Old-timers will remember when we might find bugs or worms or spoilage in our macaroni or oatmeal or flour if it was in the pantry very long. Not anymore, as long as we keep it in the box it came in, and dry, our corn flakes or Kraft dinner or whatever dry food keeps forever.  That is because the box is treated with a chemical to prevent spoilage or varmints.


Old-timers might also have noticed that a body type I would call ‘olive on a toothpick’ – skinny arms and legs, tubby bulge around the middle, is steadily becoming more common in our people.

A recent study has shown that the chemical in the food boxes causes the ‘olive on a toothpick’ obesity. There is solid evidence; this ailment gets more noticeable as time goes by so the population has been exposed to this chemical longer.  Also the more boxed stuff we eat, such as macaroni, corn flakes, pizza, and so on, the more our bellies and bums grow.

I hear you saying “What’s that? Is this true?  How come I haven’t heard of this before?”

Ok, I’ll fess up, that’s because I just now made it all up. The ‘study’ is just me, writing down the first two paragraphs above.  But this is the kind of ‘science’ which drives so much of the modern agenda.  Many of the ‘studies’ reported breathlessly on network TV are no more elaborate than putting together two observations like this, perhaps reinforced by feeding a few mice toxic quantities of whatever is under attack today, or some such relatively meaningless experiment.

My friends Willy and Joe call this fractured logic ‘crowing rooster thinking’. Every morning the rooster crows, and a few minutes later, the sun comes up, so a cult could arise, ‘we had better take good care of that rooster, or the sun won’t come up and we will all freeze in the dark’.  Perhaps a more obvious example would be “roses are red, roses have thorns, and therefore anything red has thorns” – everyone has enough personal experience to know this is patently silly.

This kind of fuzzy logic is used every day in honest error, so we get things like ‘cholesterol is bad for you, no, cholesterol is good for you, or maybe there are different kinds of cholesterol’. It is used dishonestly by those advancing an agenda.  If you look for it, you will see it everywhere.  And you should look for it whenever somebody is trying to sell you on a theory which demands you adopt a reduced standard of living, while giving them more power over you.

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Our new money is crap. Not because it is shrinking – it takes six dollars to buy a cup of Starbucks, when some of us can remember a 5 cent cup of coffee.  Has coffee become more valuable?  No, our money is becoming worthless!  Seventy cents US!  $20 would buy an ounce of gold for most of history, now it takes $1500!

No, it is not crap because it is shrinking, but because the plastic bills are wildly impractical. You pull out your wad, and if they are new from the bank, they stick together like paint on a barn door.  If they are used, they spring out in all directions like kids playing brush-pile. It melts in the suns heat, and you can probably think of a couple of more issues.  You would think with buildings full of geniuses they could come up with something practical, it’s almost like they want to turn us off money.

Maybe this has to do with the stated objective of doing away with cash. How can a corporation target its computer advertising to your purchasing habits if you pay cash rather than use a card?  How can the government devise a way to tax your garage sale purchases and sales if we use cash?  How can they keep track of our every move if we don’t leave a trail of credit card purchases?

In feudal times, only the nobility could be armed. And, of course, the serfs by definition had no money.  So maybe this worthless money is part of the program to turn us all back into serfs, in olden times not allowed to be armed, now not allowed to have any cash to support independent decisions.  Our new nobility (government and the very wealthy) will make all our decisions for us, with Netflix and YouTube as our new bread and circuses.

“Bread and Circuses?” In the final decades of the Roman Empire 1500 years ago, they kept their unemployed serf class city dwellers quiet with “bread and circuses”, that is, free food and free entertainment (watching Christians being fed to lions at the Coliseum).  But if you don’t have to work for anything you don’t have to fight for anything.  What belongs to everybody belongs to nobody.  When a serious invader came along nobody would fight and the Empire collapsed.

So maybe we have to move back toward free and equal Canadians who own their bodies and their homes. Canadians who will fight to repel whatever invader comes along, or we will repeat Rome’s history. Here comes China! Here comes Putin!

