Dec 2019

Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.

Dec 27  Clean-cut Corporate Culture? The following images of Zig-Zag rolling papers illustrate what looks like a corporate ‘clean up’ of an image for the American market.

ZigZag001.jpg                Front view.  Left- the original package, new packaging on the right.

ZigZag002.jpg            The reverse side of packages. Note the changeMade for (an American company)”

Zig-Zag papers have had the sailor with a smoke image for as long as I can remember. It’s a classic graphic, cool and clean, with good use of colour. I once had a T-shirt with him embroidered on it. (Thanks, Kaethe, it was cool, wish I still had it).

But there’s just one problem with that image in the American culture: a cigarette. The horror! Even worse, it might be a marijuana cigarette!

What the hell are they pretending rolling papers are used for, bandaids? It’s a wacky world we live in.


Dec 25  This Christmas morning walk with Wilson felt very different. It has been mild here lately, and the not- quite- daylight was shrouded by a thick fog. Walking along the path to the back field, I could hear the swish of beard stubble on my coat collar and the clomp of my heavy boots hitting the firm soil. At the end of the path, I stopped and let Wilson root around and do dog things.

Something was unusual. I listened and heard… nothing. Absolute silence; no bird chatter, no rattle of dry corn leaves gossiping in the breeze, no cars honking, none of yesterday’s angry snarl of chain saws cutting ash trees in the nearby bush.

It was both peaceful and eerie in the silent fog. It is extremely rare to hear absolute silence. I say hear because, in such silence, my ears strain to hear… anything.

And then it was broken. Far off in some indiscernible direction the rush of tires rolling on asphalt like the exhale of some mystical beast. And then it was gone, driven away by the silence.

It was a rare walk in a peaceful, unusual atmosphere.

Returning home for coffee, I hummed a tune, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, the current earworm by the Temptations playing loops in my mind. The world might be silent but my brain never shuts up.

Happy Festivus.

Dec 22  The Fish Tugs project has grown from the original focus on Ralph Hurley built boats. I’m now also looking at the wider scope of the fishing history on the Great Lakes, with a localized look at Port Bruce in particular. I’m searching for photos of Great Lakes fishing boats of various vintage, particularly older photos. If you have anything, including photographs, information and anecdotes that you wish to share please contact me.

Harbour PostCard.jpgHistoric postcard (reproduction) Note the US spelling of ‘harbour‘. The ‘u’ was added to later cards.

John Hurley and I have been posting a series of photos with captions documenting the build of the Last Time. John posts a segment each Friday on the Facebook Great Lakes Fish Tugs site.

Last TimePtDover.jpgThe Last Time, 1980      photo by John Hurley

Although I am not a FaceBooker, I do plan to join soon, with an emphasis on shamelessly promoting this blog. Check back soon to see when it’s online. Friend me if you wish, but fair warning- I don’t want to see photos of that meal you ate- and absolutely had to share with the entire world- I don’t want to know your politics and, no, I don’t want to be saved or earn a fortune working at home. Those are some of the reasons that I gave up on Facebook many years ago.

Gushing review follows:

“To my FaceBook friends!  I just had to share this gourmet meal we enjoyed at Almost Swank cafe in downtown HotSpot, 5 minutes ago. The food was delicious and, by employing my diplomatic skills of flattery and bribery, I convinced the host to allow me to post this photo of his culinary masterpiece that we so much enjoyed.

Eat your (whatever) out with envy, folks.”





goathead.jpg                 A rocker’s gourmet meal    The eyeball was delicious.


Dec 19  Past tense. Think the world today is violent, conflicted and confusing place? Yearn for the past when people were kinder and the world more peaceful? Those wistful thoughts are largely a result of sentimental longing. The truth is somewhat harsher.

Searching through an index of newspaper articles in my locale is revealing. The descriptions summarizing the stories are interesting on their own. These from the St Thomas newspapers in 1878. (Note the plural- there were many newspapers back then. Today, papers are sliding towards extinction.)

From 1877
Oct 24 Row (fight) between crews of ‘Florence’ and ‘Australia’, Port Stanley
Oct 30 Eagle attacks child
From 1878
March 15 Gambling in Aylmer
May 31 Port Bruce fisherman charged, liquor sales
June 25 F. Kontze, Port Bruce finds pond nets cut
Oct 15 Headless body found near Silver Creek
Oct 22 Port Bruce fisherman finds part jawbone, probably from headless body
Nov 26 Eagle shot in Dexter, 8’ 4”, attacked child

From 1883
March15 Sleigh through lake ice returning to Port Talbot
March 28 Sleigh through lake ice returning to Port Bruce
July 7 Septugenerian sinner in Aylmer, rape
July 12 Furious flooding in London, 20 drown
Sept 27 Lake disasters in Port Burwell
Oct 24 Sparta Zavitz suicide, swallows walking stick, pierces liver

From 1888
June 20 Mr Goodfallow, Aylmer businessman, suicide, incest
Aug 13 Visitors to Port Stanley drunk, profanity, shouting
Dec 15 Arrests for the death of RD Brown, Copenhagen

Eagles were repeatedly shot in those days, with the wingspan and weight usually reported. Every year there were shipwrecks, fires and collisions, with hundreds of lives lost. There were frequent drownings, floods, deaths of workers. Smallpox and other diseases took hundreds of lives. House fires were common in winter.

