I met Rainy Lake through “Lonestar!”

We are a long way from the Arizona dessert yet for me, the satellite TV series called “Lonestar” brings back a Rainy Lake story and a character from my youth!
I was about 15, and excited over an opportunity to accompany the very colourful Orrah (Orrie) Kielczewski on a trip to his father’s commercial fishing home at Rat River, 40 miles to the east.
But my adventure of a lifetime started like a shock treatment!
Riding in a long, open steel boat that usually hauled fish boxes, we had barely cleared Ranier rapids here that evening when our skipper, Orrie, announced he was tired and I would take the tiller (this was my first boat ride, anywhere!)
“Just hold her on that bright star ahead and you’ll do alright,” were his brief instructions!
Then I never saw anyone nod off so quick while I began to get acquainted with a stick tiller connected to the rudder. Much to my surprise, it worked well after Orrie had set the direction I was to follow all night.
And “Lonestar” shone brightly in the clearest night you ever saw.
Somehow, I kept my eyes on it while the long hours passed and I made like my ancestors, Columbus and John Cabot because, hey, I’m half Italian myself. Meanwhile, Captain Orrie snored in contentment.
The “New World” began to appear out of darkness eventually. Orrie rolled over and spoke in satisfaction as he proceeded to fry our breakfast on the hot engine manifold. After our bacon and eggs were finished, early morning grew. However, we were under attack by mosquitoes—thousands it seemed.
Orrie gave them little attention except to start up the old inboard engine again, creating some breeze for relief from the insects and taking us away from their shoreline home.
Eventually, we got where we were going at the rate of probably three knots. Orrie’s relatives came to unload our cargo of groceries and his old craft was underway further eastward to the vicinity of Kettle Falls.
I never received skipper’s papers for my maiden voyage, but it never interfered with my self-respect, either. Mosquito bites had healed before I returned home, and I made many other Rainy Lake passages afterwards, mostly with Orrie’s brothers and their chum, my cousin, Claude.
But my “Lonestar” experience stayed with me. Shortly afterwards, Orrie brought me a fringed jacket of moosehide.
Later, he had loaded his family, a dog team, and other possessions—including that old steel scow and a houseboat as well as his dogteam and machine shop equipment—for a box car trip to B.C. I shook hands with them all (I believe there were about nine kids by then).
One of Orrie’s daughters put his trip in a book. It ended in Alaska, which had been Orrie’s ambition, and the book was well circulated here.
It could have become another “Lonestar” series, and movie stars such as Lucille Ball and William Powell might accept invitations.
Zane Grey, himself, should have been here to tell Orrie’s story. He was a buckskin kind of guy, too!
• • •
Melvin Haukaas gets credit for discovering a ghost town for us.
When Mel found photos in his relatives’ closet, they directed him to Perth, N.D. But apparently, Perth’s population of 10 has almost disappeared except for a prominent town hall.
There, a favourite entertainer is applauded once a year.
Mel wrote and got an answer from a “town” official, who said she is well related here (that is, across the river in the Falls).
• • •
Donna Wilson wants it understood there were few, if any, longer lived families of River Road in Crozier than the five Bone brothers. And to support her case, she brings up her granddad, Steve Bone, as having been there as first of four generations.
• • •
Whenever I meet Ray Dolph, I think of him as a man in a million. That was the size of his lottery win not too many years ago! Right away, he built a new home for his parents and also took on snowplowing for his neighbours.
• • •
Sitting around Kennedy Centre with Don McFee last week, it was learned he has stopped building airplanes—but only after launching six of his sporty models in our skies.
His small squadron deserves a fly-past ceremony and local salute, perhaps as part of our town’s centennial program.
• • •
Reeve Bill Clink of Chapple (Barwick) stopped to exchange greetings last Wednesday and this was the first we had met since Cecil Wilson left as leader there. Cecil was long considered indispensable but Bill, although very quiet, always seemed to have much to offer also.
I first encountered him on a train trip to an Atikokan celebration many years ago.
• • •
With so much depending on recruitment of the right people to make a success of our centennial year, we’d all better stop and reflect on the Footprint dam and the efforts of a self-motivated citizen like Gerald Lambert!
Lambert and his buddies—knowing their fishing and what keeps it coming on so well, summer after summer—rolled up their sleeves and mounted a crusade.
They knew the Footprint dam was vital and started to convince the government and anyone else they could get to listen, including the media, and the result was seen on the front page here last Wednesday.
“MNR opts to build new Footprint dam” read the headline inspired by Lambert’s group after being aroused by the threatened loss of this dam and depleted fishing.
Gerald had shoved his much-appreciated message at me and everyone around, and kept support growing with his pleasant but determined approach, depending on friendships all around him. Having proved what one man and friends could accomplish, let’s not let him retire just yet.
We’ve got others like him around here to prove to the whole world that Fort Frances deserves a wonderful 100th birthday party—and just remember Lambert and many of his relatives have been with us right along.
He can be considered a valuable representative of French Canada and living proof that the spirit of La Verendrye is still strong among us!
• • •
Apparently, Wal-Mart is still bringing us a new store, according to observers on the commercial scene. More later!
Meanwhile, the Loneys in Emo are continuing to enhance our district with a grand new Cloverleaf grocery, so we continue to move ahead and not so slowly as generally perceived!
Someday our grocery stores also may boast sufficient washrooms!

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