Sawmill Broad will no doubt give the whole story and an update on Duke but suffice to say it was a top afternoon, great company, upbeat atmosphere, awsome spitted pig.
The Duke was cruising around with more plumbing in him than the average house but the ambulance had to be put off for several hours as he would not go home. I happen to know the white gas bottle attached to him was not oxygen but replacement hot air.
It was a perfect Duke party, lots of beer, lots of stories (possilby one or two lies), lots of great people.
Big thank-you to the gentleman that brought out the motorhome. When you go at it as hard as the Duke does, you need a place to recharge the battery every once in a while.
I'm not sure about the local weather forcasting though, the next morning they said it was clear. It appeared foggy out of my eyes.....
I will attempt to re-cap the events of the pissup for the Duke as best I can. While I am not the story teller that he is, for sure, I’ll do my best to paint the picture of Sunday for you. Would have done this yesterday but it was a little foggy here!
The shindig on Sunday was awesome! It was a beautiful day – clear sky, slight breeze, warm temperatures, loads and loads of friends and family, a very fat pig on a spit, heaps of Chilliwack corn, and plenty of grog.
The Duke arrived in grand style in his private limo-of-the-day (a shiny ambulance organized by another good friend!) complete with his own private nurse (another good friend!) standing by. He had managed to convince the doctors that he really needed to be holding court this day and they agreed to give him the day pass! Of course! And so, complete with all the plumbing, as Treefrog previously noted, he arrived as planned to a standing ovation! I must also mention that he was wearing the strangest socks……. I believe he called them his ‘sex socks’......not sure what that means???
A very good friend arranged to have the Cadillac of motor homes available for him to rest in occasionally as well and his daughter Meghan affixed – very appropriately – a giant gold star on the door with his name on it!
One of our local bands – Ernie Britton and the boys - came out to play some pretty great music as well and another friend – Patsy - sang a couple of songs just for Duke. One being Amazing Grace and there was not a dry eye anywhere! She sang it so beautifully and with the Duke were his daughters on either side of him and the grandkids nearby as well.
I’m still not sure of the identity of the pilots, but there were a few, who put on a show of some really great formations and fly-overs. They also performed the missing man formation….. There were lots of speeches; the Duke also had a few words to say.
I will try to get a statement from the Duke himself and post it. He stayed a very long time and is tired but he loved every minute of it! It was a very emotional day and one that I will not forget.
I hope to get a few of Duke’s own words here soon. Thanks to everyone who helped make it an unbelievable day for Duke. It was really special for him and his family.
The event was well attended, a buddy of mine who had flown with the Duke at Airspray for a number of years came out from YOW to be there. I met quite a few people who had come from other distant places as well.
While it was my first time meeting the Duke in person, he will be pretty hard to forget. Most of us on the forum have read the stories of his adventures over his long career in aviation. Like most of you, I felt that I had gotten to know the Duke, in a manner, through his story telling here. But that is just a small part of his make up.
It was great to be able to meet the Duke and very inspirational to see the support from all of his friends and family.
Thanks and well done to all of those that worked hard to organize the event.
It was an honour and a pleasure to do it for the Duke.
After the trip down to Arlington with the Duke a couple weeks ago, I wasn't sure that I'd get to see him again. We shook hands, smiled and I jumped into my machine and blasted off. Leaving Chilliwack I had tears in my eyes as I beat the place up, with the Duke, his wife and a few others standing outside the terminal.
Well, some are lucky and we did get to sit down and talk some more over the weekend, and we shall do it again in a few weeks.
I arrived at home today more details later. I gotta spin up my gyros.
The first story I wrote on this forum was about the lobster tossing adventure that happened out over the Atlanti with a failed engine that would not feather because of the broken crankshaft.
After the party , which was the most profound event that I have EVER attended ,it was like the second engine failed and my health
plumeted because the colostomy bag failed to operate and it was pretty much Bye Bye Duke as I went through indesscrible pain in a morphine crazy nightmare. I had taken a look at the door.
With such amazing skill and professionalism they again got me going. You will NEVER understand the admiration I have for the nursing staff , doctors and surgeons.
And your kind , supportive encouragement gave me strength.
I am the luckiest guy alive.
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- Location: Right beside my dog again...
Don't forget, there's a story or two you haven't finished telling yet. The DC3 you took for it's last fight with the borrowed stall warning device...? The Dewer Lakes on Baffin Island where "the BHP Australia female geophysicist" was....? Two that come to mind...
