Wordcarpenter Books
More About The Motorcycle Inn
 
Harry Legge inherits a large country home on the world's largest freshwater island in the world, so he and his ten-year old son move to Manitoulin Island on the Great Lakes and discovers a past he didn't know existed in his family history. Hidden on the west of the island where the whiskey smuggling hit its peak during Prohibition in the 1930s, Harry's grandfather Sammy Legge was a prominant whiskey runner who had lived in the same house. His grandfather had forgotten to tell someone that there were still crates hidden on the family property. Many other odd things as Kurt Legge settles into island life. One of the chattles was a YAMAHA RD400 so he finds his legs on two wheels and opens his house to an inn. And on this island he finds the love that had eluded him. 
 

"This was where Sammy Legge had been and all the others who defied the law, earning money that fed their families during the Great Depression. Men defying arbitrary laws and the whims of liberal propaganda. Stigmatized men labeled criminals. Damn them! Damn those who sat and mocked those who defined their lives by doing things, by action, by danger. Small men bringing down those with the mettle to do."

 


 
 

Chapter 7

leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot) 

4. The part of a garment, esp. of a pair of trousers, that covers the leg.

&

The motorcycle fit like an old pair of leather boots. The bike heavy and tough to balance, the turns slow and throttle quick. Pickled by an overwhelming accomplishment, heart pumping like a piston, emboldened like a child, dizzy with expectation whizzing down the vacant road.

Through Kagawong he cruised across open plains and escarpment between Ice Lake to Gore Bay. Boardwalk and tennis courts, sailboats and seagulls. He rode through town, houses with third-floor balconies, gardens and cedar hedges. A courthouse built when Jesse James still lived, stone churches with bell towers. Just off the main road behind a realtor office a weathered sign read: SMALL ENGINES AND SERVICE. Some pick-up trucks in various stages of repair, two motorcycles parked beside the entrance. A Quaker State sticker in the window of the open wooden doors.

Legge hung his helmet on the handlebars. A plaque hung crooked, ‘THE WICK' written in black paint, an image of a burning candle. Faded by the hand of time. Rock music played somewhere inside, two motorcycles side-by-side, one with the seat off and the other a Harley Davidson. The clanging of tools offset with laughter around a corner he could not see. Stepping out of the sun he saw the mechanic. Red toque, white stubble, deep scars along a cheek slightly redder than the other.

"You come in on that RD?" he asked, good cheek showing. "That's a good bike. Collector's item. I seen it before. I'm Chuck Patterson, chief mechanic and full-time babysitter for bikers who want to talk shop. Come here to get parts so they can go back home and screw it up. Know what I mean? I tell'em it's best to stay right here and git it done. Never listen. You a friend of Legge over near Kagawong way?" Rumors and neighbor's business, loved it like a salmon loves an open stream to spawn. His bread and butter trade.

"I'm his nephew."

"Yeah. Thought I knew that RD. Rare them bikes." Fingers too grimy to shake hands. His piece said he bent down to his work.

A skinny man with a white ponytail and beard sauntered around the motorcycle holding a mug of coffee. Sunglasses with bug debris couldn't hide the heavy lids of his eyes. His jacket Harley Davidson, worn on the sleeves, creased to perfection around the elbows. Face lined from miles of riding, white beard protecting from further damage, fingers browned from smoking, rings on each finger suffocating circulation, his skin scratchy like sandpaper. He drank from a dirty mug and smoked his cigarette slowly, watching Legge from behind the bug guts.

"Morrell ken fix almost anything. The man who knows everything about every bike in the world but he just don't wanna share it. Comes here and lectures me, like to feel superior."

"Yer riding Harold's bike I see," he said, nasal voice dry as his hands. "Remember when she was without brakes? That Harold lived on the edge, man. Just geared down like a madman whenever he needed to stop. So he chose the roads where he wouldn't have ‘ta stop! That was his way all right. He had to ride that thing. Loved that bike. You gonna keep care of it for him?"

"He died about a month ago, so yeah." Morrel and Patterson looked at each other. "I'll be taking care of it."

"Good ‘cause they'll be lots of maintenance on that bike. Fastest two-stroke street bike ever made. Discontinued makin' ‘em because the kill ratio was so high. ‘Bout 79 they stopped. Can you handle her?" His crooked grin opened to a gum crevice. Legge nodded and looked away to not stare. Legge had never seen a toothless man smile before.