Convenient cash would be a good start toward saving ourselves. God bless the Queen!

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A page from Willie Brant’s diary — Joe came over the other night, to help me with a bit of ‘quality control’ of my latest batch of home-made beer, and play a game or two of crib.

After a couple of samples and a win and a skunk, our conversation as usual got onto environmentalists, saving the planet, and focussed in on electric cars.

“I saw an item claiming by 2030 most of our cars will be self-driving”, I observed, and Joe responded with “yes, well, with the way most city folks drive it won’t be too soon, sitting there playing with their little mobile gizmos instead of paying attention. One got stuck in the gravel pit over by the airport this summer, his GPS told him there was a road there, and his lack of common sense let him follow it into trouble .”

“Yes”, from me, “remember a few years ago a couple followed their GPS down an abandoned logging road out west, got stuck, and if I remember it right the guy didn’t survive! But I am not sure the driverless car would have any more common sense than the city folks, might be even worse for following roads that used to exist”.

Joe answered “Good point, maybe we should worry, common sense and my computer have nothing in common. And I hear about lots of car’s computers losing their mind when it gets really cold, good thing they aren’t driving the car at the time.  And we all know of cases where even the kid’s smart phones lose their mind”.

He went on “But the big worry is that I saw where driverless trucks are likely to come first. The big highway rigs already form up into processions; following way too close so they reduce drag and save fuel.  I imagine driverless ones forming into much longer processions following a lot closer to each other, depending on their computers’ faster reaction times.   A recipe for disaster!”   Followed by a swig from his quality control sample.

“I hadn’t thought of that”, from me. “Imagine, say there is a dead bear laying on the road, or a moose hot on the scent comes roaring out of the bush and the computer doesn’t see it until it is too late, all those truck brakes coming on at once and all those computers taking whatever ‘evasive action’ they might have in their little programs, could be dozens of trucks swerving and crashing all over the place!”

Joe finished with “Yep, or a piece falls off one of those trucks, say a spare tire, the whole convoy is in trouble. Any cars within a half a mile will be in danger, especially as their computers aren’t programmed to deal with trucks bumping into each other all over the place”.

“More reason for us old guys to stay off the highway. Anyway, whose deal is it?”



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I can see him in my mind’s eye, a little, old fellow with a peaked cap, a perpetual grin on his face, except when it lights up with a cackling laugh when something amuses him. He perches on a tall stool, writing in a big bound ledger volume with a goosequill pen and ink from a bottle.  No, it’s not Bob Cratchett, but an important member of our provincial bureaucracy, permanently installed in a cubby in the basement at Queens Park.


His ledger has a page for each municipality in the province, with its population listed, plus some economic condition indicators, and some political indicators such as whether the riding has a government member MPP, or is a seat judged winnable by the ruling party. All entreaties of all kinds from any municipality are directed to him, and his task is to make sure that all municipalities are treated equally, adjusted by the factors listed above, chiefly population of course.

In pioneer days, when settlements reached a viable size, they generally ‘organized’ themselves into a municipality of some kind. Except here in the settled area around Dryden, the ‘Wabigoon Valley’.  Here there is a very substantial population which has been between 5 and 6 thousand people for decades – nobody knows for sure, because nobody does a proper count — that has never formed a municipality, it is ‘unorganized’.  The census over the decades generally reports a population of about 7000 as ‘Kenora Unorganized’, and that includes these people along with a small rural population around Kenora, Red Lake, and Sioux Lookout.

Adding this ‘Kenora Unorganized’ population to Dryden and Machin gives an area population of some 15 000, quite comparable to the Kenora area population, depending on how we deal with seasonal residents.   However, the gnome in the basement does not have this level of detail and he adds this “Kenora Unorganized” to Kenora’s population in all his calculations, making Kenora appear twice as big as Dryden District even though they are approximately equal in permanent population served.

