In my last blog, I chronicled our road trip, travelling from Yellowknife, NWT. down the scenic Oregon and California coasts across to Florida. We completed our large circle by heading up to Ontario, across to Minnesota , north to Yellowknife.
We arrived home (Yellowknife) around April 1, and Jon, Michelle and Janine settled back into school. The days were lengthening. We were living in a good size home, that was built on the side of rock shield. In our living room, there was a hunk of exposed rock where the owners had installed a metal fireplace, giving a unique effect. In Jonathan’s room on the ground level, he slept on a built- in bed, that had exposed rock under it. No dusting required under there, and no stashing of dirty clothes or odds and ends. As the snows melted, sometimes there was a trickle of water from under his bed. However, don’t be thinking it was cold in our house, it was warm. Our back yard was literally rock shield rising up from the back of our house. Jon spent lots of time there, stepping from high point to high point. See the view of the “old town” as we called it, with Michelle in the foreground. Janine, is checking out the flora and fauna .(PHOTOS BELOW)
The summer before in 1977, two young men, from Ontario were spending time in Yellowknife, and had a desire to pit their courage, wits and stamina against the Northern Wilderness. I was somewhat aware of their preparations, collecting staples getting coaching from Lou Rocher, a trapper extraordinaire, brother of our friend Johnny. Lou set them up with a dog, many supplies and threw in his accordion for musical George. The plan was to be dropped off by a pilot and they were to survive for a year, then that same plane was to come and pick them up. The one year mark was nearly up and Alex must have been aware of that fact. Having chartered a small plane to go to one of his job sites at Norman Wells, he decided to surprise them.
George, who kept a detailed journal of their day to day events, has kindly sent me the entry for April 6, 1978 OVER TO GEORGE!!
BUSH DIARY OF GEORGE HIRSCH APRIL 6. 1978
We packed things organized and adding a few odds and ends. But then I couldn’t think of anything else, I just read. I began lunch at 12:30. Stan arrived before I even got the bannock in, and reported lots of fresh rabbit activity; he’d set a few more snares. I put peas on, and sliced a pickle, then read until it was done at about 1 pm. It was an ok lunch.
After lunch I did a bit more packing of odds and ends. I put the 30-30, empty, into the padded gun case and the .22 into the linen one. Then I worked on my precious little miscellaneous box. I keep all my first aid stuff and lots more in it. I got all sorts of widely distributed junk together, and finally filled the little metal box. I found an old flour bag that I wanted to use as a duffle bag and noticed it had some crusty flour in it yet, and the top was till mostly shut. So I began the long process of untying loose strings. It was real nice and warm! The thermometer showed 21F, and the sun really heated my back up (when the wind wasn’t blowing). Stan brought a tea out, too. When I’d finished the flour bag, but still felt like staying outside, I had a neat idea. Why not bring the ol’ accordio
Things got a little bit of a late start this morning. Stan had just begun the pancakes, so I went back to bed. I wasn’t very tired anymore, so I just dozed until he called me at 10 to 9. We dug into the glorious feast of pancakes at 9. We took it easy then, rolling smokes and talking until about 10:10. We got to the nets by a quarter or 20 past.
There was TONS of ice in the holes. (ice fishing) I mean LOTS! Boy, what a difference it makes when we don’t open them at night! We got one fish in the 1 ½ and 3 more in the 2 ½ . That was okay I guess. We got back about a ½ hour later. I left right away for my snares.
A squirrel had been loosely caught in the first snare, had pulled it tight but gotten away again. Nothing else on the hill besides one set of rabbit tracks. In the bush there was nothing at all so I headed back.
I brought some firewood in and made a fire then let Zeke out. (Zeke is an injured Whiskey Jack bird) I had the first ‘DRUM’ cigarette in about a month and a half, and boy, did it ever taste yummy. I got busy after that getting a fe
n out? So I did and had a lot of fun. We were just peacefully enjoying the music – Stan was just inside at the time – when I stopped playing; I heard a plane! It was 4 pm. I asked Stan if he heard it too, and yes indeed, he did! It was obviously a Cessna 185, low, coming from the North, and therefore not likely Nahanni. And they were going to land! I quickly put the accordion away, while Stan tied and fed the pups – to keep them quiet. We did a frantic cleanup job inside, and I put Zeke back into his box. Then I ran down to the lake, the plane was already on the ice and taxiing over to me.
At first I recognized neither pilot, nor passenger. Then the passenger got out and walked around the back of the plane; it was Alex. I was so amazed that our greeting turned out to be more of a hug than a handshake! WHAT a surprise! Then the pilot got out, and the surprise REALLY began. They started unloading boxes.
“just a little something I brought. I thought you guys might be getting a little sick of that stuff by now”.
