Memories frozen in pictures


Time flies, it really does. Pictures don’t. Pictures freeze time, age, and reality.

Such is the case of the pencil image that I’ve used for decades. That one. Yes, that timeless image that leads this column, a snap shot turned classy by the hand of an artist, of a much younger me.

I don’t know when I started using the snapshot, but I remember vividly when it was taken, where it was taken, and by whom it was taken.

Hap Wilson is his name and of course, Hap was a younger man then, too. Hap was, and is, about the most skilled and accomplished outdoorsman I have ever met. He was as at home in a canoe or in a tent as you or I are in a recliner watching the outdoor channel. He could carry on a conversation with a camp jay, tote a load big enough for two men, and bring a warm campfire to life in seconds.


One of the things I remember best about Hap is that he would drop his load of gear, set his canoe aside, and dig through a pile of boulders to recover a bottle cap or some other scrap that some careless wilderness traveler had dropped.

I met Hap during a fishing trip to Temagami, Ontario, sometime in the mid to late 1980s. I had gone to town to grab some supplies and spotted a canoe company sign that called out to be visited.

Hap and his wife at the time were there when I knocked, packing supplies for trippers who would rent canoe, gear, and food from the Wilsons. We talked for quite a while and hit it off well enough to set a future date for a wilderness canoe trip.

We would hunt for a speckled trout fishery good enough for Hap to market along with everything that anglers would need to reach the best spots. I especially liked the idea because of the potential photographs and story fodder it represented.

More memories

Fast forward one year and picture Hap and I lacing a Kevlar canoe to the struts of a float plane, which soon had us circling to land in a wide spot on the Lady Evelyn River several miles north of the tip of sprawling Lake Temagami.

During the next couple of days we portaged gear, rations, and canoe around the worst of water and fished our way south toward an arranged pick-up spot several miles downriver on the other side of countless waterfalls, rapids. It was a great experience with an amazing canoeist that ended up as stories in several newspapers and magazines.

It also produced the photograph that became a drawing which became the image readers have seen for a long time. The same print has graced some of Hap’s other illustration work, decorating maps and trail books defining the ancient trails of the wild region.

Hap, did the work. He is well known for his outdoor knowledge, his dedication and respect for the wilderness, and for his artistic talents.

But it is time to retire the drawing. It hurts, but it is time. Past time, I admit. Thus, I have forwarded a photograph that is more today than yesterday. Less hair, a lot less, more sag, more fishing behind than ahead.

Here’s me, doing what I like best, spending time on the water, handling the fish that I adore.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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