By John Moore
Reviewed by Bill McLeod
Two in the Bush is a cracking good tale about John and Ruth Moore and their adventures in Northeastern Ontario in the years just after World War II.
The Moores, an Indiana couple, wanted to build a home in the wilderness and John intended to write a book about the experience. They did and he did but the book was never published until 2008. For reasons that I cannot fathom, Moore's agent and the publishers he approached saw little merit in this fascinating yarn. John and Ruth checked out a number of locations along the Algoma Central and Canadian Pacific Railways and in the winter of 1946 they stumbled across the location that proved to be the answer to their dreams. It was a promontory on Dog Lake near Gutelius, a whistlestop that no longer appears on VIA Rail timetables. Gutelius is a few miles west of Missanabie. The following summer they began construction. By freezup they moved in - after hauling over 40 tons of building supplies by boat from Missanabie. They made it through the first winter, hiking to Missanabie every two weeks to pick up their mail.
At one point they discovered some ancient Aboriginal artifacts right on their own property.
In the spring of 1947, the year before the terrible forest fires, the Moores carved a garden out of the Dog Lake bush. It yielded bumper crops of twenty-two kinds of vegetables. Later that summer Ruth returned to Indiana to give birth to Dian, the first of their three children.
The home features a beautiful field stone fireplace and curving flag stone walkway from the dock to the front door. John didn't like pine very much so he imported walnut from Indiana for much of the inside finishing carpentry.
After three hard, back-breaking years in the bush, the Moores had had enough. John's book about their experiences and a subsequent novel continued to be rejected by publisher after publisher.
But John and Ruth did not totally abandon their home in the wilderness. John took a job teaching English at Wayne State University in Detroit and the family (which included two more children) summered at Dog Lake until 1956 when they sold the place to an Illinois businessman.
Chapleau folks will enjoy the roles played in the Moore's lives by pharmacist G.L.White, Dr. Bill Young, Joe and Sally Crichton, Vince Crichton and the Stuart family who owned the store in Missanabie. Old time Missanabie names that also show up are Fletcher, Souliere, Mackenzie and Allen. Also making several appearances is Dick Mulligan, the part-time prospector who mysteriously disappeared around 1960.
John Moore was a master of description. His account of nights spent in the hotel in Missanabie and what was probably the Queen's Hotel in Chapleau are hilarious. The word pictures he paints of Chapleau in the late 1940s, trips up highway 129, his description of the churches and the simple pleasure he got from gorging himself on milk at Broomhead's dairy are priceless. His story about the magic table that jumped around a room and accurately predicted scores of hockey games not yet played is simply amazing. Likewise, his tale about the Irish lumber camp cook who drowned in the early part of the last century – with his pockets full of gold nuggets.
Shortly after the publication of my book on the Chapleau Game Preserve I became aware of John Moore’s incredible story. I managed to get in touch with Dian Moore and she invited me to meet her in Missanabie in the summer of 2006. She arranged for tourist operator Mike Gratton to take us out to see the home that her parents had built. It is very much the same as it was in the late 1940s and is now owned by Ernie Martel of Missanabie who rents it to tourists.
On that visit to Missanabie I persuaded Dian to bring her father's wonderful manuscript back to life and in August of 2008 it was published by Trafford Publishing of Bloomington, Indiana.
The book is available from Dian Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William E. “Bill” McLeod is a retired Community College business professor.
He has published extensively in the fields of family finance and life insurance.
His latest book is about the Chapleau Residential Schools