Mind you, you could elect to let someone else finish them with either truth or fiction if you'd prefer? I'm sure between the lot of us we could come up with some entertaining wind-ups to those stories. Most of us would rather hear your version.
Very glad to hear you're climbing out of this latest downdraft... and I hope you're not experiencing too much pain.
Cheers and best wishes, from my whole family.
Mitch (Griffon's the dog )
I just wanted to say thanks.
She had shed her thick woolen arctic geoligist work clothes and was freshly bathed ... oh how she did glide into the main tent , catlike and she did enormous justice to the track suit she so graciously filled. For a moment , I had impure thoughts. Her face was that of a classical beauty framed by wet aurburn hair not yet dried. Her soft , cultured Australian accent was like sweet music to the ear. I swear she could have even turned a Taliban away from goat sex. She introduced herself as Margo but we called her Queenie.
Once the all terrain vehicles had transferred our gear from the aircraft to the tents , the terms of the contract and the safety briefing was conducted. The first item on the agenda was to advise us that normal BHP policy was for a dry camp. We were all aghast as we had our hard earned booty (a handsome reward for the last job well done) stashed and it was to be surrendered. We pleaded on this issue and came to a comprimise since I assured her that we would not violate any agreement that was forthcoming and a very pleasant deal was struck whereby we were allowed to drink the beer in the mess tent only (which we shared with the camp boss and the cook). The whiskey was displayed in a prominent place there to remain untouched until the contract end. All was OK.
Except that , once again I drew the Jack from the back of the pack. A smelly garbage bag in the garbage can in the back of the aircraft sat atop our real booty of vodka and rum.
The contract had been scheduled for earlier in the year so now the weather swung from biting arctic winds to hot , dry spells puncuated by confusing snow pellets , flakes and gusts. Morale was in danger of plummeting as many technical adjustments were being made and particularly frustrated Jerzy , the top technical man who was also the airborne operator and they had all recently been stripped of their flying incentive pay so he was in his rights to fly one trip per day which would prolong our sentence in these barrens. He was constantly having to change the settings on the huge DC/DC converter back and forth with different megahertz settings. I cunningly came up with a solution to this morale problem which I will relate shortly. Then our airborne equipment had to be calibrated involving many short flights up and down the runway at 200 , 300 , 400 , five hundred feet and so on .... This remote gravel strip was a DEW line military site and therefore not availlable to the public and in fact our company paid $5000/day for the use thereof.
Eager to fly , Eric and I flashed up the screaming beast and with a call to Arctic radio began our monotonous flights. I scanned the rugged , steep mountainous , savage terrain to the south where we were to fly our grid at a mere few hundred feet coaxing the drag ridden contraption up steep hills and plunging down towards azure half frozen lakes or savage rushing torrents of blue/green runoff all the while trying to keep the two trailing missiles clear of the ground.
I had just returned my attention to the cockpit when at the same time Eric pointed and screamed "DIVE" and with heart stopping disbelief a Cessna 185 missed us by merely fifty feet or less.
He too , was saved by a mere particle of time. Here , in the big empty sky of the arctic we came within feet of losing our lives.
More to follow .............
Hang in there, we need to hear the end of your tails.
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- Location: Right beside my dog again...
...just the same... y'know we're all eager to read more
Cheers, Mr. Elegant... I do hope you're managing well.
From the air , our camp , consisting of five tents and an outhouse adorned with the tradional half moon peephole , looked rather inviting as it was perched high on a bank overlooking a river , a green rushing glacial torrent still carving away at its winter mantle of ice that often tore off large chunks that revealed an icy beautiful blue tinge therein.
The snow was mostly gone except for large patches in the shade of the hills where a few caribou would lay in the heat of the day. While still waiting for the nod from HQ to start flying , we were often entertained by a mother fox on the other side of the river who taught her young to catch rodents and she tossed them into the air as they playfully romped in the snow.
A lone wolf , shabilly shedding his winter coat , visited dailly , keeping his distance as did we. Walking was difficult on the rocky tundra and frustrating too as the misplaced rocks rolled underfoot and we quickly named them the devil's marbles. Dailly we were warmed by the low arctic sun but often a piercing icy wind had us holed up in the tents that trembled and the diesel stove moaned in protest.