From around the corner a man with mat of red hair, freckles the color of ginger ale, nose a massive patch of red, remnants of a mustache uneven and forgotten in one-piece overalls stained with transmission fluid, burrowed his hands into a massive toolbox.

. Friendly blue eyes. The whites of his eyes clear and pure like albumin.

"Love ‘ta see that bike still getting mileage." Smooth Scottish accent revealed in the rolling Rs. "A classic. Modest she is, but strong. You know she has spunk!" He waved his dirty rag at Legge and kept looking for the right tool.

"Mac works on trucks that come in. Poor bugger came here from Scotland, can you believe it? A romance that never worked out. What? Loves the natives so much he stayed. Goes to all the powwows. His place is full of pipes and drums there's no place to sit."

"Which you always seem to wreck every time you come over."

"Surprised he doesn't live in a teepee."

"Bloody rat's ass you are Morrell."

He and Morrell followed Mac around the corner and saw a massive truck lifted on the hoist, bright light revealing its underbelly like a moonbeam in the night. Each part lying under each other in an array, a mathematical mind manifest on the oil-stained floor. A new gasket still white and unspoiled. Electric heater kept the air hot and made the smell of fuel and grease more palpable.

"You need to store them Indian beads and dream-catchers or getta bigger place."

"You still owe me an eagle feather. Still can't believe you sat on it." There was a serious look in his eye. "It's not good medicine to sit on an eagle feather." Shook his head in pity. "Simply boggles the mind. Boggles to think how little you know about the culture right in your backyard."

"They get too much money for my taste."

"I'm talking about the culture and he thinks about monthly cheques. Just can't bridge that gap. Never even been to a sweat lodge and he's been here his whole life." Morrell put his mug down on an old telephone book and picked up his gloves.

"You git any problems on that bike you look me up. I'm just outta town. Don't trust this man with anything more than a flat tire." Morrell gestured to the garage with bikes half worked-on at various stages of repair. "Never gits done." Outdated calendar above the tool bench.

"I don't know about motorcycles," said Legge. "It's runs well that's all I know."

"Harold knew that bike like his own son so you should be all right for a little while. Remember to put the choke back in after it starts. And don't ride the brakes too much. If I were you I'd learn whatcha need ta ride safe here on the Island. Watch out for deer. Lots of bikes comin' for the summer. Comin' soon." Morrell stepped outside to the Harley.

"Ferry just started up," said Patterson, "so business should be picking up."

Morrell's motorcycle started like a charm. His helmet barely covering his head.

"Heading to Meldrum today. I feel like riden' some."

Legge listened to the sound of the engine down the main road to the highway, stepped out to his bike and reached for the engine switch.

&

The rest of his first week was spent riding his motorcycle and fixing up his house. Harry settled into his new school to ride out the tail end of the school year. Legge took Morrell's advice and bought a good map showing every road and even intermittent paths and snowmobile trails. The limestone island shaped like a big trumpet lying on its side full of holes and cracks filled with water. He wondered if it was legal to have so few stop signs with so many miles of roadway. Only one traffic light at the swing bridge in Little Current; all else wide-open riding and small bridges over rivers and creeks. Culverts functional in ditches, farmland puckered between forests, old barns hanging on in variable degrees of destruction from the elements. Roads designed as if by a motorcyclist: corners engineered with angled precision, wide shoulders to allow for wildlife infringement with the bush cut thirty-three feet from the road's center line. Danger from deer and turtles necessitated careful manicuring of road peripherals, foliage to be cut to prevent frightened animals from blind-siding vehicles. 

Took a break from his ‘research' on the shores of Evansville, fortifying coffee, reading through The Manitoulin Expositor, the local paper since 1879. Articles on native funding for healthcare centers, local student achievements at school, community events and services a peek into the past: "Community Circle sewing group meeting at the Little Current United Church, Spring luncheon at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Support Group for Women, Parkinson's Disease Support Group in Mindemoya, Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings every Wednesday and Saturday at the rec center, Alzheimer Support Group, Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps meeting every Monday, Country Music Show at the Tehkummah Triangle Senior's Hall Saturday at 7pm, art lessons in Gore Bay at the old schoolhouse." 

