Mr. Canoehead

My passion for canoeing began at the age of twelve. My father and I were at a remote fishing lodge in Ontario’s Algoma Highlands and spent a good part of the week trolling the main lake without much luck. The second-last day, we decided to borrow one of the lodge’s beat-up aluminum canoes and portaged into a neighboring lake to try for speckled trout. We caught plenty of fish, but it was the idea of the canoe itself taking me to such a special place, a place that truly characterized remote wilderness, that I was hooked on. I’ve yet to look back. At the age of 55, I’ve never had a full-time job; and most of the jobs I have worked at had something to do with paddling wilderness areas and casting a line. It’s a dream come true

The canoe is still my choice for getting around out there. It’s the one thing that definitely binds me irrevocably to the wilderness. I even find the motion of paddling the craft itself very methodic; the action of drifting across a calm lake or being pulled downriver is very Zen-like..

My passion may have something to do with the fact that I’m Canadian as well. Even though canoeists owe a great deal to Scottish philanthropist, John MacGregor, who popularized canoeing as a recreational sport back in 1865 across Europe and the United States, I doubt few would argue that the Canadian identity itself lies with the canoe. After all, if Canadian film producers ever wanted to depict the opening of Canada’s wilderness the way Hollywood characterized winning the Wild West, the hero wouldn’t be straddling a horse, but rather crouched down in a canoe, paddling off into the sunset. The packsack, paddle, and portage are as much pioneer icons as the chuckwagon, boot spur and ten-gallon hat. Maybe the closest this aspect of Canadian culture has come to be represented in film (the work of Bill Mason excluded) is with the Frantic’s Mr. Canoehead, a superhero who had his head inadvertently welded to his aluminum canoe by a stray lightning bolt.

To me, when I spot a car barreling down the highway with a canoe strapped to its roof, I don’t necessarily see a somewhat inexpensive recreational watercraft owned by some poor fool who can’t afford a speedboat; I see a way of life.

One Reply to “Mr. Canoehead”

  1. “Hey, Mr. McBeevy! Yeah you, up there in the Pine Trees. It’s me Mr. Motorhead. No, no, no, I ain’t one of them rock band type guys. I’m one of the fellers who Mr. Canoehead has been talkin’ about, except my boat is equipped with an old Johnson outboard. I got a story to tell you. Do you want to hear it? Okay, here it goes!”

    When I was a wee lad living in modern urbanization, my interest in the Great Outdoors peeked when I got my very own fishing rod. The fact that growing up in Niagara Falls and being surrounded by many natural wonders, just added to my thirst for adventure.

    I can remember heading off down Clifton Hill on my bicycle toward the Maid of the Mist docks. My childhood friend lived in a little house that was once adjacent to that attraction and boy, the stories he would tell me when the lower Niagara River would freeze over in the winter time.

    Anyway, my so called fishing spot in that area was a large boulder right next to the rushing waters, about 25 yards south of my friends home. I gotta tell you, had my parents realized where I was, they would have tanned my hide!

    Unfortunately, the many times I was there, I never caught a thing – likely caused by my novice idealism. I did have quite a hoot waving to all the tourists though. As I look back on it now, it was extremely foolish to place myself in such a close proximity to danger.

    Seeing that my two wheeled mode of transportation could take me many places, there were times when the Welland River down in Chippawa, just south of Niagara Falls, would be the perfect hang out to try my luck. This in all aspects, was a much safer place to entice my quarry.

    Only once in my many outings to the river did it pay off with a beautiful Rainbow Trout. But hey, I was never one to be discouraged by my lack of success. The enjoyment of being in the Great Outdoors was more than enough to satisfy my needs.

    Becoming an adult brought and even broader range. Whether it was dunking worms with my brother-in-law up at his cottage on Lake Ayrd chasing Bass in his weather beaten, wooden outboard motor boat or wetting a line with our cousin in Lake Mindemoya up on Manitoulin Island while lazing back and drifting a Lindy rig for Walleye in his oxidized aluminum water craft – powered by that old Johnson outboard, these memories will live forever ; with me, “Mr. Motorhead”!

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