Cache Lake Country: Life in the North Woods

John J. Rowlands

I cannot let pass David Thewlis's appeal for book reviews without writing something about one of my favorite books – Cache Lake Country: Life in the North Woods by John J. Rowlands. It is a book about the lake country of the Canadian north woods, the land of the old voyageurs. It is a country of deep forests – and deep snows in the winter – of swamps and rocky ridges, of lakes large and small and the rivers joining them. Perhaps a brief quotation from the beginning of the book will give a taste of its flavor:

"After I ... came out on the small lake, I stopped paddling like a fellow will when he sees new water for the first time. The sun had come up and mist hung motionless like a big cobweb just above the surface... The tall pine tops were moving in the first soft breeze of morning and as the mist drifted away dark shadows began to edge across the water... Then as the sun cleared the hills and turned the still black water into shining gold, I remembered. This was the lake of my boyhood dreams!"

Rowlands goes on to tell how he came to settle on the shores of Cache Lake, as he called the small lake, and to describe his life there in a series of chapters running from January through December. He writes with pleasure about the doings and adventures that occupy each month. Ransome's readers will no doubt be drawn to Roland's love of the out-of-doors and the practical lore he imparts about living in the woods and making useful gadgets out of ordinary materials. In the book Rowland tells, for instance, how to shape a canoe paddle by hand, how to make a pair of moccasins, how to build a fireless cooker, even how to make a crystal radio as well as many other useful things. An appealing feature of the book, for me at least, are the many ink drawings that fill its pages. Some are simply decorative motifs of woods life, others illustrate the handicrafts, and yet others depict scenes from the Cache Lake country – all enliven the book and add to the pleasure of reading it.

Though Rowlands did not address his book to youthful readers, he writes with such clarity and simplicity and, withal, such vividness that his book should engage young and old alike. In the character of Rowlands himself, readers of the S&A series may see a quieter, more patient, and perhaps wiser Captain Flint. As the opening quotation suggests, the book is about a life that many a young person dreams of, of adventure in the wilds away from the trammels of society but made comfortable by one's own inventiveness and self-reliance. Once you read it, I believe Cache Lake Country will become one of your favorites too.

Originally published in 1947, the book is currently available in a paperback edition from the Countryman Press.

Reviewed by Jerry Crouch, May, 2004

This article is ©2004 by Jerry Crouch, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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