The Mystery Lake Storm
by Linda C Butler
Told by Charlie Vance
In the 1940s weather forecasting was unreliable and we would listen to the news about weather events that happened, with no idea of what was to come in the future. In the fall of 1944 Naomi (Jane) and I left for the trapline, with no knowledge that a big storm was coming. We trapped in Northern Manitoba near the present city of Thompson, before the ore body was discovered.
In the late fall we often had a couple weeks to relax before we started to trap. It was also an opportunity to socialize with neighbors, who we wouldn’t see again until the Christmas season when we came out of the bush.
Billy Wedge, who later became a forest ranger in the Snow Lake area, had a trapline on the Burntwood River and we often stayed in his log cabin when we travelled to our trapline. On this occasion, Billy was not home. We had the sled dogs with us and I left Naomi to care for the dogs while I went moose hunting with Joe Thomas, a trapper with a trapline on Mystery Lake. I anticipated that I could be gone for a few days. Joe was an excellent moose caller and a skilled hunter and I enjoyed hunting with him.
Hunting was a necessity in the bush because we had the dogs to feed and they ate moose meat or fish. Joe and I travelled in one canoe, with a canoe towed behind. We had a motor, but in the 40s, outboard motors did not have much power.
We shot a moose, cleaned it, and then loaded the meat into the towed canoe. We were in a sheltered bay on Mystery Lake and we could hear the roar of the wind in the trees so we knew that the water in the main lake would be rough. I drove the motor and once we got out of the bay the waves were high and we could not see the shoreline. I crossed to a point of land, and in the lee of the shore, I was able to follow the shoreline to Joe’s cabin. His wife was waiting and was relieved when she saw us.
We dined on fresh moose meat for supper. I knew that Naomi would be anxious in the storm and when I thought that the wind had lessened, I departed and continued on to the Burntwood River, planning to return later for my share of the meat.
When I reached the Burntwood River the waves were too high for me to travel, so I pulled the canoe onto the shore and left it in the bushes, then walked along the shoreline. The wind was strong but the rain had eased. It was difficult to travel through the bush at night but there was moonlight and I managed to reach Billy’s cabin.
Naomi in the meantime had been terrified of the storm as trees had blown down, however, none had hit the cabin. She had not expected that I would attempt to reach the cabin until morning so when I pounded on the door in the middle of the night, I frightened her more. I called out and she opened the door and hugged me, glad that I had arrived safely.
The next morning we counted eight large spruce trees, of a foot or more in diameter that had blown down beside the cabin. When we made coffee that morning we listened to Billy’s battery radio describe the storm of the day before.
© Linda C Butler 2013