Jervis McEntee Diaries

Saturday September 14, 1878

Jervis McEntee Diary Entry, Saturday, September 14, 1878, from the Jervis McEntee papers, 1850-1905, in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

[McEntee enters this as Sept 13] Two birches and a part of the party went out yesterday afternoon to the pickerel ground to fish while I took a birch and went alone up Sandy Stream to try the trout. Sandy Stream is a swift and mainly [?] flowing vein about four rods wide with a sandy bottom, the disintegrated granite from Katahdin, and occasionally a deep hole where it swirls around some great boulder. The shores are fringed with trees and alders close down to the water making it difficult to land or to secure the birch for fishing. I managed with great difficulty to make a few casts for the birch is like an egg shell caught by every eddy and answering to every caress of the breeze. In one of those deep black pools my canoe got a lurch down stream and in striking out with my paddle to hold her up stream I reached a little too far when she instantly rolled over and filled and threw me out. I had on my heavy boots and my rubber coat but seeing first that my rod and the paddle were secure I seized the boat and pushing her ahead of me swam with all my might across the swift current and selecting an opening among the tangled alders ran her onshore and crawled out through the mud and slime. The brush was so dense that it was with great difficulty that I turned her over and emptied her of water but after a half hours tugging I set sail again. I would have looked funny enough to any one who could have had a look at me sprawled out on top of the water, my rubber coat floating and swelling above me, pushing and tugging at the birch. A big owl in the woods derided me with a sarcastic chuckle but he was the only observer. The wind had risen when I got out on the lake and I had all I could do to manage my birch as the bow was out of the water and caught the wind, so that twice she got the best of me and forced me to land on the beach and take a fresh start. Church and two of the guides were at the camp when I arrived and I amused them greatly with an account of my adventures. I changed my clothes and dried my wet toggery about the fire and although I watched them closely I unfortunately burned my boots and I fear I shall not be able to get them on without cutting them which I greatly regret as they are capital ones and entirely comfortable. It rained at intervals all night but this forenoon it has cleared off with a strong north west wind and the wind at this moment is blowing a gale, the tent flapping and the lake white with crested waves; but this promises fine weather again so essential to the enjoyment of the woods. Our guides are capital fellows, good natured, respectful and willing. John Sanford, the head man and cook is a most patient, busy and ingenious man. He has lived in these woods the greater part of the time winter and summer, in the spring a lumberman, during the summer a guide and in winter hunting and trapping alone, going about on snow shoes and dragging his traps on a toboggin. William R. Boynton of Churchs birch is the Apollo of the party. Shapely limbs, trunk of an athelete, surmounted by a Roman head he is the ideal lumberman and woodsman. His good natured chuckle bubbles constantly in the camp. He wears a jaunty black hat with a red cord about it and greenish pantaloons all selected with an intuitive sense of color. Royal Reed, Yeisleys man, tall, thin and blonde with a faded moustache and what he calls a "cow breakfast" hat; lumberman all his life, does not smoke, rather taciturn by nature but by no means sullen, has his likings and holds to them, a little sobered perhaps by a few more years of experience than the rest. George Daisey my man is younger and most impulsive. He seems to have been loaded up with talk down at Medway which he lets off in irregular explosions, like fire crackers in the brush. What fellows to work and to eat. He and I meet on the common ground of onions. Yesterday he fried some and I dined with the guides in their tent. Little they care whether the tins are bright or the knives and forks free from rust. No dainty scruples diminish the Cyclopean rations they are capable of stowing away, washed down with rivers of tea. Pork, pork gravy, potatoes and onions! They go to fortify the sinews on which our comfort here depends and the more of them they can assimilate, the better it is for us. We have good and abundant fare. Church makes a Johnny cake and boils rice with raisins. Pork, an occasional duck, plenty of fish, bread fresh baked, and hard bread, potatoes and onions, with the appetites of Cannibals--what could be finer, but a pang seizes me as I think of my burnt boots, my only. They are not badly burned however and I hope to discover some expedient for restoring them.

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