Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Six Nights Away Run - Day Five

Native Art by Freddy Taylor

Saturday is Art Day. That sounds posh; we just wanted to have a look at some things with which to finish off the dreaded Kitchen Project, so scooting around the region looking at galleries and craft centres was to be the order of the day.

I was up with that bloody lark again but at least it gave me a clear run at the shower block at about 7am. This one isn't up to the usual Provincial Park standard because it's quite old and extremely well used, but it was serviceable and the water was hot. Over the past few days, the bugs have been feasting on me and my ankles, wrists and neck are covered in itchy little red spots; the shower helped to calm down the itch, at least for a while. Back at Towed Haul I was able to sit out under the awning and blog to my heart's content and to watch the campground wake up.

After brekkie, we loaded up with cold drinks and set off north-west towards Curve Lake Ojibway Reservation and the Whetung Art and Craft Gallery (, as recommended by that nice lady in Bobcaygeon. I've been on a few reservations down in our part of the world and they are places of obvious poverty, at least by the standards of the surrounding non-reservation areas, but this one seemed a touch more prosperous. There were two big gas stations right on the reservation's perimeter catering to the non-native traffic, and quite a few well tended houses. By way of a quick diversion, here, I should explain that First Nations people are not required to pay taxes to the Provincial or Federal government, so sell both gas and cigarettes ("Smokes" as they are known on the reservation) at knock down prices, which draws a lot of non-native business. Technically, though, as a non-native, once you drive off the reservation then you should be paying that tax and I know that the Provincial government is getting a bit sniffy about this tax evasion. I'll make no comment as to its rights and wrongs but I do know that there's a heathy profit in it for the native people, which is all to the good.

Anyway, back to the reserve, and the Whetung Gallery. In an authentic and original log cabin (that's grown a bit over the years) was a collection of native arts and crafts the like of which I've never seen. It ranged from the usual tourist tat, to some quite nice bits of cothing, right through to some wonderful and wickedly expensive arts and crafts. Most of it is original work and, if you've ever seen seen any native art you'll know how stunning it is. We spent ages in there and could have spent many thousands of dollars, including a few hundred on some small wooden carvings of geese that would have been a great indigenous version of Hilda Ogden's flying ducks. As it worked out we did drop a bit of money on a small soapstone carving and some decorated gourds.

One of the artists, Freddy Taylor (, was in the gallery working on a painting. He was quick to engage us in conversation and proceeded to tell us of his harrowing life in the Brantford Residential School and how he has redeemed himself somewhat through his art. Residential Schools are a particularly dark part of Canada's history and something that the native people still suffer the effects of even though the last of the schools was closed in 1996. This Wikipedia link ( gives some of the detail, but to listen to Freddy's testimony of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of the staff of this church run and state sanctioned establishment was horrific, and this was one voice among many, many thousands. He is an angry man and it showed in his work, all of which had written explainations of its inspiration taped to the back of the canvases. He says that he's calmer now and although a chastening experience to listen to him, I'm glad we did.

From Whetung we moved to the Gallery On The Lake at Buckhorn. A wooden, circular building (It may have been octagonal or something) set on the lake a few kilometres outside Buckhorn, it housed what we might consider more conventional art. Being down a long, dirt track I thought the place might be deserted, and it was. We weren't hassled by the staff there, though, and spent a little while browsing the paintings and sculpture. We did like one fairly abstract piece but it was a bit too expensive to take a gamble on so we took a photograph and will think about it later. We also liked some quite big soapstone carvings of walruses, but the price made us put them down right away.

From the quiet of Buckhorn we went west to the lake community of Fenelon Falls, in search of "collectables", that is bits of stuff not really posh enough to be considered "antiques". We'd been to Fenelon Falls before, on the houseboat trip, and moored below the falls and the big lock there and witnessed a really stormy night. A power pole (known as a Hydro Pole here) was overloaded, or hit by lightning perhaps, and the big oil filled transformer on top of it caught fire. The local Fire Department went tackle it and it exploded in a huge shower of sparks and flame and the entire town was plunged into darkness. We, on the the other hand, were on our battery powered boat and enjoying natures display without all the light polltion from the town! Anyway, today it was hot, hot, hot, and not the kind of day we wanted to browse around. We dropped into a couple of collectibles places and were underwhelmed by what we saw, so jumped back into the air conditioned comfort of the car and headed back towards Bobcaygeon.

It was late afternoon by now and we'd not eaten so were easily seduced by one of the many "Chip Trucks" that litter the landcape here. Unwittingly, and foolishly as it turned out, we opted for large Poutine and large chips and were somewhat taken aback when the two enormous conatiners full of chips arrived. It was far too hot to sit out to eat, even under the umbrellas provided, so we drove out to a rural side road, stopped the car under some trees with the air conditioner running, and tried to eat this mountain of potato. Well, we did reasonably well but with bloated stomachs we gave up the unequal struggle and drove into Bobcaygeon in search of an ice cream, that well known restorative for over-eating. I'm honour bound to report the discovery of sixteen, yes sixteen peanut butter cups in Mrs T's Moose Tracks cone. Well done the young lady who served us that ice cream treat!

I should make mention of the person ahead of us in the ice cream queue who took some time to select her desired flavour. She was a lady of a certain age, sunglasses propped on her head and a certain middle-class haughtiness which she then proceeded to display. Having selected her ice cream choice, she watched the young employee ball up the scoop of ice-cream then just as it was about to be placed on the cone, changed her mind. The poor employee had to start again in a different flavoured bucket and, as she when to place the ice cream onto the cone was told by the sunglasses lady to "press it down!" in a commanding manner. Now I'm fairly certain that people who serve ice cream all day do know how to serve it and don't require direction from snotty customers like that. If I'd had an axe I'd have split the lady's sunglasses in two, without removing them from her head. Tut.

Replete with chips and ice cream, we made our way back to Emily and, after I'd made a short and very hot expedition to the lakeside beach, both took an early evening nap with Towed Haul's air conditioning rumbing away.

We managed a movie later, "The Bridges Of Madison County" (yes, Clint Eastwood is so name because he is actually made of wood), and enjoyed watching Meryl Streep recreate "Brief Encounter" in rural Ohio. The morrow being Sunday and moving day (we suspect) for the bulk of people on the campground, we've decided to have a quiet day. We may well be indoors with the air conditioning on but hey, that's glamping!

More tomorrow, Toad fans.