Ronald Paul recounts his canoe race from Woodstock to Fredericton
Courtesy of Ronald Paul
Pokiok Falls, New Brunswick, CANADA
Woodstock, New Brunswick, CANADA
Fredericton, New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.
Pokiok Falls, and rapids, Stone Rapids. I know, I went through them, I went through them in a summer regatta one year, canoe racing. Longest canoe race, 150 canoes. I held the championship for eleven years, canoe racing, championship, everybody was after me, and I was out there and I was number one. I was number one, I had a sticker number one, and I had a hardwood paddle, six and a half feet tall and twelve-inch blades and cedar, and the other extra set for cedar, cedar paddles. Sixty-three-mile run from Woodstock, Island Park to Fredericton, out there by the art gallery. Twenty thousand people all along the riverbank. I had fun. I’d come out of the woods, I spent all that summer from April until August and I was primed and I was all muscled up. Come in there and Birch, George Birch, Chestnut Canoe Company, he said, “I got a couple canoes, entering a race, I’ll put two guys in there. You and your uncle take the other ones.” I went, “Okay, how much money?” “I’ll give you $150 a piece, it’s for advertisement.” I thought, okay, we went up. Had to have your water and your lunch right there. Sunday morning, people from the States and all around the area came to Island Park. We were the top priority, everything was done for us, we didn’t have to lift a finger. “Okay guys, hook your numbers up!” We got our numbers, stick them on. “Ronald, you take number one on the shoreline.” At the shoreline and then from there we were just lined up like steps going across the water. “On your mark.” The current is bad and then held the gun, when that gun went off, my canoe jumped about ten feet, it took off. Then paddled, really moved that canoe. Harold Sappier was one of them, George Eaton, Jack Waterbury, Harold [indecipherable], Wimpy Solomon and then a feller from Tobique and his wife. I made comedy, I met people, I was like a clown on the river. I chased them guys, I chased Wimpy. Wimpy and his partner, I chased them, I put the canoe right against them and he turned around and said, “Dont do that! You want to go by, you go by! Don’t fool around eh?” Wonder he didn’t [indecipherable] go right by them. When I got to Woodstock, Woodstock was about from here to the Devon Park Save Easy, the reservation you can see the Indians along the shore there cheering their guy on, White Pete, Peter Paul from Woodstock and his son, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon.” And then that Gregory and then the other one, and I went right between them, right along here, right beside them. I got right to the reserve and I went by them, he said, “Oh what’s wrong with you…what’d you have to do that for?” [Wolastoqew phrase] They were just left right there [Wolastoqew phrase]. I come down, I come down through them rapids, Harold Sappier, George Eaton, five Indian canoes hit them rapids, they just went hoah, went swimming. Our canoe hit that thing there, just jumped right up in the air and a half boat full of water. I told John, “Bail the water out, bail the water out, keep that thing going, bail the water out.” I was number one all the way, then I made a mistake when I switched places, with my partner. How did I know he couldn’t steer? Went round the other island, went round instead of going with the current this way he went this way. I went around this way by the time I got out they were way ahead of us, I thought, “Oh my god! We’re not gonna catch up without some work!” This was out here in Pokiok twenty-seven miles above Frederiction, I told him we have to change places if we’re gonna catch up we have to change places. I told him, “You see that rock way up there in front, right there in the middle of the river.” “Yeah.” I told him, “You jump on that!” Just like I was jumping on the rock so we could switch. Oh no don’t stop, switched and kept right on going. That man, looked like an otter jumping in the boat. A bear and the otter. We had a hard time, but our canoe came in. The Chestnut Canoe Company, the people that represented us, came in number one and I came in number two but I chased them twenty-seven miles to get number two and there were only three canoes that came across that sixty-three miles. The rest of them all gave up. We got our prize, we had a silver cup, we had our money and we had a bag of flour and silver pillows, big cushions. And they said, “You guys all won prizes?” “Yeah.” “Ron?” I said, “Yeah?” He said, “If we ask you a question…” “Yeah, what is it?” “For to double our money would you go back?” I said, “No way!” I told them, “Coming down was easy but you’re not gonna get me to paddle back up there!” No way, I’m not paddling back up, nine hours and eighteen minutes is a long time. I told them up against the current, is something else, would take you two days, the hardest thing.