Sunday, 15 July 2012

Three Fish Stories, by Mark Murray

When I was a young boy around ten years old, my grandfather would come home with lots of fish. He would tell us children his stories of where and how he had caught those fish. I was always fascinated with his stories. I couldn’t wait until I could go fishing with grandpa and learn his technique.

I worked for my father around the house and in town doing odd jobs during the summer, I saved money to buy myself fishing tackle. I bought fishing poles, a tackle box, line, sinkers, bobbers, and a used net from a friend. I was already to go fishing when spring came. I showed off my gear to whoever would listen, but, the main person I wanted to impress was my grandfather. To me, my grandfather was the best fisherman on the St. Mary’s river. I can’t remember a time that he went fishing and didn’t come home with fish. He would catch so many fish that sometimes, he would smoke them, then take them to town and sell them. Grandma didn’t like it too much, because, I believe he sold them at the local taverns. Local people came to his house to buy fresh fish whether smoked or not. Grandpa had a nice boat for that day in time; he would pay me sometimes to clean it, a hard and stinky job. I didn’t mind because he would explain to me the responsibility of keeping your gear in good clean working condition, which, was a very good lesson. I in turn have taught my sons that same old lesson.

During those first five years of fishing I went with grandpa as often as school would permit. I learned the secrets of my grandfather’s ways. Pretty soon I was catching fish all the time. Grandma said, “I needed to learn how to smoke the fish like grandpa,” she liked smoked fish because she didn’t have to cook them. As I got older, I was allowed to go fishing with my friends and their dads. I always took my gear with me, as sometimes their fathers would say, “ he has everything needed to fish”. I knew grandpa’s way and that is the way I fish. I was asked many times after that to go fishing with them, sometimes it was just with the father, maybe his buddy and myself. I was starting to get the reputation on the river as a good fisherman. I sold some of the fish down at the Sugar Island ferry boat. As Grandma would say, “we have enough fish.” I would give them away to some of the old timers sitting on the dock trying to catch fish or just there relaxing; it made me feel good to give away some of my catch. The old timers would laugh and say “I’ve got a good story to go with this one.” It made me think of my grandfather’s stories.


One time I went fishing on the North Shore of Sugar Island, just looking around mostly. However, I looked down into the water and saw the biggest fish in my life; it was a six foot Sturgeon! I stopped the boat and hooked up a line that would maybe be strong enough to catch it. I baited a big hook dropped it right down in front of this beast; it was only about ten foot deep. I could see everything going on, to my surprise this beast took the hook. I jerked hard to set the it and the fight was on. I was alone with this beast. I didn’t have the boat anchored, so the beast dragged the boat all around the river. I got tired several times as this fight lasted over four hours. I finally prevailed and the beast gave up the fight. I couldn’t keep the beast as to me, “a Native” he was a “Grandfather Spirit”. I took the hook out easily and watched him go back into the deep. I went home and told my wife and Grandpa of the fight. I could not prove it, but they knew because of my excitement. I love to tell my boy about that day, just like my grandfather’s stories, he was fascinated.


In 1995 the FLW came to the St.Mary’s river to put on a Walleye Tournament. This was a big tournament with professional fishermen. They had advertisements on their boats, with big motors, and every kind of the newest fishing equipment known; the “crème de la crème” of fishing. However, weeks before the tournament, these teams came up the river trying to find the best walleye holes. They asked around town for the best fishermen on the river, looking for guides. I was approached by a team, new to the tournament; they were on a tight budget with less sponsoring than other teams. Mike Ryder and Bill Pagan were their names; they said they could pay three hundred a day to guide them. I didn’t want to do it; but my wife said “we could use the money.” I went along for three days straight leaving at six a.m.. The rules were you could fish from sunup to sundown. We caught lots of fish during the early morning hours and in the late evening. One night I took them out on my twenty-one foot pontoon boat set up for fishing. I showed them how to catch walleye at night. I shared holes around Sugar Island, Les Cheneaux Islands, and Drummond Island. They didn’t win the tournament, but they made it to third place, which paid a large amount of money. I never revealed to them my upper river holes. HAHA!
I’ve fished the St. Mary’s for forty five years. Now is the time to pass my grandfather’s techniques down to my son Marc. He will be among a handful of men who know this special technique of fishing the river. Grandpa is long gone, but his techniques will live on through my son Marc as he loves fishing. Marc and I love to go out in the boat, however, today’s economy is cutting our times short and few. But, on the banks of the mighty St. Marys you can find us fishing like the old timers. He has caught several big walleye and many whitefish, his preference is catching the Atlantic Salmon that run in the Fall. I’m proud that Marc enjoys fishing the St. Mary’s river and hope he continues to enjoy great many catches throughout his life and passes the special technique on to many generations to come. The Stt. Mary’s river is the best fishing in the world, especially since it’s in our own back yard.

