Saturday, 23 July 2011

No Civilized Life, This, by Ken Miller

There’s something about the Ste. Marys that brings out the joy in people. Not the not the joy of a mere civilized life, but the splash-in-the-mud-puddle joy of an uninhibited three year-old. There is something that releases the joy of childhood in someone no matter how long they have been around, no matter what they have seen, how many times they have scolded their children or scowled at a spouse. When they venture out upon the Ste Marys the river will release that hidden joy within.

So it was no surprise when, as I sat reading on the deck of Devil’s Dream, II (my gently aging Tartan 34 sailboat), that I saw Rex and Larry putting downstream on a home-made raft. It was a latter-day Huck and a very pale Jim making their way south on what looked like three pallets, some blocks of Styrofoam, and two old tires, powered by a tiny outboard motor. Seated on two home-built chairs and flying the Jolly Roger (under the National Ensign, of course), they were on their way back in time to their tenth year, each shedding 60-odd years with enthusiasm and, I must admit, a certain flair.

I immediately jumped up and in my most officious voice asked if their vessel was Coast Guard inspected. They proudly pointed to a registration number on the side of the contraption proclaiming that it was properly registered with the State of Michigan as a watercraft. I was astounded into speechlessness, a state that I seldom occupy.

I quickly ducked below and grabbed my camera. The picture you see here is how I found them on the river. By now I expect that Rex and Larry are somewhere south of here, lying full-length on a sandbar, eating their fresh-caught dinner, hiding from the slave-catchers, and having the time of their young lives.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Dog Days of Summer on the St. Mary’s River, By Sharon Brunner

The first time I spent any time on the St. Mary’s River was back in 1993 with my beloved. The canoe glided peacefully down the river just yards from the river bank. The water glistened as the paddles skimmed the surface of the water. Purple and pink hues were splashed across the evening sky. Seagulls circled above us and crows could be heard cawing off in the distance. We paddled the canoe from a friend’s home off Riverside Drive to the channel where the Sugar Island Ferry transports passengers to and from the island. We turned the canoe around and headed back to where we started. A small island sparked our attention and we paddled towards it. The island sported a couple of trees and lots of foliage. Once our interest was satisfied, we headed back to the home on Riverside Drive to bring the canoe back to shore.
Another peaceful evening, my husband and I sat on a large rock and watched a ship travel up the St. Mary’s River. We could tell the ship was empty because much of its hull was above water. We surmised the ship was on its way to pick up coal or ore pellets from the shores of Canada. Many ships travel the waters of the St. Mary’s River. A full moon lit up the sky and had shown a spotlight on the ship. The evening air was becoming a little chilly as the end of August was approaching.
Our children loved swimming to the man made tower that was placed 30 yards from the shore. The river bed was dug deep by large machinery to support the concrete pilings. Large rocks with an average diameter of one yard or larger were placed around the bottom of the tower and extended several feet above the water’s surface. The water is deep around the tower and the family felt elated when they reached the rocks and climbed up on top of them.
An Osprey family builds a large nest on top of the tower every year to raise their young. During a wind storm, which seemed to be prevalent this year, the Osprey lost their nest and the eggs. We were disheartened, then happy to see the nest was rebuilt again, only to be damaged by another wind storm. The Osprey nest is in disarray hanging precariously off one of the beams. However, one small Osprey has survived the ravages of the wind and waits patiently as its mother brings food to nourish its growing body.
During the fall of 1997 we invited another member to join our family, a dog named Moon. She was a medium sized dog, weighing approximately 60 pounds. During the summer months, she loved swimming. We would take her for a short walk of approximately 100 yards to the shores of the St. Mary’s River so she could bask in the coolness of the water that was fed by the cold depths of Lake Superior. She would also swim to the rocks of the tower and walk around the surface with the rest of the family. It appeared that a smile crossed her face when she reached the rocks.
A few years later another dog joined our family, Snickers, a Sheppard mix. He ended up being 90 pounds, a big teddy bear who loves to snuggle. Snickers was nervous at first until he learned how to swim. But with careful guidance he picked up this skill and learned to love the St. Mary’s River as much as we do. He chases sticks as we throw them out to the deeper water. Snickers loves to fetch; but he does not bring the sticks back to us so we trick him into giving up one stick as we throw another.
Yet another dog joined our household and his name is Doogie. Doogie, being predominantly black lab, adapted to the water very quickly. He loves to fetch sticks also. Doogie and Snickers retrieve a large stick and swim in together holding the same stick in their teeth. Our neighbors think this behavior is hilarious.
As Moon was reaching the end of her life, crippled with arthritis in her hips, she found it difficult to sit or stand. She would pace back and forth in the river knowing that the cool water helped relieve some of the arthritic pain and soothe her muscles. We said our goodbyes on February 7, 2011. Moon is very much a part of our happy memories associated with the St. Mary’s River. Doogie and Snickers still enjoy the river.
Our life in Sault Ste. Marie and experiences with the St. Mary’s River have led us to believe we always want to live near water. We love wading in the river, watching passing ships and feeling the serenity that our connection to the river brings us. The overall feeling of our life by the river is one of much pleasure.
Let’s all celebrate the Dog Days of Summer!