George, His Sister and I

There was a trip that sticks in my mind the first spring I ran into Cheni mine, although it was spring in the low country, Old Man Winter had not yet loosened his grip up in the mountains. After my first venture into the high country with Doug’s new pick-up to rescue the so-called driver, I had made four or five trips into the mine before the road broke up.

The truck I was driving was Old Blue, a 1974 COE model 4070 A International, she wasn’t to pretty, but for this kind of work it was good tough truck.

When I got just about to Johansen Pass, it started to snow and it snowed all the way to the mine. By the time I got to the mine around one A.M so I climbed into the bunk and got some sleep.

In the morning I had breakfast with the crew, unload, loaded up a back haul, tied down and headed out just after lunch. By then the snow had tapered off, but it had snowed 5 or 6 inches.

They had told me that their grader was broken, but that they thought it might be on the road later in the afternoon or the next morning. I had a light load, so I left, I didn't want to waste a day sitting around camp.Old Blue was pretty good in the snow.

I had on two sets of triple tire chains , but even at that when I got to some of the steeper hills, the drive wheels would start jumping and there we would stop, it is like driving in lose sand. The only cure for this would be to put it in low gear and let it idle up the hill, slow going, but you got up the hill. So the routine was to go like hell and hit the hill just as fast as you dared, spin out and idle the rest of the way up the hill.

I got down to Moose Ville about 1:p.m. About 2 or 3km past the end of the new road, there was a dirty right hand corner and then up a sharp little hill about a ¼ km. long and a sharp left, hand corner.

I knew if I was going to have trouble this would the spot or at least one of them. I’m just a giving her, the throttle on the floor, around the corner in a flat skid, not unlike a dirt track racer, with that old great green leakier just a screaming.

I should explain; a great green leakier was an 8v71- T Detroit engine. The green part was the green colour they painted their engines, leakier explains it self, we use to think of it as kind of a dust control. This one was turbo charged, 350 hp, Big power. {That last statement is another sick attempt at humour} These were great engines, except they where a 2cycle engine, which means they fired on every stroke or when each of the 8 pistons came to the top. That meant that 2100 revolutions per minute they fired 16,800 times a minute. To keep the power up you had to keep them revved up and they screamed.

I got about half way up the hill, grabbing gears 2 and 3 at a time, when the engine over revved. I knew I had a problem because I was starting to go backwards. I got on the brakes, it slid a little farther on the chains and we stopped. ” Damn, we broke some thing, George."

Oh yes, I think I mentioned George before! He’s been riding with me for years now, doesn’t do anything, doesn’t drive or anything. I don’t have to pay or feed him, he’s a good listener, never talks back, although he is never around when other people are there. Seems strange! Oh well probably something to do with my child hood. So I’m all right with George, regardless of what other people think. He is better than a dog, I don’t have clean up after him and I don’t have to let him out to pee.

So there we sit, I wasn’t about to climb under the truck sitting on the hill so I let her roll back around the corner, hopefully out of the way in case somebody came along. I sure as hell would want them to get by and take to town.

I put on my insulated coveralls, felt pack boots and parka, climb underneath with my flash light to have a look. It wasn’t a simple u-joint; I had a spare one of those. The spline on the drive shaft had crystallized over the years and had finally broke, with all the driveline shock. Driving under these conditions it‘s a wonder it hadn‘t broken sooner. “Why don’t these things ever happen in the shop, why always on the road?” How many times have I said this to George and myself?

By this time it’s getting dark and I couldn't do any thing in the dark; the weather wasn’t to bad, about 10 below, I have lots of fuel, so we’ll wait it out. One thing you have to do in this kind of work is being prepared, my grub box is well stocked, I’ll have some supper. George doesn’t eat.

After supper I got on the VHF radio, all 96 channels, not a sound, nothing but static on any of them. I try the CB, nothing but static, so we settle down for the night, do you know how many times you can read a magazine? Lots! And just for the people with sick minds, George doesn’t sleep with me, his sister does. But that’s another story.

We will get good nights sleep and get up the next morning. I try the radios, not a sound. ”Oh well,” I say to George and his sister “ It’s not even light yet. I make my self breakfast, a tin beans, a buttered bun and coffee. I heat the beans in my 12-volt oven and make the coffee in my 12volt percolator. (Georges sister don’t eat either)

When it got light, I got suited up and got to work, it was a nice sunny day, still about – 10 degrees. I pull the drive shaft and get everything ready to go to town, when some one comes along, if some one comes along.

I had noticed on the way in, that the road contractors D8H cat was still parked up around the corner, at the top of the hill. I walked up the hill, found the key and was going to start it when I thought, “ What the hell am I going to with it. I’m broke down, not stuck.” So I walk back to the truck and thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll take a walk,’ when I remember the Grizzly dropping I had seen on the road the night before, the size of small hills. Not being the bravest guy in the world, I stayed with the truck.

It was close to lunchtime by now, so I have my lunch, tinned beef stew, that I heated in my little oven. George and his sister declined. Doesn’t cost a cent to have those two around.

I tried to read for a while. No good, then just about the time I was starting to think that some nut had had dropped an “A” bomb some where in the so called civilized world and I was the only living person on the face of the earth (except for George and his sister). The VHF radio took off.

While I was trying to reach out on it, over the past 22 or so hours, I had the radio turned up to full volume. So when it started up, it really started up, I mean with me being the last person on earth and all. (With the exception of you know who and they don’t talk) I damn near peed my jeans.

What was happening, was ever one was showing up at once, the grader and a pick up truck from the mine, one of our trucks heading north into the mine.

I can tell you I was pretty happy to see ever one, it’s funny when you are sitting out there, by your self expecting some one to come along, when they finally do, its as though you have been there for years. I wonder if people in self imposed isolation feel the same way.

I couldn’t get a ride with the pick up. They had a full house, so I threw the drive shaft in the back of the pickup with instructions, hoping it would be ready for me when I got back to town and jumped into our truck and went back to the mine for supper, unload and with two drivers, there was no stopping, we went right home.

At this point I am happy to report ever one else in the world had survived, no A-bomb. The drive shaft was repaired so the next day I caught the next truck to the mine, fixed the truck and around and around we go until the next break down.