When my Father presented his plan to fly to the middle of nowhere in Canada for a fishing trip, my brother Mike and I knew that is would be a disaster: hilarious when the story would be told years from the event if we survived, but a disaster nonetheless.
Mike and I were in our late twenties, and my Father was in his fifties, already carrying a lot of weight even for his 6’1” frame, and he just recovered from his first heart attack. The experience of going through a major life changing scare like a heart attack inspired him to want to have a “Men Only “week with his two sons.
“Well, I tell you this,” said my brother as he blew the smoke from the last drag of his cigarette before flicking the butt in the yard as we stood on the back porch, discussing our misgivings about the trip we reluctantly agreed to. “If the old man dies on this trip” he said as he looked at me and grinned,” YOU’LL have to dig the hole!”
I wasn’t happy about that. By this point, Dad was tipping the scales at 327 pounds.
It was going to have to be a huge hole…
We were flying in a Buddy-Holly-Memorial-Death-Plane, travelling from the Vancouver Airport-Bar n’ Grille-Bait Shop to our destination.
I HATE flying, especially flying in a rattle trap that had been originally used for barnstorming two months after the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk. I had started drinking in the bar, and I was drinking on the plane, and I planned to continue drinking until this horrible nightmare was over. We had been barely scraping over treetops, an unending canopy of green, for an hour and a half before the shaking, burping collection of flattened tin cans riveted together in the shape of the plane literally fell out of the sky in a stomach churning drop and unceremoniously bounced three times onto a makeshift runway, a piece of tarmac that I’m sure would’ve been perfect for drug traffickers, before grinding to a break burning, screeching halt.
Dad, ever the Marine, looked at me and started giving orders. “You grab the booze,” he told me before turning to my brother. “Mike, you grab the tent and the sleeping bags. I’ll grab the gear and the food.”
We unloaded everything and stood on the runway beside the plane as the pilot gave us our last instructions before taking off again.
“Okay, gentlemen! I am going to take off now, and I will be back to pick you up in five days. There is nothing around you but forest for about four hundred miles in any direction. Good luck, and good fishing!”
We stood back as the pilot managed to get the coughing, hacking wreck rolling back down the runway and, as the pile of garbage with a propeller miraculously left the ground, my father said, softly to himself but loud enough that Mike and I could hear: “Oh no.” My brother and I immediately locked eyes, knowing that everything we feared about this trip was about to begin at that moment.
“What do you mean: ‘Oh no?” I asked.
Dad looked at the pile of gear and supplies, then looked back to catch the flying rattle trap disappearing over the tree tops.
“I left the food on the plane” he said.
Evening: The First Night
The tent is up. The fire is going. My brother and Dad have almost finished off the first of five cases of beer, while I am heavily into a bottle of bourbon; the first of six I insisted we bring along. Dad had a long stick, and with a military bayonet, was busy whittling the end of it into a fine point.
“What are you doing?” asked Mike.
“Making a bear stick” Dad replied.
“What in the hell is a bear stick?” asked my brother incredulously.
“There are bears all over these woods,” Dad explained. “The Indians in this area used to protect themselves from bear attacks with sticks just like these.”
Even in the slightly drunken state I was in, I knew that my brother knew that everything that my Father had just said was crap. Nevertheless, he went into the woods and got a stick, sat back down beside my Dad, and started whittling his own bear stick.
I took another swig of bourbon.
We were doomed…