Tuesday, December 21, 2004


A "Moose" has GREAT HEARING!!!!!!

The year was 1988, some time around the end of January, or the beginning of February. I was flying C-GJJG for Little Grand Rapids Air Service. C-GJJG was a 1959 de Havilland "Beaver", and her gear was rigged on de Havilland Beaver skis. They are very robust skis, with leaf-spring suspension, good flotation, and excellent all-around handling characteristics. JJG was used to haul freight, trappers, moose meat, ski-doos, and anything you could get through the doors into her. She also hauled many families, and during the memory related here today, that is what she was doing.

The phone rang in the Flight-Shack, and it was a fellow from Poplar Hill, Ontario. Poplar Hill is an Indian Reserve on the Berens River system, just upstream from the east end of Stout Lake. Telephones were not in abundance in Poplar Hill, as for some reason the locals had an aversion to paying their phone bills. Go figure. Anyway, this gentleman said he was calling for Helen Moose, and she and her family needed a ride back to Pauingassi. I told him I could be there in just over an hour.

I warmed up old JJG and fired off to Poplar Hill. It was only 50 miles, but it was already afternoon and there was a heavy snowfall warning out, but the snow wasn't supposed to reach this far north (oh yeah, and the cheque is in the mail, too). I cranked on through the sky past Moar Lake, Sharpstone Lake, and Stout Lake. I marveled at the ice formations around the rapids on the Berens River, as the water doesn't freeze when it is moving that swiftly, and water currents are always on the mind of a ski pilot as he is attempting to land on lakes that are fed by flowing water. I made it to Poplar Hill and loaded up Helen Moose and her family, and took off for Pauingassi.

Helen Moose was from Pauingassi, the daughter of Joseph Crowe. Joseph was a great trapper, and was the head guide at Fishing Lake Lodge well into his 60s. He was a slight man who always wore a feather in his cap, and wore sunglasses all the time, even at dusk on an overcast, rainy day. His children grew up in the bush, and people who live this way get very acute senses.

Helen had married a fellow from Poplar Hill, and had a number of children. Poplar Hill and Pauingassi had close ties, as they were connected by water. In past times the Native people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, and would travel great distances to acquire sustenance. Many places on the river had a great wealth of natural resources and were key meeting places for people, or were intersections of trade and travel routes. These places became today's communities.

My gaze left my instruments, and I looked outside. DAMN snow! We had been in it for awhile now and it was THICK. I was worried that when we hit the burned-out area north of Sharpstone Lake, we may not be able to continue. It was already a white-out, and without trees for visual reference, it would be risky to continue. We flew on and the snow got heavier. I headed a little south, thinking if I hit Sharpstone Lake dead-on, I could follow the Berens River all the way to Fishing Lake, where Pauingassi is situated.

The snowflakes were now the size of "Loonies", I hadn't found Sharpstone Lake, I was losing vertical visual reference, and had 1/8 to 1/4 mile horizontal visibility. Time to land. We found a long narrow lake to land on, and set her down. There was one narrow strip of trees on the south side of the lake the fire hadn't touched, so we could build a fire and make shelter if need be. We covered the engine, and waited in the airplane hoping the snow would let up.

It didn't. Great, here I am stuck on an unknown lake, with a planeload of kids, in the winter. I-yi-yi. We decided to get out and cut wood for a fire. It was getting close to dark. The snow was deep and Helen's husband and I headed for the thin stand of trees to cut wood while we could see. Helen had been sitting in the airplane, but now stuck her head out the door as we headed off. She paused, and told her kids to be quiet. Then she called us back. "Maa", she said to us. "Maa". (Maa is the Saulteaux word for listen.) I couldn't hear anything. "What is it?" I asked. "Running water", she said. I held my breath and listened again, concentrating hard. Ever so slightly, faintly through the snow, I thought I heard it, too. "Meegeesi Rapids", she said. "It must be Meegeesi Rapids." What a stroke of luck. Meegeesi Rapids is where Moar Lake drains toward Fishing Lake.

We decided to attempt to take off and fly in the direction of the sound, and if it was Meegeesi Rapids, I knew exactly where we were and would follow the river home.

We took off and stayed low, and within a couple of minutes...Meegeesi Rapids!!! Unbelievable. Boy, was I feeling happier. We followed the river and made it to Pauingassi. Just as I unloaded, the snow started to let up. I bid my passengers adieu, and flew the last 9 miles to Little Grand Rapids. I landed, covered up the airplane, and walked up the hill to the Air-Base just as darkness covered the landscape.

As I sat by the fire later that evening, sipping on a pickle jar full of "liquid intellect", water, and ice, I thought about the events of that afternoon. If not for the acute senses of a "Moose", I might still be sitting out on a lake shivering. I, for one, was glad to be inside.

C-GJJG was a great Beaver, and could haul a great load. She hauled many moose out of the bush, but there was one "Moose" she preferred over all......... Posted by Hello

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