Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Many, many years ago, when I was but a young lass, we lived in a cozy brown house, tucked away in the woods in the Township of Laird. We built forts in "the bush" (including the Puddingstone Palace), pretended to drive Zambonis down our sledding hill, collected sap from the sugar maples so Dad could boil it down for syrup every spring, and constructed snow forts and tunnels all winter long. 

Though I'm glad I no longer have to wash mosquito blood off my bedroom walls (wait....that would have been my blood.... even worse...), and make it through such long winters, I did dearly love living in Canada as a child. I miss all of the fun winter activities: cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, and pretending to be in the winter olympics. I miss blueberry picking and finding beaver dams and listening to haunting loon calls. And I miss biking down the road to play with good friends. 

We moved back to the states when I was 11, and this summer was the first time I was able to re-visit our old home and the familiar stomping grounds around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (affectionately referred to as The Soo).

We spread the touring-old-Dey-family-haunts stint over two days - one day at Laird and Snail Point, and one day in the Soo. So here we go, brace yourself for a plethora of pictures.


Turning onto Government Road, the first real familiar landmark was the former Dow residence. Capture the flag and the Dey-Dow game in the backyard, sleepovers, planning the Wendy House, hours of incessant giggling.... many happy hours were spent here.

Driving the road between their house and ours felt like seeing an old friend. That road was well traveled during our years there.

Then, turning down Riley Road I found this familiar view:

I recall my dad shoveling that driveway well into the wee hours of night every time a snowstorm hit. One winter the snowbanks on either side were around the 10ft mark. Everyone developed really strong arm muscles that winter.

And here is the old abode. I loved that house with its cathedral ceiling, french windows, ginormous chimney and cozy fireplace, and a downstairs sauna that we used for storage, dark room, and back stage skit preparatory area (I think we actually used it as a sauna once). We used to stargaze on the garage roof. The huge wood furnace room, with its nifty trap door, also housed my beloved rooster, Alexander, when he got frostbite on his waddles. 

We built this lovely chicken coop in the woods and Mom let me express my deep artistic urges with acrylic paint on the front. I loved my chickens.


Here I pose with an icicle that I removed from our roof.

And here I am with our beloved dog, Mocha. She went to the bathroom in my hair during her first night with us. 

Man, we were so cute.

And here we are at The Pit with the Dows.

Which brings us to the next sight-seeing stop on  the trip.

"The Pit" was a little recreational area at the top of our road. There was a snowmobile trail off to one side with a sweet jump at the end. We got like three feet of air when we went sledding on my brother's GT. We also had a regular toboggan which fit all three of us snugly and, for some reason, I was always chosen to ride up front. Good thing I had my eskimo hat with cheek flaps.

Here Margaret and William hike up the sledding track.

 At the top of the sledding hill we veer off to the right and fight our way through the underbrush to the rocky outcropping. At the base of the rocks Margaret found a frog and William found two slugs. Our kids are so awesome.

We struggled our way up and finally made it to the summit:

There we found pleasing views and an abundance of delicious blueberries and apples.

And we took a family picture.

This had been a favorite spot of ours for family picnics, hikes and stargazing. It was well worth the trek up to see it again.

Now, the trek down was a whole 'nother story.

 I had just descended from the steep rocks when I, unwittingly, passed a hornet's nest. It was conveniently located at head level. The first intimation of this fact came from a sharp sting on my nose. With Amelia in my arms (clinging on for dear life and utterly convinced that her mother had gone mad), I sprinted down hill, crashing through the underbrush like a manic moose. I was rewarded with two more stings during the retreat and, unfortunately, Amelia understood my panic when she received a sting to the head. Fortunately, my distinct shriek of terror upon receipt of the first wound warned the rearguard and Clay managed to re-route the rest of the company to safer terrain. 

This episode reminded me of a long-distant childhood memory of blueberry picking with my father. It so happened that on that trip he walked through the hornet's nest, making them extremely irate, and consequently they took out all of their frustrations on me. It was a memory I would have preferred leaving in the past.

But, time to move on. More places to see.

Driving back out we passed the Laird Fairgrounds. The highlight of my every summer. Especially once Mom would let me bike down by myself and spend all afternoon sitting at the horse barn drooling over all of the horses.

And the grandstands....where we watched the RCMP (aka Mounties) perform and I added that to my long list of dream careers. 

And the ball field where I played on the softball team. Ah, memories.


 The only other favorite local haunt that I didn't get to see was the Bar River outdoor ice skating rink. Such good times there, trying to thaw out my toes next to their wood stove in between hours of skating, and searching for lost hockey pucks in the surrounding snowbanks.

