CAT TRAIN NEWSLETTER
Iím glad everyone is enjoying the previous newsletters. A lot of people can not get over the fact that I can laugh at myself. Well when you grow up in a small town on the prairies and then live in smaller northern mining towns, I found it is easier to start the rumour that way it is correct, and not like all other rumours that are not even close to the truth. This month I will talk about more Greenhorn adventures, everyone seems to like them for some strange reason.. So this edition could be called Greenhorns #2 or just all the stupid stuff I have done with the cats and Linns. It will be your choice on the title. So enjoy.
The winter of 1999 - 2000 was the worst winter for freighting conditions and winter road building but it was my busiest winter on record. God gave us a very warm fall with lots and lots of rain, most of the creeks and rivers were over their banks. This is not good because when it freezes the water turns to ice and is over the banks of the creek, but under the ice the water continues to flow and with no more additional water (rain or melting snow) the water becomes less and less. Now you have a creek that had 25 feet of water flowing when it froze and a couple months later you only have about 10 feet of water flowing under 25 feet of ice. Now it does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out on paper but if you did not watch the conditions in the fall when every thing was freezing up, you would go ahead and think that creek looks good. If you checked the ice and only drilled down 6" , not all the way through, you figured you had lots of ice to drive a TD-9 across but you forget that this is hanging ice and there is no water under it to help support the weight of the cat.
The ice will support the TD-9 enough to get you out in the middle of the creek where the water is the deepest, as the ice breaks you ride the TD-9 into the water while visions of the coyote and roadrunner show pass through your mind. Your facial expressions are about the same as when the coyote falls from the endless cliff but you donít have the roadrunner giving you a beep beep when you hit bottom. You just have your band of not so merry men giving you the gears about what you did. This is no problem as the TD-9 always pulled a big 100 foot cable behind it for these times when I took it swimming. The Linn Tractor was always right behind to pull the TD-9 out right away and we were able to continue on with the road break.
The next story I donít know if it falls in the Greenhorn category or just dumb and dumber but I think you will enjoy this. When we were on our first freighting job, I had a bright idea that the Linn is faster than the TD-9, why donít we run the Linn and the TD-9 together like you are suppose to do. Then once we are past the worst portage, hook all the sleighs behind the Linn and leave the TD-9 and this way we are making twice the time not having to wait for the slow moving TD-9. Good idea on paper but it is the stupidest thing I have done next to saying I DO. We drove the Linn pulling 4 sleigh loads of product and we made good time in road gear, thought we had the world by the tail. I forgot to allow for the warmer weather and this makes the snow softer. But this didnít take long to refresh my memory, 6 miles from where we left the TD-9, I had the Linn and 4 sleighs stuck coming off of a portage. We had travelled this the day before with no problem before but the snow is softer and could not handle the weight. No problem I sent the merry men back on ski-doo to get the TD-9, this only delayed the freighting by about 4 hours by the time we got the TD-9 and pulled all the equipment free. It also seemed to be that we broke every chain we had trying to pull the Linn and the sleighs free, now days we use 1" steel cable it works better and less damage to the equipment and men. When I look back my decision not to travel in a group was a big mistake, would have made better time going slow and steady.
On one other time I had the alternator quit on the Linn Tractor which is not a big problem, with the night sky bright with the northern lites. This gives you lots of lite to see by and not enough to realise you are making a mistake. I was following the TD-9 with the Linn Tractor with the lites off to save the battery and this was working very good I thought until one of the merry men asked why we turned off back there. He had ski-doo from town and caught up with us heading across a very big lake, he said the cat train had turned off the marked trail about 3 miles back. This is not good, driving loaded equipment across uncharted ice, in the dark is not the smartest thing to do next to Russian Roolet. I figured the driver on the TD-9 fell a sleep and the little cat will just drive it self along going off in the wrong direction at full throttle until it hits something or finds thin ice. So my merry man ski-dooed up to the TD-9 and the sleeping driver and woke him up with snow balls and after that the sleeping driver felt very refreshed after a little nap. I donít blame the fellow for dosing off after working steady non stop (no sleep) for 3 days but the is the joys of running a small crew. Staffing is a big problem now days, it is hard to find people who would sit on a cat for hours at a very slow speed and waiting for the ice to give out for a cold splash in the lake. Once we turned around and travelled back on the same trail we travelled on that way we knew it was good ice, we made good time to the lodge including 2 hour detour.
There are many more stories of being a GREENHORN in capital letters, everything from having one of the sleighs come unhooked and leaving it behind in the middle of the lake with a $10 000.00 payload and not realising this for about 10 miles. Having to travel back to get it and the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to the uninsured load, that is the longest drive on a cat ever. Also trying to sleep in your caboose at about 30 degree angle, after a rock has ripped the back sleigh bunk clearly out from under it. It was the longest night ever and this will teach me for being a nice guy and loaning out my jacks to help a fellow who forgot his at home. If I had the jacks it would have only been Ĺ hour and the caboose would have been level enough to sleep and live normally for the night, oh well, live and learn. Ski-dooing 100 km back to Lynn Lake at 38C below to get a $2.00 o-ring and returning to the caboose and shivering under the covers for hours trying to get warm. Painting TD-9 black so I canít find him under the ice when he breaks through, now Iím painting the cats bright silver so they are easy to find in the dark ice water.
Once again I would like to thanks Helen for the proofreading and if you now of any one who would like a copy of the newsletter, just let me know.
KING OF OBSOLETE
Lynn Lake Mb
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