Other items I found included yearly reports on the ‘ice harvest’, a critical necessity for food storage. Also of note: reports of large fish that were caught. In 1895 a Lake Erie sturgeon weighing 177 lb was netted. By 1932 a ‘large’ sturgeon of 33 pounds was reported. Resources were mercilessly harvested- fish, lumber, minerals, whatever was on the menu, take it all.

Ahh, the good old days.


Dec 12  Searching the Elgin County Archives online resource turned up some funny and interesting images. The topics, style, and eras covered are vast, it’s a great way to spend some time.

Newspaper photos often cover dignitaries receiving and giving awards, citizen groups holding large facsimile cheques for charitable causes, social events etc. They are known in the paper trade as ‘grip and grins’ for the ubiquitous handshake and smile-for-the-camera. The most boring assignment in the photo department.

Sometimes the subjects are being shown an object or perhaps a distant view by another person. In those cases, the photographer will resort to the gesture, usually, a person pointing. They generally look strained, posed and often funny.

Here are a few that I found. First this classic:

Homedale.jpg                   St Thomas Times-Journal 1956  Dude, the boss ain’t buying it.

Pointer3.jpg      St Thomas Times-Journal 1978       Dude, your leave was just cancelled.

Pointer4.jpg                   St Thomas Times-Journal 1979     Dude, you’re not convincing anybody.

Here’s a creative photo where the point is avoided. Instead, the subject’s entire body is a gesture. Much more natural.

Point4.jpg                     St Thomas Times-Journal 1968


Fire.jpgSt Thomas Times-Journal  1971 “This dude was serious about going out of business.”


This next photo is titled, “Mr Drakes summer cottage, Port Stanley, circa 1905Cottage.jpg Photo by CW Ellis

This is how one spent one’s vacation at one’s cottage in 1905. Relaxing in casual clothes; two-piece suits for the gentlemen, gardening dresses for the ladies, hats not mandatory.  The gent on the left has his jacket (gasp) unbuttoned.

Still stifled by Victorian mores and uptight by upbringing, unable to relax. But the casual pose of the gent standing foreground centre, plus that slovenly rogue lounging on the stairs, show hints of changes to come. But not too fast says the matriarchal queen on her porch throne.


Note: The ongoing Fish Tugs stories have a new exclusive page on the menu.


Dec 6  What is a good photograph? I don’t generally get involved in philosophical questions, it is unappealing to me, a form of navel-gazing, intellectual masturbation.

Despite that statement, I was intrigued when I found a video on YouTube that asked that very question. As a photographer since college, I often questioned my own photos worthiness. It’s a healthy and positive reaction, something I suspect most photographers share unless they have a cast-iron ego and are convinced that they are great.

We should never be too old to accept criticism and as the narrator and critic, Justin Jones states, “it’s very important to keep on learning throughout one’s life.” His video is thought-provoking and I agree with many of his ideas.

I have a personal phrase, although not as eloquently stated- “the minute that you think you know it all, life will bite you on the arse.”

Photo-speak and word nonsense. I seem unable to accept word changes for the sake of change, for feel-good substitute words (passed away), or simply to follow a trend and not be left behind, uncool and not with it. Whatever it is.

I think that the worse case is to dumb down words so that people don’t need to exercise their brains. Case in point is the description of how a camera is held to compose an image.

Vertical has become portrait, horizontal is now landscape. Are vertical and horizontal too complex to be understood?

Is it not a portrait if the photographer composes horizontally? Are landscapes only horizontal? Of course not, but the person learning photography is certainly led to believe so by the word change and creativity might be stifled.

“I held the camera vertically” becomes “I held the camera portraitly”?

It’s making my head spin considering these words. Time to get landscaped on the couch for a nap.





Dec 2  The ongoing fish tug project has opened other areas of interest. The captains and crew have been very receptive to questions and willing to talk about their work and lives. Their usual challenge of finding fish is compounded by warming waters and cooling relations with the sportfishing people.

There seems to be a lot of antagonism towards commercial fishermen, “they’re taking all the fish, perch are disappearing” is a common thread on the interweb. Nasty acts like net-cutting have occurred. Aquatic road rage, mindless and expensive loss.

The facts are that perch numbers are cyclical and are also currently threatened by an abundance of prey fish- pickerel and trout. Trout are stocked in locations all over the Great Lakes.

The lake waters are warming, another challenge for commercial fishing. Fish have comfort zones. An overnight catch of hard to find perch was spoiled due to the 2 degrees warmer water and was refused by the fishery. That hurts.

Last week in Goderich a crewman told me that they were finally catching whitefish. Nobody gets paid if the fish aren’t caught. The whitefish were netted 150 feet deep. Normally they’d be around 90 feet or so. Warming waters again.

Those same waters are frigid now, and the men on fishing tugs still go to work, braving the weather and chance. The chance that they’ll return safely with fish to pay the bills. Not a good vocation for the timid.


Nov 27   The hunt for Hurley fish tugs led to ports at Bayfield and Goderich this week.

We were looking for the Last Time and the Mike J. Both Hurley builds were reportedly fishing out of Goderich, working the unforgiving, cruel late season in a tough effort to squeeze a living wage from the cold waters.

It cannot be an easy life. I was cold while waiting for their return to harbour, sheltered from the wild weather that fishing boats sometimes face. Life-threatening situations with nowhere to run.

More coming later, but here are a few photos from our excursion.

Docking.jpgThe Mike J in Goderich 2019


ExceleauCrew.jpgExceleau crew, Goderich 2019



The Mike J,   Goderich 2019


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