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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ILLUSTRATIONS

CHAPTER I:
A JOURNEY OF SENTIMENT


CHAPTER II:
THE FATAL ERROR


CHAPTER III:
DUTY FIRST


CHAPTER IV:
A MAN'S GAME


CHAPTER V:
A PERMANENT MEMORIAL


CHAPTER VI:
WILL THE ICE TURN US BACK?


CHAPTER VII:
STORMY VOYAGE


CHAPTER VIII:
RETURN TO NORTHWEST RIVER


CHAPTER IX:
A CHIEF VOYAGEUR


CHAPTER X:
THE BEAVER IS A BAD RIVER


CHAPTER XI:
SOUNDING THE BIG LAKE


CHAPTER XII:
BREAD WITHOUT BAKING POWDER MAKES ME SICK


CHAPTER XIII:
I NEVER TRAVELS ON SUNDAY


CHAPTER XIV:
VIRGIN AS GOD MADE IT


CHAPTER XV:
FIRST PORTAGE


CHAPTER XVI:
TRAIL COMPANIONS


CHAPTER XVII:
MURDOCK'S RAPID


CHAPTER XVIII:
TRACKING THROUGH BOULDERS


CHAPTER XIX:
MARCH TO YOUR FRONT LIKE A SOLDIER


CHAPTER XX:
IT'S ALWAYS BAD LUCK TO TRAVEL ON SUNDAY


CHAPTER XXI:
WORST COUNTRY FOR GAME I EVER SAW


CHAPTER XXII:
BACK TO GET THE BAKING POWDER


CHAPTER XXIII:
DISASTER IN THE RAPIDS


CHAPTER XXIV:
TAKING STOCK


CHAPTER XXV:
GRAPPLING


CHAPTER XXVI:
INDIANS HAVE PLENTY OF HARD TIMES


CHAPTER XXVII:
THIS RIVER IS LIKE A BAD WOMAN


CHAPTER XXVIII:
NO RELIEF FROM WADING


CHAPTER XXIX:
HELL AND TWENTY


CHAPTER XXX:
BACKPACKING TO THE SUSAN


CHAPTER XXXI:
VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH


CHAPTER XXXII:
THE MIND WORKS CURIOUSLY


CHAPTER XXXIII:
RELIVING THE PARTING


CHAPTER XXXIV:
MARKING HUBBARD'S BOULDER


CHAPTER XXXV:
A NEW DISASTER


CHAPTER XXXVI:
THE HARDEST BIT OF TRAVELING I EVER DONE


CHAPTER XXXVII:
SOMETHING WORTHWHILE UP THERE IN THE HILLS


NOTES

PHOTO GALLERY

COLOUR SLIDE GALLERY

ADDENDUM TO
THIRD EDITION

COMMENTS ON THE
NAMING COMPULSION


BACK TO THE LABRADOR WILDS

 XVI

TRAIL COMPANIONS

I have not yet made the reader as well acquainted, perhaps, as I should with members of our party, and it may be well to do so now.

Judge Malone is a man with a keen sense of humor and an even disposition not easily ruffled.  He stands six feet three inches in his stockings, and is something of an athlete.   In college, as I have previously mentioned, he was a baseball player, and even yet loves to pitch a game “just to keep himself limbered up.”  He was once the leader of his party in the Connecticut state assembly, but in politics as in athletics he believes in playing the game clean and square, and as he opposed a powerful lobby and certain railroad grabs that were against his conscience, he was not returned to the assembly.  For several years he has been city judge of Bristol, and at present also fills the important office of corporation counsel, besides conducting a private law practice.  The wilderness is his hobby, and he boasts that in the several expeditions to the remote north in which he has taken part he has always done his share of the work of the voyageur.[5]

Gilbert Blake is of short stature, but lithe and sinewy as an Indian.  Like an Indian he has straight black hair and is swarthy of complexion.  Indeed, he so resembles an Indian in appearance and carriage that Judge Malone, upon first seeing him, supposed him to be a mountaineer Indian attached to one of the camps at the post.  He is a trapper by profession, and in the far wilderness of the Nascaupee River valley, spends the long winter months on the fur trails with no other companion than his little Indian hunting dog “Poppy”.[6]

Murdock McLean and Henry Blake also have the swarthy complexion and straight black hair characteristic of the trappers of the country.  They are about twenty-one years of age, and, like Gilbert, are trappers by profession, spending the long months of winter in the deep wilderness.  These young men usually take up the work of trappers at the age of fifteen and sixteen—frequently younger.  They learn to set traps, indeed, and to shoot almost as soon as they learn to walk on snowshoes.  Murdock is a big, happy-go-lucky, good-natured fellow who laughs at hardships and forgets to-day the sorrows of yesterday, carefree and ever ready for adventure.  Henry has a more serious nature, is even-tempered, and thoroughly reliable.  He has not as yet endured so much of the isolation of the remote wilderness, with the extreme hardships which it often entails, as Murdock.

One other member of our party, and by no means an unimportant member, I have hitherto failed to mention—Gilbert’s little Indian hunting dog “Poppy”.  He is Gilbert’s constant companion on the winter trails, and finds for Gilbert many a good meal of grouse and porcupine.  I never saw a dog satisfied with so little.  He was thoroughly trained as a camp dog and he would touch nothing, no matter how tempting a morsel, until he was invited to do so, and game and fish could be left within his reach with perfect safety and with the assurance that he would not so much as take a sniff.  He wore a coat of long silky hair of white and tawny yellow.