The Poetry of Ellen Van Laar, The Algoma Rhymer

The Great Lakes Waterway

The Great Lakes are fed by a watershed basin.
Rivers collect run-off from two nations.
The U.S. and Canada share regulatory tools.
Together, they watch diversions and environmental rules.

From Lakes: Michigan, Superior, and Huron,
Saint Claire, Erie, Ontario, and Laurentien.
This continent was settled using water motion.
Boaters explored rivers on out to the Ocean.

Canoeing Natives, then the Voyageurs,
They traded furs for European beads and gear.
Roads and trains were not yet progressed.
So, water transport was key to economic success.

The Lakes became the international border.
The line is a shared resource, not wire or mortar.
The value of this is more than we can think.
Two countries are nourished by a common drink.

Water Cycles

The spring melt is filling low lying niches.
The thaw is seeping to puddles and ditches.
Rivers and lakes flow from the interior.
In watery veins, there's a heavenly mirror.
When the liquid is deep, our vision is deflected.
For light is held on a threshold, reflected.
Air and water often kiss and mingle,
Unified where they cannot remain single.
Evaporation rises, like birds gently winging.
Clouds absorb moisture, and later start wringing.
Rain then drips to the watershed, flowing.
Fluid gathers, whether coming or going.
How dependant we are on this water, sharing.
Within of our bodies, H2O we are carrying.
We drink and pee like the land and the sky.
Water keeps cycling, from the wet to the dry.

Canada from St. Mary's Bridge

As we wait on the bridge to be searched and grilled,
We smell the stench of St. Mary's Mill.
The plume of Essar Steel adds flavor,
As we gaze down on the log yard's neighbor.
Slag piles and dirt, with the Casino ahead,
The strip joint exploitation, bar and bed.
Uncut lawns, junk, and oily essence,
Drab, 100 year old, industrial presence.

We see this questionable side of the Sault,
As we wait in the line-up for customs due.
If this city is green and morally well,
Then appearance must be part of the sell.
I commend Essar's leadership in healing,
For city image effects business dealing.
The process of making our city inviting,
Will reap payment and pride, very reviving!

US Border Restrictions

The U.S. border has most folks confused.
They may steal your lunch! You may feel abused!
Plants need certificates, and soil is prohibited.
Root crops and fruits are often restricted.
If there is doubt about where a seed was grown--
They'll dispose them to the "can of the unknown".
Pet food from Canada is a definite "no".
Uncooked rice and unmarked citrus cannot go.
Food must be marked, or you're courting a snatch.
A crop out of season looks bad in your hatch.
Animal by-products from cows, sheep and goats-
are not allowed in your car, truck or boat.
Don't bring flowers, firewood, or garlic.
Keep all these rules in your glove compartment.
Or else, you could get a three hundred dollar fine--
If you are found ignorant on the border line.

