The Rescue Part 2

Since there are a couple of people sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting for the end of the story, here it is)

Written by Earl Robson, Leamington Ontario, 1895

(last episode: A group of townspeople cutting ice have been stranded on an ice flow. The ice flow is drifting and it looks increasingly like the townspeople may be lost. Enter The Daisy)

Other boys idolized their dogs, their ponies, their pigeons. I idolized our Daisy. When white jacketed yachtsmen poked me about her flat lines, I flared red. The toast of our shores was our Daisy – she and the two men who sailed her, Jack and Herm.

It took precious time to unstow the Daisy’s winter stored canvas and fit out the stripped craft. Sleigh teams stood ready to skid her out over the ice to open water. The afternoon lengthened. Out across the miles of white flecked water the figures on the distant ice rim blurred into sizes not larger than clothespins. Lower and denser the grey black cloud bank settled over the fading group. On the edge of the inside rim the Daisy balanced, her nose in the black hissing water. To Jack and Herm Robson were added two lakemen – Frank Ives and George Johnson, of whom no better feet set foot aboard a boat. Her great sail reefed and set, the Daisy slipped into the winter water. With a free sheet she swept out and away like something frightened.

Close to the old lakeman’s side I anxiously watched his face like a wheelsman watches a compass, as out over the choppy expanse the Daisy flew, her trim chalky sail blurring smaller and smaller in the thickening distance. At intervals the shore ice cracked and groaned, and my father’s face tightened. I understood winter ice well enough to know the dread on his mind. Should the bordering field go, it would seal the Daisy in a death trip out of which no escape would open. Flurries of snow deepened the dusk of a lowering January day. Off to the south the gray back clouds bagged lower and lower into engulfing desolation. Deeper and dimmer into the chaos swept the blur of canvas. Suddenly, as if swallowed up by doom itself, the sail faded into the bank of gloom that enveloped it.

A bruised reddish spot on the horizon marked where the sun was setting. Groups of townsmen broke up and straggled off homeward. Flakes of snow skidded aslant the wind. I looked up to see that I stood alone, shivering with cold and fear. I only vaguely realized that along with other lakeshoremen my father had climbed into a waiting sleigh and that it had driven west along the shore. I knew that to return, the Daisy must make a long, close hauled stretch against a dead head wind, which would land her miles away to the west. Darkness, ominous and abysmal, dropped lower. I waited and waited, my eyes set to the west. Then it broke forth and lit the sky. It was the beacon that was to direct the Daisy back to the shore and a clear landing.

It was near midnight when a sleighful of men stopped at our lakeshore home, and family voices told us that the little Daisy had laid her course safely back to shore, landing five miles west from where she had set out. She had taken off all the men. The horses were left to a fate that could not be averted.

Out across the Bay, that midwinter night, the piling crunching ice rumbled and crashed; on a shore a blizzard piled snow into banks. The break of another day found Pigeon Bay, from beach to horizon, an expanse of blue black water with not a trace of ice in sight.

Such was the rescue of the ice cutters, back around the corner of time, in the days of the sail and the centre board box; back in the yesterdays, when the hum of a motor engine had not so much as aroused the wildest imagination of the boatman. Sometimes in our treacherous waters the loss of life was swift and tragic; sometimes slow and torturous. Herm contracted pleurisy from which he didn’t recover. He died at 26, not knowing but that his Daisy’s rakish, high peaked sail was the last thing in open boat navigation. Jack, his sailing mate was drowned in the East Lake the fall following Herm’s death.

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Posted on February 14, 2012, in Memories of Lake Erie Shores, towns and villages and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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