Bill Mason was born in 1929 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a commercial artist, nature artist, author, paddler, conservationist, and cinematographer, and to humble the rest of us less talented folks, he did them all equally well. He graduated from the School of Art of the University of Manitoba in 1951. He got tired of sitting in an office all the time, so he took his skills to the lakes and rivers of Canada and the U.S., and canoed his entire adult life. Mr. Mason passed away from cancer in 1998. In a l996 biography of Mason, he was referred to as “the patron saint of canoeing.“
It doesn’t take much of a search to uncover a whole list of Mason books, instructional videos and voyaging films. I’d like to highlight two here that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.
The first is Song of the Paddle: An Illustrated Guide to Wilderness Camping, copyrighted and published in 1988. The book is a detailed guide on camping knowledge. It not only provides a list of the essential gear, but breaks each down into favorable and unfavorable characteristics and why you might wish to select one over another. For example, on footwear, he discusses nine different types of footwear and what you should consider for different uses, five different types of gloves, how the clothing checklist should be altered for winter, summer, and shoulder seasons, and so on. Mason is credited with refining paddling strokes and techniques, and after describing how to read the waters of a river, clearly describes how the strokes should be used individually and in combination. His discussion is just as detailed for rescue techniques, portaging, fires, lighting, cooking, bugs and bears, tents, and much more. His two favorite canoe designs were the Pal and the Prospector, two classic craft that have been faithfully recreated by Nova Craft of London, Ontario, in a number of hull materials.
The other is a Bill Mason movie I just found two days ago, titled “Waterwalker.” My wife and I sat down to watch the 86-minute film together. We were so moved and impressed, that as soon as it was over, I called the Canada Film Bureau and ordered two copies of the film, one for us and one for our daughter and son-in-law. When you check the film bureau site, you can also preview the other full-length films and instructional videos. If you love nature and the out-of-doors, it’s not one of those films you watch once and then shove in the bookcase. The whole family can enjoy this one over and over again.