Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 21, 1973 - August 31, 2008

Well this is it, the end of 35 years of travel from sea to sea to sea several times over. It’s been mostly fun with only a few regrets but I’m not sad that it’s all coming to a close. I’ve seen more of this country than most people can ever dream of and visited communities that people pay tens of thousands of dollars just to get to once in their lifetime. Wow, and someone actually paid me to do all this! I’ve been lucky to work for a company that takes care of its employees as well as Northern does and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, no matter what I may have mumbled under my breath from time to time.

The following is an alphabetical listing of all the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company stores that I can remember working in even if some of them were unofficial and only for a few minutes. Many of them no longer exist but there’s a story with each and every one so perhaps someday I’ll sit down and fill you in on a few of them. As with most memoirs though some secrets will have to be kept and names changed just to protect the innocent. Hmmm, I can think of lots of variations of the HBC initials that were applied to “The Bay Boys” over the years so who am I kidding with the innocent remark! Personally I always preferred the Handsome Boys Club over some of the others.

So here we go… Attawapiskat, Banff, Bearskin Lake, Blanc Sablon, Buffalo Narrows, Calgary, Cape Dorset, Chesterfield Inlet, Chevrey, Chibougamau, Chisasibi (Fort George), Churchill, Clyde River, Coral Harbour, Deer Lake, Eastmain, Edmonton, Fort Albany, Fort Severn, Fort Smith, God’s Narrows, Happy Valley, Happy Valley Rental, Hay River Foods, Hay River Retail, Igloolik, Inukjuak (Port Harrison), Inuvik, Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay), Iroquois Falls, Island Lake, Kangiqsujjuaq (Wakeham Bay), Kangirsuk (Payne Bay), Kashechewan, Kasibonika, Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo), Kuujjuaraapik (Great Whale River), La Ronge, La Tabitiere, Lake Harbour, Little Grand Rapids, Manouane, Mistassini, Montreal, Moose Factory, Moosonee, Nelson House, New Liskeard, Nitchequan, Norway House, Obedjiwan, Ottawa, Pangnirtung, Pickle Lake, Poplar Hill, Poplar River, Portage La Loche, Povungnituk, Qiqitarjuak (Broughton Island), Rankin Inlet, Rigolet, Rossville, Salluit, Sanikiluaq (Belcher Islands), Sapotaweyak, Sault Ste. Marie, Sioux Lookout, Smooth Rock Falls, Split Lake, St. Paul’s River, Toronto, Vancouver, Waskaganish (Rupert’s House), Weagamow, Webequie, Wemindji (Paint Hills) and Winnipeg.

And with this I do hereby declare myself officially retired. 3, 2, 1, 0…

August 30, 2008

Descending out of 37,000 and although the sky may have some scattered clouds I am optimistic. I'm headed home off my last trip, and our future is secure due in a great part to the Watkins home business we started working on a couple years ago. Call it a premonition but I knew this day would come eventually and I'm glad we prepared. A buddy of mine might not be so lucky as he may only have days left before his "package" is presented to him, take it or leave it.

Yes, I've been lucky and was even offered a job yesterday as the Financial Officer for an Indie flic. I'll check it out but it's really not something I'd be interested in right now. Of course we haven't talked money yet so it might 'get' interesting later.

Anyway, things are looking good and it's a great time to be starting a new life. Bring on the future, it's no match for me today!

I'm Old Fashioned...

I know they have a bigger payload and operate more efficiently and cheaper but there is something not quite right about putting a turbine engine on a single engine aircraft. I'm talking about the Beaver and more so of the Otter.

I don't know how many of the aircraft I've loaded and unloaded over the years, a couple hundred probably if you throw in the Norseman and every one of them was a piston engine. These machines had heart, they had a personality, a life. They had to be tickled and talked to softly when at -70 you put back in the battery and oil that you had taken out the night before and hauled on a toboggan up to the house so they wouldn’t freeze solid. They had to be cursed while you had to put on the engine tent and fire up the blow pots to heat the frigid metal before you finally attempted a start up in the morning. You swore even more when the skies were frozen into the slush and had to be hit with an axe to loosen and you still had to have people pulling from side to on a rope tied to the tail of the plane to try to work the aircraft loose.

Then, the roar of power with the smell of av-gas in the cockpit mixing with the odor of wood smoke coming from your moose hide mitts as you rose into the rising sun. You can't possibly understand how much I truly miss those days. But I digress...

