Was up by Real Bad Lake today. It has rained for better than three weeks straight so the water was high on the bank, the grass soggy as winter leaves.
In the pub by the lake I had breakfast and a beer. There were two old fellows shooting the shit by me so I asked them, "You guys live up here by the lake?"
"Oh yes," one of them answered, "I live up the road some from the lake, in the valley."
The other old timer had a farm, "A little further up the road," from his friend.
The valley where they lived has been settled by white folks for a little better than 100 years. Indians have lived near the lake and its good fishing and hunting for thousands of years, maybe tens of thousands.
"My dad moved into the valley in 1901," the more talkative of the two continued. "Came up from the States. There was no slashed border in those days. When my dad's parent's chose where they were going to live they thought they were still in the States."
The valley he spoke of was well used in the days of alcohol prohibition as a handy means to access the appetite for booze south of the line. I would bet his grand daddy and his daddy were a part of the lucrative trade. Most everybody up there in the hills was.
Nowadays it is green gold that is smuggled through the tangled woods.
I said, "This was a real remote area until the '60s."
"Oh yes. We used to get snowed in and have no way out at all." You could see the old memories warming his clogged heart. "One time when we were snowed in me and my brothers were out in the field buggering around when we heard voices. It was the neighbours from further up the valley hand shovelling the road. When they got to our place we grabbed shovels with our pa and joined in the effort. We shovelled until we reached the valley bottom, near where the golf course is now. Somebody down there had a big tractor with steel spiked wheels. He cleared the road all round the lake."
The farmers had hand shovelled for miles so the four vehicles in the valley that were not tractors could make their precarious way into town for supplies.
"We did not have a phone or anything in those days. When we were stuck, we were stuck."
I asked if the big lake ever froze over.
"Back in '51 I skated back and forth across the whole lake. I remember our neighbours driving across the lake that winter too. Never froze over again in all those years."
My talkative new beer buddies had to get to their bridge game. Before they got up and left I took notice of the ball cap the quieter of the two was wearing. It said Zamboni. The two old guys may have grown up cosied up to the United States' border but they were 100% Canadian.