Sound of a motorcycle outside parking. Coming through the door Morrell unzipped his jacket, walked to the table, boots hitting the wood floor with authority.

"How's she goin'? Saw yer RD thought I'd stop in. You getting' to know the newspaper too eh? Bloody gossip rag." Shook his head. "See those sections with the gossip?" Legge flustered. Couldn't remember seeing them.

"Where are they?" Morrell took the paper and laid it open on the table.

"See? ‘Tehkummah Talk and Times' and "Little Current News, Notes and Nonsense.' Huh, nonsense is right!" Legge skimmed: weather, music nights, new residents and recent deaths. Very casual writing style.

Morrell snatched it and pointed to a paragraph. Morrell drank hot coffee, sunglasses off. Legge read: 'The light of and in our lives was this Sunday's sermon. Marilyn Wohlberg was our organist while Elaine was hockey tournamenting in Sudbury this weekend. Next Sunday after church at Fairview our annual lunch at the church before our meeting at 1:30pm. Sandwiches and squares. I'll make a pot of soup.' Who writes these?" Showed his gums in all their glory when he smiled.

"One of the many old ladies who live here in the Island," he said. "They have their little world. Just don't dip yer toe in that soup! Never git your toe out, I reckon, at least in one piece. Or without being charged with somethin'." Dry laugh. "Why don'tcha read the euchre reports?"

He found them near the last page. "From Sheguiandah," he said:

"'Lloyd Taylor won high with 74 points and 6 lone hands. And can you believe this? Terry's score was even lower than last week (47). Really sad. For the ladies, Maria Willis won high score with 71 and 4 lone hands. Ruth McGregor won low prize with 44. Rick Gjos won the door prize.'

"Very local. And how about announcements of new residents?

‘I'm pleased to tell you that our town has three new residents. You may have seen them exercising down at Low Island. The distinctive thing about them is their boots. Aero wears pink and Popeye wears blue. I forgot to tell you these two are canine residents. They come from a warmer place so they need the boots to protect their feet. The sight of dogs wearing boots is so distracting that one driver had to swerve to avoid hitting them. They're a cute pair and so is their owner, and welcome to Little Current.'

"Hope there isn't anything about me!"

"Wouldn't doubt it." A frank manner to Island life, blunt aspect acknowledging muddy boots, unpolished opinions, rusty snowplows and four-wheel drive ‘duellies.' Piped to its own rhythm and swam to its own pace. Don't even know where Detroit was. No reason. Land of Indian trading posts and Hudson Bay forts, stopover for les voyageurs going west. Never bought into Toronto life. A separate private Idaho.

&

The following week Old Doug dropped by with his truck full. Two beds. Tires crunched over new gravel, packing it down after the morning rain, parked. Limped to the door. Spoke to Legge as if they had been old friends.

"You need some beds?" Voice deep with hardened empiricism. Legge swallowed. Wore sandals and dirty shirt, afternoon nap. "Give me hand, easier with another pair of hands."

Old Doug, flannel shirt and boots tucked into denims, gloves on. Baseball hat greasy and folded. Wandering eye. Chin carved out of wood, jutting out under his visor. Led with his chin, wisps of hair around the edge of his hat. Loose-legged and gangly, eyes like gray steel, pit bull mean.

"Yer Harry's son?" Unlatched the back of the pick up.

"Nephew." Shook hands, his fingers smothered in a vice. Both looked at Legge's sandals.

"Makes sense. Didn't think you had the look of him. He was good people, yer uncle. Did what he said he would do, unlike most who talk a good yarn. I hear yer going to run an inn here, well good for you but you gotta git it done. I'll tell you about me for example. I'm old but still good fer a few years more." Picked up the end of the box spring and waited for Legge to back into the house. Stumbled in his sandals. "Better change your footwear son." Old Doug balanced the mattress on the new gravel. Legge brought his shoes to the deck.

"Grandfather landed here when theys was opening up land to white folk, bought here 100 acres just across the highway on the south side and farmed it. Early times were tough at first. Relied in the Injuns to give some food late winter. Mainly fish. He was respectful so the Injuns treated him fair. That's what ya gotta be: respectful. Not like those big cities where everyone's pissed off all the time. Can't survive here without yer neighbors. That's the truth too. Took to cattle and fishin' mainly. Granddad tried to go out on his own mostly, didn't like relying on the Injuns or his Christian neighbors. Stubborn like me, but he got it done. Fell through the ice more than one time and lived to tell about it. You don' wanna go through the ice never. But you keep it simple up here and yer' do fine." Shifted his weight from one leg to the other, favoring his right.

