Page Three of Six
The flying career of Lefty McLeod
in Northern Saskatchewan
The following webpage information has been transcribed to text from 10 audio tapes created by the late Lefty Mcleod. When Lefty recorded the tapes, he did not do it in a chronological order, as a result, there may be a certain amount of repetition in his story. Some information has also been gleaned from various newspaper articles, books and photographs of the time.
While every effort has been made to transcribe the information as accurately as possible, there may be errors and the names of some individuals and locations may not be correct, or spelled incorrectly. The transcription software created a lot of errors and some information was inaccurate, unreadable, or missing, leading to a certain amount of guesswork and research.
I would like to acknowledge the help I have had from Les Oystryk and Lefty's son, Bruce McLeod, who gave me assistance to compile these webpages. They made a tough job much easier!!
Unfortunately, all of Lefty's original family photographs have apparently been lost and only scanned copies exist and they are not of good scanning quality. Lefty's flight log books also exist and an effort is being made to obtain them, but that effort may not be successful. If anyone has any information that will help improve the accuracy of these webpages:
Please contact me at:
You can click on this graphic audio link to listen to Lefty's McLeod's story from his original tape recordings, that were converted into 10 audio CDs. There are breaks between each CD, as Lefty belatedly wrestled with his tape recorders and some of his narrative may be a bit garbled. However, it gives a fascinating insight into his flying career in the Air Force, as a bush pilot and the time period in which he was active.
"Lefty" McLeod's Story Starts Here.
Well, I guess the last item I mentioned was the story about the Canso that was forced down on Spitfire Lake. I encountered that same crew with a different airplane at Black Lake later on that year. One of them was about to help me tie up and I told him to keep his cotton-picking hands off my airplane. I was perfectly capable of looking after it myself, I didn't want any help from the Air Force.
Black Lake, Northern Saskatchewan.
So he said, gee, you're a little uptight, so I told him exactly the story. He said yeah, that Captain is a real horses behind, he said we have had lots of trouble trying to keep peace in the family with him. But he said you might like to know that those guys were on that island for about a week with no grub.
The Lancaster had dropped them a whole bunch of sleeping bags and the Canso that was going to come and pick them up, got away from Comox and went into Namayo where they stayed and had a cocktail party there and got all hammered up. They left the next day and got up to Yellowknife and did the same up in the bar in Yellowknife and continued it for several days on the pretext that the weather was too bad for them to go out there. So the Captain got partly what was coming back to him anyway.
Old Yellowknife Hotel.
I don't know whether I told you about the raft that they built at Wollaston Lake. The Indians came up with this idea and I thought was a real clever one. They were trying to load fish onto the Canso out of fishing boats, and they were banging up and down and beating on the, on the hull and we were all covered with dents and bends and popped rivets and stuff like that.
Canso at anchor,
Photo taken by Cecil McCullock in 1948.
One day we get in there and the Indians came sailing out and they had this gigantic raft with a great big engine on it. The engine was mounted, inside the rim of the raft out near the edge, but they had a bracket there and a hole cut in the floor of the raft.
It was piled with fish boxes and he came snarling out towards the airplane. My blood just ran cold to see this thing coming because it looked like he was never going to get it stopped. But just as he got there, he cranked the motor hard over and the whole raft rotated, just like a spinning wheel. Then he opened the thing up wide open, and the raft came to a stop right beside the airplane.
It was real good, the only difficulty we had was the fact that he'd be in wrong and a little awkward to unload from. They rectified that by cutting the opposite side to the motor off square a little bit so that there's room for two guys to work on the edge of it, but it was pretty good anyway, and we managed to get our job done fairly well.
It was a strange sort of a deal and we went down to Fort Chipewyan, so that was okay with me. It was money in the bank and meat on the table, they did quite a job on us at Fort chipewyan running around everywhere.
We arrived at ????? took a load off and I went up to the dispatch office to see what was going on and he said, I have 1,800 pounds of supplies for the Geological Survey of Canada. I said, where do I go? He said damn if I know, I haven't the faintest idea. He said they wanted the stuff on such and such a date and he says this is the date. Where do you suppose they would be and I said I didn't know. I went down and we put the load on and then with Bill and in a logical fashion, we eliminated just about everything and we had one area that we would fly to that we were going to start looking for their camp.
