Canadian country music legend Ian Tyson passed away on Dec. 29 at the age of 89. Why is that relevant to the North, you may ask? Ask Joe McBryan.

The owner of Buffalo Air has some artwork on the nose of one of his DC-3 aircraft titled Summer Wages with an old Canadian $1 bill beneath the words. The artwork is in honour of Tyson’s song of the same name. It’s adorned the nose of the craft for 40 years.

“I don’t think there’s another DC-3 that has the same nose for 40 years in the same area,” said McBryan to Yellowknifer on Thursday.

As the story goes, in 1982, McBryan decided to put all his money he had earned that summer into buying a DC-3. During that time, Tyson’s song was a popular one and the title reflected the situation of McBryan’s experience.

“In 1982, we had a DC-3 in Calgary to put winter kit on for the Arctic winter, like extra heaters,” said McBryan. “Mechanics will always have a radio at their working station (and) I kept hearing this song. Because the song started with ‘Don’t hit 17 when you play against the dealer’ means don’t gamble everything you have on one thing, or it will be like the wages you made during the summer and lose everything through a gamble.

McBryan said he was looking at the airplane and decided to buy it.

”I’m gonna take a chance to hit 17 with it and I also going to spend my ‘summer wages’ on it,” he said. “Then everything I earned during that summer is going into that airplane. A guy came along and I‘m telling this to him and he said ‘Give me a dollar bill’. He painted it on the nose of the airplane.

McBryan still has the original $1 bill he gave to the artist to paint on the nose of the plane.

This is the original $1 bill that was the inspiration behind the artwork on Joe McBryan’s DC-3 plane. Kaicheng Xin/NNSL photo

“So over the next 40 years, we carried Ian’s song into the Arctic, and a lot of the people, when I went to the Arctic, the local people all knew that song, and they all identified with that song,” said McBryan. “If I ride another plane with the dollar bill repainted on it but don’t have the song, they’ll want me to go home.”

McBryan said he knew it was a gamble to put all the money in one airplane, but it was one that really paid off.

“After 40 years, I still fly the same airplane,” he said.

Kaicheng Xin

Kaicheng Xin is a Multimedia Journalist with NNSL Media. You can reach him at

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