We waited and we wandered about. ... waiting for the puzzle palace in Ottawa to make up their minds as to which settings to use on our equipment. We ate well and slept and read until it was time to eat again. We understood , however , that the decisions being made in Ottawa were of the utmost importance ... it was diamonds we were looking for ..... we waited. The conditions were ripe for sinking morale , probably the biggest danger in a situation such as this with months to go .
One day , Jerzy , Eric and I wandered down to the huge junk pile left over from the cold war days when this was an advanced radar site hooked directly to Cheyenne Mountain. The junk pile would be as big as a football field and comprised discarded building supplies , office chairs , windows , doors all damaged somewhat. Electrical transformers , wiring , spools , searchlights , a junkies dream. We burrowed our way to the middle and declared that this was to be the site of the Baffin Island Yacht Club and we marked our trail out and scurried out to the aircraft to retrieve our hidden booty of vodka and rum.
We were busy for days as we made a floor from pallets , a skylight from searchlight lenses , a bar made from a huge electrical panel and in electrical tape , a sign "members Only". We took turns at being the Comodore and the honour of sitting in the only chair we had. We could see out to all points of the compass but the entrance was impossible to find. Over the bar there was a huge guage that read Full/Empty ... we had no idea what it was for but we laughed till we dropped foaming from the mouth , fortified with the evil drink.
The All terrain vehicles buzzed about but our whereabouts remained a mystery to the camp members. We slowly conducted interviews based on trust and our membership swelled to five. Morale was at a peak when the word came down to fly which we did with renewed enthusiam. We owed Jerzy for life because you must remember that the operators had been stripped of their flying incentive pay and we replaced that incentive with companionship and vodka.
Eric and I were both new Captains but he had a lot more time survey flying than I and it showed. We would compete in a friendly fashion but his accuracy was remarkable. The high morale translated into very accurate data even though we flew two trips per day of four hours each as we alternated Captains seats. We dragged that contraption up steep escarpments , allowing of course for the two trailing birds on their respective cables, and then we would plunge down towards the azure lakes and brown meadows dotted with caribou.
The call from the operator "End of the line" would far too often occur half way up a steep hill or in the face of an icy cliff where we had to execute a timed , co-ordinated tear drop turn to intercept the next line a mere two hundred metres over. This had to be done within fifty metres but we strived for ten metres. Skill , patience , a good lookout , pre planning , cunning , trust in your crew ... all had to be orchestrated for every turn ... never a cross word ... never any whining.
At the end of the day , when the data was downloaded by the processors we could see our track , every turn , every deviation from altitude and general accuracy. We were proud , and , after supper , we would retire to the Yacht Club.
Our engineer did very well to keep the aircraft in good trim considering the dusty conditions and the refuelling from barrells that the huge engines emptied by the dozens dailly. HQ was stunned as to the rapidity with which we pounded off the kilometres and soon more fuel was to be flown in on a chartered Hawker 748 , a true workhorse in the North and flown by some of the best and most professional crews in aviation.
It arrived on a day when we were timed out anyway and its arrival on that dusty , gusty strip was an event in itself. Bouyed by high spirits we played "hop the barrells" as they came hurtling down the barrell ramp
Up and down the line we flew. Day after day.
And so it was on the barrens.
We flew the contract in half the time predicted by the puzzle palace in Ottawa and we were rewarded handsomely down south in Yellowknife later on.
I must say that the lessons learned were profound. Once egos are set aside and that effort is put into morale it embraces the notion that we are all in this together. So a mission that was turned down by other crews became quite an adventure for a lucky band of brothers.
Jan. 2, 2005
"Hi Duke! Happy Birthday and Happy New Year!
I have followed this forum since you first told me about it, but this is the first time I have actually submitted a post. Teri and I really enjoyed our visit in May with you and Kathy. It was great catch up on things and share a few pints. I’m sorry to hear you’re not doing as well as when last I saw you. Even though the “Big C” has you firmly in its sights, your attitude and strength during this ordeal is nothing short of a huge inspiration.