That night I was in the air crew building and Bill started laughing, I said, what's the big giggle? He said, well I just reading that, The Impossible we do immediately, The miraculous takes a little longer, so we cut that out and we stuck it on the instrument panel as our motto from then on with that particular Norseman CF-SAN.
(This was the motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II).
CF-SAN being loaded, Pilot Lefty McLeod in the doorway.
The Geological Survey was pretty easy to find anyway there were three or four, but always two, but there is another guy up there though, whose name I won't mention because it would be familiar to you, he would have everything very meticulously arranged. He was a terrific woodsman, his camps were just as neat as a pin and very well laid out.
He always had a version of a little dock for us to tie up on so that we wouldn't have too much trouble unloading his gear. Sometimes he took his wife and child out with him, but most of the time he was booked with an assistant, but mainly by himself, he was a very closed mouth little guy.
His canoe was camouflaged and he used to camouflage his camp, so if you flew by it, it would be a very unusual thing if you could see it. But he would as we left, give us a spot and a time where he would be when he wanted his load delivered, his next load.
So we would load up and go out to this particular spot and he was always there to meet us and you could find him because, he had one of the surplus parachute with alternating white and scarlet panels, and he laid that out in a flat spot and peg the sides down with rock. Yeah, you fly over and here's this round target down there all red and white and when you take off and looked back, he wasn't there and we did drop stuff to him.
But we dropped all kinds of stuff to a lot of people in places where I used to deliver the mail by airdrop and it wouldn't fall, so we would roll it into a tobacco can, and screwed the lid down tight. Everybody in the country saved yellow and we wrapped the cans in yellow so you could find them and I'd packed the stuff into the can and they would float in the water. The lid wouldn't come off if it hit the ground, or the water, if they didn't have a boat.
I got real handy with it and Grant Harper, he was cutting line with them, they were camped about three miles from the lift off and I would drop it right into the camp. So they cleared an area out there and they'd made a target and the outside limits of the of the target area, kept getting a little bit smaller and it got smaller. Finally a bunch of real crazy Indians from Fond du Lac, got a hell of a laugh about this, how they were going to get it right down to the point where it was the center of the target, but I never did get that good where I would want to drop it.
That's a kind of a throw back from when we did a lot of air dropping and that's where I kind of cottoned on to this and anyway at a particularly unpleasant part of the year. There was a lot of stuff we did there, as a matter of fact, Earl Bowman and I with two Norseman loads had the idea to see how fast we could get a field gun out of the Norseman.
They didn't know how all this was going to work or anything like that at recommended heights we were at. The first couple of loads that we both dropped went down with carts, which slowed them down a little bit, but the second loads that we both dropped worked.
They didn't lose any of it and they didn't have too much trouble getting underway with it either. We took sacks of feed into Quill Lake because there was a hole in the weather there, it was another terrible heavy snowstorm and we ended on the ice with no nowhere to go and nothing to eat. So, the department ????? We had two Norseman on skis at Quill Lake and dropped them ???? there and then we came on to Goldfields.
Quill Lake, Saskatchewan.
The first year we were up there, they were setting up a real super ????, Guy Bode and I were trying desperately to get the whole thing in before freeze-up, shoveling snow off of aircraft and getting things going and so on. We just tore into what we had to do and we found it was getting colder and colder every morning, but we got everything all done and were breathing a taste of scotch that evening when the radio burst into life and they said that they didn't have a tarpaulin.
So I said okay, well actually if we can get it out the door, or out the window of the Beaver ????, we went down to the dock and we found this tarp that ???? and tried it in the front window of the Beaver and it would slide out if you if you give it a little nudge and so on.
So, I took Guy with me and we flew over the camp and I talked to the ???? along rocky point all the tents were all in a row and everything, it was a real nice neat camp and it's right on the end of the point, coming towards the camp so that the tarp won't land in the lake and you lose it.
I took one test run at it and on the second time around I said Hubbard, get the tarp wedged in the window ready to shove it out. So we ran in and I banged his arm and it was a second or two too long. Down it went and I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, but there were guys running around all over hell and gone.
So we took off back to back to town and that evening Anna said, boy you sure did a number on us, you brought the whole camp down complete and altogether. It was a real Keystone Cops operation I guess and they will have to eat out of tin cans until we can get in there at the end of the winter, it was kind of funny little thing that took place anyway.
