RMC Anecdotes

Furter & Miller go duck hunting - October 1952


Two notable events occurred at the college that year. I had never done any duck hunting and the Kingston area was under a major migratory route. A classmate, Bill Furter shared my enthusiasm and we agreed to a hunt. He had his own shotgun and I drew one from gunroom stores. It gets dark early in October so we made a plan to depart for Wolfe Island after classes. By four we had a canoe loaded with our guns and ammunition, donned our life jackets and set off for the Island. There was no wind and at 4: 30 pm we landed at a marshy area dotted with bulrushes. We pushed the canoe into one of these bushes where it was well camouflaged. We waited an hour; several flocks had flown by but none near enough for a clear shot. A few minutes past six we decided that we had better start back. We noted the wind was rising and it was starting to get dark. Just then four ducks flew near us. I managed to get one quick shot off and bagged a teal. We retrieved it and made haste for home.

 By the time we reached the river a westerly wind had freshened to 15 knots and it seemed to get darker by the second. The millpond we paddled over on was now a series on one-foot waves and in the gathering darkness they looked very menacing. I took no chances with using the canoe seat and sat on the bottom in the bow while Bill took the stern. We started stroking as hard as we could. Thirty minutes later we had made it half way across and it had started to rain. The waves were now two feet in height coming from the forward port quarter. Every third wave broke over the bow and there were now several inches of water in the canoe.  At this time we were shrouded in darkness and the seriousness of our predicament began to manifest itself upon both of us and we were frightened. We knew we should not have set out so late; we knew we should have told someone of our trip. As it was, not a soul knew of our whereabouts.

 I scanned the horizon and to my horror distinguished the outline of a huge transport ship 400 yards to our right and bearing down upon us! I shouted a warning to Bill and he made a rapid decision. If we stopped in the water we would be at the peril of the waves; if the waves didn’t swamp us the wake from the vessel surely would. The water temperature was not much above freezing. The College was another three fourths of a mile away. Even though we had life jackets on we would die of hypothermia long before reaching shore.  

So we stroked. We were already exhausted but the new danger put added impetus into our strokes and we laid-to with a renewed adrenalin-induced vigour and our speed increased noticeably. Bill kept a steady course and we could discern the angle between our course and the vessel slowly increase. Finally, after what seemed like hours the angle reached 90 degrees; we passed in front of the freighter a scant 100 yards distant and breathed a huge sigh of relief as it passed harmlessly behind us. It had been a very close call. 

We slackened our pace and made our way to the boathouse. We secured the canoe to the dock and walked over to the boathouse and stood our guns up against the boathouse wall. The dock is attached to the boathouse with six-inch chains. When we went back to retrieve the canoe our momentum carried the dock away from the boathouse to the full extent of the chains. Both guns made a sickening sound as they slid down the wall. As Murphy’s Law would have it, the College gun fell onto the dock while Bill’s gun fell into eight feet of water. Bill’s gun belonged to his father and was a showcase piece. He grabbed a boat hook and immediately went to work to retrieve it. It was now raining heavily; I was wet, cold and very tired and opted for a hot shower. On the way back to the Stone Frigate I met our Cadet Squadron Leader, Pete Chisholm. We had missed the evening roll call and no one could account for our absence. Although the CSL is a member of our class he has responsibilities for good order and discipline. As our absence could not be accounted for, he was about to notify Director of Cadets the repercussions of which would have been most serious. As it was, we were subjected to a sound scolding and a stern warning. We were suitably humbled by the experience.

  Bill persisted in his retrieval efforts and was successful in retrieving his gun that evening, except for the forelock piece that he was able to replace from the manufacturer and so escaped the ire of his father who remained blissfully ignorant of our close encounter.

 Next morning at breakfast I took my forlorn, lone duck to the cadet dining room where I sought out the chef, Mr Peacock. He was a rotund gentleman with an agreeable smiling face and well liked by the cadets. He agreed to take my trophy and have it ready for me at dinner that evening. I cannot recall if Bill shared the duck with me that evening. A teal is not as big as a mallard however it was a satisfactory morsel. It was difficult to reconcile the value of that repast with the effort expended in a near miss event.

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