The Wonders of Algoma
Waterfalls, Montreal River Dams, the Locks,
My favorite thing may be the varieties of rock.
There are islands and caves near my piece of shore.
Lake Superior dances 30 feet from my door.
Wolves, bear, cougar and moose,
I love the birds, sometimes a rare goose.
Highway 17 is an inspiration.
It has awesome sights and construction.
Canoeing and hiking, the edge of our coast:
Parks deserve credit, opportunity to boast.
Our history of logging, fishing, and mines,
People arrived on boats and train lines.
Native stories provide a mythological base.
A dragon mystery resides on Superior’s face.
The Group of Seven has loudly declared,
Algoma is rich with beauty, that’s rare.

Swerve--By Phil Dansdill

Lucretius writes that the soul bears the finest and smoothest atoms,
but what of that boy who drowned at Four Mile Beach
four years gone now? He couldn’t swim, but would that have
mattered in the current’s swerve that took him down?
Was it the dreaded underwater panther, Mishibizhiw,
dragging him into the path of souls, dispersing him later
among the deep currents, Kitchi-Manitou nudging him
to the surface, eddied and spiraled into a soft night sky?

Epicurus writes that death is nothing to us, since when we are,
death has not come, and when death has come, we are not,
so I push off from Rotary Park, glad for drift, away from
the absolutes of ground, of heat, of words that echo like whispers in a void.
My river kayak slices southeast, coming fast on Island No.1
as I lean into first strokes, seeking a proper riverborne
rhythm, mindless, artless, necessary as breath.
A slight chop, sun allied to bow, paddles dip and drip in blue-green song.
Riverside’s houses slip by on the south, Island No. 2 glides close on the north.

Eliot writes, I do not know much about gods, but I think that the river is a strong
brown god—sullen, untamed, intractable, but this river takes a teal green turn
to the wider channel, Sugar Island maples and birches front lit in heat.
The ribbon of river widens to a tapestry of silver northwest wind and water.
Here is another river—wilder, colder, deeper, channeling three-story freighters,
silent as stones, displacing all gods, seeking release in Huron’s wide-boned coast.

But Gandhi said that God has no religion, and did you know there’s another
St. Marys River, another border water, rising in Georgia swamp, flowing east
across Florida, sweeping its gods to the sea.
Someday I’ll kayak that sister river with her heated kindred gods,
listen to her drift, her chop, her talk of the dead.

The wind lifts, warm at my back. I slide by the beacon with that mother
osprey evil-eyeing me coming and going as I turn back into the chop.
Now I dig into the strokes, thinking too much, working too hard,
like a voyageur portaging the weight of his gift.

Nietzsche asks, Is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?
I cut quickly across the channel to hug the Sugar Island shore,
sun on my back, wind in my face, still digging into the chop,
bouncing west, easier to track a line into the wind. Shadows edge the shore.
I cup my hand in the river and it’s still cold, even in late summer.

Scraping through shallows, I turn into the inlet between Island No. 1 and 2,
seeking an easier path. It’s a different river, close isolate shores,
pines shading sweep, driftwood entwining banks in rioting brocade.
It’s a sadder river too, a century and more of chromium carbide weighting
the bed, tannery leavings, wasted overflow roiling the waters,
stunning the pike, walleye, and bass.

Melville writes, Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever.
Two hours on the river is not enough to shed scales from my eyes, from my heart.
My fine and smooth atoms hum their song, silenced by the Sugar Island ferry’s
crossing blare. American Integrity heads downbound.

At dusk the river quiets, the wind drops into currents, Manitous nestle deeper in muck. Perhaps they’ll rise in dark, rustling the waters as they sweep across the channel,
or perhaps they’ll dig deeper, sleep longer in this colder year, remapping
the path of souls, waiting in silence to be reborn on the river.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The St. Marys Rivery, by April Yates

