An Old Man’s Winter Night by Robert Frost
Begin forwarded message:
From: ALAN SKEOCH <firstname.lastname@example.org>Subject: EPISODE 99 LAST FLIGHT OUT ON A CRIPPLED BUSH PLANEDate: August 25, 2020 at 10:04:17 AM EDTTo: Alan Skeoch <email@example.com>, Marjorie Skeoch <firstname.lastname@example.org>, John Wardle <email@example.com>
EPISODE 99” LAST FLIGHT OUT … ON A CRIPPLED BUSH PLANEalan skeochAugust 2020
EPISODE 99 LAST FLIGHT OUT ON A CRIPPLED BUSH PLANEalan skeochaugust 2020PILOT “Listen boys, I do not like this little lakeso do your work fast. The water is going downand landing will get difficult.”“Take less per load.”“Possible but soon there’ll not be enough water to land.”“These are the last off our anomalies…we will work fast.Come back for us in three days.: (I do not remember this time line exactly)The summer of 1964 was hot. To many that means heightened fire danger which wastrue. We had a no fire rule for much of the summer. But the real danger was the slow butsteady evaporation of water from the lakes. A lot of waterwas gone between June and September. That fact is apparent in the photograph ofour fly camp (Episode 97). Looks like the water has gone down five feet or more.Flight pontoon landings that were easy and safe in June became difficult and dangerousin September.This picture was taken in mid August. Take a look at the high water mark on the shore. Seems water had gone down aboutfour or five feet by then. On our last job the water level had dropped more. Very dangerous for water landings and takeoffs aswe discovered.It was our last job.we Were finished. The crew had returned to Paradise Lodge to pack up.Marjorie had caught the ACR to Sault Ste Marie. “Meet you atthe airport, Marjorie…maybe around noon.” My part of the job was finished. I had to beback in school by the end of the Labour Day Week End.The plan was neat. We had finished work on an anomaly close to a small lakesouth of our Wart Lake camp. All that was left was a pile of gear….tents, cookinggoods, some wire frame cots, axes,shovels.,Coleman stoves, fuel, etc. I don’t really remember what wasin the pile of goods. Maybe 200 to 300 pounds ofeuipment.“I don’t like this lake…too shallow,” said the pilot when he dropped us a few days earlier.“And it will get worse.”We did the job as fast as we could and had arranged a pick up. Don’t remember much about the first flightbut I do know I was feeling quite nostalgic. This would be the last bush job of m life. I knew thatand wanted to savour my exit alone. Crew out first. The flight wentwell although the distance from touchdown to the end of the lake was short.That was not the problem. I did not expect a problem for I was wrapped inmy memories of so many bush planes on so many lakes. Mostly Beavers but a fewCessnas and one Seabee which was just a visitor being dropped off. “ThoseSeabees are really dangerous. Motor at the rear. Pushing. If the motor quits thegoddamn thing drops like a rock. No ability to glide. Cessnas glide best.”The Cessna 170 came in at tree top level. Had to. Landing strip of water was shortas evaporation created shallows where once there was two or three feet of water.The pilot cut power early and the plane settled down harder than usual. Bigger chevronof water. And something different. Slightly lopsided. The plane turned and idledits way to our landing site. Slight slant. Odd.“Hit a fucking deadhead. Ripped the pontoon…goddamnit.”Submerged objects terrified bush pilots. Often they took a run at landingthen circled. Looking for objects. Like dead heads…old submerged logs ortrees sometimes angled upwards.“I’m going to pump out the water while you load. Could be tricky. Putload as far forward as you can…need the weight for extra lift.”Took no time at all. Ignition. And we worked our way to best takeoff positionand he gave it full power. We flumed our way down the lake with an increasingslant as the pontoon filled with water. Fast but not fast enough. The far shoreand tree line got closer and closer. “Can’t make it!” and the pilot cut power and the plane settled. Slightly off centre. And closeto shore. Too close.“Dump the load on the beach. We’ll try once more but empty. Got to get offthis fucking lake. “ He cursed and pumped out the pontoon water.“There. Let’s give it another try.”He taxied down as far as he could without getting tangled in weeds. Thenwe were moving. The pontoon filled with water as we went full throttledown the lake. Far shore became the near shore. No lift yet.“Move your body forward…gut more lift.”Then we had liftoff. To me it seemed just in time. Seemed we werejust skirting the swamp and maybe touching tree tops Not true ofcourse. Imagination played.The rest of the flight was easy. In an hour we had landed at Sault SteMarie where Marjorie was supposed to be waiting. I had said noon butwe were late, very late. She was not there.Her turquoise VW beetle was in the parking lot but no sign ofMarjorie.Then she walked into the holding lounge from the aircraft side.“I pretended to be sick.”“A man offered me a tour of the city from his plane. I did notknow he was just a pilot in training. Scared me near to death.Only way we got back on the ground fast was I pretended tobe about to vomit”And so it ended. Our days of mining exploration were over. Theyended with a bang.alan skeochAugust 2020P.S. I know this sounds hard to believe. Writing from memorycan result in exaggeration. So here are the simple factsof that last flight.1) Water levels had fallen dramatically (see picture)2) Pilot did hit something and punctured one pontoon.3) I watched him pump out the pontoon4) We failed to get liftoff on our first attempt and jettisonedthe cargo on the beach.5) Second attempt was just barely successful and I rememberthe pilot asking me to lean forward.6) Our baggage? Do not know what happened.7) Marjorie did take a joy ride that scared her enough to feign vomit8) This was not my final job. The next summer we flew to MerrittB.C. on a short seismic job. But this Paradise Lodge job wasmy last bush job.
SOME of you actually read these Episodes. Some of you do not because your lives are full or you think I am a jerk…or both.
I just sent Episode 99.
Why am I doing this? Several reasons but foremost is the fact that many of you are stuck in isolation and I felt these stories might break the boredom. Another thought is the stories might trigger your own memories and thereby make the tedium less onerous. Maybe you might even record moments in your lives that were memorable.
Another reason is that I hoped my grandchildren might read them and see their grandfather and grandmother in a different light. Not sure they even read them sadly.
alan august 2020
P.S. I am not finished. The stories will keep coming.