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Woman of the Boundary Waters

Woman of the Boundary Waters: Canoeing, Guiding, Mushing, and Surviving

Justine Kerfoot
Foreword Les Blacklock
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Woman of the Boundary Waters
    Book Description:

    The Boundary Waters region of Minnesota and Ontario is a vast wilderness of quiet beauty, visited and loved by many, but home to only a rugged few. Justine Kerfoot arrived there in 1928 and has lived there ever since. As she relates her lessons from the Canadian Indians across the lake-how to paddle a canoe, hunt moose, drive a dog team, and stay warm at minus 40 degrees-Kerfoot gives us a rich sense of the world of the Indians and fur trappers. Her lyrical descriptions of wildlife and seasonal environments express the deep reverence for nature that has become her way of life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8591-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Les Blacklock

    I’ve known Justine Kerfoot for forty years. Actually, I’ve known “Just” for forty-one years. She’s known me for forty.

    I was in the army in the Philippines in World War II. I had asked my parents to send me a favorite book,Canoe Countryby Florence and Lee Jaques. My folks not only did that but addedSnowshoe Country,also by the Jaques.

    And that’s how I met Justine. The Jaques stayed at Kerfoots’ Gunflint Lodge while writing and sketchingSnowshoe Country.Two army friends and I read the book so many times we felt as if we knew Justine...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. Introduction: A little History; A Love Affair
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    I don’t know when I first knew I was in love with this sometimes harsh and demanding land. Did I fall in love in winter, when the snow is cold and crunchy as one pads along on snowshoes? When in the early morning the rising sun reflects on the hoarfrost, and each separate branch and tree in the woods stands as if covered with jewels? Then the fairyland is both cold and disinterested, yet somehow soft and beckoning. As I snowshoe across the lake, the wind stings my cheeks, leaving them tinted glowing red. The snowshoes swish steadily over the...

  7. 1 Up the Gunflint Trail
    (pp. 1-12)

    On a mild midwinter day in 1930, while I was driving my dog team over the windswept ice of Gunflint Lake and carelessly sitting astride the upright crossbar of the sled, the team spotted a fox in the distance. The dogs picked up speed and raced across the snow, closing the gap as the fox traveled at a teasing zigzag lope. The fox watched the approaching threat for a moment and suddenly became a blurred streak that left the team far in arrears. I was enjoying the speedy pace when the sled hit a hummock and tipped, flipping out my...

  8. 2 Early days
    (pp. 13-53)

    When I came to Gunflint Lake along this Minnesota-Ontario border, our closest neighbors were a half dozen Indian families living on the Canadian side of the lake. I listened to the low beat of a tom-tom reverberating across the lake on many afternoons and evenings. Billy Connors, a lone Indian tapping the drums, may have been dreaming of a lifestyle fast disappearing, or he may have been placating the evil spirit thought to be hiding in the depths of the Cow-O-Bob-E-Cock Narrows across the lake. The Indians paddled silently through these narrows “where the ledges come to-gether” to avoid disturbing...

  9. 3 The Economy Goes Bust
    (pp. 54-63)

    Gene Bayle, my friend from Grand Marais, taught me the proper way to handle a canoe. After a week of practice, up and down rapids and in the wind, I became comfortable as a stern paddler. This new art served me well, for in the struggle to pay our bills, I worked into a guiding routine of paddling a canoeload of guests the sixteen miles (including four rapids and eight portages) to Saganaga Lodge and picking up a return group to go back the six miles to Gunflint Lodge via two rapids, a portage, and across Sea Gull Lake where...

  10. 4 Marriage and Daily Life
    (pp. 64-100)

    In 1932 Bill Kerfoot came to work for us. He and his sister Margaret had been guests at Gunflint Lodge and at our Saganaga island. He managed a dude ranch in South Dakota for his brother Paul until the ranch folded as a result of the Depression. Bill came to Gunflint seeking work Although we couldn’t afford hiring extra help, he agreed to work for a pittance and room and board.

    After Bill spent two years as a “handyman,” he and I decided to combine forces. His total asset was an old Model T Ford and mine was part interest...

  11. 5 Crises
    (pp. 101-120)

    The Civilian Conservation Corps was set up during the Depression to create employment for young men in their upper teens. There were four or five camps on the Trail, including one for veterans. Each camp was complete with large bunkhouses, mess halls, modern showers with latrine facilities, and trucks and machinery for sizable work projects. The camps were operated by army lieutenants, and all the men were kept at the camps when not working. They planted trees in burned or logged-over areas, fought the blister rust that was affecting the white pines, and built a ten-mile telephone line to Sea...

  12. 6 The Lives Around Us
    (pp. 121-139)

    During my fifty-eight years spent in this north country I had innumerable experiences with the animals who inhabit these woods. Several of the more interesting happenings are related here.

    In the early thirties when there was easy freedom in moving back and forth across the border, Ben Ambrose was guiding Mr. Lindbloom, our guest, to Northern Light Lake, a portage to the first lake in Canada east of Saganaga Lake. Dad and I, along with Doris Cole, a college classmate visiting for a couple of weeks, were invited along on the trip. We took our sixteen-foot wooden boat and a...

  13. 7 Living Together in the Forest
    (pp. 140-144)

    Sparsely located as we were, there developed within us an unspoken, hidden concern for a neighbor’s safely. This feeling, call it what you may, permeated the fiber of the people who lived in this remote area for a long time. We gave help with no thought of being repaid by trinkets—whether beads, shells, coins, or some other means of exchange. Help was given as a mutual means of survival in a demanding and often uncompromising environment. It was an exchange where deep within one’s soul resided an element of trust one in the other.

    In this spirit the following...

  14. 8 Changing Times
    (pp. 145-149)

    This land was once covered with towering white pine and heavy stands of Norway pine. Under this shaded canopy there was little underbrush, making cross-country travel easy. Logging camps were established and the big pines logged off.

    A Canadian railroad was built from Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay) past such settlements as Silver Mountain, Addie Lake, North Lake, Le Blaine, and Gunflint and across the Cow-O-Bob-E-Cock Narrows to the Paulson mine on the Minnesota side of the international border. As the railroad was extended to the Paulson mine, bunkhouses and mess halls were rafted up Gunflint Lake and...

  15. 9 Reflections
    (pp. 150-154)

    The years of 1960 to 1985 were filled with trauma, uncertainties, and turmoil. In the early sixties a new wilderness bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey. When this bill was finally passed in 1964, it forced all summer homeowners and commercial establishments within the BWCA to sell their properties to the federal government. The U.S. Forest Service was assigned to carry this out.

    Buildings were sold to private individuals for removal or were destroyed. This bill also gave the Forest Service future power to curtail the use of motors on some lakes where they had customarily operated.


  16. Afterword
    (pp. 155-164)

    The years have passed and changes have occurred in the Gunflint country and the BWCA. New questions about the use of the BWCA have come up and old questions need new answers. For me and for many others, the question is, “As we grow older, how will we ultimately be allowed to appreciate and enjoy this great expanse of interconnected waterways?” For others the question is, once again, “How many people can use this wilderness without destroying it?” These questions apply to many of our wilderness areas. The issues involved seem to me to divide into three facets: the forest...

  17. Glossary
    (pp. 165-176)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 177-177)