Despite the fact Uncle Steve spent an inordinate time boating or snowmobiling across remote Manitoba lakes on fishing or hunting expeditions, he apparently never learned how to swim. I can attest I never saw him in water much above his knees and this was typically for a much needed bush shower.
There is one tale of Steve heading out to hunt camp on a power toboggan and going through some undetected thin ice. Somehow he managed to drag himself out of the water and back to shore. No doubt one of many times the Bissett Bushman dodged death in the wilds of Northeastern Manitoba.
Then I recall Steve and I heading to fish camp on Lake Tuhkanen, which required a trip through the bush in a buggy to a 14 foot tin boat used to cross a roughly 5-mile long English Lake loaded to the brim with supplies, where we would pick up and load up another buggy and then finally arrive to unload/reload one more boat to float across to our final destination; a wee island with a ramshackle bunkee. The island was apparently the property of the Government of Canada, but Steve had claimed squatters rights years earlier. Now Steve’s boats and motors, like his bush buggies, were a little bit worse for wear and quite often stitched together with bits of wire or mismatched bolts and screws. About halfway across the first long body of choppy water our wee dingy suddenly lost power and momentum. Steve new right away we’d lost the propeller for our motor. He immediately went into action securing a buoy to one end of a length of rope and a heavy weight to the other. Steve told me to grab the paddles and circle us back around so he could toss out the buoy to mark the approximate location where we lost the prop. “Why are you doing that?” I asked. “Because we’re going to come back and find it,” he said quite matter of factly. Little did I know I would be playing a key role in the recovery mission. For now, I was instructed to paddle us across the remaining 2 1/2 miles of English Lake. An hour or so later we arrived on the other shore and finished our journey.
One week later we were back up on English Lake in the same boat, with the same motor, but a newly found prop, a 12 foot long improvised rake Steve had MacGyvered together our of a bunch of scrap metal and a diving mask for yours truly. My crazy 2nd uncle on my father’s side explained we would first drag the rake across the bottom of the lake around the bobbing buoy we’d left behind a week prior in an effort to roughly locate the precious part. And then, yup, I would dive down into the murky muck to retrieve it. It took us a few passes and nearly an hour, but would you believe the makeshift rake rolled over it. “Ok, get in there and get it Boy,” Steve instructed. Into the darkness I dove, holding onto the rake as a guide. The water was only about 6–8 feet deep, but the mask did little good as it was far from clean water. Nonetheless, after a few dives I swept my foot through the squishy lake bottom and miraculously located the prize. I think even Steve was surprised. “Well, I think we’ve been fortunate to find this lost prop today son. Not so lucky, but fortunate. We made our own fortune.” Just another day tripping with The Bissett Bushman.