Pipestone River bridge - Pipestone River - Wunnummin Lake - Winisk River - Summer Beaver - Webequie - Fishbasket River - Lansdowne House - Marten Drinking River - Fort Hope - Albany River - Ogoki River - Nakina
Photo: Keewaydin/Chris Hunt
Section back at camp. Left to right, back row: Steve Springgate (staffman), Jay Parker, Alex Hestor, Will Walker, John Maxey, Jon Turner, Chris Hunt, Joe Skovron (guide). Front row: Will Stribling, John Meinig, Luther Ott, Eddie Hopkins, Eric Deeds, Russ Ramsey. Moose antlers in front.
Great Potato Conspiracy
I first became aware that something was dreadfully wrong with the section
campers when several arrived on the island, during pre-camp. They had promptly
announced that they had brought large russet potatoes, or in one case (his
mother didn’t think that a potato would keep for five weeks), he had brought
several apples instead.
I chuckled a bit, scratched our heads (but, in highly-trained Keewaydin
trip-staff fashion), and promptly ignored that something was wrong. A few days
later we trundled off to Toronto to pick-up the rest of the Section at the
airport. We found, once again, the section members announcing the presence of
potatoes in their duffel bags, wondering if they had claim these on the
custom’s form. Again, the staff
and guide ignored the obvious clues. We
boarded the train in Capreol for the 20-hour ride to Western Ontario. While on
the train the campers, Steve and Joe then learned that “Steve” had sent a
letter to all the campers in late May about the summer, upcoming trip, gear
requirements, and (most notably) the “Summer Fest,” which occurs throughout
the summer at several of the native settlements the section intended to visit.
Summer Fest, as the letter described, involved the traditional softball games,
dancing, and the premier event - Potato Carving.
the less experienced campers had even kept a copy of the letter so that the
staff could review his gear against the suggested list. Fortunately, Steve and
Joe had tremendous powers of deductive reasoning and noticed that the letter
from “Steve” had a Philadelphia postmark. Since the real Steve lived in
Kalamazoo and could not remember visiting Philadelphia in May, we quickly
concluded that a Philadelphia conspiracy had occurred. The only known connection
to the trip in Philadelphia that had access to camper lists and a proclivity for
pranks, was Joe’s girlfriend, Lissie.
letter now in hand, Steve and Joe decided to play along and add our own
flourish. We jumped off the train in Armstrong to await our bus to the Pipestone
River. While waiting, I quietly slipped away and picked-up an extra 10 pounds of
potatoes. The extra “baby” could clearly be justified, because if Section B
intended to win the Potato Carving contest at Lansdowne House, the campers would
clearly need to practice a bit.
the water, Steve and Joe started plotting and scheming. We decided that there
was more to potato carving than just potato carving. We encouraged the campers
to practice carving busts of famous people, e.g. Abraham Lincoln, Thomas
Jefferson, etc. Some evenings, after the walloping was done, small groups of
campers would sit by the water side diligently trying to figure out how to
transform small, slippery, half-mashed potatoes into the faces of famous
dignitaries. Quite a hoot if I do say so myself.
passing through Summer Beaver, Steve and Joe announced to the campers that we
had received some inside information that the rules for the contest had changed
slightly. This year, all entrants would be required to carve a single bust. This
year’s bust would be Richard Nixon (the staff tent roared with laughter that
three more weeks passed. We landed at Lansdowne House on the Bay post lawn and
met the Bay master - Roy. Much to the total and complete surprise of the staff
and guide, “Summer Fest” was, in fact, occurring at Lansdowne House and
several softball teams from other settlements were in town for a competition.
The section played softball as was expected. The rules were simple - section B could play fast pitch, slow pitch, or baseball pitch, while the native team was required to play slow pitch. Whenever the Lansdowne team was at bat they neatly dropped the ball into the muskeg pit in left field, while the Keewaydin team was lucky to get the ball out of the infield. Keewaydin’s group of all-American boys showed pretty poorly. (Glad we did better in France in World War I.) Unfortunately as well, the campers had become friendly with a couple of the locals. The campers discovered that yes, in fact, the great Potato Carving contest of the ‘88 Summer Fest was a complete fabrication. They had been deceived.
Try as we
might, Steve and Joe could simply not get the campers to whittle busts of famous
politicians by the lapping lake shore again. And so, like all great
conspiracies, this one came to an end...
Joe Skovron, 12/22/99
Max the Axe
Our guide was a U.S. Marine-type who was not only utterly fearless, but he carried a five-pound axe named Max. Max the axe! Max fed us on a daily basis with hot home-cooked meals.
Ed Hopkins, 4/4/00
Chris Hunt Joe Skovron Ed Hopkins
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