Day 656: Wawa Ha Ha

Laetitia and her group headed north out of Sault Sainte Marie, generally following the shore of Lake Superior in Ontario Province. They stopped several times in Lake Superior Provincial Park to hike and view wildlife and Ojibwa pictographs at Agawa Rock. Afterward they went on to Wawa, Ontario, where they were spending the evening. The town’s name comes from the Algonquin (Ojibwa) word for “wild goose.”

Not to be outdone by communities in the United States like Frazee, Minnesota with its giant fiberglass turkey and Hayward, Wisconsin with its giant walleye, Wawa welcomes visitors with its own statue, a 28-foot-tall Canada goose. Wawa is located on the western shore of Wawa Lake, undoubtedly home to many of these birds during the summer months. After a walkabout on the lakefront, Laetitia took her group to their hotel and went off to find a happy hour for a pre-dinner libation. She chose one of the town’s two drinking establishments, and as was her custom, took a seat at the bar.

Perched on the next stool was a man of retirement age who introduced himself as Bruce and then immediately began regaling Laetitia with local lore. He said the Algonquin language was spoken extensively throughout eastern Canada and the United States. Thus the name of the Wawa chain of convenience stores in Pennsylvania is based on a Lenni Lenape word that has the same meaning as its Ojibwa counterpart.

He went on to talk about Wawa’s history, a succession of boom-and-bust economies based on the fur trade; the mining of gold, iron, and other minerals; and lumbering. The discovery of gold in 1898 on Wawa Lake made the area important in the Ontario gold rush. Though not as well-known as the gold rush in the Klondike, Ontario produced more than fifteen times as much gold. During Bruce’s discourse about the lumbering era, when the area was filled with emigrant bachelors, he mentioned a slang meaning for the phrase, “bagging a Canada goose” that did not involve a blind and a shotgun. Laetitia turned it into the limerick of the day.

When a logger went out to seduce
Wawa women he deemed to be loose
His buddies decreed
That they hoped he’d succeed
In “bagging a Canada goose.”