Legge felt out of his depth. Soft-kneed, bred on city luxuries, his chin marshmallow compared to Old Doug's. Shivered at the thought of falling through the ice.

"My folks made it but some don't. Yer clan is around these parts so you git yerself acquainted with her history here. I can tell you you got some history here boy. Me and yer uncle used to git in fights at the Saturday night dances. He could throw a punch but so could I. Still can." He lifted his fist, putting fright in his guts. "But we'z always slap each other on the back and drink a little bit more whiskey and got things right agin. Can't hold a grudge up here. It'll kill ya. But things are gettin' easy now. You gotcher supermarkets now and yer drugstores and clinics. And yer got these reservations that're spending money everywhere. It was good they closed the train down, left us alone. Ferry's bringing more people now and there's more people like you coming up from the cities. More competition for jobs. Government's tryin' but not really getting' it." Hand cupped his chin, showing a missing forefinger.

"Everyone thought the tourists would bring more money but they'z coming up here and buying properties. Wanna do stuff like fish and ride on their four-wheelers. None of ‘em do any work. Gettin' more expensive for us all is the only thing they done.

"But it's them bastards at the MNR that done the most harm."

"MNR?"

"Ministry Natural Resources." Frowned. "Every chance they got they're pulling people over an' countin' fish, checking fishing licenses, and arrestin' poor fellas. See, they got quotas themselves and need to fine people, but tourists leave here and they never wanna come back and go through that agin. Bad taste in their mouth you know. You hear what I'm saying? The government wants to do right but their method is for the birds. Ass backwards if you ask me. Huntin' season is just as bad, pulling people outa their trucks and checking firearms. Random checks Rheinhardt callz it. I call it out of control boy. Too many damn laws if you ask me." Old Doug waved his finger, a piece of knotted wood.

"My sons got training from the government but they did good by choosing electrician and home building. More houses being built but it's good ‘cause the Island needs more homes along the shorelines. They done good. One boy is here, lives close to his old man. He's still lookin' fer oil. Lots here. That's why the white man broke the treaty with the Injuns you know. American oil companies were still here when I was a boy. Did find some but not enough. Though I know a few sons-of-bitches that are getting oil without no government knowledge either. Just keep yerself outa their way son and you'll get on.

"I was in Toronto for a while during the war. Couldn't fight ‘cause of my damn eye." Pointed to his glass eye. "Ten years roughly. I got trained in that industrial machinery. Worked construction driving bulldozers. Good pay. We built power plants, overpasses, shopping malls. Too much cement. But sees, that's the government doin' trainin' agin, tryin' to give the young guy a leg up. Didn't really work either. Couldn't git the work here. Went back to what I know. Fishin'. Sellin' minnows. You can eatcha damn paycheque."

Lifted the box spring and backed it into the house and up the stairs. Placed it in the small guest room.

"Some people say I only sell minnows but that's jus' one aspect. You gotta find sources of money from everywhere, not a single place. A little fishin' and a little from bait and a little from firewood. Maybe git someone ta work done on yer land. That's where it all comes from: the land. The fish or the wood or the rent. Real simple. I do most of it myself ‘cause I like workin' alone. Better that way, unless you get injured and there's no one aroun'." Creases appeared on his forehead.

"Right. Real simple." Took the rest of the beds upstairs and then retired to the driveway again. "Youse wanna beer?" Reached in, removed two bottles of Carling, handing one to Legge.

"Only drink after I done my work. After four." Raised the bottle and drank. "‘Been thinking that this here old place is good for an inn."

"For bikers."

"That's what Gail said. Lots of ‘em around here in summer. Can't think of any B&B that serves ‘em. Special breed those ‘uns. They'll come if youse get yer name out there. Just stay outa trouble with them police and MNR. Jus' gets worse every time you expose yerself to ‘em. Always git in trouble for nothing. And insurance: you need that. Might need commercial zoning. Who knows? Plenny to do to become li'jit."

"I don't mind the police," his voice suffused with beer.

