By Mel McConaghy
It was January in the winter of 1953-1954, back in the dark days.
I was hauling lumber from a portable mill and driving it to the main mill about 15 miles away, at Hansard Lake, with an old 1947 GMC three ton truck. I was 17 years old at the time, and making one dollar an hour, but I would have done it for nothing just to be driving that old truck, because it was my first real truck driving job.
After I had loaded my load for the next morning by hand, it was quitting time, so I shut down the truck. The weather was hovering around -30 below mark, so I drained the anti-freeze into a couple of buckets, and took the little six volt battery with them into the bunk house. I placed them beside the stove to keep them warm, so I could get the truck going the next morning.
I knew it was going to get colder that night, because I’d asked Indian Charley, the tail sawyer, between my first and second load earlier that afternoon, and he’d been taught by his father how to predict the weather. He licked his finger, held it up to the wind, looked at the sky and said, “It’ll cost you a beer on Saturday.” The next morning, I woke up around five o’clock, and it was colder than a lawyer’s heart. I got up, and with my blankets wrapped around me, went over to the heater. ‘The old Bull Cook must have slept in this morning and never stroked up the fires’, I thought, because there were only a few hot embers remaining in it.
I listened to the bunk house for sounds of life, and knew that some of the guys were awake, but they were not about to drag their frozen, tired butts out of bed, so I thought, ‘Well, I better get the fire going’. I threw a bunch of green fire wood into the stove, and then grabbed the can of diesel fuel, kept there for just such occasions, and poured about a half a gallon into a tin. I then very carefully, standing off to the side of the stove door, threw it in. For a few seconds there was nothing except the smell of raw, hot diesel fuel, and then with a loud roar, the fire burst to life.
Flames shot out the open stove door, and every crack in the stove pipe, as the stove vibrated on the floor and the bunk house came alive, mostly in panic. I calmly put my anti-freeze on the top of the stove, and moved my battery even closer to it as I got dressed. I then picked up my battery and antifreeze, and went out to start my truck.That morning, there were a lot of men talking around the breakfast table about that crazy young truck driver who almost burnt down bunk house number five, but I was just as happy as I could be, because at least they were calling me a ‘truck driver’.
My Life Through a Broken Windshield by Mel McConaghy
Mel McConaghy is a retired trucker and author from Prince George, British Columbia. Mel’s tales are his views of life “through a broken windshield”. They are entertaining and humorous in a folksy style.
Visit Mel’s website at www.melmcconaghy.com