“Joe’s Canoe”– A piece by my Great Grand Aunt, Elsie Basque

“Mabel! Mabel! Come and see what Joe has brought. Look at what he has made!”

days(Frank (AKA Colonel) and Mabel Day)
What Joe had brought was a fifteen-foot canoe. And Mabel was Colonel Frank Day’s wife. We were at their summer cottage in Lake Annis.

Canoe making had been Papa’s way of earning an extra dollar during the summer months … and … I was usually there to Joe 193_2help out.

Papa strived to make the finished product as much a masterpiece as possible. He wanted something symmetrical that Joe 193_1would glide easily through the waters. Over the years, he had worked to improve his pattern until now he felt that he had reached his goal. Colonel Day’s exuberant calls to Mabel confirmed Papa’s convictions. He had finally made a perfect canoe. He would use this mold, this pattern for the rest of his life.

Papa made his canoes from cedar and ash. Cedar, a lightweight wood was used for planking, and ash made up the ribs, gunwales and seats.

Joe 1912

The only property that Papa owned was the small plot of land around our house. Before he could build a canoe, he would go tramping through the woods, looking for a cedar tree that was tall, straight and hopefully without knots. At the same time he would be keeping Joe 19__an eye out for an ash tree. That, too, haHectanooga 193_6d to be a certain size and shape. Once found, Papa would then go to the property owner and ask him to sell the cedar and ash trees. Papa was always told he could have both. Never was any money exchanged.

The cedar would be then chopped down and taken to the mill to be sawed into three-sixteenth inch planks, long, thin, lath-like strips. The ash would be brought home, stripped of its bark, sawed into the desired lengths to be shaped into what would become the ribs and gunwales of the canoe.

Papa worked with very crude tools; a shaving horse, a drawknife, a crooked knife, a hammer and a piece of railroad track rail. Sometimes a flat rock when we worked together.

The shaving horse was a homemade contraption that stood on four legs; usually made from tree parts. Two short legs in front and two longer in the rear. A piece of shaving horselog, about five feet long, half hewn, so that one side was flat was fastened to these legs. Two holes had been made through which a leather thong was drawn. A rock was tied to the end of the thong. A piece of ash would be placed on this hewn log, held into place by the leather thong and the weight of the rock. The ash would then be shaped as desired with a drawknife.

A drawknife had a ten-inch blade. Handles on both sides of the blade allowed one to shave the wood as the knife was drawn towards one self. When Papa sat at the end of the shaving horse with a drawknife, he could shape the ash as desired.


A crooked knife is used by all Mi’kmaq people, and has many diverse qualities. It is used to make baskets, (the splints, the hoops, the handles). It is used to make axe handles, hammer handles, etc. Any wood product produced by the Mi’kmaq, even canoes.

Papa made his. The blade was usually an old file, which would be placed in hot embers until it was redhot. Then it would be taken out and pounded into the shape desired. It would then be heated one more time and doused into a bucket of cold water. This to allow the blade to be tempered. The handle was made from bird’s eye maple. It would be oiled so that the eyes would show more prominently.


A hammer was the only modern, store-bought tool he used. The piece of rail found along the train tracks was most useful. The brass tacks used to hold the plank to the ribs had to be clinched on the inside of the canoe. The small piece of rail fit properly into one’s hand and it served the purpose well.

Hectanooga 193_1

By using a drawknife and crooked knife, Papa shaped the ash into ribs of various sizes. His health was such that sometimes it took several days to make the entire set. Soaking the ribs in water gave them the flexibility needed to allow him to bend them (over his knee) into the exact shape he desired. These would then be fastened to the mold or pattern, giving the canoe its skeletal shape.

Brass tacks were used to nail the planks to the ribs.

Joe 1911

When the planking was completed, the gunwales nailed into place, a mixture of varnish and plaster of Paris was brushed over the entire outside of the canoe and left to dry. The surface would then be smoothed with sandpaper.

Covering the canoe with canvas was always done on a sunny day. The canoe would be placed upside down on two sawhorses, with the loose canvas draped over the top. The heat from the sun’s rays gave the canvas more resiliency. Pliers would be used to get a firm grip on the canvas to be pulled as taut as possible and nailed to the gunwale. 

Hectanooga 193_3

After the canvas was fastened into place, the top gunwale would be attached, as would the two seats, the middle crossbar and the triangular pieces that fit exactly between the gunwales, fore and aft of the canoe.

The inside of the canoe was varnished. Inch wide pieces of ash covered the canvas seams fore and aft. The final chore would be to paint the canoe … green. Papa always chose green.

Hectanooga 193_4Joe 2013 1

Paddles were made from ash or poplar. These too would be varnished.

After all this work, the canoe and paddles sold for forty dollars. In the 1930’s, this was a large amount of money.

Colonel Day’s exuberant exclamations that day so long ago gave Papa a sense of great joy, which he talked about until the end of his days.

Joe 1939


The Story of the Pinn Name – by my Father, Lionel Pinn Jr.