You know, we dropped some stuff, unloading about a ton of stuff at Rainbow ????? to George Kirkpatrick who works at the ground ?????. Most of it was frozen stuff, frozen strawberries and ???? there's a about 6 inches of fresh snow there and Kirkpatrick was standing in the middle of the runway and he had two steaks in his hand and they looked like they got mangled out to about a yard long apiece but I guess they were still usable anyway.
Jackson's oil rig over near the mountains, ran into trouble when the well he was drilling went sour. Now, I don't know what that entails, it has got something to do with the mud and if it goes sour, it isn't very effective. So we tried taking the mud in with the helicopter, but the runway was too wet for that because, they just about turned it over on take off a couple of times, when one skid stuck and the other one didn't.
So we started dropping the mud in cans, those big cardboard cans, but that didn't work very well. So we finally wound up putting it in paper bags within a gunnysack within a bran sack, which is a very tightly woven canvas sack and then we were delivering it all very well.
Joe Jackson was always crabbing and crabbing about us, not getting close enough to the rig and we were dropping it all right, on the airstrip in front of his office practically, but when it was all over and we'd got the whole works delivered. It was stuff called preservative that was going to unsour his well or whatever.
The mud going sour sure smells terrible anyway, I was talking with them on the radio and I said, I still have one more thing to deliver for you Joe that goes along with your complaints about my accuracy and so on. I have a bag of mail and I said, if you wouldn't mind just stepping out the door of your trailer and keeping an eye on it so you don't lose it.
I saw him step out and we made a real good cut, at the camp and unloaded the mailbag. George Malone was flying with me in those days and he turned and laughed and he said that's delivery for you.
You we put it right in the window and of course, wouldn't you know it, the windows were double glassed. The windows, the mailbag and all the glass from the windows wound up in Joe's bedroom. So we considered that to be a big success and we sure never heard any more complaints from on that subject anyway, but, it was worth a giggle.
We watched, one of the really interesting things that I got mixed up in during the war on this Eskimo exercise. They had an American DC-3 in Prince Albert and they used it to lay some telephone line from the air.
Now I'd never heard of this before so I bought the pilot a couple of drinks and weaseled my way aboard the DC-3 to watch this operation and gosh, I was impressed, they put down about two miles of wire. It went down in the distance there in the time that it takes to say that.
The DC-3 flew two miles and they dropped the wire from a very low, well we were maybe a hundred feet above the trees and the trees acted as telephone poles for the wire and the wire was lying on top of the branches. To begin, they had a little pilot parachute on the end of the wire and they had about ten links of logging chain and it was a real whacked up operation.
The chute ran down just an old piece of galvanized drain pipe and they drop this chain down the drain pipe and then the parachute, of course it assisted the wire out the door. They had six or seven big boxes that were built sort of like horizontal fishing reels and it came spinning off there.
Boy, if there was a backlash I don't know what it would have done, whether it would have snatched the inside of the cabin, out onto the floor, onto the ground, or just what. The wire was all packed in French talc to act as a lubricant and by the time, the last of the wire went out the door, I'll tell you, you couldn't see the length of the cabin for a fog of talc.
We heard afterwards that it took them from the time that the chain, hit the ground, they were already hooked onto a field telephone before the other end of the wire hit the ground at the other location. It took a little longer to get to the wire at the other location, but it was certainly a useful sort of an idea.
Subsequently, I saw a picture of a guy doing that with a Beaver in Korea during the Korean War. So they must have signed up their act and got it into a technique that was practical anyway, but it was it was really interesting to watch that.
One time we were winging down the McKenzie River with a guy in a helicopter for some reason or other. I don't remember now whether I was out for a joyride, or he was going somewhere on business. We were about 50 feet up of the ground, when we came around the corner of an island and there was a grizzly bear standing on a sandbar.
So he said oh boy, look at this and he started to hover right near the grizzly and I said, look at it nothing, let's get the hell out of here because the doggone thing was standing on its hind legs and it was ready to go to war any old time on it. If we would have had an engine failure, we'd have had one hell of a time explaining this to the grizzly, but it was the closest I've ever been to a real live one and I don't want to get any closer any time soon.
Grizzly bear standing on it's hind legs.
In that country, there is all kinds of strange things, one time Frankie and I were flying around Port Radium and we saw a blonde moose it wasn't exactly white, but it was wet. When we saw it was wet and it darkened down the color a bit, it was a dark cream color. Since it was wet, I don't know how white it would have been when it dried out, we watched it swimming across Eagle Bay and I circled and watched him come out of the water. I was really surprised to see this really light-colored moose because they're all damn near black up in that country.
