WRITER IN SEARCH OF A SUBJECT (Chapter 4 of 7)

Cave of the Great Spirit

No town is too small to have a community centre, with an ice arena, a curling rink, and sundry other facilities.

After an hour of googling, I came up with the truth.

The scientific truth.  The scientists said, in this particular study, that they found grit and gravel in the stomachs of snowshoe hares.  That’s what they call wild rabbits – snowshoe hares.  And, as other mammals of the forest tend to do, the hares feed on the salt that sanding trucks have in their cargoes when they spread finely ground gravel on winter roads.

Mind you, this spring I have seen many moose drinking from roadside ditches, and any Northerner will tell you that they are after the road salt.  And that’s the scientific truth – what Northerners say, I mean.

John said the hares are using the gravel to aid digestion.  A likely story.  I found no scientific proof of that.

On Saturday brother John guided me around the Cave of the Great Spirit.  That is what Manitouwadge means.  Manitouwadge is a pretty community that is – like all the communities of its neighbouring municipality, Greenstone – in the grip of an economic downturn.  Not merely a recession such as you find in Thunder Bay and Toronto, but a deep-down depression, with food banks and everything.

Retirees from away are taking advantage of all the empty houses and snapping them up as retirement homes.  Places we toured included the community centre, the community museum, and Grant’s kitchen.

This was a Saturday, and kids were running amuck in the community centre.  Science North had some exhibits, and encouraged the kids to scratch ceramic tiles with rocks and to build solar-powered toys with Lego (or Something like that) and to guess what scat belonged to which creature.  I messed up on the bear scat.

I messed up because every pile of bear poop I have seen in the wild has been coloured black.  The Science North exhibit was coloured brown.  The S.N. lady said that brown was the normal colour of black bear scat.  She said that berries gave black bear scat the colour of black.  A likely story.  As I shall demonstrate later.

The community museum was founded by and is run by volunteers.  They survive on the meagre funds they can scratch up  – often enough to keep a brace of monkeys in peanuts for a year.  Every now and then the Guv’mint tosses them a peanut.

The old Anglican church.

It is a fantastic museum, housed in an empty church – I am not kidding.  It has fantastic things, such as a miner’s flame lamp to detect explosive gases underground – I am not kidding – and cold cast-iron irons for ironing clothes, and a Geraldton telephone directory from 1961 with my name and address in it – 509 Main Street.

I recognized the prospector’s hammer donated by Matt Dawd, son of Bill Dawidowich.  I recognized it because I held that hammer – now beyond touch in a sealed glass case – years ago when I interviewed Bill and recorded his story about finding Manitouwadge smack in the middle of the bush.

I have been looking for the manufacturer’s plans for the construction of an old-time logging sleigh.  A group of we historically-minded folks (Is that good English?) have rescued the remnants of such a sleigh in the bush above Lake Nipigon, and we wish to reconstruct it.  Most of the wooden parts have rotted away, but the metal remains.

Oh, said John.  Grant has done the same.  He has the parts in his backyard.  Now I, I am all for exploring backyards.

So we visited Grant’s backyard.

(Continued in Chapter 5)

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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