The water is moving by at a pace which is tranquil and calming to the human mind. I sit hand in hand with him, legs just touching, resting on the bench, watching the sight. The water has a glint of sparkle as the sun hits the ever moving surface, and seems to have secrets lurking beneath it.
The St. Mary's River is a river full of history. It is a place full of stories from people who are from all corners of the globe, and from all walks of life. It is a place that everyone can enjoy from a young child splashing in the water to an elderly couple taking a slow stroll along the shore. I feel blessed to be near the St. Mary's River. It brings a sense of comfort to me while I'm at school, because I grew up in a town with a river as well.
The water moving through the St. Mary's River is alive and changing, and yet in the same instant is unchanging and as faithful to Sault Ste. Marie, as is the snow in December. The river is unique in this way, watching generations grow old and new generations come into play. I thought about this as I sat on a bench with him, our hands interlocked. It was great to see him, and especially to bring him to this place, this park, and the water.
I told him about the first weekend I was here, and how a group of friends and I decided to 'explore the Sault' we took a hike downtown. It was the first time I had seen the locks, and the St. Mary's. We went up what is known as the "Tower of History", and climbed all 291 stairs to see the sights from above. It was well worth the climb. The sight of the river was incredible. It made me feel at home, and filled me with a sense of wonder.
We watched the elderly couple next to us and wondered if that would be us. The river held our thoughts from each other. It would remember us, remember this moment, and in turn we would remember it. There are so many things unspoken; that the ripples of the water can speak for us.
I've been at Lake Superior State University for a little over a month now, and I see the water every day. From the campus I can see Canada and view the St. Mary's River. I only have a few memories from this beautiful sight so far, but it seems to be a part of daily life here. My favorite part about the view is that it is now part of my home. I love knowing that I can take a walk downtown and let the water talk to me, tell its stories, and feel its immense history.

