the time. He preferred the outdoors to the underground though, and so had many jobs during the course of his working years as prospector out in the middle of nowhere deep in the wilderness. He would sometimes be gone for months cutting lines or staking claims for himself or for others who hired him.
Then one day came the announcement, “I’ve bought the Fish Camp. I’m going to try fishing.”
“You don’t even know how to set a net,” mom said.
“I’ll learn. We’re going this weekend to see the island.”
And for the next six summers that’s where we spent our summers while Dad fished the lake.