Note: The end of these “worst job” stories is coming soon…i.e. part 7…wanted to get the
stories in print even if most readers were not interested.  Provides a distraction from
the terror of Ukraine and the madman Putin.


alan skeoch
March 18,2022


Black and White Bear | Grizzly bear drawing, Bear drawing, Bear sketch

THIS bear picture was taken on the Yukon or Alaska job.  It highlights how we did not want to meet bears…i.e. close quarters.  If we made lots of
noise the bears were not a problem.   These are Grizzly bears.  One of which had to be shot by a armed officer.  The bear of the Groundhog river was a Black Bear.  He got too close
for comfort one evening. (see below)  He was not shot.  We were unarmed on all except for one job in 10 years.

August 27, 1958

I woke late tonight with a funny feeling.   Did not know why for a few moments.  Admired how the moon lit up the inside of our tent.  Then a cloud passed  by
blotting out the moon.  Only it was not a cloud.  it was the bear…he was on the other side of the tent wall…maybe three feet from my body encased
in my sleeping bag.  His  shadow blotted  out the moonlight.   I held my breath.  Then his  shadow just moved  down the tent wall and out of our
lives.   He stole no food  that night.  Probably he could smell us and I am told bears  do not like the smell of human beings.  Our smell was particularly
strong that night.

What you can do to protect yourself from the painful bite of deer fliesDeer Fly High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy
This is an example of deer flies in action.  They can be terrible.  Drive animals out of the forest into the lakes.  The phenomena
I noticed where a thousand (guess) deer flies wedged themselves into a ball under our dock is not mentioned in deer fly
behaviour.  At least not that I can find.   They all appeared to die in the cluster.  I do not know why.

In the morning we tore apart Base Camp #1 and  packed everything on the dock and  shoreline.  Late in the afternoon the Beaver float plane arrived and was  
loaded for the short hop to Kapik Lake a  few miles to the west where we set up our new  Base Camp.  What a difference.  The new camp is  nestled in a climax forest 
of birch  and poplar trees high on a hill where  fresh  wind blows. Not so many flies resulted.  We were out of the swamps.  

A strange thing happened the day we left Base Camp #1..   Something not really  relevant but strange all the same.  Our makeshift dock began  to attract great clouds of
deer flies.  Deer flies are nasty creatures that like human  flesh and human blood.  Chevrons on their wings. They had  been torturing us every day since our arrival.  Yet this
day, August 27, 1958, they were  not biting.  Instead they were clustering in pods under the dock.  Wedging themselves into a great pack of their brethren
and dying all pressed together.  Hundreds of them, maybe a thousand.  Made no sense but it is a clear unusual  memory.  We did not try to dissuade them  from this  mass suicide.


Our new fourth man  was  Mack Deisert standing on  the pontoon while the pilot clears up  a few details, perhaps  related to money.
Mac was quite an entrepreneur.  No fucking around with him.
Mac  arrived  just as we were moving to Kapik Lake with all our gear…August 27, 1958

We had a new employee arrive to replace Robert Hopkins.   Mack Deisert is  a tough man who is familiar with bush life.  Also an expert on heavy mining tools.  For a time he worked  underground
in the gold  mines of Timmins.  Why he no longer was a full time miner became evident as we talked around the camp fires.  “There were all kinds of  ways to
high grade gold from the  Timmins mines.  Lunch pails worked  for a  while but stealing gold that way was a little too obvious…small amounts  under fingernails or in false  teeth specially
made by local dentists.  Some gold was smuggled out in shoe  heels…sounds stupid  I know but remember just an ounce of gold  was worth money…high graders  got 50% of the face value of gold.  Lots of buyers in Timmins.  A miner or a shift boss sees a streak of raw gold
in a hunk of rock…not common but occasionally  appears…he  slips a chunk in his pocket then  gets to a place where he hammers the chunk and get smaller piece with more gold…then has to figure how to
get it out.  A wink to a foreman might do  it.    Most of the high grade gold is ground down right in the mine.  A miner comes upon a vein with raw gold…  he just chips  out a chunk
knocks of the crap and keeps a bit of gold for himself. Small pieces are easy to hide.  Think ‘body cavity’. Some say millions worth of high grade gold hidden and  sold in Timmins.  Miners today  are checked by security guys
every shift.  Big signs in the mine condemn high graders.   Those  signs would  not be up if there was not a problem.  Illegal  gold…common knowledge  about 
who to contact.”  Mack seemed to know a lot about high grading gold…maybe he got caught and that was why he took a job with us.  Or he was just telling a good
story around  a campfire.  Whether his stories were true or not , Mac was certainly an  entertaining character.  


