Monday, August 19, 2013

God's River Country - Canoe Adventure

Jacket Illus: Abe Books
God’s River Country, by Marion and Ben Ferrier (Prentice-Hall Lodestar Books, Englewood Cliffs, NJ., 1956, 206pp.)

The librarian was almost apologetic when I went to pick up this book. She said, “I don’t know if you’ll want this or not. It’s a youth book.” Indeed, it had a “juvenile” Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) number on the spine, but there was nothing in the introduction or book description to indicate it was a “youth” book. And, there was nothing in the writing style or vocabulary to indicate the same. I looked up Lodestar Books to find instead that it is a collection of titles mostly from unknown authors, with great stories and exceptional writing. Their only weakness is that they are not stories designed for a general, broad audience, and therefore not of interest to most commercial trade publishers. As a collection, they tend more toward “new and neglected nautical writing.” As for myself, I’m both thankful and appreciative that there are publishers able to look beyond the likes of Harry Potter. If you enjoy nautical themes, be sure to check them out.

God’s River Country is about a summer-long expedition into the wilderness of Canada by twelve people in three Chestnut canvas canoes. This was a serious undertaking. The canoes weighed 160-pound each, and the group would carry 3,531 pounds of food, gear, and scientific and photography equipment. There was no place to reprovision. Everything they would need had to be carried in the canoes, and portaged over troubling terrain. For someone new to expedition canoeing, this book is fantastic. In the course of the story, they take the reader through virtually everything one would need to know when wishing to join such a trip. At the end is an exhaustive appendix that lists everything they carried. While more modern fabrics have replaced the recommended wool and cotton flannel clothing, the list is as complete as anyone could ask for.

They would meet at Winnipeg, paddle up Lake Winnipeg, through to God’s Lake, down God’s River to York Factory on Hudson Bay, across a leg of Hudson Bay to Port Nelson, and up the Nelson against the current to return to Winnipeg. They were mostly on their own, but as they met Cree Indian parties, they learned that this canoe and portage route still played an important role for travel and commerce. Among other things, you’ll learn about Witigo, and enjoy the story about the upside-down boots. This is not a book for youth, though some of the more serious or adventurous minded would enjoy it. It is more for the young at heart.

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