Bad Vermilion Lake was good for us

The ice cover of Bad Vermilion Lake is commencing its booming and banging like war cannons now as it thickens in the coldest weather. And my father would have his dog harness ready with a smile because Deed Lake had become a wonderful friend and vital to our needs.
Tony Vandetti is still renowned here as the cement finisher who put a fine floor in our Memorial Arena, trowelling it for 53 hours almost non-stop to make it ready for the Allan Cup the following spring.
But during the hard times 20 years earlier, he had moved us to Mine Centre and an abandoned, one-room log cabin next to his favourite lake (I doubt whether his attraction there was connected with the general belief that Bad Vermilion was volcanic in origin. Tony’s people also knew the volcanic country of the Italian south).
I never met another Italian who kept and trained a sled dog team. Tony’s previous experience with animals may have come from sheep dogs—his grandad’s animals he knew after his own dad died near Vesudio.
Strangely enough, when I bought our riverside farm, my first livestock was a flock of sheep (sheep are almost unknown in this valley today).
Anyway, long after arriving here and marrying an eastern Ontario lady in Alberta, he eventually met a gold miner, Angelo Paccito, here and moved to Mine Centre for my next three years.
Bad Vermilion stretched westward for three miles from our adopted cabin to the Paccito mine—a twice daily trudge for dad year-round. The lake offered a more direct route to work for his dog team after it froze over.
That lake also gave us a convenient water supply when our well went dry in winters. Our dogs could haul a small barrelful up the steep hill to the cabin (it was located where Harold Dennis erected his store/gas station after the highway was built east to Atikokan).
There are newcomers fond of old Bad Vermilion nowadays, but we could not have survived very well without it! It was also our main recreation centre with its great park and beach in summers and skating in the winter.
The lake was ruined one summer by a carpet of tent caterpillars, but it was my dad’s darling. He never even got bitter when it lived up to the “Bad” part of its name by taking Angelo’s life.
Paccito was hauling firewood there one winter after we had moved back to town when his horses (or truck?) broke through the ice.
It’s said the Irish are “fey,” or superstitious, but our old Italians had made a pact when they parted that each would some how send the other a farewell notice.
When a picture fell off the wall at my dad’s home, Tony said immediately that Angelo had gone. We learned the next day about the drowning.
Their story might have gone into a poem by Robert Service, the Bard of the Yukon. Angelo came here from the Porcupine (Sudbury) gold field. He admired the way my dad, who had lots of construction experience, could sink a drill with a sledge hammer. They had met one day at Andy Fontana’s shop by the bank here.
My dad was impatient for the ’30s to end so he could find another job and he would not accept relief (welfare) cheques from the town. So Mine Centre sounded good to him and others also, and Bad Vermilion Lake was his bonus—or the better part of the deal.
• • •
Rose Bell, who spends winters in town but summers on that lake, says her family, like ours, could not have lived without Bad Vermilion, either. Her husband, Harry Bell Sr., was district mining recorder.
• • •
Thanks for that Christmas record, Fran Marie Murray. Your “Amazing Grace” and other singing brightened our New Year when I got Dave Green to spin the tiny disk in his store!
Fran and husband, Jack, now live in Melfort, Sask. Fran came from Nova Scotia to steal our last chief of town police.
• • •
On entering Green’s, I met Urban Bowman and wife, Cindy, who have moved out to Burriss. Urban once coached the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
• • •
John Stevens manages that core plant on Fifth Street West, which began here quite recently as only one of six in all Canada. The cores it produces form the centre of our rolls of newsprint.
There are 10 similar plants in all Europe now. Our plant owner is Alzac Canada Inc.
• • •
Arend Visser is enthused about Air Cadets for this area, with 40 youths—aged 12 to 19—already registered. He claims they are the most popular government-sponsored movement in Canada!
• • •
Albert Mattson is a former dynamite worker who can describe blasting around Atikokan about the same time I also worked there, although we never met before.
Dynamiters opened a tunnel to drain Marmion Lake before iron mining could get started for the Second World War.
• • •
Bill Hagarty from Rainy River owns about 20 airplanes, I was told, then I learned they were models!

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