Bathurst Inlet, N.W.T.
Then of course, there's all kinds of lemmings, around and wolves and one time we were crossing Bathurst Inlet and a big lead had opened up. This was in the spring, I guess maybe the end of June a big lead in the ice ran four miles and miles north and south up the Bathurst Inlet and it was just packed with seals on both sides of the lead.
There was seals all over the place basking in the sun and if the if the hunters were on the ball, which undoubtedly they are around that part of the country, they had some spring grub anyway. On King Christian Island, we used to see walruses on the shore and there wasn't many hunters up in that part of the country, so they were pretty well unmolested.
King Christian Island.
Eureka presented a real problem because they had muskox all around the weather station there. There's a big prairie just to the north of the airstrip on the doggone muskox, used to come off that prairie on to the airstrip. I don't know why, but anyhow, we went in there one time and there was about 20 muskox on the strip.
So we called the D.O.T. on the radio, or the weather office guys and he came up with a power wagon and he was trying to chase them off. Well, what they say about muskox and calves and stuff like that is right, because these doggone things got themselves into their battle formation and they weren't going to move for anybody.
So they got they got all stern in and heads out and so on and he was just going around with the power wagon, and he wasn't going to tackle driving right into them or anything like that, so we buzzed them and they took off then.
There's a big grassy slope and kind of mountains in around Eureka and on the side of the grassy slope sort of like a foothill, there was herds and herds of arctic hare. Well they, when I say herds, I mean maybe 100 or 150 rabbits all running around together and they're big rabbits. So, you know, they look like greyhounds from a distance and they could sure travel, it was kind of interesting to see the numbers like that in a hostile environment.
Arctic Hare, near Eureka, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.
We had another thing with animals on the airstrip of Peace River Sawmill when I was flying for El Dorado. The mill they were rebuilding and a bunch of stuff at Beaver Lodge just in back of Uranium City we would make our grub run and personnel run from Edmonton to Beaver Lodge and drop off the load.
Then we would go across to Peace River Sawmill and haul two loads of lumber from there into Beaver Lodge and then go back to Edmonton. Every once in a while, we would see lots of Buffalo around that particular area, because it's right in the middle of the Wood Buffalo National Park.
Wood Bison in summer.
Occasionally, they would get Buffalo up on the runway in the spring, we operated off the ice and the river, a lot of the time, but then when spring came, we had an airstrip that we used to use in back of the sawmill and there would be buffalo on that occasionally. Well, my gosh we get in there one day and there's about five buffalo on the runway so we called the sawmill on the radio and said that some of our friends are blocking the runway.
So Reinhart came up there with a power wagon and boy that buffalo sure did a number on him. There was one big ugly old bull there and he tangled with the Power Wagon about five times.
The first time he hit the radiator and he folded that heavy grill right back on top of the radiator core and then pushed the whole works on top of the fan and that did for it. So he was stuck out there, then the buffalo came around and tore one door off the cab and was busy pounding his way, down the side of the truck.
I can't remember what alerted the other guy down at the sawmill, but there was a jeep down there, so he came tearing up with the jeep and eluded these animals, but he beat him away from the Power Wagon long enough that he could pick Reinhart up and get the heck out of there. But that blew our trip and we just circled and watched all this excitement going on down there and it sure was interesting. I never saw anything like it before in my life.
Wood Bison in winter.
The squadron when I joined it, was in Rockcliffe, it had been in Borden, it had been in Trenton and then had gone to back to Rockcliffe. At the time that I was with it, it went back to Rockcliffe in Ottawa. Of course, after I joined it then went back to Trenton up to Borden, to Petawawa, to Valcartier, to Dundurn, then down to Shilo and then back down to Trenton again. It was the first Squadron to go on active service and we flew the whole works of them down to Halifax about two weeks before war broke out.
When we got to Halifax, they decided that they were going to divide us up into two squadrons, or two flights. One flight was to remain in Halifax and the other was to go to Saint John, New Brunswick. It was all volunteer pretty well, if they could fill up the half the Squadron.
We had not had a look at Halifax as yet and when we did, a lot of us were quite disenchanted with it and decided that nothing could be any worse than that, although maybe St. John isn't as beautiful.
