Friday, December 31, 2004


Grocery Shopping, Trapper Style!

"BR-R-R-I-I-I-NG-NG-G"!!! The phone startled me and ended my wandering through the dreamworld of scantily clad women and free beer. I snapped back to reality and realized I was in the Flight Shack. I dropped my feet off the desk and grabbed the phone. "Hello, Little Grand Air", I said. "Hello Steve, it's Patrick. I want to go grocery shopping to my trapline this afternoon. Can you fly me this afternoon?" came the voice from the other end of the line. "Sure", I said, "but what do you mean by grocery shopping?" "You'll see", Patrick said. "See you after lunch, and I'll need the Beaver."

I hung up the phone and sat there with a stupid look on my face. Grocery shopping, I wonder what he means by that? I figured I would find out after lunch, so I went and fuelled and warmed up the Beaver, and waited for Patrick to arrive.

It was the late 1980's, early January. I had known Patrick Owen for a number of years, and really liked the guy. He was very quiet, very straight-forward, and definitely the man to have with you if you were stuck out in the bush. He had grown up trapping and hunting and was acutely in tune with the bush. The kind of man that goes moose hunting in the fall with a Winchester Model 94 30-30 in a canvas sheath, and takes along a backpack of gear, and that is all he needs. The kind of man that can imitate moose sounds, and uses a piece of birch bark to amplify his call when calling in a moose. The kind of man that builds his own cabin in the bush when his father or grandfather's trapper cabin has decayed. Yes, Patrick had a lot of experience and knowledge.

Patrick showed up with a buddy after lunch, and we headed for Horseshoe Lake, located on the Berens River, about 25 miles west of Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba, where our Air-Base was located. We got to the lake and circled. Patrick had built a new cabin the past fall, and I picked it out from the air. There is a lot of current coming into the lake, and it goes right past Patrick's cabin. I would have to make a tight landing in the small bay to the east and hug the shoreline. "Routine, for a great pilot like myself", I thought. What an arrogant cuss.

I made the landing, and shut down the airplane. I was a little concerned about the ice thickness due to the current, but I figured it was OK where I landed. I exited the airplane, stepped on the ski, then the ice, and one leg went straight through the ice up to my nuts. HOLY SHIT!!!! Panic goes through your mind in times like these. The airplane sinks, and we all die, or something along those lines. Anyhow, I grabbed ahold of my thoughts, and lifted myself back onto the ice. It was only a hole covered in snow. This is a phenomenon that can happen due to current, swirling water, an underwater spring close to shore, or it could've been an old waterhole Patrick cut through the ice previously when he was at his cabin. Whatever it was, Patrick and his buddy headed for his cabin smiling, while I stayed to measure the actual ice thickness around the airplane. I used an axe, and the thickness was 8" of good blue ice, adequate for the Beaver.

From the lake, I had observed Patrick go to his cabin and pull off the window-coverings, then the windows, and disappear inside. He returned to the window a few minutes later, and threw out a moose quarter! Now I got it! This continued until the number of quarters on the ground X 4 = multiple moose. Patrick had been hunting at his cabin at freeze-up, had done extremely well, and had stored some of the meat in the cabin. What a way to grocery shop!!!

We loaded and flew back to base, then unloaded the moose meat into Patrick's snowmobile trailer. He paid me and thanked me for the flight, then departed. He said he was going to share the meat with a few different families. This was what the Native people did in earlier times, and nothing was ever wasted, as even the tongue, nose, liver, heart, and fatty deposits behind the eyes of a moose was consumed.

I watched Patrick disappear around the point, and was glad there were people like Patrick still around. The Native people in Canada are losing a lot of their acquired knowledge of "living off the land", and to me this is a shame. Time marches on, though, I guess, but all is not lost, because with people like Patrick around, the knowledge marches on!

Old C-GJJG was a "59 Beaver, but Patrick liked to use it as a "shopping cart"... Posted by Hello

Horseshoe Lake Grocery Store, with Patrick entering the "meat" section..... Posted by Hello

Always choose a number of choice cuts when shopping..... Posted by Hello

Patrick was (and still is) one "helluva" hunter..... Posted by Hello

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