Friday, December 17, 2004

 

The Silence Is Deafening At Dogskin Lake

I was flogging through the sky on a beautiful day hauling a load of diesel fuel up to Dogskin Lake Lodge. I was flying a Polack Otter, old C-GBTU, augering along behind the four-bladed prop. BTU was a 1957, with a 4-barrel carb and a supercharger, cranking out 1,000HP on takeoff. It was early May, and I was flying out of the Winnipeg River at Silver Falls, Manitoba, for Blue Water Aviation.

I clipped along north, past the gold mine at Bissett, then crossed the Gammon, Bloodvein, and Sasaginnigak Rivers. There was still ice on Sasaginnigak Lake on the east side, and I could see that Dogskin Lake still had some ice pans floating around, but I would be able to make it into the bay where the docks were. I had to land in the channel and taxi through some ice that was bridged to the shore, but the old Otter on Edo 7850 Beech 18 floats chewed right through it. The ice on the lake made my mind wander back 20 years...............

"I was flying a 1959 Cessna 180 on Fluidyne 3000 wheel-skis, CF-LDW. It was some time around mid-late December. LDW had an O-470K Continental engine, rated at 230HP on takeoff. It had droop-tips and the Cessna 185 gear legs and tail-wheel assembly. It was a great performer and would lift whatever you could cram into it. It was a great trapper machine.

Anyways, I was flying out of Little Grand Rapids, MB, to drop some gear off for Stan Owen at a trapper cabin at the south end of Dogskin Lake. Then I would proceed to Frances Lake, which adjoins Dogskin Lake, and pick up Stan's brother, Joseph, and return him to Little Grand. Joseph always trapped alone, and he was a master at it. I dropped off Stan's gear, and talked to him and his helpers. His family had had the trapline in the Dogskin area for many years, and tremendously enjoyed being out at the cabin, especially at this particular time of year. I had dropped them off in late October on floats, and was just now resupplying them, as the ice was now just safe enough to land a ski-plane on. I bid them adieu and headed to pick up Joseph. It was a very short flight, and extremely smooth down low, as it was blazing sunshine with zero wind, not a breath, not a ripple.

I landed at Frances Lake and shut down the airplane. I got out of the airplane and walked up to Joseph's cabin. It was nestled nicely in the evergreens, to provide shelter and break the wind. The native people are brilliant at placing cabins in the bush for warmth and shelter. I know of trapper cabins that aren't even visible by air, unless you know exactly where they are and can look straight down on them from low-level. Anyway, Joseph's cabin was typical native built, made of peeled jackpine, with a low roof and low doorway. I peeked in, and he wasn't there, but smoke drifted from the chimney and just lay over the cabin due to the no wind condition. I decided to sit on a stump and wait. I leaned against his cabin and became very relaxed. After a few minutes, I started to have an eerie feeling. I couldn't put my finger on it. Something was not right. This was the very beginning of the acquiring of my "Bush Pilot" sense, which today is much finer tuned. So, I sat there, and my mind raced. What was different? What is going on? My hearing started to give it away as I started to hear the beating of my heart, the blood pumping through my head, and the breathing of my lungs. I held my breath. That was it! It was SILENCE! Absolute silence. No birds, boats, ski-doos, phones, cars, people talking, chain saws, squirrels chattering, nothing. For the first time in my life I had experienced absolute silence. Even in a house with nobody else home, in our civilization, there is always a hum from something. This was pure silence. I sat there and a smile crept to my lips. Another new experience. Hey, this bush flying is great! I sat still for about another 5 minutes enjoying the silence, and then decided to get up and stretch. The rustle of my jacket first broke the silence. As I got up, I noticed Joseph about 150 yards away, waving and coming towards me pulling a sleigh. Ahh.., my timing was perfect.

I greeted Joseph, we had some weak tea with condensed milk, loaded his furs, closed his cabin, and took off for home. Joseph must've thought I was a little cracked as I flew back with a dopey smile on my face, but to me, it was an experience to relish. I had experienced true silence, and it was DEAFENING!......."

I came back to reality and shut down the 1000HP radial and coasted to the dock. The boys unloaded me. I said good-bye, fired up the radial, and took off. I made a little detour over Joseph's cabin, and noticed it was overgrown and falling apart. Joseph had had a stroke a number of years back, and couldn't trap anymore. I felt a tinge of regret, but I guess that is life. I rolled the DG to 200* and headed south. I know all things come and go, but I'll always remember Joseph O. and the little cabin at Frances Lake!


CF-LDW was a '59 C-180 that could haul ass. It could also haul drunks, fish, booze, groceries, gas, furs, or anything you could cram in it........ Posted by Hello

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