I took my time reading through Roy MacGregor's Canoe Country: The Making of Canada as it is chock full of entertaining canoeing tales and I didn't want to miss a single thing. Each of the nine chapters has a theme and it is here were Roy weaves numerous Canoeing stories together rather deftly. Just some of the tales of Canadians who had an impact on canoeing and Canada within this book include...
- Omer Stringer: Camp Tamakwa’s co-founder, and expert canoeist
- Michael Budman & Don Green: Founders of Roots
- Pierre Elliot Trudeau: 15th Prime Minister of Canada
- Bill Mason: a Canadian naturalist, author, artist, filmmaker and someone who lived and breathed canoeing
- Fannie Case: started an all-girls summer camp called Camp Northway dedicated to wilderness survival and canoeing
- Archie Belaney: Grey Owl himself
- David Thompson: Surveyor who travelled more than 55,000 miles over Canada and the U.S. and quite possibly built the first cedar strip canoe
The title of the book includes the tagline “The Making of Canada” and yet some of the stories are somewhat obscure. Did a rescue mission that involved stand-in “voyageurs” really put the canoe or Canada on the map? Do all the stories sum up why the Canoe was voted one of the "Seven Wonders of Canada"? I’m not sure they define Canada the way I expected the book to lay out to us, but it didn’t make the stories any less interesting. The chapter "The Craft" however gives a nice and quick crash-course through some highlights of Canadian Canoe history. Oddly I found that there are very few mentions of First Nations, especially anything directly related to canoes, and almost all of the stories are Ontario-specific and involve white-water canoeing.
The stories, quotes and factoids are expertly researched by Roy MacGregor and I’m more than impressed with his scouring techniques to both turn up these historic stories and write about them in a compelling way. There are numerous humorous and heartfelt moments throughout the book, and a nice shout-out to the Canadian Canoe Museum at the end. I feel like this could be a first in a series of books about the canoe-related stories our nation may have glossed over during our history lessons, all worth your time to read.