Last Light: The Northwest Mounted Mechanic

A Hunting Party Turns Into A Rescue Party

Okay Steve, here I come again with another entry for your annual contest, Fibs & Follies of Woods Wise Women. Does anyone actually ever win this thing? After all these years, you’d think I would at least come away with a coffee mug. No matter, there’s no shortage of material when it comes to fiascos that happen in the great outdoors.

This year’s lesson, Jack Jenkins and I learned, was to make sure you know who you’re going hunting with.

Illustration by Keith Milne and Gord Coulthart.
Illustration by Keith Milne and Gord Coulthart.

Jack’s friend, Bobby Brown, offered us the use of his hunting cabin up in the hills of the South Cariboo. There was one condition – that we’d take his nephew and a couple of his buddies that wanted to come up. That seemed reasonable, especially since Bobby was letting them use his pickup. They had their own tents. Jack and I could use the cabin and the kids could haul firewood and stack it in the woodshed.

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They showed up from the city one afternoon in Bobby’s brand new three-quarter-ton 4×4 club cab that looked like it came directly from the show room. Right away I sensed Old Man Trouble laying in the weeds. The stereo thumped all the way up my driveway and they spilled out, all wearing their ball caps backwards. How these guys got their firearm certificates and permits, I’ll never know.

We set out first thing the next morning, leading the way in Freddie the logger limo, Jack’s flat deck relic of an old bush crummy, with the boys following politely behind in their show piece of modern engineering. But politely didn’t last very long. They decided to make a television-grade truck commercial. They veered off the road and began hill climbing. They were four-wheel drifting in the gravel around corners and finally, with the cabin in sight on the other side of a creek, they floored it and plowed into the water, promptly stalling the pickup in the mud, with water up to the doors.

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Then they killed the battery trying to restart the truck.

Finally, the doors flung open and the boys waded to shore.

Jack watched them, shaking his head.

Just then, a guy on horseback rode up, a sight for sore eyes.

“Norman, what are you doing up here?”

“Just out chasin’ Ralph Johnson’s cows. What have we got here?”

“Pretty much what it looks like,” says Jack. “Boys decided to take a run at the creek to get to the cabin.”

“Can’t you pull them out with your old yard truck? It’s four-wheel-drive isn’t it?”

” Well, it might be three-wheel. Plus, the tow rope is too short.”

“Hmm,” he says, looking at the mess. Norman, a military-trained mechanical engineer, had fled for the hills of the Cariboo after Vietnam and opened up a mechanic shop. He was a local hero, Dudley Do Right handsome and famous for rescuing hunters, fishermen and tree planters alike from all manner of jackpots they found themselves in out in the backwoods.

“One of you fellas has to swim out to the truck, find a tow rope and hook it on the back of the frame. Anyone have jumper cables?”

The boys shrugged and Jack says, “Uh oh, I do, back at the tractor shed.”

“Jack?”

“What?”

“Have you got a jack, Jack?”

“Oh, yeah, a jackall.”

“Might work.”

In a few minutes, Bobby’s nephew returned with a strap in hand, having attached one end to the tow hook on the frame. Norman joined Jack’s heavy tow rope to it, braced the jackall behind a tree and hooked the rope to the lift bar.

“Okay, you boys get to work. Whatever you do, don’t get your head over the jack handle.”

Slowly, a few inches at a time, the jackall winched the pickup back to shore.

“Have you got any duct tape Jack?”

“Of course.”

“You fellas bring me a couple of rifles. Jack, as soon as you can, get as close as you can to the Princess Mary here.”

Pretty soon, Norman had two steel gun barrels taped to the truck battery’s terminals.

“Okay, give her a crank.”

The showboat groaned a couple of times and suddenly roared to life.

“Next time, you fellas look before you leap.”

I thought about that for a second.

“You can say that again, Norman.”