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Notes from the 'Knife #4


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Notes from the ‘Knife #4

It's just before Christmas, 1990ish . Being the NWT, it's also about 43 below.

We've got a charter to the weather station at Fort Reliance. This is the final crew change of the year and Christmas present/groceries/booze delivery flight.

In spite of the temperature, this should be a good flight. I'm working with one of my fav' F/O's, code name Ziggy. We're on straight board skis (I always preferred the boards to wheelskis). And Gosh Darn It...I'm just in the Christmas spirit.

I have a secondary mission on this flight... I need a Christmas tree. As it turns out, so does Ziggy. Due to living at 62 28 north latitude (sorry, haven't figured out how to do the little degrees zero) the Christmas trees around Yellowknife are rather Charlie Brown'ish. Black spruce lovingly nurtured for two or three hundred years on a bed of bedrock still does not make for a good tree.

I know that there's some nice, albeit little, white spruce growing around Reliance. This is in spite of being within about 30 miles of the treeline. Puuurrrfect Christmas trees.

We arrive at Reliance, kick the load off, have a sociable coffee with the weatherguys and ask to borrow a snowmobile and skimmer. With the axe from the aircraft survival gear, The Zigmiester and I set off in search of two puuurrrfect Christmas trees.

On the backside of the peninsula from the weather station, we find a nice stand of white spruce. I cut my tree, a beauty by northern standards. With my tree carefully loaded on the skimmer, we head down the shoreline in search of a suitable one for Ziggy.

There, standing in a little clearing, all by itself, is the only perfect Christmas tree in the NWT. The Boy Scouts sell perfect, Alberta tree farm grown, Christmas trees in the parking lot of the grocery store back in Yellowknife, but they don't count. This is the real McCoy.

He cuts the tree with great care... after a short blessing, as it appears to have a slight glow about it. It is placed, with heavenly care, into the skimmer, using my now somewhat substandard tree as a shock absorber.

Back at the Twin Otter, we load the trees with great care, because at these temperatures the branches are like glass. I notice that my tree has once again become the shock absorber for the puuurrrfect tree but decide to let this slight injustice go, in the spirit of the season and all.

Inbound to Yellowknife, company advises that they want the aircraft parked on the ice at the floatbase (we departed at the airport off the infield). They will send the van to pick us up and take us to the airport to get our vehicles.

We gingerly unload the trees onto the dock at the floatbase with plans to pick them up once we get our vehicles.

I get to the dock first. Lying on the dock, the two trees now look very similar. I can't tell which is mine but decide, due to rank and experience (still negligible at this point in my career) that I will make the proper choice.

I take the tree home where my wife and I decorate it in preparation for a Christmas party that we have planned the next evening. Man it looks good... could this be the puuurrrfect tree?

Early in the evening that was ultimately going to last into the next morning, Ziggy is welcomed at our door.

His first words... not Merry Christmas...not Felice Navitdad...were ..."YOU expletive deleted, YOU STOLE MY TREE".

As I recall, he was one of the ones sleeping on our couch the next morning, so I guess he got over it.

Kevin Elke

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Yep, 320 YYZ last I saw him. That was quite some years ago. He helped deliver a crew of us to Atlanta on our way to G-1 sim in Savanah. Please say hi to him if we're talking about the same guy. Ask him if he remembers hauling trappers on floats during freeze-up out of Rae Lakes. There's another short story on the tip of my two typing fingers.


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