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

Steve and 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.

Steve and 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.

One of 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.

With the 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.

Once on 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.

After 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 night).

Well, 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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