"Don't talk to ‘em. Truss me. You don't wanna know them. If you do they'll keepa file on ya and know everythin' you do. Motorcycles can be a dark sort of business and so you keep your nose clean. Keep it clean if you can, son. You got any dark secrets and they'll come out."

"Small community here on the Island."

"Damn right it is." Drained his beer, looked at Legge's beer, hardly touched. Cheeks hollowed in the afternoon light. Legge handed him the beer because he thought Old Doug want all the empty bottles.

"You ain't drank it yet." Embarrassed, he tried to drink it all down but failed. "Whoa, jus' keep it and finish it in your own time." Climbed in his truck. "Living here is all about findin' yer own time. Don't let no one push ya ‘round none. They push ya once, they'll always push ya." The truck eased down the graveled driveway slowly, stones pinched under wheel.

&

Harry walked down the driveway after the school bus had dropped him.

"You must be Harry," said Old Doug, leaning out the window of his truck. "How old are you?"

"Twelve." Harry's hands pulled the knapsack tight on his back, studying the unusual face in front of him.

"Good to meetcha Harry. I'm Doug Campbell." Harry glanced away from the intruding chin. "You liking school?"

"It's all right. Boring right now though."

"'Course it's boring. Better to use the Island as your school. Learn from living in nature." He slipped it into drive. "Will sees you." Light tap of the pedal spun a divot in the gravel, the sound of beer bottles clanging in the back.

 

Chapter 20

leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

12c. The guard covering the leg stump in cricket. 

&

Morrell was ahead, convinced the camp was near. The skinny man with no teeth walked lightly on his feet, wiry and flexible despite his years, bending underneath fallen branches and expertly balanced through mud. His chest heaved in bursts, sucking the rich oxygen around him into his charred lungs. Holding up his hand he bent over gasping. He had led them through a soft marsh instead of the high shore, but Legge hadn't said anything, not wanting to offend him.

"Huh. Wait. Huh. This-" Threw his hand at the wet ground in front of them. "This is why they went on the water."

Legge looked around him and breathed in the thick moisture of the earth, the squawks from the forest around them. Woodpeckers knocked hard at a broken tree pecked with holes. Fresh deer tracks and raccoon droppings had Legge's attention. He replaced his sunglasses with his eyeglasses.

"You can see the escarpment over there," said Morrell, now standing upright, his ponytail now half undone. "I heard there's rock carvings somewheres long there."

"It's far."

"There must be some way of gettin' there. Those Indians had trails going everywhere on this island - a network." There by the cedar trees Morrell lit a smoke. "I reckon there's trails going along the highest points of the island, from here to M'Chigeeng to about Rockville. Some of them are marked but if you put your mind to it you could find a way all along the lip to see both Lake Huron and the North Channel. But this here is the westernmost tip so its from here we can see the sun set over Lake Superior and the prairies. The Indians would go to the highest point to see their enemies coming. To have a better shot at them coming up the hill. Right up there is the escarpment of Ice Lake, the highest peak on the island. Bet we could find some old campgrounds up there somewheres."

Legge opened his mind to all the hidden native history here on the Island still waiting to be discovered, a forgotten history and undiscovered treasure.

"I wonder if there's a map with these old trails?"

"If there was it would be at the Ojibwa Cultural Center. There's a word for it, those old networks of transportation routes, like long portages and stuff. I could look it up in my Ojibwa dictionary at home."

"So then there should be an old trail along the shore?" Morrell looked at the end of his cigarette.

"Yep. There should be." Flicked the butt into the ground. He started walking towards the sound of the water, through a labyrinth of hanging branches and half-fallen trees uprooted by the winds. "That way. That's right. That's wheres we shoulda started. Look, you can see Clapperton Island. That's where one of yours still lives as the lighthouse keeper."

"One of mine?"

"One of your clan. A Legge. Old now I reckon. Been keeping that lighthouse for almost three decades now. Lives there alone. They say he still brews his own whiskey like it was done during Prohibition. Nothing happening there since that murder back during the thirties. Baker was his name. Big mystery that. From the long line of Bakers who took care of that place up ‘til Martin took it over."

"I have a relation named Martin who is a lighthouse keeper on that island there?" He stopped and pointed through the break in the poplars.