MAN, 5 or 6 (or 7?) boxes of food. We were talking eagerly by then, though, and so I just incidentally picked up 3 in the middle of a sentence, as Alex waited to check out the “Dal Lake Hilton”. Stan came down at this point and was pretty amazed himself at our guest, then went to get a box.
So it turned out Alex had been in Norman Wells to do some work. He’d finished yesterday afternoon, the flight for Yellowknife was to leave this morning, was postponed until 7 pm this evening. So, he had a whole day with nothing to do , he just got back from an approximately 20,000 mile trip, all through USA and Canada. They’d (the whole family) left on Jan. 5 or 6. There was LOTS of other news, too, that I can’t hardly remember. , I cleaned a couple of cups and poured tea for all of us. Alex got a litre of Tri-Milk for his tea. (evaporated milk in tetra packs that was shipped to remote places.)They both liked it; Alex was surprised.
Stan reminded me of my mail, though, when he packed his latest film. So I got busy as heck and got my letters done and sealed. They were already on their way. Was it 5 pm? I don’t know. Alex put the letters in his pocket! Was I worried? …. Well ….. With extremely fond farewells they climbed into the plane. It started! A miracle! I had to close Alex door, as he couldn’t get it. Then after a lengthy warm-up , they were off. They flew to the south, turned a steep bank, then dove in for us! He came real low, before flapping, or waving a goodbye maneuver. We slowly headed back up – eager to see what we’d gotten!
First off there was about 8 Tri-Milks, and the same lbs of butter! 6 lbs of sliced bacon and 6 dozen eggs. A whole, huge tube of turkey head cheese that must weigh 15 lbs, and another (2 all told) 4 kg bag of sugar. Then 4 bags of noodles, 6 lbs of cheese (5 different types), a whole huge box of Bridge Mixture candy and another big box (48?) of Coffee Crisp chocolate bars. Then 4 loaves of bread and about a bushel of apples, one pair of boot liners (WOW) for each of us, and 1 ½ gallons of ice cream! (1 gallon of “eggnog” flavor, and ½ of butterscotch ripple). Also, 3 – 120 bag packages of tea bags, 3 HUGE jars of instant coffee, and 50 feet of 3/8” nylon rope.
No, there was just no way one can say thank you for a ‘gift’ like that. We were overwhelmed. We were immensely glad that they’d gone before we unpacked, or else we would’ve been WAY too embarrassed! (50 lbs of flour too).
We began to get systematic. First off, we decided to scrap tonight’s soup (that is, postpone it until tomorrow). We put everything away, keeping one of everything handy. I lit a fire, and Stan put water on, for coffee, then went down to open and clean all 3 holes out and get water. I cleaned the cabin up – completely – and let Zeke out again. By the time I got down to the lake the holes were done and all I had to do was carry two of the three canteens up.
Then I made supper. I took 8 slices of bacon, and since they were still frozen put them into the skillet in two ½ slabs. We had a COFFEE and smoke then, too. Just for the heck of it, I put coffee creamer (from my folks) and sugar into it. Was it ever good. We were on our second cup when I took the bacon out and toasted one side (inside pan) for each of us. Then after a gloriously thankful grace, we ate. Butter on bread is really good! WOW!
. After dinner I got one ‘Bridge Mixture’ and ate them on my bed. (We’d both had an apple and Coffee Crisp before dinner too). We talked and laughed a lot. We swore never again to ‘wish’ for anything! No matter HOW extravagant our desires were, God gives us that, and MORE!
IOnce we’d rested a bit we had another coffee then a bowl of ice cream, each. By 8 pm I pulled out the accordion again and played through until 10:30! Zeke – by the way had been doing all kinds of singing all day; he got particularly verbose during our after dinner gab, which was super nice.
I got a bit of radio reception but not enough to bother leaving it on for. I got started on this at – finally – 10 to 11. Now at 12 pm (exactly) it’s still +13F outside. It’s very dark too, there’s no lights and no moon. The stars are pretty bright too.
O yes! Alex also brought 3 boxes of bullets; one box each, of 30-06, .303, and 30-30, as he wasn’t sure what we had! We forgot to give him the two others, too bad.
(I wrote this entry at the rate of 33 words/minute)
THANKS SO MUCH GEORGE, for sharing
One day last summer I was invited for coffee by Pauline, here in my building, in Stouffville, Ontario. I sat down at her table and when I heard her last name, I said “the only other Hirsch I know was a young man in Yellowknife.”
She excitedly exclaimed ” that is my son”.
So I was privileged to meet George and his wife Sandy at his Mom’s apartment, last Christmas. It was so gratifying to see George after all these years with a teaching career and family.
This is a longer post than most, but I hope it gives you a glimpse of more of the Canadian North and the people who love it there.
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