This is the party then that lounged at our campfire in the forest on the Beaver River that Sunday night, Poppy stretched before the blaze dreaming of conquests of the hunt, the others of us enjoying pipes and exchanging stories of the trail.  It was here, I remember, the Judge produced for the first time a tin whistle which he had brought for amusement—and perhaps ours—and struck up “The Campbells are Coming.”   Presently we learned that this was the only tune the Judge had mastered.  When we complained at its frequent repetition, he attempted others, but we were always glad to have him return to “the Campbells are Coming.” 

We sat long before the campfire that night, drinking in the fir-scented atmosphere and reveling in the smell of the burning wood, and exchanging stories of adventure on the trail, for there were none of us but had had his adventures; and when at last we rolled into our blankets on our fragrant bed of boughs, the murmur of the river below came to us as sweet music to lull us to sleep, for we did not know then what it held for us.

 


 

[5] Judge Malone was an explorer in his own right. Between 1910 and 1925, he made nine trips to the Canadian North, including explorations of northwestern Ontario’s Albany River in 1910, Manitoba’s Nelson in 1911 and the Moisie of eastern Quebec in 1912. When he accompanied the 50-year-old Wallace to Labrador in 1913, he was 34 years of age.

As a First World War aviator, Malone acquired an appreciation of the workings of the gasoline engine. In 1922, when Johnson introduced its Model A, two-cylinder, two and a half horsepower, 35-pound outboard, Malone realized its potential for lessening the strenuous effort of navigating Labrador’s challenging waterways.

In 1925, upon learning of the planned expedition of fellow Yale men Varick Frissell and James Hillier to film the first motion picture record of the great cataract of Grand Falls on the upper Hamilton (Grand, now Churchill), he mounted his own canoe trip to view the falls and explore Lake Michikamau. The party toted what no doubt was a Johnson Model A, or possibly the newer, A-25 outboard.

Malone wrote that his group of paddlers explored the east side of Lake Michikamau and caught sight of Windbound Lake before being forced to retreat by the smoke of forest fires. Canadian gold prospector Eugene Fournier joined Frissell and Jamie Hillier, and their paddlers, John and Robert Michelin, en route to the falls. After filming the falls and rapids, Frissell continued on with John Michelin to explore the Unknown River and its split falls, later clarifying the observations of previous explorers and applying new names to the river and falls.

The calling cards of Malone and Frissell were found in the “Bottle of Churchill Falls” when it was opened in 1960 and an official list of its contents compiled. The famous bottle was left at the base of the falls by the Bowdoin College Labrador Scientific Expedition of 1891. Expedition members A. Cary and D.N. Cole placed a bottle in plain sight containing their names and a note suggesting that visitors leave a record of their visit. Visitors to the falls complied for the next 70 years by leaving their names and impressions in the bottle.

The cover and first two pages of the souvenir booklet, The Bottle of Churchill Falls, produced by the Newfoundland Department of Labrador Affairs in 1968, are reproduced here. The visits of Malone and Frissell are recorded on the second page.

Malone’s entry, dated 1925, bore only his signature and the name of his hometown, Bristol, Connecticut. Churchill Falls bottle annotator Polly Taylor recorded Malone’s barely legible signature as, “W.J. Mealon”. The slightly misspelled names and wording of the July 30, 1925, entry, “W.G. Malone, V. Frissell… and James Hillyer and James Fornier who were across the river”, raise the question of authorship. The note may have been the work of a member of Malone’s party.

It is worth noting that the 2003 film documentary on Frissell’s life,” White Thunder”, quoting from Frissell’s journal, dates his departure from North West River as July 6, and his arrival at the falls as August 21, 1925. Guide John Michelin, interviewed by journalist Gordon Rendell for a 2003 article in Them Days magazine, said that he recalled his trip with Frissell was in July, 1925. This calls into question the documentary’s arrival date of August 21, 1925, which would be somewhat late in the season for Frissell to reach the falls, complete his filming, and go on to explore the Unknown River.

Frissell’s documentary, “The Lure of The Labrador”, won him entry to the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club of New York. Malone, an Explorers Club member since 1917, appears not to have reported on the success or failure of his outboard motor experiment. By 1928, however, he was still an ardent powerboat enthusiast. With family members aboard, he explored the Ohio River and lower Mississippi from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in his 20-foot outboard cruiser.

 

[6] From Rudy Mauro’s 1974 Journal:

Bert Blake has been variously described in the many articles and books in which he is mentioned, as Eskimo, Montagnais, Indian and Labradorean.

Elliott Merrick, in “True North”, calls Bert “a pronouncedly Eskimo trapper who speaks the Montagnais dialect as though he were one of them”. J.M. Scott, in the story of the Gino Watkins expedition, “The Land That God Gave Cain”, says merely that Bert is Indian. Mrs. Hubbard, in her book, refers to Bert as an Eskimo.

Mrs.. John Crane, of Happy Valley, Labrador, Bert’s daughter, says that his ancestors on his father’s side came from England and that his mother was a native Labradorean of Eskimo (Inuit) descent.

Bert, himself, who will soon be ninety, and whose strong Eskimo features support Mrs. Hubbard’s description of his ancestry, is unable to clear up the point. A stroke suffered several years ago has erased all but a few recollections of his remarkable life as a trapper, guide, and trail companion of explorers of the Labrador.

 

 

NL Premier Joey Smallwood accepts Bottle of Churchill Falls from Churchill Falls Corporation, 1960.

 

The Grand (Churchill) Falls.

 

Pages 2 and 3 of annotated contents of bottle. Malone enteries on page 3.
(Click for larger image)

Next: Chapter XVII: Murdock's Rapid