"That's right. Don't you know nothing about yer family?" Legge shook his head and fell in behind Morrell. He could smell the booze emitting from Morrell's body mingled with sweat so he cut his own path to the rocky shore.

"Yer aunt knows about him. They say he killed a man to settle an old debt. He was a gambling man with a long history of playing cards at night with the local Ottawas from the La Cloche Mountains. Some say that's how old Baker was killed - only found his boat with'n empty discarded wallet and a half bottle of whiskey. The body was never found."

"That's strange. Why would there be an empty wallet?"

"That's the point. He was on his way across the channel to one of his regular poker nights in Gore Bay with a bottle of booze and a full wallet. Jus' never showed up for the cards. Some say some local Indians robbed and killed him on the water. Never solved." 

"What has that have to do with Martin?"

"There was a curse put on all the lighthouse keepers after that. Indians were blamed but never convicted, and they took issue against the accusation. Said it was disrespectful. Caused problems ever since. Indians don't forget that sortsa things. A hell of a lot of liquor was coming through that area in the La Cloche Mountains from the east so the lighthouse keeper tried his best to catch the rumrunners. Suspicion brewed for years even after Prohibition. The back luck from the curse persisted. Baker's son was killed under mysterious circumstances and so was his grandson. Everyone's waiting for Martin Legge to fall the same way if the curse is still in effect. But see, your great uncle Martin is the brother of the famous rumrunner Sammy Legge, a legend when he was running at his peak. So it's funny that it's Martin who is running the lighthouse now."

Legge pondered implications of the revelation, a family of whiskey runners.

They reached the shore and spoke above the sound of splashing water.

"Who exactly is this Sammy Legge?"

"My God Legge, you really have no idea do you?" The flush of acrid embarrassment could not be hidden from his features. "Sammy Legge is the one who operated this place we're going to." Morrell showed his perfectly smooth gums when he smiled. A deep hack came through the gum gateway followed by the sounds of loose flapping skin and phlegm.

"You think my aunt should have told me about this?"

"Yep, or your father fer Christ's sake. He's your grandfather. What are family's for?" Again the hacking of a lung when he laughed. Slapped his hand on his knee. The words hung there in the air, long-awaited. Sharp, cutting like a rusty razor blade. His silent burden of not knowing about his past surfaced here in the trees confronted by this toothless biker.

"The Legge's have a long reputation for rebelling against the law in these parts. Not God-fearing folk you could say. Ruthless some say. But you could say they were successful at what they did."

"Running illegal booze across the border?"

"Pretty much, but they didn't take it over the border. They would stash it on islands around the shore near Cockburn Island where boats would cross from the Michigan side to pick up the cache. Worked well until the US coastguard beefed up its fleet, like they done on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. But in the twenties and the early thirties Manitoulin Island was a haven for whiskey runners. No one ‘round here ‘cept the odd hostile Injun!" Again the slap of the knee.

"But the Legge's were a bad lot. Did their share of murder during them days. One of the reasons your uncle lives on Clapperton Island all alone. Ashamed of his brother and what he did. That's the only reason I reckon. Trying to make up for his family's sins."

"What kind of sins are we talking about Morrell?"

"We were all wondering if you had that gene in you - that bad gene that pushes you to extremes. That criminal gene. Hell I don't care as long as you don't murder me!" Morrell having a grand old time.

"Naw, jus' joking. Sure, there are rumors about murders but who's to say? We could see that the seed fell far away from the tree, or whatever that expression is. You about as un-aggressive as I ever seen. You're basically shy aren't ya?" His eyes opened for a moment, caught crossing the line. He kept talking and ignored the color on Legge's cheeks. "So you got some serious ancestors. You gonna run into someone talking about Sammy if you live here. Gotta get used to it. But he's not a bad guy to everybody. See he's a bit like that guy from Australia, Ned Kelly, an outlaw who took on the law. Hell he ran a business during a time when the temperance unions were yielding a lot of power in federal politics on both sides of the border. Sure it was dangerous but it was also big business. Your granddad did business with Al Capone, met him when he came to the North Channel. From what I know, they arranged for his men to pick the booze from Green Island. Said it was easier ‘cause they were American citizens, which made things easier if they bumped into the coast guard." The wind had picked up taking his hair all the way off his forehead, golf ball glistening in the sun. "I thought you woulda known about your granddad and Capone. That's the kind of thing that should be handed down in a family."