The City of Halifax, which is not too bad a looking place, really, but it's a dingy drab, gray looking city, but it's got the advantage of having the most wonderful people there. They treated us like sons and brothers, and you can't say any more than that, it was just absolutely terrific.
The city of Halifax, 1945.
I was never treated as well, they're always babbling about western hospitality, but boy, the westerners could go down and take a few lessons from those raised in St. John. They sure treated us great, took us into their homes and we were accepted right from scratch, right off the bat. Of course, we were all young and foolish in those days and we were as friendly as a bunch of pups you know.
I remember the one thing that really impressed me about St. John, which is that the eastern provinces are very, very bigoted as far as their religions are concerned and the Catholics and the Protestants are always whaling away at one another about something.
Well, we had so few guys in the detachment there, if you could call it that, we decided between the whole bunch of us, this was a kind of an autonomous sort of a thing. It wasn't all just the officer said, do this and everybody did it, we had a say in some of the decisions.
They said, well, what do you think about, we turn the whole squadron out for a church parade, Protestant one week, and Catholic the next and it was also a little bit of an eye wash for the city. I think we let them know that they had a troop of defense people around and so on good public relations and so forth. So for about five weeks, we went Protestant church one week, Catholic Church the next week and everybody showed up and everybody went.
Finally, there was a one Jewish boy, in the squadron. He said, what the hell is going on? He says you guys are going to make a Christian out of me yet. He says, I've been going to the Protestant and the Catholic church until I'm sure the rabbi won't know who the hell I am, why don't you have a church parade to the synagogue?
So we grabbed that as a that's a real fine idea and since I was one of the senior ncos there, I was browbeaten into going to talk to the CEO about it. Well, he was a little bit doubtful about it, but he told me to go ahead and explore the possibilities and see what I could do and he loaned me the staff car to go downtown.
So I went down, hunted up the rabbi and laid this proposition on him and he was enthralled with the idea.He said it would be a real lift, you know, and he didn't see why they should be discriminated against and the other two churches were getting all the business started things and so on.
So he said the only thing was that you all have to wear your yarmulka when you're in the synagogue and I said, What's that? He says well here he said these little beanies that you put on, so I said well, I don't think that anybody has any of them, have you got enough to go around, I have about 30 - 38 men or something like that.
So he dug up 38 of them and I had a little bull session with everybody and dealt these things out and told them not to lose them, that they had to wear them as they entered the synagogue. So we had a full-fledged church parade to the synagogue this is one weekend and complete with the bugle band in the whole shooting match.
Well I'll tell you, I guess St. John had never run across anything, just quite like this before and they were intrigued by it and they weren't just quite sure how to react. But eventually the Jewish Community just accepted us just like Blood Brothers after that there, we could do no wrong.
Actually, it turned out to be a real neat move on our part to pull this off because the city, if they had accepted us with open arms before, we became intimate with them after that. The policemen in town all knew us by name and if any of our guys got into trouble downtown, we would get an anonymous phone call from what couldn't help but have been a city policemen, to come and gather up some of our flock that were misbehaving and we'd pick them up and bring them home and cool them down.
It was a grand town and when we went back where the airport used to be, there was no airport at all. It was just solid buildings and they had found a different location for the airport about 5 - 6 miles out of town. The same at Halifax, the airport that we used when we first went to Halifax eventually was all built up and it was now the embarkation depot.
They put all the guys that were waiting for ships for the trained soldiers, and airmen, and stuff like that, they kept them at this embarkation point in Halifax and then when the ship's came in they wheeled them down and loaded them on the on the boats.
But I had a great time in St. John my neighbors, I live off, well, we didn't have any Barracks there or anything like that, so we all had to dig up our own accommodations. We were allowed up to certain amount for room and board, so there was a little village within easy walking distance of the airport down on the Kennebecasses River and I walked down there and prowled around and located a couple with a little girl that were willing to take me in as a boarder.
Well after about two days there I was certainly one of the family and this kid and I had a big love affair going on. She was about six or seven years old and I was in uniform, so, you know, I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. She and I got along great and I always sent her a Valentine, or gave her Valentine's and things like that.
The older folks were just great, I went back to see him when Mom and I were down in the maritime and she just greeted me like a long-lost relative they remembered me right off the bat. When I went to the back door and called her little daughter, who was 6, or 7 years old when I was down there, who turned out to be a very nice young lady with several children of her own, and we had a real nice little old reunion sort of thing.