HighGold Mining Inc releases mineral estimate on Johnson Tract deposit  showing one of the highest-grade undeveloped projects in North AmericaHighGold Mining Inc restarts drilling at Timmins projects following  coronavirus suspension

www.mining.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/19574967_10155257983451578_8225746921495811735_o-1-300×167.jpg 300w, www.mining.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/19574967_10155257983451578_8225746921495811735_o-1-768×427.jpg 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” apple-inline=”yes” id=”9F3864C6-6778-414E-AC10-007AAE1F4EB4″ src=”http://alanskeoch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/19574967_10155257983451578_8225746921495811735_o-1.jpg”>
These miners celebrated with special cake when Porcupine Gold Mines ‘Dome” mine closed on December 31, 2017, after 107 years.  A nearby
mine at South Porcupine opened in 1910 and produced an estimated 67 million ounces of gold.  That does not include the
gold that was ‘high graded’ and sold to criminal buyers for $12.50 an ounce in the 1950’s.  Today, 2022, gold sells for $2,000 
an ounce.  I wonder what the high graders get today.  Just to test your criminal minds think how you could sneak an
ounce of raw gold out of a Timmins gold mine.    Not too easy today…body checks.


Ontario mines lose a million dollars a year to high-graders. Quebec and B. C. mines are robbed of another million. (One B. C. high-grader was stopped at the Blaine, Washington, custom station carrying $55,000 in a single shipment.) But police cases in recent years have amounted only to the apprehension of individual miners with small quantities of illegal gold. Yet, as one mining official said recently, “Fire a shotgun down the main street of Timmins or Val d’Or and it’s even odds you’ll hit half a dozen highgraders.”

Men like these bring gold out of the mines by the use of every stratagem human ingenuity can devise. It is carried in specially built false teeth, in false bottoms of lunch pails, within bars of soap, inside plugs of tobacco and hand-rolled cigarettes and within the body openings. Some simply carry it in their hands, or under their armpits, as they pass through a shower room completely naked, leaving their work clothes on one side and picking up their street clothes on the other. Their lunch pails travel across the change room—commonly called a “dry”—on a conveyor belt subject to police scrutiny.

      MACLEAN’S, How Gold Thieves Get Away With Millions,   Don Delaplante, July 15, 1950


 To Mack Deisert a blazing Axe was  child’s play.   He was unlikely to hurt himself for he knew
the consequences  of a wilderness injury.   Mack considered  our job an interesting interlude where he could

pick up a few bucks in a week or so.  Strong as an ox.  Wish he was with us earlier.s

Sometimes posture reveals much about a person.  Take a look at Mack leaning against the bush plan.

“I heard you need a man for a week or so?  I’m available.  If not, I’ll fly back to South Porcupine.”


Supper was special.  Fresh food.  We dined on veal cutlets, string beans, potatoes, tea and ‘fresh bread’.   Our bread was soon stale…turned dry  
or mouldy…good bread got very 
crusty as time wore on in camp.  Mouldy  bread  was garbage.  Dry bread was usable even if hard as a gold brick. The  way to soften dry bread up
was a French Toast concoction we made regularly…water, powdered milk, a couple of
eggs while they lasted, some butter and a hot frying pan.  French  toast could be stretched out and become a bush lunch when lathered with
peanut butter.   Tasted really good.  We could do the same thing with porridge.  Hot in the morning.  Then a slab of cold porridge oats as a jelly like lunch. How?
If firm enough the cold  porridge could also be lathered with peanut butter.   All this was  washed down with tea boiled in a
fruit can tin with a wire looped over so the billy tin and then hung on a stick over an open fire.  When we  ran  out of real tea  we used Labrador tea, a
local plant whose leaves were fuzzy on the bottom. Easy to  find. Questionable alternative. No alcohol on the job.   Beer would weigh 
far too much anyway.  Although Floyd did sneak a mickey of Scotch which he shared equally as if it was liquid gold.

August 28, 1958

Rain…wonderful  rain.  So  we got a day of rest…well not quite that for we had to get our new campsite ship shape.  Two tents put up fast

lest the rain get to our sleeping  bags.  Then a new feature. We had to cut and split birch firewood as summer was over. Frost on the pumpkin as

they say…frost on the swamp apples is more appropriate.

KAPIK LAKE — Our camp was somewhere here as was the abandoned canoe.
The pilot from Austen Airways had to be careful landing as the lake was small with
islands in he middle.

Kapik Lake is not
big, just enough room for the Beaver to take off and land.   We were very surprised to discover other humans had preceded us.
“What’s that over on the other side?” “Looks like a canoe.”  Sure enough, some
person  had abandoned  a canoe on the lake.  No sign of a cabin or campsite.   We rescued it. complete with
paddles and had  transportation for leisure evenings to tour the little lake.  Maybe this was here for fly in fishermen.   Maybe Kapik Lake 
was full of fish.  Little good that would do us for we had no fishing gear.

