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Horseshoe in my Hip Pocket

Prologue - Lucky Again!

Huddled by the lonely campfire, I stirred it around and watched the sparks meandering every which way into the sky. How many nights for just me, the campfire and the plane until the weather lifted and I could go home. I knew everyone there would be frantic, especially Maxine; she went into a tizzy if I was hours late, let alone days.

Although I carried a barebones survival kit, I had thrown my bedroll out that morning to make room for groceries and supplies going to camp. Fortunately, there were a couple of tarps and an old coat in the plane so I had some protection from the chilly night and the pouring rain.

I threw more sticks on the fire and tried to get comfortable in my makeshift shelter. I had lots of time to ponder and reflect over my life, and think of all the turns of fate that had brought me to this lonely gravel bar in Northern B.C. And I thought several times of my Dad’s philosophy that if you really wanted to get somewhere, it was hard to do better than riding a good saddle horse.

bob plane

That morning, I had flown to each of my hunting camps with groceries. I could see that this was a fast moving storm and the weather was closing in quickly, but all I had to do now was to get back to the ranch. I made it over the first mountain pass but the next one was closed in with solid clouds. I turned around to fly back toward camp, but the pass I had just come through had now closed in behind me as well. I was trapped in a narrow valley with the clouds socked in all around me. No choices now but to make some kind of a crash landing. Circling and looking down at the creek below me, I saw it was all timber right to the creek banks except for a very short, narrow gravel bar and knew that was as good as it was going to get.

Now I was glad to be flying my L19, GWLJ. Pulling on 60 of flaps and setting my trim nose up, I was getting slowed down, just hanging on the prop, adding power to keep from falling out of the sky. The stall warning was blaring in my ears and glancing at the air speed indicator, saw it was showing 35 mph. I had practiced short-field landings lots of times and knew I could have it slowed down to 25 mph at touch down if I did everything right. There was no chance of going around as the fog was just past the end of the gravel bar and moving in fast. The wind was blowing up the valley and it was raining hard. Flying over the creek below the tree tops I kept telling my self, as I wiped the sweat off my brow “Nothing to this, I’ve done it hundreds of times!” Only this time all I knew about the landing place was that it looked like I could squeeze in there.

Approaching the gravel bar, I side slipped to the left helping to slow me down even more. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw several boulders sticking up a couple of feet. My last thought was “Holy Cow, look at all the big rocks” and with a couple seconds to touch down I lined up with what I thought looked best. Then feeling the wheels touch ground, I pulled the throttle back, dumped the flaps, and jumped on the brakes, hearing the rattle of the tires banging over the rocks as I came to an abrupt stop. I slowly pulled the lean mixture out, stopping the motor and turned off the mags. Sitting there, I started to shake. Dead silence except for the rain pounding against the windshield and wings with my mind going a thousand miles an hour. How I got stopped with out hitting some of those big boulders I’ll never know. Slowly, I opened the door and stepped out, realizing then how extremely lucky it was to make a forced landing on this very short, rocky gravel bar. The fog was right on the ground now. Once on the ground, I thought to myself “At least this time, the plane was still in flying condition.”

So for the next couple of days, there was nothing to do but gather wood, throw rocks off the gravel bar and cut some trees at the other end. That way, when it quit raining and the clouds finally lifted I could fly out of there. Several times I thought of walking out, either to the highway or back to camp. But probably about the time I got there, the weather would clear and I would have to go back to pick up the airplane. I had always told Maxine not to worry about me until a day after it cleared up. I was hoping she would think I had stayed in the hunting camp and the boys in camp would think I was home

Lying on my spruce bow bed, I was thinking of what a truly exciting life I’d had. Tired of poking at the fire with a stick just to watch the different sized sparks float up into the air, to see how long they would last in the pouring rain, I got up and walked over to the airplane. I thought to myself that some day I was going to write a book as there has been so many times in my life I’d had experiences just like this that could have gone either way. Looking for something to write on, all I could find were some maps. Using the back of a map and with pen in hand came the humble beginning of this book. I knew I already had a possible name for the book, LUCKY AGAIN!

JK Solutions Ltd. - 2019