WRITTEN JULY 11, 1927
Mother Dear, We are home from the North. It was a rare trip, excitingly adventurous not lonely, not hard, not easy. The fun was in the new country, and in our cooking, and especially in our blessed friend and encyclopedia, of Dr. Bradley. That man KNOWS everything about outdoors. He's been on the trail since 16, in the Sierras, in Idaho, cruising near Hudson Bay, gold mining in Alaska, cod fishing off Cape Cod, and he spent his honeymoon, two months, in the Lake country, near our route. He can pick out the cry of the loon, we heard it often, and tell you it is call an symbol of the Northland, that it is from a bird that swims on the water under water or in the air that it is a fighter, that it is not very choice to eat Or he can spot a lunar moth in the forest, tell you whether male or female, how many hours old, that it has no mouth, but lives on the cellulose stored in its body during the winter, that it will climb the pine tree where it clings, somehow find a mate in the night, and that in 20 hours its lifetime will be over. Or he will explain the habits of the moose, the formation of the rock, the depth of the water, the way to carry a canoe, how to make ka-nick-a nick tobacco, or the weather tomorrow. He is modest, he is kindly, HE'S A GREAT MAN, and that is why Iâ€™m glad I was on this trip. We crossed Newton into Pipestone Bay (saw a cub bear) and made first camp late in the afternoon, there are few camping spots on account of the denseness of the timber and underbrush and the mosquitoes. The game is to look for a point of land, where the underbrush has been cut out, and then build your fire in a rock crevice, where the winds sweep the mosquitoes away, the tents go up over rocky clearings of doubtful sleeping value, but spruce branches smooth out the bumps. Water comes up out of the lake, clear and cool, and the supper starts to boil, Spanish compote maybe, or rice and curry gravy, mulligan stew, baked black bass corn bread (except when Dollard was permitted to make biscuits), coffee & apricots after supper a smoke (pipe for Porter),and then 2 hours of Red Saunders, western bullwhackers of the late 19th century, as read by Hal, who can turn out a pretty good one himself. At 9:30 it begins to get dark, and so the singing starts. Now you never heard such singing. Hal is a baritone, or 2nd bass, of the first order, and knows all the songs and more. You know already what your son and Johnny can do, even Jack learned how. Well, you should have heard us 4 horsemen go. Ask Dad, if he ever knew "Good morning Carrie?â€? To bed after 68 songs, in sleeping bag, the product of Mary Lou's interest. Sweet Sleep. Breakfast at 6:30, always bacon, sourdough pancakes, oatmeal, coffee, and prunes. Tied up by a head wind, lazy, we'd bum around camp for a day, scout up pickerel wall eyed pike, black bass, or lake trout, caught a 26 inch northern pike, 15 lbs. Swimming fine, water temperate, wood chopping healthy, and clothes washing always in order. The next day we would load up and "grunt up another lake" as Hal would say, always through squadrons attacking, man hungry skeeters many times. We saw deer, and beaver, and once came close to a bull moose. This is the kind of story to tell about a canoe trip in the Quetico forest, does it sound good? Net result is sunburn for Jack, new pounds for me, mustache for Johnny, and happiness for Hal. Will show you some pictures sometime.
Published on Nov 10, 2011
Porter Butts was director of the Wisconsin Union from 1928-1968. Porter often went on canoe trips to pristine wilderness destinations with h...