Kapik Lake was inhabited by some strange mole like creatures on one of the little islands and a family of Loons
who serenaded us regularly.

Maybe Kapik Lake was one of those fly in fishing lakes that rich  people use which came complete with a cook to fry up
whatever they catch.  Our use of the lake was far less fancy.   Rich fishermen, if hey arrived while we  were there, would have
been flabbergasted at our basic diet of porridge.  I cut these cartoons our of a local paper after the job  was over.  Made
me laugh.

Walt put the tea bags in with our pork and beans tonight which gave us all  a good laugh.   Then Walt asked “Do you want to
to know how to speak Eskimo (Inuit is term today)?” and proceeded to teach us the language which I think he made up as he went along.  Then again
he did work as a diamond driller at Rankin Inlet. 

August 29, 1958

Walt and I cut line south 221 degrees. Easy work this time because the big trees shaded out the brush.  What a luxury…we could slap our
axes on one side of a big poplar then the other and move by easy  line of sight.  Summer was over suddenly and the trees were changing colour
The bush forest was becoming a land of red and gold.  The negative side of this season change was  the arrival of cold  weather.  All summer
we had been complaining about the hot  sweaty days.  Now we complained about the cold.  Bonus was big time.  Far lfewer flies…none at times.

Distance covered   12,000 feet (easy day)

August 30, 1958

Rain again.  Spent most of the day in our  sleeping bags.  I planned  my short term future.  University bound.  Thoughts of the University of Toronto made 
me very nervous.  Dad was  a tire builder and mom was a seamstress.  Most my other relatives were farmers.  So the prospect of  a university education
was novel and made me nervous not that I told anyone.   My good friends Russ and Jim would be doing the same thing and  were probably nervous as  well.
Money made on this job would pay my first year fees of $400.  Some friends wondered why I took the job.  Two answers.  First, because I loved the job.

Second, to pay university fees of $400 per year as non resident “city boy”.

Our radio weather report warned of heavy frost tonight so we started to assemble our new air-tite wood stove.  The hole in the tent left by the bear was the exit 
point for the stovepipe.   The big birch trees in this  climax forests means we have lots of excellent firewood that splits with ease.   Comfort!  And the smell
of the wood  stove is like the best perfume imaginable.

The only bad  news today was that our fresh  meat had already gone bad.  It would not pass the nose test.

September 1, 1958

Cold  … really cold all day.  Just above freezing which meant the raindrops on the forest leaves were like little ice daggers penetrating our clothes.We 
spent the day extending Bob And Mack’s trail to the northern anomaly.

Distance covered   33,000 feet

September 2, 1958

Another long hard  12 hour day.  We finished blazing our trail to where we figured  the anomaly was  located then did the survey with the Ronka and magnetometer.

My gum rubber boots have holes big enough for my socks to poke through which means I am working every day in wet feet.   Each night we pull off our boots
and  peel down the wet socks then massage our feet.   Bad feet would mean no work.   

Distance covered”   37,000 feet  (about 7 miles)

September 3, 1958

Another brute of a storm night and day.  The tent is  billowing in the wind like a great hot air balloon.

September 4, 1958

Bob and I finished  the north anomaly with both the Ronka EM unit and the magnetometer.

In the evening Walt and  I stalked  a crane in the shallows of Kapik Lake then stayed  out on the lake to watch  the sun set.  Magnificent.

Distance covered    33,000 feet

September 5, 1958

We finished cutting trail to south anomaly then did reconnaissance survey with the Ronka EM unit and the magnetometer.   No conductor
was discovered.

Well, we  are in food trouble.  All our staple foods have  been  consumed…bread, meat, potatoes,  fruit and butter.  So we have to make do with
what we can concoct which tonight constituted a can of peas and  carrots, big pile of  rice topped with bacon fat gravy and followed by cookies
for dessert.

Mack and Walt really entertained us  with fascinating stories of the ‘high graders’ operating in the Timmins gold mines…Dome MinE Company and  MacIntyre Mines, etc.

Distance covered   32,000 feet

September 6, 1958

Stayed awake all night as lightning flashes and  thunder made  sleep difficult.  Very dramatic.  We kept the wood fire burning most of the night and as a result
felt really cosy in our tent.   In the morning I began packing my rucksack for the job is nearly over.   Trans Canada Airline has Viscount air service to Toronto which
sounds exciting.   This was my last day as  cook so  I made a large stew of whatever odds and ends  I could find including the bacon rind on our slab of pork
sowbelly.    Not such a bad  dinner.   To give it a little more body I slipped in a  cupful of rolled oats.  Inventive.



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