With a big mill assessment and a prosperous Telephone utility paying the bills, Dryden did not seriously complain about providing services for this unorganized population while Kenora got credit for it. With these gone, maybe it is time for a second look.

“Whoa”, you say, “is this all true? Sounds like nothing but a lot of sour grapes!”

Well, maybe it is a bit of sour grapes. Of course it is not literally true, there is no gnome in the basement!   But a review of provincial decisions and actions over the past hundred years leads me to conclude there must be something or somebody like him, despite vigorous denials by the province.

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Last week told of our family being in the tourist business for a while, back in those early snomo days.

Our long-term guests introduced us to a last-chance fishing hole on Thaddeus where catching your limit was pretty much guaranteed. It was at the point where a line drawn from this rocky point to that dead tree on the far shore crossed a line drawn from the top of the hill behind this bay to a white pine just south of our camp.  No GPS in those days.  Family member Sheldon took up scuba diving, so we enlisted him to investigate why this spot was so successful.  He found an area, not much larger than a house, where the bottom was all clean cobblestones, while all around was tall weeds on a mud bottom.  There are springs all over Thaddeus, you have to be careful with a snomo on it as there are random holes in the ice over those springs all winter, no doubt the fishing hole was a great big spring.  Fishing tip, find a spring.

Thaddeus Lake Lodge is built on a beautiful sweep of sand beach, and there was an ice house, just a basic building, right on the beach. Being remote from hydro power and at the end of a pretty treacherous road, ice was an important part of the business and every winter we put together a work party to put up ice for the coming season.  Access was by bush road from Amesdale, not plowed nor used in winter so we had to break trail for the 20 odd miles of our snowmo trek into camp.  As previously noted snomo’s were not as reliable as now, and that long a trip into virgin territory would be dangerous for a single machine or even two.

A group of us would trek into camp, first order of business would be to light a fire in the lodge under a big pot of chili. Snow was shoveled off a patch of lake close to the icehouse, and individual blocks of ice cut out with a chainsaw and dragged behind a snowmo to the icehouse door where they could be manhandled into a compact stack.  This would be covered with several inches of wood sawdust to insulate it.  That worked so well that by fall there would still be some ice left for packing fish and keeping the mai tai’s cold.

This was actually quite a fun adventure, and each year we would have a larger party of volunteers; the last year we left Amesdale with at least a half dozen snomo’s at 7 am, and had the ice all up by 12 am!

Thaddeus was full of Perch then, so the average Walleye was bigger than in most lakes. We called them ‘Pickerel’ then, our guests educated us into calling them ’Walleye’, just one of many Americanisms that have sneaked into Canadian English, like ‘napkin’ is slowly replacing ‘serviette’, and so on.  There was a population of trophy-size Northerns and of silver Muskies.  Some of our guests came to fill their truck with perch; they were treated like baitfish those days, no limits.  More of them came for a trophy, and some would fish all week just for that really big fish.  I am told that since then bass somehow got introduced, so those original species have dwindled and it is now a bass-fishing lake.

Enough snomo and fishing stories.

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When my co-worker Eric Oliphant learned that I had been involved with Thaddeus Lake Lodge, he recounted this story – this is from my memory of a story from his memory, so don’t be too harsh if I have something wrong.

Before the coming of the CPR, the main route from east to west Canada was by canoe through Rainy Lake, and another main west-east canoe route was from Lake Winnipeg to Hudson’s Bay by way of the Albany River. The main north-south route connecting these was from Rainy Lake, through the Manitou’s, Dinorwic and Minnitaki lakes, and on up.  There were Hudson’s Bay posts scattered about the north, and after the CPR was built, Hudson’s Bay Company opened a Post at Dinorwic to provide a connection from these canoe routes to the new CPR, making what is now known as Dinorwic one of the earliest commercial centers between Kenora and Ignace.

