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William Henry Fuller
Lake of the Woods
LAKE MALACHI......SUMMER OF 1933
When this next episode took place I was only 12 and my cousin Bob was 10. Bob
Gunn lost his Mother when he was only about 6 or 7 years old. His Dad, Uncle Stan
Gunn, was a World War I amputation victim. He lost a leg well above the knee during
Uncle Stan remarried in 1934 to Aunt Leona and spent their brief honeymoon at our
camp at Malachi. Bob was with us all that summer, as he was most of the years we
It is really strange that the simplest circumstance can have the greatest impact on
events that can compound into tragedy or near tragedy. To explain what I mean, we
lived in Miesner Bay at Malachi, an area of the lake where the shoreline is like a beach
that has a very gentle slope into the water. In fact, at our camp we would have to wade
30 or 40 feet before we were waist deep. There was a lot of vegetation in the water,
such as reeds, which we had pulled over the years so that it was pretty clear by now.
But there was still moss on the floor of the lake and it would squeeze up between your
toes when you stepped on it. We were used to it, and to us it felt like walking on
cushions, but to the newcomer it felt creepy-crawly. So it was with Aunt Leona, so she
would not go in the water.
However, about 7 or 8 camps to the south of us the shoreline sharply changed. It was
possible to dive off the end of the dock at Campbell's camp into about 7 or 8 feet of
water. The Campbells were very nice people and let us kids use their dock anytime we
So on this day, Aunt Leona and Uncle Stan decided they would go up to Campbells,
Bob and I went with them. Uncle Stan, because of his artificial leg would not go in
the water, in fact, he was not fond of the water at all. Aunt Leona was a "dog-paddler",
she said, and as long as she wasn't splashed she could paddle around the dock close
enough to grab hold. She insisted on going in the water. Bob and I were very concerned
about it but we didn't know how to deal with it.
We dove in and swam around close by, keeping our eyes on Leona as she climbed
down the ladder into the water. Everything started out fine, she paddling around within
touching distance of the bumpers on the dock. She was getting a little more
courageous, actually enjoying it when a small wave from a passing motor boat (the
wave was more like a 3 or 4 inch ripple) slapped her on the face, she choked on a
mouthful of water and immediately went under. Bob and I were both in the water, only
a few feet away when she started thrashing around. Uncle Stan panicked on the dock
and was frantically reaching out while lying flat on his stomach, trying to grab her. Bob
and I reached for her as she went under but she was far too strong for us and fought us
off. We continued to grab an arm and under her chin to pull her up as we treaded
water but we could get nowhere. We were now 8 or 10 feet away from the dock while
someone from Campbell's house was on the dock holding on to Uncle so he wouldn't
fall in the water! (this we found out later).
Suddenly Bob stopped grappling with Aunt Leona, twisted around and swam to the
bottom. He stood on the bottom and grabbed one of her legs, and started pushing
upwards. I followed him down, grabbed her other leg and began to push upwards as
well. We then started walking her toward the dock. We were in about 8 feet of water,
pushing up and hoping against hope that we had pushed her head above the water. I
don't know how long it took, perhaps only a few seconds, before we realized we were
making progress. We both began to calm down and work more effectively. We were
getting close enough to the dock now so that Bob was able to grab it. Then we felt we
were not having to push as hard and Aunt Leona was not kicking. We both surfaced at
this point and saw Aunt Leona being pulled out by Uncle Stan and one of the
Bob and I struggled up the ladder, our lungs were bursting and all we could do was
hug one another and watch as Aunt Leona began to recover. What a close call !!
Uncle Stan was terribly upset. He was feeling so hurt because he was unable to do
anything and yet he tried so desperately.
Aunt Leona spent the next day in bed. Uncle Stan slowly recovered from his shock
and melancholy as he saw Aunt Leona's spirits improve. They decided to cut their
honeymoon short by a couple of days and we certainly couldn't blame them.
Bob stayed on with us for the rest of the summer and everything slowly got back to
normal. I think we all learned a lesson that summer - don't take everything for granted,
beware of everyone's limitations when you go swimming.
LAKE OF THE WOODS
Malachi, Ontario was exactly 100 miles east of Winnipeg on the C.N.R. line. It was
one of the many beautiful lakes in a series called the "Lake of the Woods". The main
lake, Malachi, where we lived, was about 4 miles long and 1 to 1-1/2 miles wide.
