This story is about things that are not necessarily truck-related, but if I weren’t driving a truck, I would not have seen or experienced what I am about to tell.
In the ‘70s, I was coming back empty from Thompson, Manitoba, on a beautiful winter day. The sky was clear, and there was a chill in the air. As I came to The Pas, Manitoba, I saw signs telling of a Winter Carnival. Since I was empty and it was a nice day, I thought that I could stop and see the Mutt Races that they advertised.
It turned out that the race consisted of using your house dog harnessed to a toboggan or sleigh, and the dog had to pull you around a short route. It was for kids up to 16 years of age. The object was for two teams start side by side behind the start line. The race began when the judge fired the starting pistol. They had to go about ½ a block to a post, then turn round the post and head back to the starting line. It was great. I had never seen this before or since.
In order to prepare for the race, the kids had to teach their dogs voice commands and, of course, the sleigh, kids and the dogs had to be of the right size. In the north, dogs tend to be of a larger size – but not all of them. The first boy was about 6 or 7 years old, and his sleigh was being pulled by what looked like a Jack Russel type just a bit larger, and it seemed obedient and quiet. His opponent was about the same age, but his ride was a 6-foot toboggan, and his dog looked like a cross between a wolf and a barbed-wire fence. It was quite hyper, and it had bad hearing. They lined up, and the gun went off. The little dog knew what he had to do, but the load was heavy. The wolf took off howling and jumping, leaving the little one in their dust.
When the wolf got to the post, the race suddenly changed. It seems they did not explain the rules to the wolf, and as far as I could see, he thought it was an endurance race. When they went by the post, the boy was hanging on and yelling left! Left! LEFT! Unfortunately, the dog thought it meant faster, faster, faster. The last we saw of the wolf, he was still going straight - but he was making damn good time!
On the other hand, When they went by the post, the boy was hanging on and yelling, “left! Left! LEFT!” Unfortunately, the dog thought it meant, “faster, Faster, FASTER!”.
The next story was unexpected. I was parked at the Ford Dealership in Ft. Saint John waiting to unload cars at 10:30 pm. It was normally a good time to unload as there was usually less traffic and distractions. As I was unloading, I noticed that the sidewalks were filling with people on both sides of the street. I climbed down from the trailer and asked what was going on? I was told that it was because they were waiting for the airshow to start. Just then, there was an ear-splitting scream of a jet engine. Being completely dark, I could not see anything until the jet came over the street. It was really quick, and it was not until it was right over me that I could see it was flying upside down. It immediately turned 90 degrees right above us and, turning on the booster rockets, went straight up and disappeared into the black with a large train of fire from the exhaust. Just then, two jets came by, going in opposite directions. This display went on for about ½ an hour, and then they were gone. It was explained to me that the Ft. Saint John airport, the longest and widest runway in the north, was a joint venture with the U.S. when they were building the Distant Early Warning line. The DEW line consisted of radar stations built all across the north during the cold war to warn North America of a Russian attack. What I was lucky enough to witness was the American Jets doing their last practice runs over Ft. Saint John before they left in the morning for the 4th of July celebration in Anchorage, Alaska. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Not many people get to see an airshow at night.
Another time it was close to Christmas and I was taking a car from Regina to the Ford dealership in downtown Moose Jaw. The remainder of the load went to Medicine Hat and Calgary. I pulled up to the dealer and went into the showroom to see where he wanted the car. He said that I could park it where I was, but I should hurry and unload because there was a Santa Parade coming. Away I went and unloaded the car and then went inside to have the bills signed.
The salesman said there was a barricade in front of my truck, but he would move it so I could go ahead of the parade. I turned onto the main road, and as I left, I caught up to the Santa Clause float. I didn’t realize it when I turned out, but I was now the second float in the parade. I thought that I might as well wave at the people even though I did not have decorations on my truck, and the only thing I had in my cab to throw to the kids was some empty chocolate bar wrappers. Somehow I didn’t think that would work. The crowd didn’t seem to mind and they all waved back enthusiastically!
I stayed with Santa to the first road that led to the highway, where I waved and tooted my electric horn as I turned right and departed the parade. I didn’t want to use the air horn, or it may have scared Santa’s horses, and if they spooked he may have beat me to Medicine Hat.