Eric’s dad worked at that Hudson’s Bay Post, and Eric grew up at Dinorwic, close to wilderness and nature, boats and canoes. One of his first jobs away from home was guiding for Thaddeus Lake Lodge, probably about 1948.  He said the lodge was very new at the time; the beautifully crafted log buildings had been built by Finnish craftsmen from Thunder Bay district who were still putting finishing touches on the last of them.  At that time there was no road link north from Amesdale or Dryden; access was by boat from the new Red Lake highway, over thirty miles away.

Eric’s job as a guide included bringing new guests from the Red Lake highway, across Cedar Lake, Ord Lake, and of course Thaddeus, with portages between. They used eighteen foot cedar strip freighter canoes with 8 horse outboard engines, notoriously cranky compared with today’s very reliable outboards.  A huge job just getting the guests and supplies there and back.

The lodge seemed a remote outpost on the edge of the known world to its American guests. It was a busy, successful high-end destination, with its own electric plant and modern plumbing, and a marvellously equipped kitchen for the mostly American Plan guests. Eric remembered the guests as being definitely sportsmen, appreciative of the great place they had found and of the efforts of the staff to make their time special.

Fast forward twenty years. A road had been put through from Amesdale, and a railway was under construction, passing between Thaddeus and Ord Lakes, so it was no longer remote wilderness. The lodge was owned by an American, doubly professional being a doctor and an engineer, and therefore much too busy to look after it.  It was greatly run down, needing a lot of maintenance and with a seriously reduced guest list.  It had deteriorated from a high end remote attraction to a pretty mundane place.  Much of the equipment and supplies needed to run a tourist destination had disappeared, so it needed a serious infusion of management and cash. The doctor/engineer decided it was for sale, and our family led by Ernie was able to scare up enough cash to buy it.   More next week

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Ice fishing was a popular winter outing as far back as I can remember, but access was limited; walk in or ski, generally from a winter road across the ice. There were big commercial snowmobiles, and light aircraft on skis, but recreational ice fishing only really took off when personal snowmobiles came along, giving us easy access to our wonderful wilderness. Bombardier came out with its wildly successful ‘Skidoo’ in 1959, and within 10 years there were literally dozens of makes of personal snowmobiles, most resembling the original Skidoo, but some quite different, each with advantages and disadvantages.  As noted last week, snowmobiles became a huge fad and by 1970 there was one in almost every driveway.

My friend Wilbert Potter had the first snowmobile in our little social group, back in the early 60’s, before snowmobiles became common. Our favourite fishing ground was Thaddeus and Ord Lakes, and my first ice fishing trip by snowmobile was a trip to Ord Lake.  There were probably five of us along with all our gear, so it took a few trips for Wilbert’s Husky and its trailer to haul us down Ord Lake to our fishing hole.  We enjoyed a good day fishing, and made the trip home in the dark.

The next summer, trolling around that same point on Ord Lake, I caught something, and when I got it into the boat, it was a little short fishing rod with a red reel on it; it looked exactly like my ice fishing rod. Needless to say, when I got home and checked my ice fishing gear, the rod was not there.  Must have fallen off the piles of people and stuff as we loaded up the Husky for the trip home.

The Thaddeus and Ord Lakes area was my father-in-law Ernie Saunders favourite part of the world back in those early snomo days, and to his great joy he ended up owning Thaddeus Lake Lodge. But he almost gave it up before even starting.  That first April, long before fishing (or partridge or bear) seasons were open, he was watching the spawning Northerns in the little creek which runs through the camp when a shiny new Cadillac pulled into camp, muddy and dented from the primitive road. Guy jumps out, runs down to the creek with 22 in hand and shoots a couple of fish, grabs them and throws them into the trunk of the car beside a couple of partridges he had shot on the way in, and announced he is taking this haul into the bush as bait for a bear set.  A life in jail flashed before Ernie’s eyes; fortunately he did not get any other guests quite like that one.

After operating the camp for a season while still employed, he planned to leave his job at the mill in the spring and be at Thaddeus full-time. Sadly, he died unexpectedly that February.  The family carried on with the lodge until the kids were all grown, and I spent many a weekend there, fishing and fixing and patching.   Old times, good times.

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