PinnLdSha (pronounced Pinn La Shaw) is the story of the origin of our name and thereby the story of us.  It was gifted to me by Uncle Wally in 1988 while I was visiting him in Washington DC.  Note this is not my dad’s Wally but my Dad’s cousin Wally (Iwaldo). We some time referred to him as “fat wally”.

The Story of Pinnldsha

Once, before there were any human beings on the earth, where there are animals there is closeness to the natural way of the earth and there was a great peace that existed in all of the land.  The animal ruled the world in a good and fair way.  There was a great and beautiful harmony among all creatures, big and small, flyers and swimmer, four legged and the winged ones.

One day while deer was walking through the meadow, enjoying the beauty of what was there he was struck on the head by a small rock.  “Ouch!” said deer.   He looked up but saw nothing and continued on.

Another day the horse was galloping through the meadowwhen he saw a shadow from above and then before he knew he was stuck on the head with a large rock.  He had seen the shadow but was unable to see what it was.

Soon other animals had the same thing happening to them.  They walked around the village and forest with bumps on their head from the rocks that had been dropped on them by the strange shadow.

In time Rabbit reported that he had seen the shadow and it was a “Flying Turkey”!

You see in those days, before the human beings were here, the Turkey was a magnificent creature, He could fly higher than any eagle and as fast as any hawk and he could see better than any other animal and his feathers were of various glorious colors, reds, and blues and bright yellow, streaked with greens and purples.  His strong beak was bright white and beautiful.

The only problem was that this bird had become a dis-harmony among the many creatures of the forest and they had never had a dis-harmony such as this before.  They knew that this was not a good thing and they knew that they would have to do something to correct this issue, this dis-harmony.

There was a great council called and all the animals gathered in the forest to debate what should be done with this once great bird, who was now a mean and disruptive bird.

Bear, the leader of the council,called the meeting to order.  “There has been a great dis-harmony within our forest…” with this he ask all the creatures to tell what they knew about it.  One by one they shared their personal stories of injury and trickery by the Flying Turkey.

After each had shared their disturbing stories the Council agreed that something had to be doneabout it and that was the end the reign of terror that the bird had brought to the animals.  There would be a plan to rid the forest of the bird.

“Who will be among the group to take care of this problem?” announced the Council Beaver from the edge of the pond.  No one answered for a long time and then eventually the Rabbit stepped up and said that he would be glad to help.  He noted that he had enough speed to outrun the mischievous bird but he did not have the powerful medicine to stop the bird.

“Who has the medicine that can stop this bird?” announced councilor Raven.  No one spoke up for a long time and then eventually, from under the low branch came a shaking and a hissing and with a deep voice the rattle snake announced “I have the medicine that will stop the bird… forever!”

Everyone knew that this was a good plan and that the speed of the rabbit and the power of the rattlesnake would end the dis-harmony that was in the forest.

Finally the day of the plan arrived.  Only Rabbit and Rattle Snake arrived to begin the plan.  Rabbit ran carelessly (but with all the care in the world) to the center of the meadow where flying turkey had been seen and caused all his problems.  Eventually he saw a shadow and then he began to run in circles around the meadow.  Flying Turkey drop a large rock but it missed rabbit!  Again he ran about the meadow, baiting the bird, once again the he dropped another bigger rock in the direction of the fury fast rabbit and again his aim was too slow and he missed.  With this missed the rabbit looked up and smiled at the badgering bird.  This made him very angry and he retrieved even bigger rock and with all his power he began to fly toward the rabbit with the purpose of killing him.  Rabbit knew that the big rock would slow the bird down and even lower his flight to a lower level.

Rabbit dodge, ran, jumped, hopped and laugh his way all over the meadow.  Finally the great bird was right on the fluffy tail of the rabbit, real low to the ground!  Rabbit darted into a low branch of trees and then to a lower group of bushes.  Flying Turkey yelled, “you can not get away Rabbit I am too fast and to smart to be tricked by you!”

Right then, as the Rabbit and the Flying Turkey went by a small group of bushes the last piece of the plan developed, Rattlesnake jumped from his hiding place and with one powerful strike he hit the Flying Turkey in his neck.  The bird never knew what hit him and tumbled in a fluff of colorful feathers to the ground rolling to a stop.

Rabbit, panting from his run, came up to the bird, as did the Rattlesnake, flickering his tongue.  The menace of the forest, the dis-harmony of the families, was dead!

This is the story referred to in our family as PinnLdSha or translated it means “Flying Turkey Killer”.  In addition to the death of that bird all his ancestors were forever cursed.  Now the turkey is not so glorious or beautiful.  He cannot fly to the highest peaks at the fastest speeds.  He can only fly for short distances and only as high as a tree top.  The Turkey is now considered one of the dumbest birds of all.

PinnlaSha has been described as the Rattlesnake by some of the family; others have referred to the Rabbit and the snake as a team and that being the translation. Some believe that the entire conspiracy equals PinnLdSha.  For this PinnLdSha, it is the story of our name.

Time has shortened the name to Pinn but I will know it’s origins as my sons and daughter will also know. Family bracelett