Editorial Introduction to the Chapter Titled:

"The High
Granite
Wilderness"

      One of the great pleasures of being a bush pilot is being able to enjoy the wilderness without suffering the extreme kind of pain and hardship that the trappers, prospectors, miners, and drill crew must endure. The bush pilot can make a short two hour flight into one of these remote wilderness camps, enjoy the occupant's enthusiastic company, indulge in the freshly baked bannock hospitality, and wing his way back to civilization and his own warm bed for the night.
      This lifestyle, of course, does not apply to helicopter pilots or pilots on contracts where the aircraft must stay with the geological or drilling party in the high arctic, but it does apply to the majority of the bush flying jobs I have had.
      The most important rule I learned was to generally take care of the camps as if they were your own, and specifically to be good to the cook or the camp boss or whoever was in charge of the kitchen. There is nothing better than a cup of hot coffee and a pile of fresh pancakes (made from scratch) topped with cool yellow butter and real maple syrup, and a side of crisp Canadian bacon to fuel the pilot on his return flight south.
      This story, taken out of Grant McConachie's biography Bush Pilot With A Briefcase, epitomizes, to the extreme, an example of what it is like to be the bush pilot with a responsibility to his trusting customers left in some remote wilderness. Hopefully we will never get to experience what it feels like to be the stranded fool waiting faithfully on the pilot to return.
      I can't help but remember the time I left an Indian trapper and his family on a remote lake out from my base of Island Lake, Manitoba. I loaded the trapper, his son and daughter and wife, an outboard motor, gas can, backpack, and rifle into the C185 floatplane. By the size of the pack I could see they carried only the staples of flour, salt, and lard. We flew for about one hour as he directed me to his remote camp. I dropped them off and agreed to pick them up in two weeks.
      The next two weeks was filled with 10 hour flying days, dispersed with fights with my employer, inquiries by the RCMP, distressed nurses, an Indian boy with a fishing hook through his finger, burning houses, and other life-on-the-reserve distractions. The two weeks turned to three when suddenly I remembered my promise. I set out the next day only to discover to my horror that I had not marked the location on the map. With three weeks of 10 hour flying days, I had been everywhere imaginable and could not even remember what lake I had dropped them into.
      I flew to where I thought was the location and started a slow search pattern. As luck would have it I spotted a fire on the horizon after about half an hour of searching. I circled and to my relief found the family standing on the Precambrian rock shoreline.
      I landed and nosed the floats to the shore. We loaded the aircraft without a word spoken. No one seemed perturbed or upset, and in fact, they did not even seem to notice that I was late. They had shot a small moose so we loaded the hide, the dried meat, some fresh meat they had buried, and the head, and flew back to the Island Lake settlement.
      Only days later did I start to get the friendly polite ribbing from the Indians in the settlement about how some "new" pilot had forgotten the Spencer family in the bush and had only found them by accident when he was wandering around lost one day. The smile induced wrinkles in the corners of their eyes told me they knew damn well who the pilot was. I enjoyed the way they dispensed this good humour teasingly, but I also recognized that they were doing it to let me know that, as their guardian of transport, I too had responsibilities to this god forsaken community.

Editorial Introduction by John S Goulet

Continue now with the chapter out of Bush Pilot With a Briefcase called:

The High Granite Wilderness

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John S Goulet Editor

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Last modified January 06, 2015 .
Virtual Horizons, 1996.