Like I have told you, (and everyone on this forum has told you) you make one heck of an author! You always had that particular flare for telling stories, especially (as I remember) over a few pints 'o' Grog in the presence of persons of the gentler persuasion, but I never imagined that reading them would bring them so vividly to life. I have many fond memories of the days you and I crewed DIK and DOG under, at times, not so ideal conditions. Whether it was droning for hours on end up and down the west coast of BC with a load of Pine mushrooms or Crab (remember the sound those little buggers made in their totes? All we could hear was a faint “click, click, click. . . “ as we closed the cockpit door before blasting off into the deep, dark night. Creepy!) I’m still kinda curious, though, as to why your leg on the pine mushroom contracts was always the pristine, clear return trip to Terrace over some of the most breathtaking scenery in British Columbia and my leg was usually the 03:30, IFR leg in pitch black. Rank has its privileges, I guess. Your tale of the Bomber moon instantly whisked me back to that night. I remember how bloody big our aircraft’s shadow looked skimming across the cloud scape as we cruised at what seemed like just feet above the under cast. Cool man! Or enduring the trials and tribulations of Bronson Creek as the under equipped under-dogs. I would have to say that that was one of the most character building eras of my career. Having to reverse-engineer a DC-3 brake assembly out in the blowing snow as our, in your words, Puss-eyed mutant engineer loudly drank himself into oblivion yet again. Us in the frigid cold and he sitting by the fireplace in the Chalet bragging about how he sewered us. We sure showed him what cunning and perseverance can accomplish. I still remember the image of Cowboy Jim emerging from the swirling snow to give us a hand. What a gentleman! We both learned a lot about team work and overcoming both physical and mental barriers. Although it was tough, looking back on it all, I had a flippin’ ball! Thank you as well for taking the time to tutor me as to the correct amount of water and ice for a really great glass of Scotch. Cheers, mate!
I would like to submit a request to all the others out there who know or who have cross paths with Duke to submit their favorite tale involving him. I would like to think of this as a tribute to one who has shared so much of himself with all of us over the last while and maybe because I know he really doesn’t mind hearing others talk about him. Because I suggested it, I will start things off with some of my memories spent in the presence of The Duke.
I believe it was after we had returned from a crab trip and the Duke and I were feeling a little thirsty. After securing the aircraft for the night and a quick wash to remove some of the smell of work, we headed to The Waddling Dog pub for some refreshment and, as we were both single at the time, perhaps a little female companionship. We wandered in and strategically placed ourselves at the best table available and surveyed our surroundings. We were quite pleased with the “selection”. We chatted about the trip we had just completed and were enjoying our beer when Duke got that look a cat gets when it sees something that triggers its hunting instinct. “Sorry, Mate” he says to me, “you’re on your own.” With this he gets up, walks past me and as he places his drink on a table behind me I hear him say to the fine lady seated there, “Hello, my names Duke. How do you like me so far?” It worked! Present position direct to the final approach fix after only 15 to 20 minutes! What a legend!
Then there was the time I flew my first leg in the left seat of the 3. Duke and I had just dropped of our three bags of gold ore in Wrangell and as there was nothing to haul back we were, on this very rare occasion, headed back to the mine empty. Duke had been talking about up-grading me to Captain for a bit, however I had not yet passed the required exams needed to obtain my Airline Transport License, a requirement here in Canada for anyone want to sit as Pilot in Command of any aircraft requiring two pilots. We took off and completed the necessary checks before settling in to the half hour trip back to the mine. “Hey Rob,” Duke said, “if we’re empty, this would be considered a non-revenue flight, right?”. “Technically, yes.” I responded, not getting why this was important and not understanding the mischievous look on his face. “Good!” he said as he unbuckled his harness. “You take the left seat then!” I didn’t wait to see if he’d suggest it again. We quickly switched places and I settled into the “proper” seat of the airplane. After an uneventful flight and near perfect landing (I guess I was really paying attention) we taxied in and shut down to see the owner of our little operation stareing at the two faces with the proverbial s**t eating grins in the wind shield. Duke for having pulled off yet anther one (the look on Mike’s face was priceless.) and me for having taken the command seat of my first large airplane!
My hat is off to you, Duke. I’m sure I am not the only one who can say that many a fond story will be told about you, your adventures and, adventures shared with you for years to come. Thank you for all I have learned and seen as your co-joe and captain trainee during those days not so long ago.
With much sincerity;
Stay tuned for more....
Cheers Duke and Blue Skies!
He had already gently slipped into a coma earlier in the day and while asleep was never alone. We talked about Les’ life, how we all came to know him and had a few chuckles. I’m sure he knew we were all there with him. Kathy’s friend Patsy came by and sang a few hymns a capella, one being Amazing Grace. It was just so beautiful and so peaceful.
Les quietly left at 11:15pm with his daughter cradling his head. We are thankful that he is no longer in pain and we will miss him dearly.
Blue skies Duke Elegant, you are a cherished friend.