The Lovesick Lake
Chubby Blewett made cedar-strip boats by hand. In a year he could make two, but their future owners had to want them bad enough to call him often, write him letters, and otherwise display a genuine appreciation of his efforts. It also helped to go down to the old boathouse next to his cottage by the lake and keep him company while he worked. Everyone on the lake owned at least one, and, properly cared for, they would last a long long time.
At dawn each morning during the summer, I would stir in my cozy down-filled bed at the steady drone of Chubby’s boat as it passed our island at the north end of Lovesick Lake. He would cut his engine, drop anchor, and cast his nets for the big chubs or chubby minnows that made his bait and tackle shop famous. As silence returned to the lake, I would drift back to sleep until the swallows that nested in the eaves outside my window began their giddy morning ruckus.
The story goes that a young Ojibwa girl, upon hearing of the death of her lover in a far-away war, threw herself from the open dam at the southern end of the lake. He returned unharmed and, when he learned of his love’s fate, he chose to perish in the same swirling rapids at Burleigh Falls. So the lake was named Lovesick. But there is a deeper history there as well.
In 1896 an English couple, John and Emily Marshall, purchased a land grant from Queen Victoria for a five-acre island in the Trent Canal System in Central Ontario, Canada. Emily, then thirty-four years old, and her husband named the island Clovelly after their honeymoon retreat in England. Her husband owned a peanut farm in Africa and when he retired, he shipped from his African estate a giant stone he called “Elephant Rock” and placed it under the arm of his favorite oak on Clovelly Island. The Marshalls employed many of the Ojibwas from the nearby Curve Lake Native Reserve as day laborers to build gardens and trim the hedges that formed a lane from the main house to the boathouses at the island’s rocky southern end. These laborers built elegant wooden archways through the forest on the north side that led to Emily’s favorite swimming place. Pine branches were fashioned into comfortable benches where one could rest and appreciate a view. Gazebos looked out over the sunrise and sunset points. They built a putting green. They also filled the woodhouse, maintained the sawdust in the icehouse, and saw that the kerosene lamps were filled and the wicks were fresh. They emptied the honey buckets from the two outhouses into a deep hole at a far mossy end of the island.
Author: James Patterson
Bio: A life long student of history, philosophy and politics, James Patterson has managed country bands, delivered newspapers, adapted Sherlock Holmes short stories for radio plays, and published a highly regarded sports magazine. As a singer-songwriter, Patterson was half of the political satire folk music duo, The Pheromones, one of the first acts to be featured on MTV. With the Pheromones, he toured the US for over fifteen years.