In case you’re wondering, I can…seriously. If I’m talking about something I’m interested in! One cannot be a history teacher and not like to talk; it’s kinda like being a comedian and not telling jokes. So I literally make a living by talking, a lot. Now don’t get me wrong, I can shut up if I need to, but I rather enjoy the one way conversation. And I do like to take my time with my explanations. When my wife asks me a question, she always finishes her request with the statement “…and in 20 words or less!” Unfortunately I find it very difficult to provide a sufficient description in such a limited context. Brevity is just not my thing; once when I was a kid a friend of the family offered me 25 cents to stop talking!
Anyway, so why the commentary on talking? Well, talking was one of the biggest highlights of my week. As mentioned in my previous post, last Wednesday I delivered my first public lecture on the railway since 1998. Fourteen years…that was certainly a long spell between talks! It was also my only railway related event of the week since I didn’t want to push my luck and go for a hike too. Gotta make time for the family first!
Speaking of which, I did get my share of family time in. We have been spending a fair bit of time at camp (the cottage, the lake…we’ve had this conversation) this year and this past weekend was no exception. I know that my boys enjoy it out there and my wife LOVES the sauna. I can be a bit of a chore though, since it is like having a second home. I spent most of Saturday morning cutting the grass (my fav) and I know that I’ll have to finish the rest when I’m out again. This also means that I haven’t had a lot of time at home, and the grass here has gone a few weeks without a trim. Thankfully it has been pretty dry so the growth has been rather slow.
So, the presentation. Well, I can honestly say that it went fairly well. I was a bit nervous; it is very different talking in front of a bunch of adults than a classroom of teenagers. I was also unsure what the turn-out would be like. The last thing you want is to be giving a lecture in front of 5 people. In the end, there were 80+ people in the audience, which is a pretty decent crowd for a Wednesday night. It did feel the pressure at the beginning, but then I settled down into a nice comfort zone. Part of my apprehension stems from the fact that I’m way more knowledgeable with the material in the latter half of the presentation.
The only bad part I can say was that I went over time-go figure! I thought I’d talk for about an hour, but I finished after one hour and forty minutes. I like to talk! I did not get any negative feedback and it seemed as though everyone was very attentive through my extra-long rambling. I’ll have to make sure I stay on track for this weekend.
On Sunday I’ll be making my first “international” presentation as I head down to the Chik-Wauk Museum at the end of the Gunflint Trail to give a lecture very similar to one from last week. Obviously the audience will be a bit different, so my emphasis will be more on the Paulson Mine and less on the railway. It is of no consequence to me however, as I feel very confident with both areas.
The only weird part of Sunday’s talk as that it will be outdoors, therefore I will not have access to any technology. I spend every day during the school year talking in front of a Smartboard, but I will have no visuals to assist me there. It will be a very strange feeling. I’m sure my power to blab will carry me through…as long as I stay on time.
Following the presentation I plan to spend a few days on Gunflint Lake completing some fieldwork that I started last year, particularly on the eastern end of the lake. I’m also going to spend some time at Leeblain, as well as on both sides of the Gunflint Narrows. Should be a good time if Mother Nature cooperates!
On the topic on Gunflint Lake, I did receive some interesting news pertaining to the work at Leeblain. My local MPP cc’d me a letter that was sent to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, which oversees such things as historical preservation and archeology. Hopefully the government takes an interest in protecting the railway and such rare treasures as the rock ovens near Leeblain.
In the last few days I’ve also discovered some very important information related to the railway. Since I began my research 18 years ago, I believed that the railway still owned the right of way. Much of this stemmed from some old documents that I had, and information provided to me by some property owners. After I received the letter, I was then advised that the grade was in fact Crown Land. I did some digging of my own and I came to the same conclusion. The big question that now lingers is has any of the right of way been sold off, or is it all still public land? Hopefully I will find out soon enough.
Tomorrow I am heading out for another hike, the last before I head down to Gunflint. It’s going to be a short one, probably only 3k and so I am going to take my boys with me. We will be walking the grade near the old village of Flint which lies between Harstone and Hymers. It is a rather interesting spot since the majority of the land on which Flint sat at one time has now been obliterated by the Whitefish River. As you can see in the rough Google Earth overlay (not everything matches up), the river has shifted some 80+ metres to the east since 1960. I haven’t been there since 1995ish so I’m interested to see what I’ll find. I’ll certainly get some video and I can post it with my flashy new intro. I had a former student of mine create the introduction and so far I’ve uploaded one video with it; makes me look kinda professional!
Anyway, gotta get going. My next post will be on Sunday night from the Cross River Lodge (they do have internet) and I’ll try to have some pics of the presentation. Until then…