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Ross, Hugh Mackay.

Winnipeg, Watson & Dwyer Publishing. 1986, 190pp, paper, ISBN 0-920486-14-2 (cloth) $27.95, 0-920486-16-9 (paper) $12.50. CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Thomas F. Chambers

Volume 15 Number 4
1987 July

In 1930 Hugh Ross was a young Scot of eighteen looking for work. Opportunities in Scotland were limited for someone with ambition so Ross applied for a job as an apprentice with the Hudson's Bay Company. He was accepted and went to Canada to work for the giant fur-trading company from 1930 until his retirement in 1977.

The Apprentice's Tale is about Ross's years in northern Ontario from 1930 to 1941. Most of these years were spent at remote fur-trading posts near Minaki in northwestern Ontario. The last four were spent at Temagami in northeastern Ontario.

In retrospect, Ross's living conditions must have seemed like paradise. In addition to the serenity of the northern Ontario wilderness, he and his wife had an abundance of fruit near their home.

Wild strawberries, pin cherries, Saskatoon berries, and blueberries were easy to pick and helped make their meals a delight. They were a nice supplement to main dishes such as fresh fish, venison, moose, ducks, and wild rice.

It is easy to see from Ross's writing how people who have lived in the north get addicted to it. Ross's wife herself provided an example of what happens to city dwellers once they have been exposed to the north. Returning from a rare visit to Winnipeg she remarked, "I never realized how noisy and smelly cities are.

There were also hardships and inconveniences. The most unpleasant seems to have been using an outdoor toilet in the middle of winter. Then there was the isolation. People were forced to use their own resources to prevent boredom. Ross was quite adept at making his life meaningful. He was very musical and spent many hours with his violin. He even spent considerable time learning Ojibway, which made his life much easier. He respected the Indians and earned their respect in return.

This book is entertaining and humourous. Anyone who has fond memories of a canoe trip on a peaceful northern lake will enjoy it.

Thomas F. Chambers, Canadore C.C., North Bay, Ont.
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