Grandpa Paul Dodson Sr. loved canoes. He grew up near the Paw Paw river and spent his youth in the swamps along its banks hunting, fishing and exploring. A canoe was the perfect mode of transportation for quietly sneaking up on all sorts of game and for fishing.
Back in the late sixties my Dad bought a sixteen foot aluminum canoe and it accompanied us on dozens of journeys before it was stolen from the banks of the St Joe River 35 years later.
One foggy October morning in the late sixties my brother Dave and I accompanied my Dad and a friend from his work to Grand Mere State Park for a duck hunt. Back in those days you could use the duck blinds the state had built in the big swamp there. As we paddled the canoe towards the blind a duck flew over head. The friend who had laid his gun on the bottom of the canoe reached for it and it went off, blowing a hole in the floor and side of the canoe. Needless to say, we never hunted with that guy again and gun safety was never something that I took lightly from that point on.
We repaired the boat with a metal filler and it was ready for more adventures. We used it on numerous hunting trips on rivers and creeks where it’s silence in the water allowed us to sneak around bends and catch unsuspecting ducks, geese, squirrels, rabbits and partridge.
One memorable trip our crew hauled 3 canoes deep into the Ottawa National Forest and took Red Light Creek to where it dumped into the Ontonogan River and then took the Ontonogan for an all day trip into the small town of Ewen. We filled the canoes with ducks, geese, grouse and squirrels on that trip.
When not on trips, the old flat bottom canoe rested on the shore of our old pond on Madron Lake Road. Many kids received hands on training of marine biology hanging over the sidewalls of the canoe, peering into the ponds shallow waters.
Years later it followed us to the St Joe River during my time as a hunt club operator on the 1100 acres that sat above its banks.
Late one evening in the early 2000’s a thief took it from our landing below the house. We have since used other canoes but nothing will ever replace the old 16 foot Grumman.