Whiskey and Ice:
The Saga of Ben Kerr, Canada's Most Daring Rumrunner.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
The date is not known, but sometime during his first two years as a rumrunner, Ben Kerr found himself the target of hijackers. As Don Harrison, a former Trenton rumrunner, recalls the story, Kerr was delivering a load on a lonely shore east of Rochester. He had taken his speedboat into shallow water, bow facing out for a speedy exit, engines idling, and was handing bags of ale to a man in a small rowboat, other men had waded out in water up to their waists, and were carrying bags of beer back to shore when "all hell broke loose, bullets were flying everywhere." Kerr grabbed a rifle and immediately began firing in the direction of the rifle flashes. The hijackers' rifle fire had driven the men on shore into the woods and had scattered the men in the water in all directions, but Kerr's highly accurate return fire drove the hijackers away from the shore and gave his associates time to regroup. Kerr then took his boat out, moved about two hundred yards east of the shooting and then landed. He landed with his .45 revolver jammed in his belt, carrying his .303 rifle in one hand and his 12 gauge shotgun in the other. He was able to come up on the rear of the hijackers and, by alternately firing the different guns, create the impression that he had others with him. In the darkness and confusion the hijackers fled the scene, without managing to steal a singe case.
Why would a promising pianist from a prominent Canadian family choose the risky life of a smuggler? In Whisky and Ice, C.W. Hunt relates how Ben Kerr, pianist and businessman, turned smuggler to become involved in the excitement of the Prohibition struggle in Canada and the United States. The book begins with the mysterious deaths of Kerr and his associate, Len Wheat, on Lake Ontario in 1929. It's a mystery that Hunt leaves open until the final chapter, when he tells of the discover of Kerr's boat, the Pollywog, in 1994 by two sport fishermen.
Deborah Mervold is a Teacher/Librarian in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan.
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