Let’s hear it for Rainy Lake

Just last week, while commenting on our precarious weather patterns, it appeared I was overlooking the single most important factor in our local geography–the presence of thousands of square miles of the healthiest drinking water on this planet, or anywhere else.
Right now, we are also discussing the most popular feature of our enviably pleasant lifestyle, thousands of square miles of playground–winter and summer–right in our own backyard.
So let’s help our Chamber of Commerce promote this place we call home with some description of our neighbourhood, it’s past, present, and future, including the events and personalities of recent memory. It’s a subject as broad as the lake itself.
For instance, I can picture that huge logger, Eli Johnson, standing with legs well spread on the fish house dock, bracing against the pull of a tugboat engine to prove he could hold it back–and did!
Either Spike Struve or Dan McCarthy, who purchased the fish from both U.S. and Canadian sides of the lake, would be betting on Eli to “hold that gator” and laughing as he won the struggle.
I can recall Captain Billy Martin swearing as he swung the mighty Hallett with its attached barge, Wanagan, and long boom of logs in a circle in the big stretch beyond Brule Narrows for his deckhand, Eddy George, to retrieve a sun helmet (mine!) with a pick pole.
You should have seen aging Annie Kielczewski swing a mallet to immobilize a huge sturgeon while her son, Allan, lifted a pound net one cold October day near their commercial fishing camp at Rat River, about a dozen miles west of the popular Kettle Falls Hotel.
Or the air full of rocks from blasting on the highway Causeway while trains and dining cars took a pounding. Another blast about 60 years earlier killed nine workmen on the railroad’s construction.
For what reason Polish fishermen were attracted to the Rainy, nobody knows. But Frank Kielczewski and four sons dominated the east end while Jake Skitinski and Cyclone Kate were at Seine Bay and John Julikowski batched at the Brule.
When Steep Rock silt from iron mining found its way over 80 miles into Rainy Lake, Fort Frances brewer Rusty Green decided his investment in iron mining shares was a mistake because the quality of his Columbine beer was threatened. That danger passed over quickly.
Serious flooding also looked likely for the first time in 1951 when Winnipeg went partially under water but Rainy’s dependable drainage system prevailed as usual.
The stories will continue through the newly-famed bass fishing contest and exploits of all kinds will continue where everyone can add to our legends, and do.
They never stop telling of lumberman J.A. Mathieu, Causeway builders George Armstrong and Don Christian, who won that new car, Dwight Smith and the ‘Sarah A’, Doc Boyle and his Chriscraft, or happenings around Red Gut Bay.
Right now is a fine time to review the glories of our wonderful heritage with Rainy Lake blanketed against winter out soon to awaken to the thrills of greater popularity.
• • •
Clifford (Cactus) Kenny was a well-known local fishing guide asked to explain why a certain bay of the lakes was full of boulders. Always quick with a joke, Cliff explained the rocks had been brought there by a glacier.
When his American companions wanted to know where the glacier had gone, the answer came right away, “Back for another load! I guess.”
• • •
Several sightings of unidentified flying objects were reliably reported on Rainy Lake over the years when such sightings were accepted as reliable.

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