It was where we were at Milledgeville when war broke out, another guy, his name was Wally Pye, he and I were packing parachutes on the floor of the Royal Kennebecasses Yacht Club. They had a beautiful big hardwood floor, it was only spot in the whole damn country, that was big enough to pack parachutes.
Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club.
In that climate the parachutes had to be rotated pretty often because it was so doggone damp. So we were packing parachutes on the floor there, when somebody came in and told us that war had been declared and we were into it.
That parachute packing was something too, when we had our parachute courses in Trenton, you had the option of packing your own parachute and then going up and jumping with it. There was, I think 12 of us took the course, there was only four of them that were regular parachute riggers.
However, our squadron leader Van Vleet, wanted everybody to be qualified in more than one trade, which made the squadron super versatile. So we all were, some of us were in three trades and most in two anyway, I got into this parachute course, somehow or other, I can't remember what kind of finagling I did.
But anyhow, we wound up after the course, we packed our own parachutes and then they had a jumping set, like a reserve parachute on it and we went up and jumped. The Air Force had a Ford Tri-motor and that's what we jumped out of the 12 of us, 11 of us actually the other guy went for the round trip, but the other 11 of us jumped.
I made a couple of, three exhibition jumps with the Air Force, two of them anyway, one at Kingston and one somewhere else at an air show. So that in itself was kind of interesting all the way I just don't think I did it for anything more than just to be able to say that I did it.
Ford Tri-motor aircraft.
Well I got back down to the Maritimes after I finished my instructors course, they didn't have any place for me to go for a while. So I was ferrying airplanes around for a little bit. I think I told you about Mitch and I being the only ones to deliver our airplanes out of the 12 that started out. Everybody else bailed out when the guy that was leading the thing got them up on top of fog and so on. But I landed on the highway on the way to Cartierville and Mitch somehow or other made it to St. Hubert and found his way down but ran out of gas taxiing off the runway. I taxied down the highway to a filling station, put a about 10 gallons of car gas into it, and when the fog lifted, I took off on the highway and flew over to Saint Hubert but, Mitch made it non-stop, which was a real good piece of work.
I remember, one deal at Goldfields where we were taken off in the inside Bay and you just had room, if you had enough and you didn't have too big a load, you just had room to get off and go around the corner. If you didn't have enough room to get off and go around the corner, you had to get up on one float and go around the corner on one float.
I don't know what the heck we were doing, but we're going out of there with a load anyway, a small load, but it was too big to get off on the inside bay. We are going out through the Narrows where we ran over the Indian girls one time, on one float, and around the corner comes the Slave Lake riverboat.
You know, it was a case of mutual horror and I pulled the plane over to one side, but I sure didn't have much room and I had everything screaming and bellowing wide open. The deckhand, one deckhand, went over the side, he figured for sure we are going to run into them and he dove into the water.
I was clawing and struggling when we went over the caretaker's house at the mine. I don't know how close we were, but we sure were awful close and with a Mark 5 Norseman with a three-bladed prop in fine, pitch, short stacks. Gosh, they made an awful lot of noise.
CF-SAN Norseman aircraft.
Pete said afterward, the picture window in his house come out of the frame just like a torrent of water. He said there wasn't a piece left bigger than an ice cube when it hit the ground, it just shattered from the racket. I spent a whole day, helping them replace the window, he had another chunk of glass at the mine, but boy, oh boy, it sure gave me a terrible start and it sure didn't do much for the nerves of the boat crew either.
I went and split a beer with Julian Mills afterward and he said, he didn't know what to do. But he says, all he could think to do is just stand his ground because he figured I wasn't any more interested in killing him than I was in killing myself, but that was a pretty close one anyway.
When we were hauling those beavers, we picked up a lot of the beavers at Waskesiu. Quite often we would get in there very early in the morning and taxi into the breakwater, load up and then take off again, until the D.O.T insisted that we stop landing in front of the landing and taking off in front of the camp. Too many people work and it was bothering their beauty sleep or something like that and they were screaming like, hell about it.
The warden, or chief warden there was Harry Gange. I can remember one morning we got in there about 6:30 A.M. and he said, I'm just making breakfast, you better come up to the cabin and we had a grand breakfast of venison sausages and pancakes. I remember it very well, Harry died this winter, as a matter of fact at Christopher Lake.
We distributed the beaver all around the country and we were instructed to unload them on the floats, instead of just opening the door and booting them into the lake. We had to lift them down and put them on the floats and let them make their way into the water.
