Bert Learmonth’s Snowshoe Project
As told by Gordon Fleming (Sept 2013)
In their search for a good design, Bert called his good friend, Game Warden Ted Rutherglen. Ted knew that the best design belonged to Billy Cooper, a Lardeau pioneer and trapper who used the bear paw style. Some time before, Ted had made himself a pair. He had asked Billy if we could borrow his set to get the design. Billy was very protective of his design and his shoes, but he trusted Ted enough to say “Okay, I’ll let you borrow one shoe, for fifteen minutes!”
The raw material for the project, the wooden frame and the rawhide, were supplied from Bert’s farm; a maple tree and a cow! A butchered cow provided the rawhide which went through the processes necessary to be useful for the project. Lumber was cut from the Maple in strips about 5/8” x 1”. In order to be made completely around in the bear paw shape, Bert had to make something to steam the wood for flexibility. He used an electric kettle, and in place of the spout he brazed a long piece of copper pipe. This provided a very efficient steam chamber which prepared the wood to be bent around a pattern jig and it was clamped until it held its shape.
At this time Bert came up with an improvement on Billy Cooper’s design. In order to hold the cross pieces in position, Billy carved some notches in the frame. Bert thought these could be a weak point so instead of that he he ran a thin leather lace around the inside diameter of the frame securing each part of the webbing as it went around the frame.
A few years ago Gordon gave his pair of snowshoes to his daughter-in-law as a Christmas gift. Gordon says, “I wonder how many of the originals are still in use?”
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