Thursday, June 30, 2011

Down river, below the dam and fire up stream

  A couple of years after raising the dam at mile 92 on the Algoma Central Railroad, they decided to build another dam down stream. And below the dam and train trestle was a great trout river.

This was a fine trout stream before the new dam was built about 8 miles downstream
At about half of maximum flow.
The trestle is 1550 foot long, curved and 130 foot high.

 All of the supplies for that new dam came in by train and everything was dropped off at mile 92. Many construction workers were involved and believe it or not all of the cement for that new dam came in 90 pound bags and was trucked down to the new site.                                                                                      
 Before that dam was built I used to go down stream with a canoe and do some trout fishing. Now to get there I'd paddle across the river, portage the canoe about a 3/4's of a mile down stream to get away from the turbulence of the power dam, I also had to check into the powerhouse and let them know I was going down stream and supposedly they would not open the gates without a warning. The stream below the dam was  just a good old fashioned trout stream 20 to 40 yards wide and  many places you could stand up and drink water.  Fishing was great I used to catch a lot of rainbow and German trout. I never caught anything of record size  but I caught a lot of them.                                                                  
  Dutch Garver was in charge of the maintenance of the dam and Harold Deur took care of making electricity or visa versus. Both  men were nice, Harold had a good looking daughter and Dutch had a pontoon plane, a Super Cub that I got to ride in a couple of times. I thought I was in heaven, more or less.                                                                                   
  Everywhere I went, my dog, Cookie, went also. Mother said the dog had more sense than I did. I do know the dog was better company than mother, when it came to fishing.
  This one particular afternoon I had time and permission to go down stream trout fishing. Mother called the powerhouse and told Harold and/or Dutch I was going down in a              canoe. They told her to tell me to come on down "he should have a good time" I took a canvas/wooden canoe because it was lighter and also easier to maneuver.                                        
  By the time you paddle across the river (1/4 mile) climb up to the track and portage about 3/4 of a mile a good hour had gone by.                                                                                            
 I put in and fishing was good, extremely good, I was having a ball. All of a sudden it dawned on me that the water was moving a lot faster and there was a lot more of it than there was earlier and all of a sudden a wall of water came rushing down down stream giving me the ride of my life.                     
 I was now a good 4 or 5 miles down stream and looking for a place to land and JUST on the west side of the river. The east side was uncharted territory and WILD, shear granite cliffs and the west side had a small two track road that in time would be a road for the new dam construction. After I'd made my landing safely I had to portage back up to the dam. There was NO way I could paddle against all of the white water. No I wasn't fighting for my life, I was just fighting to get to shore so I wouldn't have to walk so far.                        
 I'd manged to save my trout so now I had to carry the bucket of fish as well as the canoe and fishing pole about 3 miles. I just lashed the pole to the inside the canoe, put the canoe on my shoulders and started the long trek back. The weather was pretty good and I was contemplating mentioning this predicament to anybody or just keep quiet. If you've ever carried a canoe you know your visibility can be limited unless you keep the foreword end up to see. I was plodding along minding my own business when somebody behind me blew a horn. Now it wasn't as loud as the horn on the train but it was loud. When I got everything situated around I could see it was Harold Deur with his Landrover. He said, would you like a ride? I said sure and we put the canoe on top of the Landrover and went towards the dam. He said he didn't know how to tell me this but he'd forgotten I was on the river until a half hour or so after they'd opened up the gates. He'd been driving up and down the road to see if he could find me. I could tell by his attitude that he was telling the truth and told him no harm was done as he let me out down at river. Only about 1/4 mile paddle from home. He and I agreed that he would not mention that to mother and probably not even to dad.                                   
  As far as I know he never did. After the new dam was built the trout stream became a thing of the past. It soon filled and was quite deep, probably about 50 feet and filled with pike.

FIRE- - - -FIRE  - - --FIRE---- FIRE- - - - F===I===R===E
  Through out the summer we had thunderstorms of course and there was always the chance of a forest fire. Well it happened one summer. Lands and Forest (DNR) called and said they wanted all available personnel for transporting men and equipment up river for a fire. Now the fire was about a mile from the river. I do not know if it is the same up there now but back then whatever they said RULED. Soon we were up river just south of the Cow River unloading supplies.Also at the same time there were literally thousands of logs floating wildly in the river, which stymied the airplanes (due to a labor problem with the loggers)
  The airplanes they used were the Dehaviland Otter and Beaver models. They were and still are the "workhorse" for the bush pilots when it came to hauling freight.
  I spent hours herding logs clearing the way for the planes to land. I had a Mountie with me and with his radio the pilots would tell us where some errant logs were and we race over and move them. Five of those giant planes landed and unloaded shovels, axes portable pumps, miles of hose, helmets and whatever. The last plane had foodstuffs and medical supplies.
  Then I was told go back down and start transporting men, get mother and anybody else capable and start bringing up all of the loggers that were assembling down near the dam. I think our biggest boats were either 14 or 16 foot V-bottom steel boats.  And we put six men plus the operator for the long ride back up there. They were French Canadians and spoke no English but they were told what to do and were NO problems. I think I made six trips and each round trip took almost 2 3/4 hours, I do remember that I was gone for about 24 hours . Mother made one trip and told the mounties she was going to go back and cook some food for the men. So he loaded her  up with some foodstuffs and she was away with a smile on her face. She told me later she got Horace Deur's wife and daughter to help her and they cooked enough for an army. Dutch Garver delivered the food with his "Super Cub", It was a great plane and could land and take off safely because of its small size and great horsepower. Meantime, life at the lodge returned almost to normal for a couple of days.     One day a chopper landed at the lodge (they were a rarity in those days) and told us that tomorrow morning we could go back up stream and start bringing back down the men and supplies. It seems as though the men were paid fifty cents an hour more for fighting fire than what the mill was paying. Some of the men were going around and starting fires while others, were trying to put them out. Because of that it took a few days longer to put out the fires.                                   
If I remember it took us a little more than a week to get all of the supplies back to mile 92.                                                          
 At the fire landing they'd left 2 men (they could speak English) and they helped us pack the boats for the return trip, always dangerously heavy. Down at the trestle they had more men that would unload and fill the 7 boxcars for the train to take back.                                                                                        
  The lodge was paid for their time and gasoline. Also Dad and mother made some great friends, in fact one of the pilots would stop periodically to have "lunch".                                  
 I never did walk back in and see where the fire was and we all marveled at how you could not see it from the river.         
Darrell still remembering.                                                            

1 comment:

Kitt said...

EXCELLENT! Great writing, Dad!