It’s impossible to relay a life time of memories in a blog. Harder still to write about them on the heels of the untimely and painful loss of a life-long friend. But I owe it to my friend Alain “Boo” Bouillon to try.
I first met Boo in elementary school. My early memories were of a highly energetic, physically strong and precocious young man. He was shaving while the rest of us were in short pants. I don’t exactly recall what brought us together or why we became fast friends so quickly. We both enjoyed fishing and hunting. We both loved hockey (although he was a die-hard Leafs fan while I was a Blues fan at the time). And we shared a similarly zany sense of humour.
Whatever it was, we soon became inseparable. I spent as much time at his house as I did at mine in those early years. We spent many nights playing cards with the entire family (I particularly enjoyed the back and forth sarcasm between Alain and his elder brothers Eugene and Reg), enjoying Mrs. Bouillon’s fantastic cooking or playing ball hockey in his basement where I would emulate Glenn Hall using the freezer as my ‘net’ and Boo would pose as Norm Ulman or Darryl Sittler or Lanny McDonald. While on the topic of hockey, Boo had an ungainly stride but he was freakishly fast. The same was the case when he ran…he had explosive speed.
As our friendship evolved we spent much of our summer vacations together as well either at the Bouillon camp at Carry Lake (mileage 49.5 west) or at our camp on Downes Lake near Cartier. The trips to Carry we more frequent. I would join the Bouillon family for weeks at a time. We would load up food and provisions on the Budd Car and head out to the camp there. Mr and Mrs. Bouillon were almost always there, with Eugene, Reg, Pat, Lucien, Aline and Leah joining in from time to time. There are so many memories to share but I will restrict them to a couple or this would quickly turn into a book.
I soon became renowned by the entire Bouillon clan for persistent diarrhea when I was at the camp. We never quite determined the cause, but my frequent trips to the outhouse at all hours of the night soon become the target for some good-natured sarcasm. And laughter during the night as I stumbled and cursed on my way to the toilet for the umpteenth time. And it didn’t happen once in a while…it was every night over 2-3 weeks. Boo would always wake up and say “Jesus Lornie, again!!??” and then he’d laugh like hell.
More than anything Boo and I loved fishing together. Not because we were particularly successful at it though. Back in the day the fishing at Carry Lake was downright miserable. There had been a spill of some sort from a train wreck that had decimated the pike population and it took decades for the lake to recover. Regardless we would spend countless hours out on the lake enjoying the futility of it all. We would regularly take the hike down the tracks to Pickle Lake at Mileage 51. This involved hauling motor, gas cans, fishing gear etc…for about 1.5 miles. It doesn’t seem as arduous now, but back then it was a serious undertaking and we would struggle to keep up with Lucien in particular who strode his way at a brisk clip two-ties at a time. The fishing there was far more productive and I remember the shore lunches (white bread with cordon bleu spread and mustard) and the fish dinners cooked by Mrs. Bouillon back at the camp.
We used to do a lot of exploring as well. I vividly recall the time we decided to try to find our way to the Missinabi highway which involved a boat right across the lake and a 2 mile walk through the bush. We quickly became disoriented (at one point Boo resorted to following Teddy, the Bouillon’s beagle) but after hours of roaming through the bush found the highway. We knew there was no way we could find our way back so we walked up the highway to mileage 48 crossing and followed the tracks back. In the meantime everyone was worried as we had been gone for hours and we were met by Lucien on our way back. He tore a strip off the both of us…we deserved it. In our teenaged years these trips would include our friends from Chapleau High School and we had many legendary outings with a broad circle of friends including Daniel Morin, Larry Martel, Bernie Morris, Mario Lappierre, Anthony Dillon, Pat Payette and a host of others.
As we got older, we spent more and more time down the river. Boo knew it well and fished it frequently. The one thing anyone who knew Boo well will attest to was his story telling. That man could sit in a boat and entertain for hours on end with a litany of tales (some taller than others) and commentary about issues and topics that varied from the trivial to the political. Boo was a die-hard liberal and probably the most passionate Pierre E. Trudeau advocate that walked the earth. He always said he was a descendant of former Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier and given his political bent and astute analysis of issues and trends (particularly as he got older) I believe that was indeed the case. We would trek into Robinson Lake and always come back with fish. I guess if we were to lose Boo, the river was as good a place as any. His last hours were spent doing something he loved. I just wish they hadn’t been his last hours.
Boo and I attended the same university for a time as well…Carleton. We shared an apartment on Rochester St. near the Rideau Canal. Boo took history and I was in the journalism school. We hosted some lively parties at our apartment, which was decorated in true northern student style…featuring beer case end tables. Pat Payette was at Carleton as well and we were soon joined by fellow Northern Ontarian Sean Callaghan (Thunder Bay) which made our first year away from home a bit more familiar and fun than it otherwise would have been. Boo went on to graduate from Laurentian with a sociology degree (not sure of the exact name) and was a very effective social worker for years in Chapleau.
After graduation and as we lived in different parts of the country our visits were fewer and farther between but when we reconnected it was always as if we had never been apart. We would get together at his place and listen to CBC radio, talk business, sports and politics (rarely agreeing on anything) over drinks. We would fish, either down the river or at 51, and catch up in the tranquility of nature.
Later in life, sadly we didn’t get to see each other much. In fact I didn’t even see Boo when I was in Chapleau this summer. I will have a hard time forgiving myself for that. It would have been good to see him one more time.
Anyway, this is far shorter than it could or should be but I hope it conveys the special friendship I enjoyed with a thoughtful man who possessed a great sense of humour, a keen mind and a good heart. My heart goes out to the entire Bouillon family who lost a good man and a loving bother today.
Rest in peace Boo.