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Remembering Lindsay Vanderbeck Jr.  by Harold Leece

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I read with interest some of the information that you had online about the Vanderbecks. I worked with Lindsay in Cameron Falls, Ontario in the mid sixties. We both worked for Ontario Hydro on the Building Maintenance crew. I was a student and this was my summer job. I got to know Lindsay quite well during those years. He was living in a house in the village. I bought a shotgun and a canoe from him which I still have. Actually, it was as a result of contemplating selling the canoe that I was prompted to think of him again after all of these years. 

I read Trap-Lines North at that time. Lindsay told me about the book and related the story of Jim's and his adventure. I'm not sure I believed him at the time, but the book confirmed it all for me. 

Sometime after the war, Lindsay started working for Hydro as a dam attendant at Waboose Falls at the northern end of the Ogoki Reservoir. Hydro had constructed two dams and created the reservoir to divert water that would normally have flowed into the Albany River system south into Lake Nipigon and the Nipigon River. There are three generating stations on the Nipigon, and Hydro could use the extra water to make power in all of those stations and at Niagara Falls. 

Being a dam attendant was a lonely existence. It was necessary from time to time to change the direction of flow out of the reservoir and the Attendant would open or close the dams to change the flow. For the most part, the attendant was there to monitor the dams and to respond to the call to open or close them. There were some Indian families in the area and Lindsay was close to those people. He told me about times when, on his one month vacation, he would go to New York City take a suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and blow a year's pay. All of his food and lodging was provided by Hydro for the rest of the year so he would save up til the next time. 

I went with him and others up to the Waboose dam to change the flow a couple of times through those years. Each time, I was impressed with his ability to live so naturally in those circumstances. One time we flew up with the equipment that we would need and some food. But most of our food was to follow on another plane from Austin Airways from Nakina. However, the weather socked in and our food did not come for some days.

 Lindsay was appointed 'provider' and he shot partridge, fished, raided an old garden that he had maintained when living up there and sifted the mouse droppings out of flour so that he could make blueberry pies for us. We lived like kings off the land. 

On that same trip we went to a trout fishing hole that he knew of on a small river nearby. It was on this trip that we collected the canoe from the bush that I still have. Coming back it was necessary to paddle up river into a fairly strong current. We were tired. Lindsay told us to take a shortcut portage back and he would bring the canoe. 

I wondered what he was going to do and how he was going to paddle it all by himself. Well, as I watched, he stood in the canoe and, using the longer of the paddles as a pole, piloted the canoe up the edge of the river using the eddies to move the canoe up river. It was a sight to see and another example of his abilities as a woodsman. 

I note a comment on your site about Lindsay moving to BC. I doubt that is correct. He worked for Hydro continuously until he couldn't anymore: from just after the war until the late sixties.

 The last time I saw him was in 1967 and he was still in Cameron Falls. I haven't been to his grave but I suspect that the one you note in Nipigon is it and the timing is correct. Lindsay's health was not good at the time I knew him. He had some form of cancer, I believe, and was not well. Actually, that's what made his performance in the woods so startling. It seemed he came to life on that trip back to his old stomping grounds. 

Thank you for the opportunity to relive some old memories.

 Sincerely, Harold


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