A company was running a drill program in the winter out in the bush. The drill results were looking good, so the company decided they should stake some more ground. They asked around for stakers, which were in short supply, but someone mentioned Allan did some staking, so they hired him and sent him out to the camp with a brand-new axe and snowshoes.

Allan was a well known local character, who had a lot of enthusiasm for the job, especially one that paid well. And yes, he had staked a few claims, but he wasn’t really what you would call a professional claim staker. He was naturally a little clumsy or accident prone. That’s just the way he was, and they even have a name for this condition now-a-days, Dysphagia. And some might say he tended to be a little naive or gullible.

photo courtesy of Walt Humphries 
Last week’s column about snowshoes reminded columnist Walt Humphries of a tale that was going through bush camp back in the early 1970s.Last week’s column about snowshoes reminded me of a tale that was going through bush camp back in the early 70s.

So, Allan went out to the camp and took a couple of days to get acclimatized and organized. Every night he would come back to camp and regale the others with tales of his days’ adventure. Somehow, he lost his gloves and needed to borrow a pair. The terrain was a lot hillier and rougher and the snow deeper, than he thought it would be, so it was slow going.

One day he returned to camp limping. He had taken a tumble down a steep hill and managed to break both snowshoes, which is really quite a feat. So he set about trying to repair them with duct tape, hair wire, nails and even glue, but each time he tried them out the repair only lasted a few hours and he would come limping back to camp to try a new approach.

He was reluctant to order a new pair because he didn’t have the money to pay for them and if he told the company they might deduct the costs from his wages. Also, when they found out how slow the staking was going, they might even fire him. It wouldn’t have been the first time he was fired from a job.

One of the fellows in camp told Allan that the secret of snowshoes success was all in the shape. There was a plywood floor in Allan’s tent so all he had to do was trace out the shape of the snowshoes and cut them out. Then he could put in some holes for the bindings and voila, he would have a brand-new pair, good to go. Others agreed it was certainly worth a try.

So that is what Allan did. He cut up his tent’s floor and made two plywood snowshoes. The drilling of holes for bindings did not work as planned, so someone suggested just nailing his boots on to them. This meant he had to walk around in his stocking feet in camp, but it was a small price to pay. Now all he had to do was slip his feet into the boots, tie them up and he was ready to go. He even tried them out around camp, and they seemed to work reasonably well.

The next morning the cook and a couple of the boys watched as Allan got ready for the day and stepped into his boots. Then he set out for his days work on the trail that lead to the lake. The camp had been built on a large flat space, but it was up the hill from the lake. And it was a fairly big hill, probably close to a hundred metres high.

Allan did fine until he started the down slope. With two plywood sleds attached to his feet, he began to slip. This quickly turned into a slide. Then a catapult. He flung his arms wide, in a desperate attempt to maintain his balance. He let the axe fly from his hand and they never did find it. Then he lost all control, gave out a scream and sort of somersaulted and ricocheted the rest of the way downhill. 

Luckily, he survived. Unfortunately, the camp boss fired him and Allan returned to town with a tale to tell. According to Allan it was all a big misunderstanding and a case of bad luck combined with a little misfortune. He didn’t understand why some found it so funny.


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