"We didn't have much of a family."

"Oh nuts. All families are dysfunctional but at least they should hand down family history like that. Yep, that's your family business here Mr. Legge. Booze and burlap bags. You never did much business with them Sand-trampers."

"Excuse me?"

"Sand-trampers are what the locals call the people who live on Cockburn Island. They were only good for nickin' your stash. There were a lot of boats wrecked in the strait. There's the Magnetic Reef on Cockburn. Deadly, before it could be marked. The lighthouse was like a beacon in the fog - still is. The center point in the whiskey-running trade that started nearly a hundred years ago."

On the flatland just above the rocky lip of the shore they walked east to the broken-down cabin. Whitecaps stirred in the sharp edge of the horizon, Clapperton Island like a defiant rock against relentless currents.

"How come you know so much about all this?" Morrell had slowed his pace.

"My father was a fisherman with the Purvis Brothers on Burnt Island so he was acquainted with lots of the things that happened on the water. I have some uncles resting underwater around these shores. I tried as a kid for a while but somethin' about the water scares me. Just suck you down just like that. For no reason. I like the land better. No quick sand around neither. Nawsir, I reckon I'm happier ridin' my motorbike than anything else." He looked at the open water.

"I know that's Clapperton Island like I know you Legges were out on that island for years. Don't know how early but youse and the Bakers were the first. Probably find some grave markers there."

They reached a thick cedar patch in the forest that jutted out to the shoreline. Around low branches and over fallen poplars they could see a house with a caved-in roof and a broken-down porch in the clearing. It was a different structure than the small cabin he had seen weeks before.

They found the trail leading to the cabin from a natural cove where boats had protected peace from the open waters. Legge's legs ached from the miles they had walked, now relieved by the site of the cabin. Huge boulders had been lined along the natural jetty. Flat rocks lay hidden in steps upwards to the flat rock at the foot of the escarpment. The sound of the wind carried off the exposed cliffs behind them.

"This is Sammy's lair all right. I know. Been here before with my brother, God rest his soul. He used to love coming ‘ere. Loved how Sammy rebelled like he did. Pushed the law aside and went about his business giving stock to the gin joints in Chicago. But I guess that's easy to like when you're a young kid." Morrell stood in front of the porch looking out at the sea of fresh water. They had found the main location of Sammy Legge's whiskey-running business.

"You can see far from here. Good spot to hide."

"There are hiding places back in the bush. That might have been the cabin you saw."

"Or where they made the whiskey?"

Morrell lit a cigarette and pointed into the mash of fallen wood beams. "'Ken ye see the metal thing all bent outa shape in there? Well, that's the still. One of them anyway. Who knows how many they had going at one time. Injuns used to paddle in like it was take-out food. No one told the law and only a trusted few knew the exact location. That's why your house is such an important lookout point. It's the guarding point for this place." Legge looked up at the sheer vertical bite of the exposed limestone cliff, the odd determined cedar growing out of a crack in the rock.

"Yes, I suppose it is." Inheritance hitherto unknown, not of wealth but of notoriety. Only the head of the A-frame remained, propped up on top of the fallen cedar rails of the back of the house, imploded and half bent over as if in perpetual homage. Wrapping porch like a forgotten moat dried up into gnarled knots of warped wood. Soft underfoot, foliage with the upper hand.

Around the back there was a cleared area that was now overgrown. In the silence against the trees and the cliff they could hear the trickle of a waterfall and smell the moisture in the air. Even the trees around the old house had fed on the slight mist over the centuries. Squawks of cranes bounced off the overhead walls of limestone like an amphitheater. The waterway beyond led to the old route of Canada's first fur traders, to Montreal and the world.

"I've gotta get a boat." Something in him stirred, like hearing an old-fashioned song he once knew.

"That's ‘cause you have it in your blood. Look here." He walked to a corner of the cleared land closest to the rock face. Legge saw the three separate rocks all the same distance apart.

"Don't tell me."

Morrell scraped off one of the gravestones to reveal worn markings long faded to the twin forces of wind and rain.