On the south end of the lake was a 100 yard long creek leading to Second Lake,
which was almost as large as ours. It was totally uninhabited except the odd Indian
camp during the spring when the Jock fish (pike) were at their best for eating. Near the
southern tip of Malachi Lake was a foot path that was about 1-1/2 miles long and
climbed upwards the entire way until you were on the shores of another uninhabited
beautiful lake called "Lake of the Clouds". It was shaped like a round pond about a
mile or so in diameter.
It was inhabited with pickerel and perch fish, hundreds of loons and as many turtles.
But not a solitary camper! A beautiful place to picnic and fish. It was not frequented
very much, probably because of the climb.
One summer I had made friends with a local resident family. Richard Simpson was
around my age (15) but about 6'2", size 12 shoes and awkward as all get-out. He was
a real bushman and canoeist, as well as being strong as an ox.
We decided to go on a canoe trip, and after some time convincing Mom we would be
OK, we took off on a 5 day camping and canoe trip. There were so many lakes and
creeks in the area, we canoed all day for 5 days, portaged about 4 times, no longer
than 20 minutes, and we actually circled Lake Malachi without ever being more than 5
miles away from our home at any time !
A great trip and a great memory for two young kids - and a greater relief to Mom when
we arrived at our dock tired, dirty, sunburnt, blistered hands from paddling, but safe
and sound. I must add that we were rather proud of ourselves for accomplishing such a
feat. One night though, I was a little less than brave. A couple of deer invaded our
campsite and started rummaging around our pack-sacks. I became braver when I
found out it was only deer!
It did remind me that Bob Gunn and I encountered a bear on the railroad track the
previous year not too far away from where we were camped that night. Since we, and
the bear, immediately started running in opposite directions as fast as we all could, the
encounter was very brief. We chose not to talk about it when we got home. Needless
to say, we never took that particular walk again.
As a child and young teenager, I was always interested in sports. I learned to skate at
age 5, played pick-up hockey, later went into speed skating. I played scrub softball
every chance I got, mostly at school during lunch and at recess times. I played on a
baseball team for two years at the Junior level, ages 17 and 18 I think. I also played
tennis for 3 or 4 years. That was probably my best game. The last year I played tennis
I lost in the finals to a Robert Esselmont for the local Junior Championships. He was a
terrific athlete. It was very sad because he died before he was eighteen years old from
a faulty valve in his heart.
I found it difficult to get committed to any summer sport because I was down at Lake
Malachi for 9 or 10 weeks every year from about age 12 onward to age 19.
In Manitoba, few summer sports got underway before mid-April or the first of May.
When I was at Malachi, as soon as I was old enough to do odd jobs, I was chopping
wood for Dick Smith and later delivering ice to summer camps in Bradley's Bay where
the rich people lived. I used Dad's motor boat for this job. I delivered it twice a week
for $2.00 a trip. It took me 2 to 3 hours to make the deliveries, depending how many
blocks I had to cut in the ice house. Trouble was, Dad's boat had a .9 horsepower
Johnson outboard motor on it. It took an hour and a half to get to Bradley's Bay and
back. So, it wasn't a very big paying job. The ice job lasted two years, then I got a job
cutting hay for Bob Westwood. That was a bit tougher because we used a scythe to do
the cutting. But the good news was, it was a short term job. When haying was done,
we switched over to hauling logs two miles through the bush from a neighbouring lake
to his farm. We each rode a horse bareback to and from the lake while the horses
pulled out the logs. After the first day, I had worn the skin off my backside the size of a
silver dollar. I couldn't sit down comfortably for a week. Thank goodness it rained
several days and gave me a chance to heal. I don't remember what he paid me for this
work, but I seem to recall it was better than the ice job.
I was actually glad when my boss, Bob Westwood, decided to stop hauling logs for
the summer. After all, through my lifetime, (as many of you may know) logging was not
my strong point.
Bob then got me to run his gas and oil station for him. It was located next to the
C.N.R. station docks where the boats from all over the lake came in to meet the trains,
do their grocery shopping and generally hang out. I was only required to be on the job
when the one daily train went through, plus weekends for the two trains on Friday,
Saturday and Sunday. I was paid commission and it was by far the best paying
summer job I had.
Anyone wishing to exchange remembrances of the cottage
days at Malachi back in the late 1920's and early 1930's can
reach Bill on E Mail at : firstname.lastname@example.org
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