Next stop: Snail Point

Located just off the bridge to St. Joseph Island...

Snail Point was so dubbed due to the large concentrations of snails on the algae covered rocks. I spent hours and hours collecting and arranging the snails into different pools of water, forming my own private snail zoos. Once I found two leeches, one white and one black, both several inches in length and writhing around in a small pool. I was slightly more leery of swimming around Snail Point after that. 
Upon our arrival this summer I realized that there was not a snail in sight. Still, Snail Point was a lovely spot for an afternoon outing. Margaret shared my fascination with the pools of water and floated little leaf boats around them.


Welcome to Canada, it's the Maple Leaf State. Canada, oh Canada, it's great....

Amelia and Margaret took the opportunity to perform some yoga.

William enjoyed pretending to be a mountain goat.

Those Dodson kids, they're so sweet.

Margaret took some pictures too.

Okay, day two....on to The Soo.

First up was The Ermatinger Old Stone House.

We three kids used to volunteer here. We dressed up in authentic garb and helped out in the summer kitchen, greeting visitors, carding wool, baking in the dutch oven, grinding spices and much more.

Here is the young french voyageur, Pierre Dey.

One time I dressed up as a french aristocratic "petite fille", and sat reading a book in a window seat all afternoon. My debut was well documented by several tourist groups. Margaret marks the spot for posterity.


 The kids carried on the tradition, learning how to card wool...

And grind spices.... 

And taste test delicious homemade jams and muffins. William nearly cleared out the pantry.

This shot makes me want to completely renovate my kitchen. And grow lavender.

And I think I need a bear rug next to our bed.


A new addition since we moved away-- the Clergue Blockhouse was next door and we had fun touring it as well. 

The smells in the summer kitchen of the Old Stone House made us hungry, so we moved on to our picnic site.

Bellevue Park

In my childhood mind this was THE best park, in the whole world. 

They used to have a buffalo that I could pat through the fence, William was very hopeful that maybe that buffalo was still there.

He seemed to be consoled by watching the ducks.

We even got to witness a mighty battle.

We spent many hours here in my childhood, mostly because it was adjacent to my dad's work at the Ontario Forest Research Institute. 

Each border crossing for us was a little different during our trip, depending on who was interviewing us. The most interrogative official was the one when we were entering Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. She drilled us for every detail, discovering that I used to live there and wanting to know when and why. She was pretty intense until I included the tidbit that my dad worked for "OFRI in the Soo"...and then she visibly relaxed. It helps to know the lingo.

We ventured into OFRI in search of some washrooms and were graciously greeted by a secretary who remembered our family. We had the kids pose next to some trees - I used to think these were extremely huge and impressive when I accompanied my dad to work.

We're almost done, aren't you excited? Our last stop was....

The Soo Locks

The kids survived the visitor center, and then we heard a ferry coming.

They were enthralled.

The ferry passengers didn't seem so high and impressive once the water started draining.




Remember that hornet sting? There's a reason why you won't be seeing any close ups of me on this day. Apparently swelling from hornet stings is delayed for a day or two.

And thus concludes the tour.


  1. Wow, this brought back sooooo many incredible memories! Swimming at Snail Point, hiking by the Pit, spending hours with the horses at the fairgrounds... *sigh* I'm so glad you got to introduce your kiddos to the many joys of our childhood!

  2. When Darcie, I and the kids were in the Soo we stopped by many of these same places. Good times!

  3. Heather ZayachkowskiSeptember 3, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    That was lovely! I would say it was a 'blast from the past' for me except those stomping grounds are still my home. (This is Heather 'Hall' by the way! -Meredith posted this on her facebook) Your family is lovely, and I am so glad you were able to make a trip back up to our beautiful neck of the woods. Not many places can compare. It was certainly a great place to be kids! Nice seeing some old pictures of you guys! That's how I remember you all for sure!

    1. Hi Heather! So great to hear from you! I was wishing we had scheduled more time to spend visiting St. Joseph Island and visiting people. But...maybe another year. :) Hope all is well with you!

  4. Thanks for the delightful stroll down memory lane. Or, maybe it was more of a quick bike ride... Loved our Dey times!

  5. My friend,
    you have an amazing way of capturing with words & photography so much beauty and humour :) Thanks!!
    I can't wait till we can hang out again. Perhaps next time it will be a little more relaxing :) I have to say, you all bring such a blessing - Deys & Dodsons, both!
    Looking forward SO much to future adventures (preferably not of the insect kind). love!