CAT TRAIN NEWSLETTER
First I would like to apologize for the lack of newsletters, I had no idea everybody loved these newsletters so much. I have been busy doing Government reports on scrap metal in the North, using the computer to try and pay for some of the Cat Train adventures. The web pages for us is still under construction, Iím trying to do it myself instead of paying some fancy business to do it. They would get it all messed up because they donít understand Cat Trains so I must do it to get it right. I was hoping that the older freighting generation would come forward with their stories of their heroic adventures. Then I would just copy them to the computer, but that has not happened, I forget that I hated computer up to 10 months ago and still trust these machines as far as I can throw them. So to ask these freighters to tell their stories so I could put them in what I call COMPUTER LAND, would be asking them to go to Mars. After visiting with some of these freighters at Christmas time, I got a real sense of what it took to be a winter Cat Skinner in the good old days.
I will tell the story of visiting these great men in their homes with there shoe boxes full of pictures. Plus the fact that their memories are still very clear to this day where I canít remember what I did last week. To see these fellows recite names and places of the people that they worked with is amazing, no wonder their never wrote on the back of the pictures. Also I must include the women who have stood by them over the years, which is another story because my generation will never see a 25th wedding anniversary. Iíll leave their names out so they donít get any of that junk mail on viagra that we are all used to in our generation. Please enjoy and more to come.
To do the interviews I must first travel to Brandon, MB to have a family Christmas with my parents in their nice average on the bald prairie where the wind never stops. Xena and I arrive at their home only 16 hours after leaving Lynn Lake, MB due to the fact my gas tank in the 64 Bel-air car was filled with diesel fuel. We had big plans to visit these freighters but Mother Nature had different plans, she gave us a two-day snow storm. So I could bond with my family some more, oh how one must suffer. When the storm ends, we commandeered my Dad and his minivan (he has Visa to finance this venture) and off we go travelling across the bald prairie where you can watch your dog run away for 3 days or more. It just reminds me why I donít live down in the South any more, I like the bush, I like the bush, I like the bush.
We arrive at the house of the first freighter and are welcomed with open arms and lots of Christmas baking. The fellow has his picture books out and is ready to talk about the past with great enthusiasm. I can not get over how relax this fellow was when he went thru the photo albums and explained each photo even when he told the story of a fellow who died on that cat. It is truly amazing how that generation gave up everything to go to the North to make a living on the Cat Trains, while the wife stayed behind on the farm to keep it running. The fact that they left at the end of October and returned in early April to plant the crop and spent so many Christmas away from the loved ones. The freighters told me that they were always welcomed in to peopleís homes for Christmas or the company they worked for had a feast for the men. Now-a-days most people would not leave their families for more than a month let alone Christmas, so times have changed.
As the fellow showed me the pictures of dynamiting a cat out of the swamp to salvaging a cat on Reindeer Lake, it was amazing how it was just a fact of life. One of the best pictures he had was the one of inside the caboose, one of the boys were monkeying around in his underwear. I was amazed that the fellow was wearing brief underwear, I thought it was only boxers back then, learn something new everyday. Also salvaging a cat that is almost thru the ice and they keep on working in those conditions. Now-a-days the rules and procedure that you would have to follow would make the job impossible and you would never find men to work on bad ice over 90 feet of water. These men just took it in stride and did the job with no questions asked and to the best of their abilities. I still find it amazing how these men gave up so much to go winter freighting and then return to the farm with some money in their pockets.
The next day we travel on Dadís Visa again, to visit another freighter who was on the Lynn Lake, MB freight haul. We arrive to find this fellow has the shoe box full of pictures that he has not looked at in many years plus a map of the Cat Train route they had taken. Once again I was amazed at how calm he was as he told his story of leaving the farm and working through Christmas as if it was no big deal. Even his wife agreed it was no problem for her to look after the cattle and the kids until he returned from the Great White North.
He showed me pictures of a cat they were salvaging in 90 feet of water by hooking it and hoisting it to the surface. Wow, to have the KNACK to sit there and drag a hook back and forth until you hook the cat, then hoist it to surface. To do this in the middle of the Great White North and have no help from the outside world says a lot for that generation. It is incredible the talent these men had and then after all these years to sit and calmly say how it was done. It is a wonder why no other books on Cat Trains have been written since Sigfusson Roads was published to tell of their adventures.
After many hours of looking at his pictures and listening to his stories I realized that this was a different generation and we will soon lose these stories. One thing that touched me about these fellows is that they have not communicated in over 50 years. Then I mailed them a copy of the Cat Train Newsletter and they are now phoning each other. In fact before I arrived to visit the second fellow, the two were on the phone chatting about the Cat Trains and my visit the day before. So I makes me feel good that the Cat Train Newsletter has reached people who really enjoy the stories from the past. Now that we are in the freighting season Iíll be able to give you stories and pictures of the Cat Train.
NOTE, in December we received our tour operator licence so I can know take guest out on the Cat Trains Tours to enjoy the way of life that will be forgotten.
KING OF OBSOLETE
Lynn Lake, Mb
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