National Geographic : 1963 Jul
National Geographic, July, 1963 minutes the Beaver was off again. Reluctantly I stayed behind while the airborne firemen put out the blaze. "That's the best way to handle big fires," said a ground crewman. "Quench 'em while they're small!" "What if it's a really bad fire?" I asked. He answered soberly. "We've got the best equipment in the world. So far we've kept them under control." William M. Benidickson, Member of Par liament for the Kenora-Rainy River constit uency, told me about this part-urban, largely frontier corner of Ontario. Kenora, a popular tourist resort and a tim ber and milling center, has good transporta tion facilities. But how, I asked, did an M. P. keep in touch with outlying constituents in this vast area of only 73,000 people? "I fly a lot, though that's out during fall freeze-up and spring thaw when you can't land on water," Mr. Benidickson said. He must envy Toronto members, I thought, who can cross their districts in ten minutes. Sturgeon Makes a Royal Feast Along the east side of the Lake of the Woods, every mile beckons fishermen. Amer icans own or use most of the camps near the border. I had a memorable dinner at Len Ca dieux's restaurant overlooking Rainy Lake. The entree was golden, delicious sturgeon, gently fried in butter. Len Cadieux knew better than to offer dessert with it. A salad, a hot roll, and perfect coffee. That was enough. Fort Frances, on Ontario's Minnesota bor der a few miles from Lake of the Woods, was named for the London-bred wife of a Hud son's Bay Company notable, Sir George Simpson. In 1830 the Simpsons traveled the voyageurs' canoe route, part of the original trans-Canada highway westward from Mont real to the Pacific. Today Fort Frances has farming and small business, but like so much of Ontario it still looks to the forest for its major resources. Fort Frances is the giant Ontario-Minne sota Pulp and Paper Company, Ltd. (page 92). It also is J. A. Mathieu, the perennially young dean of northwestern Ontario lum bering. He was celebrating his ninety-third birthday when I called. On his broad desk, 93 long-stemmed red roses almost hid him and his dashing, Kentucky-colonel-style Pan ama hat. His handshake was firm, his eyes clear and bright. "I started rafting logs when I was sixteen," he remarked. "That was back in 1885. I've been in lumbering ever since-nearly three quarters of a century." "And you have no plans for retiring?" "Oh, no. Not yet! I'm opening a new mill my ninth-this fall on Rainy Lake east of Fort Frances." And then he answered the question that had been at the back of my mind ever since I had heard about him. "The secret of my longevity?" His eyes twinkled. "Always combine pleasure with business. And always keep working!" To me, Mr. Mathieu typifies the spirit of his corner of the province. Scotland on a Wide Screen On my earlier trip I put the car aboard the Canadian Pacific's Assiniboia for a rest ful 20-hour cruise down Lake Superior, from Fort William to the Ontario side of Sault Ste. Marie, just across the busy Soo canals from Michigan. This time I drove King's Highway 17, opened in 1961, part of the Trans-Canada Highway edging Lake Superior. At one of the breathtaking overlooks, a tourist with New York license plates turned back for a final look before driving away. "It's the Scottish Highlands on a wide screen," he said. "But so empty. No old inns, old villages." But there are towns here, model towns like Terrace Bay, glimpsed by the passer-through. Towns with magic names-Red Rock, rich with Indian pictographs; WaWa, Indian for "wild goose"; Nipigon; Michipicoten; Batch awana. Towns new and yet linked with a far distant past by their names. I recall the names when I grope in vain for words to evoke the magnificent upthrust of rock along this north shore: the wooded, rolling mountains and the breadth of sky that reminds me of prairie horizons; wide vistas of seemingly endless Lake Superior itself, and, in early September in the Algoma country, soaring wooded slopes flecked with flaming maples. Some day this country may produce a Si belius to compose music in praise of its lakes and forests. It has already inspired a 32-year old Ojibway, Norval Morrisseau, to paint the legends of his ancestors with Picasso-like line and color. "I grew up with these legends," Morris seau told me. "I paint them as I know them."