"No one knows who they are. Some, like my daddy, says they're fishermen who washed up here. But others say they were shot dead after a deal gone bad. Some say Indians but I doubt it. Sammy was always good with the Indians. Knew how'da treat ‘em. Mighta had some Injun blood himself the way he lived. Lived hard and drank hard I heard. My daddy bought liquor from him. Lots of folks did. But they'd never say now. Now's almost as bad as Prohibition. Nobody wants to talk about drinkin'.""

Morrell turned to the fresh water sea again and squinted. Legge wondered who these men were whose bones still lay quiet under the thin layer of soil. He leaned over and rubbed each tombstone but couldn't read a single marking. Only his imagination could fill these gaps in his direct link to the past. He thought of his uncle and aunt and father growing up in the forests of the island and on the lakes and shores, knowing all their neighbors knew about Sammy Legge, notorious rumrunner and murder. It was the hardness from those early years that his father had brought with him to Michigan when he left Manitoulin for the big city. Growing up, instead of going to a cottage or camping his father would take him and his brother to museums and theater productions and tours of old forts hidden along the shores of the lake. He wanted to immerse himself and his family into anything that was out of nature, far away from the beaver dams and deer trails of his youth. His rebellion against nature and the extreme demands of Island life caused his father to promise himself he would live like a civilized man among the shopping malls and theaters and skyscrapers that to him were the frontrunners of human evolution. Even riding on the subway had a thrill for him and held the same wonders as the forests would one day have for his son.

But now armed with the knowledge his grandfather was a famous whiskey runner of the North Channel, the puzzle was complete. Never was whiskey or Al Capone spoken of in his family. So extreme was his father's embrace of all things manmade that the natural flow of rural life was something Legge had never experienced even in the slightest degree. Clearly he could now see this prohibition of nature was a huge source of anxiety for him, and Maybe a major factor for his inherent timidity. Concrete and exhaust fumes had been his mainstay, not the perfume-scented spruce and cedar that could change the way you feel.

"Everyone here on the Island has a history you know. Yours is interesting. All depends on how you want to look at it. My brother for example thought Sammy Legge was a hero. My father always said your granddaddy really stuck it to The Man and supplied our thirsty cousins south of the border with beverage." Morrell found a lull in the wind to light a cigarette.

"So what ever happened to him? You haven't said."

"You haven't asked." He winked at him, making Legge look away in embarrassment. "He died years after Prohibition ended, that's for sure. And he put a lot of the money he had into that big house you're living in. Who knows, maybe he hid his whiskey-running loot behind some wall in the house. Must've made a lot if he was supplying Al Capone with product."

Legge could feel the sweat on his forehead in the breeze.

"Why would he put so much money into the house?"

"Can't you see? It's the house at the front gate guarding his stills. And the thing looks like a castle, don't it? He did have some style your granddaddy." Morrell turned serious. "Died of a gunshot wound to the chest when he was on Clappteron Island. Died in a card game they say. That's why I said there's a tradition of gambling at the lighthouse. But-" He shook his head. "From what I heard through the years, and there's many different stories around about Sammy Legge's end, but what I heard was that it was Sammy who told people about the large stash on Green Island. See it was a deal gone bad and the coast guard knew it was close by so what Sammy did was tell some of the locals where it was so they took it apart case by case until the evidence disappeared. Saved the guy's ass on the American side and it kept Sammy from profiting from the American's loss. Said the folks in town were drunk for two years!"

"But how did that connect to the final shooting?"

"The temperance movement was still strong and they ushered a group together to force Sammy Legge outa town. He was found a year later dead on Clapperton. Had something to do with it. Some people were angry for what he done. Giving Gore Bay a bad name. I guess no one knows the truth except Sammy, God and the guy who did the shootin'."

"They drove him out of town. Why hasn't anyone said anything to me yet?"

"People mind their business here for the most part. I reckon they think you already know. ‘He's Sammy's grandson from the whiskey-running side of the family.' The other Legges live in town but I think they leave your aunt alone during Christmastime." Again the head started to shake. "I find it funny though when most of Gore Bay was dependent on his whiskey made right here. Now he's a bad guy but during Prohibition he wasn't. Easy for people to forget. Too damn easy I say."

Back to the water's edge dark clouds moved in from the west, hanging low.

"The wind is bringing that thing here pretty fast Legge. We need to move on." Morrell took a long drag from his cigarette and then started walking back along the trail.

 
 
 
 

 


 
 
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