by Ken Kristjanson
My grandson Ben age 11 years and I were making a “Whatzit” or whatever a Grandfather and Grand son make in the workshop on a lazy afternoon at the cottage.We had used some scrap lumber,some long ago metal items stored in a Blue Ribbon coffee can and an assortment of nuts and bolts.We admired our creation briefly. Then Grampa said put the tools back where you found them so you will know where to look for them the next time they are needed. As I was about to throw away the rest of the long forgotten assortment of metal junk I was gently reminded that they may come in handy for some future project.
I laughed as my mind harkened back to my pre school days. In the late 30’s and early 40’s every August our whole family would empty the rain barrel and put the key under the mat.We would walk the 4 blocks to the Gimli harbor and leave Gimli on the boat the Roddy S.or the Barney-Thomas. We would travel the 7 hours around Hecla Island to our fishing station at Albert’s Point on Humbuck Bay .This was to be my brother Robert’s and cousins Beverley and Eddie’s home until Winter fishing was over in the first week in April.A wondrous free wheeling adventurous place which could easily double as Tom Sawyers second home.
Fall fishing in those days was labour intensive. A fisherman would row his flat bottomed skiff as far as he could. Set his nets them row back. The process would be repeated each day come wind,rain,sleet or gale the nets had to be lifted. The catch would be brought ashore, dressed and packed in ice awaiting the freight boats next visit.Early in the century Ole Evinrude invented a Mix Master of sorts that you attached to the stern of a skiff . No need for oars just put in gasoline. The idea of using such a contraption commercially quickly caught on with the Great Lakes fishermen. Not so on Lake Winnipeg. The enterprising Kristjanson Brothers (Hannes & Ted)tired of rowing bought a used 2 1/2 horse power Champion outboard motor. it proved to be a winner. They were fondly called screw tops because they were started by wrapping a cord around the fly wheel .The cord was pulled in a strong fashion thus starting the motor. .The use of this motor allowed the fisherman to go out further with more nets.If the wind or current was against you no problem.All went smoothly until one day.
One October day while travelling back to the station the Screw tops propeller hit a dead head. This is a submerged water logged log. One blade of the outboard broke off. This forced the fisherman to row ashore. Immediately the other fishermen gathered around to see what happened. As 10 or 12 weather beaten men gathered as if at a viewing of a corpse my grandfather pushed into the circle. He studied the problem for a moment. Then went out back of the cook shack where an old Findlay stove had been discarded. He took one of the cast iron lids of the stove. The men like pall bearers at a funeral awaiting the ministers instructions were still there. He took the damaged propeller of the out board. He traced with a sharp nail the good blade onto the cast iron stove link.
He handed the lid to the hired man along with the only a hacksaw. There were no power tools in those days. Between them and others they laborously cut out a new blade. Many hours with a bastard file produced a passable and balanced blade. More labor was required to hand drill a hole in the blade.Foraging thru some old tobacco tins produced a useable bolt This was used to attach the new blade to the spot where the old blade had broken off. The propeller was reattached to the out board. Now the moment of truth.A cord was wound around the fly wheel. The motor started. After a couple of coughs it was put in gear. The machine ran like a top with very little vibrations all fall. The outboard has long been retired. For many years it was proudly displayed in my Fathers back yard museum.