There was romance and feeling to these aircraft which flew as they were intended. Yes, I know the reasons but it's still sacrilege to put a turbine engine on a great machine like the Otter. Anyone out there have an opinion? Please jump in with a comment.

PS: I actually still do a lot of flying but now it's all on the computer. What do I fly most often? I alternate between a DHC-2 Beaver on floats, a Grumman Goose and a good old DC-3. All have piston engines as some things just aren’t meant to be changed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Waterfront Inn, Buffalo Narrows

This is where I’ve been living for the past couple weeks in Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan. It’s a nice little motel and I’ve stayed here before on extended visits. They have regular rooms, some with kitchenettes but my favorites are the ones with the little balconies overlooking the lake.

In the morning I sit out there with my coffee and watch the ducks, terns, pelicans and other wildlife all in a private and very quiet setting. I can listen to the fish jump and just charge up my batteries for the day. In the evenings I can either go back to my balcony or head down to the benches on the dock for a small refreshment and relax while reviewing the day’s events and planning for tomorrow. Ah, it’s a great life but of course it doesn't compare to being on our own deck overlooking the lake back in Wikwemikong. Ten more days and I’ll be there!

I’m going to post a few photos of around the motel as I think the owners have done a great job with landscaping and I especially enjoy the way they’ve painted up a few of the rocks.

Meet you at the dock!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I Haven’t Read a Book in Years...

That’s right… it must be 4 or 5 years at least since I’ve read a book cover to cover. What I have done instead is read several dozen on my computer and many more on my Palm Pilot, but it’s not the same.

Remember back when you first discovered the magic that a few well written sentences could evoke? With a simple “coming in view of the ancient swamp” we were swept up and could not only see an image of a misty bog we could almost smell the rotting vegetation. And what was that… yeah that… a trick of the wind or was there another, more sinister sound being masked by the croaking of a thousand frogs?

See what I mean? To me the printed word of ink on paper brings the image alive so much more than on a computer screen. There is just something about holding a book in your hands that makes it so much more real. To feel the texture of the page as you turn it in anticipation and after reading a particularly intriguing passage to be able to simply put the book down and contemplate. That pause, just for a few minutes, can bring so much more vividness and understanding and these experiences are what I miss most in the modern age of electronics.

What a loss to the youth of today who will (I think) miss something of Herman Melville, H.P. Lovecraft, Jack London or Dante. And don’t get me started on how much you seem to lose from the likes of Robert Service on a brightly lit monitor. Who can possibly feel anything of “The northern lights have seen queer sights” in that glare?

Ah, must be getting old I guess but I miss the evenings of reading quietly with no TV or other distractions. Guess I’d better turn off the computer now and find that old copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull that I’ve been meaning to re-read for years.

What's in YOUR library these days?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Lighthouse On The Prairies?

I've always wanted to stop and check out this landmark which is located in Cochin, Saskatchewan.

Bet you didn't know there was that much water in the middle of the prairies, did you?

It was a long climb for an old guy like me, 152 steps in all but the view was worth it I think. Don't you?


These guys were all sitting in the parking lot of the Saskatoon Inn while I was there. Another 1,400 vehicles were due in on the weekend for a big rally. Wish I could have hung around.

I thought I should post these photos for my car crazy kids... and me too I guess. This last one is the rental car I have for the next month. Vrooommm, vroooooommmmmm!

Friday, August 01, 2008

July 31, 2008.

So you've heard it all from me before... last trip. I've warned you all though that if the company gets stuck and really needs someone somewhere fast they know that they can call and I'll be on the next plane out for them. The timing on this excursion however will take me right up to (and probably over) the planned and agreed upon retirement date of September 1st. We’ll see.

Today's route takes me from Wiky to Sudbury to Toronto to Winnipeg to Saskatoon. There I will overnight at one of my favorite hotels, the Saskatoon Inn. This is my preferred location in that city as it’s close to the airport with easy access to the city and Provincial highway system. I won’t tease you with stories about the dessert buffet (complete with chocolate fountain) following a great western meal, or the “Botanical” lounge where you can get a very fine single malt for a nightcap.

Sigh… it will have to be just one Lagavulin tonight though as I have a 5 hour drive north in the morning. No commercial flights to where I’m headed this time but it does have the very rare treat called a “road” to this particular Northern location. I’ll try to post again tomorrow but I’m not even sure I’ll have an internet connection for a while. If you don’t hear from me or see any updates to the Our Manitoulin web site you’ll know why. Later!