Gordon Checkley

Gordon Checkley is one of the most extraordinary people that I have ever met and probably the best truck driver to come down the road and had the reputation of being one of the best low bedders in the country.

He started driving truck shortly after he left school in 1948. He hauled lumber at the start and from there he hauled fuel out of a refinery in Kamloops to Prince George and at some point he started low bedding.

Gordon was in involved in an industrial accident in 1969.

He was loading a chipper shaft for the new pulp mill in Mackenzie when the crane touched a high-tension wire on a power line. Gordon was standing on the low bed trailer tires, holding onto the chipper shaft, guiding it onto the deck.

The electrical currant ran down through his hands, through his body to his feet. You might imagine that standing on rubber tires, he wouldn't be grounded and the current wouldn't go through him, but the trailer had steel belted radials and the there was a lot of power in the line, about 14,500 volts. It burnt right through the soles of his boots and through rubber of the tires and grounded out.

When they got him to the hospital, they had almost written him off. They didn't know Gordon, he is not a quitter or just stubborn, maybe a bit of both. They flew him to Vancouver and started to work on him. He was in the hospital for almost a year, while they cut this off this and that. They took off his left hand where his watchstrap had been, his right thumb and his right leg below the knee.

One Doctor told me, your heart is controlled by electrical impulses from the brain and when Gordon got hit, his heart was between heartbeats; otherwise he would be dead. This still staggers my imagination, take your pulse and see what the interval is between your heartbeats and then tell me there is no such thing as fate.

With his right hand, left thumb and his right leg missing you would think he would be really feeling sorry for him self, but not Gordon. The guy has guts and this was just another obstacle for him to over come.

Then he got out of the hospital and went through rehabilitation. He took a period of time to master all the new ‘rigging’, as he called his new leg and hook. Then he went back to work running loader! This man was considered disabled and he went from one of the best truck drivers in the country to one of the best loader operators. Handicapped is a word that Gordon hates when people are referring to him.

I had the opportunity to work with Gordon the winter of 79 in Fort Nelson; he would throw a load of logs on you as smooth as anyone I have loaded under. You could pour a cup of coffee, set it on the dash and he wouldn't spill a drop.

That winter we had two Gordon’s loading; one had a hook on his left hand and other, Gordon Green, was missing his right hand, so we called them, right and left hook. They had the advantage of only having to buy one pair of gloves between them.

They also shared the same room in the bunkhouse and if you had to go in and wake them up in the morning you could be in peril with a clothesline stretched across the room, drying stump socks and arms and a leg lying on the floor.

We had a Newfoundlander working with us that winter with his logging truck and one day I was waiting to load behind him. He had about half load on and was running around his outfit, checking this and that like a squirrel, when Gordon pulled up with a grapple full of logs. He put them on the ground and sat back, put his foot up on the dash of the machine and proceeded to pour him self a cup of coffee from his thermos.

When the ‘Newfy’ seen this, he jumped in his truck and called him on the radio, “You got a problem, Gord?”

“No not at all,” he replied.

“Well how come you stopped loading me? “ ask ‘Newfy’.

“ Look, “ Gordon said, “ if you can’t fix that piece of junk on Sunday, like ever one else and insist on doing it on my landing, I'll just sit here until your finished, if I can’t see you in the seat of your truck when I'm loading you, you won’t get loaded. ”

Safety was paramount in Gordon’s mind and from that point on the ‘Newfy’ stayed in his truck while Gordon loaded him. I think I should also add that Gordon could get a little cranky at times.

He worked up to when he retired at 50 years of age and now he has a few beers in the afternoon and takes it easy. He has earned it.

When ever I twist an ankle or sprain a wrist and am about to complain, I think about Gordon and keep my mouth shut.