Stellanova's Passion, by Leslie Askwith

I met the poet Stellanova Osborn when I was working for the Sault Tribe newspaper. I must have gone there to interview her but can’t remember the details of our conversation, although I have a vivid impression of her presence.
She lived in an apartment at Lake Superior State College, as it was called at the time, with a view of the St. Mary’s River and Canada on the other side. The window overlooked the bridge connecting the two nations and the steel mill with its plumes of smoke and occasional fires burning at the tops of stacks like an Al Gore nightmare. She can’t have loved the sight, for her poetry expresses profound feelings for the St. Mary’s River country and the man to whom she was married for two days, Chase Osborn, the only Michigan governor from the Upper Peninsula.
Stellanova was a wisp of a woman, 92 years old, a glowing presence, light skin and thin white hair. Her body seemed so insubstantial that it seemed to be little more than a frame upon which to support her spirit. Her face was animated and her eyes, lively. Perhaps she was happy to have a visitor, perhaps glad to have someone asking questions about her life, as I must have been there to do, but more likely, she was always an interested participant in her own life.
For her past was intriguing. Her story could have been portrayed as historically important, mystically beautiful and scandalous. For most of her adult life she had worked for a former Michigan governor, Chase Osborn, who, with his wife, Lillian, adopted Stellanova Brunt when she was 37. Upon the death of his, by then, estranged wife Lillian, in 1948, the adoption was annulled and she married her adopted father. He was 87 and she, 54. He died two days after the marriage.
On the day I visited, she reminisced about her life with her beloved “governor” on Duck Island as though they’d watched the sun set over Lake George a week ago, not more than 37 years before. She spoke dramatically, in a style as expressive as the words of her poems. “Golden deed on golden deed, Did not so much, Set this man apart, As sunrise after sunrise, Stored in his heart.” (From Man Apart)
At the end of our visit she read a poem aloud. It was from a collection of her poetry, Summer Songs on the St. Mary’ and when she finished, she autographed a copy and presented it to me … “ With good wishes for her hard work and the famous group of humans to which she contributes, Sincerely, Stellanova Osborn and the Governor, December 20, 1986.”
Stellanova died two years after our visit and was buried next to the governor on Duck Island, on a point of land overlooking the St. Mary’s River. Her gravesite is as she’d hoped it would be, marked by a boulder and shaded by trees. “When I lie down in my last sleep, My flesh and bones and dust shall keep, Contented company with these, Northern rocks and northern trees, That I have loved so long! And when some soul their music hears, Attuned to the symphonic spheres, That song shall be my song!” (Pleasant Dreams)
Her poetry intertwines her profound love for the governor with the St. Mary’s River country, specifically, the island where they spent six months of the year. Duck Island is separated from the east side of Sugar Island by a string of small lakes and narrow streams and is owned by the University of Michigan and open to the public. When I visited there with my Girl Scouts in the 1990s, we were accompanied by the property’s caretaker, a Native man who teased the girls by pointing out the porcupine quills he’d stuck into crevices of his truck’s front bumper, an inscrutable joke to most of us white folks.
It was a damp cloudy day and as we wandered around the main living area, it was easy to envision life there as Stellanova knew it. There were several log cabins on a hill, all with porches overlooking Lake George where she surely sat at twilight “While the moon and the evening star, Peer over the alder’s shoulder, And even the littlest clouds, Are admiring themselves in the water.” (From Twilight Mirror)
In the morning she bathed in the river … “To come upon, This shore at morn Is being like Aurora born.” … My spine is cold, My hands are ice, But this - oh, this Is Paradise.” (From Sudden Glory) And she swam in the river at night. “What have nights in Paris, To compare with nights like these, Where I can see the Big Dipper, Between two pin cherry trees? – Where my camp-fire’s smoke and my frosty breath, Are one with the Milky Way, And the river closing over my head, Has taught me that to pray, Is to bathe the spirit at the start, And the ending of each day!” (From High Life)
One of the structures was a decaying three-sided sleeping room, just the size of a bed, where, our guide told us, the governor slept on a mattress of balsam boughs when there was too much commotion in the main cabin. I remember it as being built of logs, although my memory is sometimes faulty, and considered whether or not she may have been referring to this place when she wrote, “The logs that shelter no one now, Still speak. How they have proved, No cabin can be desolate, That has been so much loved!” (From Eloquence)
Her poems enrich my experience of the St. Mary’s River Country. I recognize the meaning in her words when biking along Scenic Drive on a peaceful misty morning. “God walks upon these waters in the morning, In the sublimity of mists that roll, From Echo reaches to the Neebish Rapids, Flooding the deepest fiords of the soul.” (from October Dawn) They express my reasons for taking my sorrows into the forest. “When I carry, The woes of the world, Into the woods, Branches reach out, And brush them gently off.” (From Censors)
She may be speaking to us in other ways as well. As I was writing this, the phone rang and someone asked for “Star.” I said I was not her and wondered if it was simply coincidence that a call came for someone else named Star while I was thinking about Stellanova or whether it was the kind of divine happenstance she may have been referring to when she wrote, “The sun will come. The chickadees are calling. The weeping fog will rise. There is more to the world today and always, Than meets the eyes.” (From Curtain)

A Poem by Jennifer Randell

Just Across the St. Mary’s River
sitting in the car
I stare down
at the water below
carrying massive cargo
ships blow their horns
locks open
rising water
ships continue
right beside
raging river rapid
flowing over the rocks
rushing past the men
standing in the rapids
casting and reeling
hoping to catch fish
right beside
where the water gives way
to the green shores
the trees sprout
along the winding
beautiful boardwalk
where couples walk
enjoying the view
of the beautiful
blue waves
of the river
the great divide
of two countries
my countries

A Poem, Anonymous, but powerful

Constant motion;
It’s kinetic state ignorant of nationality, language, or religion
The bridge o’er which spans is locked and guarded
By the constantly vigilant watchkeeps of two nations
And yet she moves, ever onward

Dammed to provide heat and light
And yet she moves, ever onward
Uncaring and unknowing
Of the conflicts of Nations and people and machines

Icy and swift she flows,
And nips at the toes of anyone daring enough;
Daring enough to enter her embrace
And still she moves onward

She dances with the light;
Dancing with the light, of Day and Night
A ceaseless,
Timeless dance;
Which Humanity is blessed to behold
A dance as old as the Earth itself

Mesmerized I gaze,
Into the Heart of the City.
And I wonder, just wonder
How old she could be
As she moves,
Ever onward;
And dreams of the Sea