As I explained before, I have a real respect and interest in those woodsman's tools of the trade that have deep roots in the traditions of the north woods.
One of those tools that drew my interest, was an almost forgotten part of every fishing guide outfit on the Grand Lakes chain of Down East Maine. The Grand Lake lodge basket.
In the traditions of the renowned sporting lodges of Grand Lake Stream, when a group of sportsman would go out for a day of fishing on the lake, their guide would order everything he needed to cook up a substantial shore lunch for his always hungry fishermen. The lodge-keeper would round up "the fixins" and pack it up in a basket traditionally made by the Passamaquoddy Indians, also know as the "People of the Dawn."
Few, or quite possibly only one of these baskets remain, and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on it. Steve and Pat Takach, former owners of the renowned Colonial Sportsmen Lodge, had an original Grand Lake Stream shore lunch basket, or "midgewaugkneebesnud," as it was called in the language of the Passamaquoddy. The spelling is approximate on my part, since when I asked a local native for the spelling, his reply was, "you don't spell it, you just say it."
The Takach's are good friends of mine, and they were kind enough to loan me the basket for a good study, and I have come up with a recreation. Still made of traditional brown ash splint. The base is reinforced with heavy splint standards, and the cover is solid brown ash. I have also added a few of my own touches to strengthen the basket.
Despite your impression of its appearance, I always tell people its history lies in the lodges, and on the lakeshores of West Grand Lake, and if you call it a picnic basket, you can't have one. The history of this lodge basket is as steeped in the heritage of the sleepy little village in Eastern Maine, as the traditional Grand Laker Canoes, the master craftsmen who still build them, and the guides who ply them through the lakes of Down East Maine.
Photo courtesy of Grand Lake Stream Historical Society
Legendary Maine Guide Eddie Chambers cooks up a traditional guides dinner for his "sports" on the shores of West Grand Lake
Grand Lake Stream Lodge Basket - $300.00