Because, once they're separated from water, they start to dry out and they can drown if they don't get a chance to renew the oil in their fur and stuff like that. Well, I never knew that, but we took their word for it anyway and we unloaded them all, protesting and so on, we dropped the odd one, but not too many. We dropped them off all over the place up in the north and sooner or later I guess, they wound up with beaver all over the place up there again.
That was one of the things we hauled, that and dog (teams) were mostly our livestock, although we did haul mink for Halvor Ausland once in a while, (out for sale at Montreal, or, New York fur auction sales). Len Waite usually took care of that because Halvor was an old friend of his, Halvor also used to have his fishing crews, commercial fish for Len.
So Len would return the favour by hauling the mink pelts out to market for him, and haul live mink breeding stock back to the mink ranch if he purchased live mink from other mink ranchers. If Halvor sold live mink breeding stock to other ranchers in other parts of Canada or the United States, he would have Len Waite haul them out by aircraft to Big River to ship via railway, usually, with George Greening. That is where George got into trouble with the mink that time, (Lefty never said what kind of trouble, or, when George Greening got into trouble and I don't know anything about it either.)
GRAND CHAMPION MINK
A grand champion mink leaves for home. Veteran bush pilot, George Greening is seen loading a Topaz mink, owned by Halvor Ausland of Isle-a-la-Crosse. which was named the best mink in competition at the seventh annual live mink show at Big River on Friday and Saturday. Mink from such northern points as Dore Lake, Buffalo Narrows, and Ile-a-la-Crosse, along with their owners went out on that flight. The animal in the picture is roughly valued by the owner, at over $500.00.
(Prince Albert Herald Picture)
We hauled lumber on the floats and in the cabin; and old dynamite, and barrels, and mine cars, and rails, and dogs, and caribou calves, and ptarmigan. Then there was that lady that used to come up and visit at Norman Wells with a monkey I had an altercation with one afternoon when we're starting the south and then somebody else had a parrot. Oh yeah, bed springs too, they made a really weird sound when you tied a couple of bedsprings on the floats it sounded like a Jew's harp.
Norseman CF-SAN with canoe at Dodge Lake. Lefty McLeod pilot, 1949.
Dodge Lake, Northern Saskatchewan.
Lefty McLeod loading dogs onto CF-SAN.
Goo Goo, Lefty, Buckskin, Chaffey Nicholson Lake, NWT, Sept, 1948.
I don't know whether I've ever gone into that business of the forced landing at La Ronge when the engine quit. I had a whole crew on board, nine people, I think and we got down without a scratch, but boy, the airplane was a basket case by the time I got finished with it. I eventually flew that airplane again, after it had a civilian registration on it, but I never did like it, it let me down.
Four views of Lefty's Nightmare.
He had to climb away from the lake due to an artillery barrage across it. Note where trees hit on either side of the fuselage. Aircraft is facing path of approach, it hit a tree which swung it around just as it stopped. Airframe was considered a washout by the RCAF.
Four views of Lefty's Nightmare at La Ronge.
Four views of Lefty's Nightmare at La Ronge.
Four views of Lefty's Nightmare at La Ronge.
Four views of Lefty's Nightmare at La Ronge.
Four views of Lefty's Nightmare at La Ronge.
The following is the text of two newspaper articles concerning the crash of Lefty McLeod's Anson in the bush at La Ronge, Saskatchewan, December 2nd, 1945.
Clippings do not indicate which newspapers were involved, probably the Regina Leader Post and Prince Albert Herald.
Forced landing in dense brush
Four Regina army officers and a non-commissioned officer were among seven men who escaped without a scratch when an R.C.A.F. plane was forced down and damaged in dense bush near Lac la Ronge last Tuesday, it has just been disclosed. The Reginans were members of a court-martial assembled to try offenses under the Army act.
It was the most northerly court-martial ever held in Military District 12, Saskatchewan. The court was held last Monday in a classroom of the Indian school at Lac la Ronge.
Those from Regina were: Lt-Col. J. R. Hopkins, president of the court; Maj. T. P. Davidson, judge advocate; Capt. P. W. McManus, prosecutor; Capt. P. S. Deis, member of the court; Sgt-Maj. W. H. Matthews, court reporter.
The pilot was P.O. "Lefty" McLeod, R.C.A.F. Another passenger was Captain Hadden.
The ski-equipped plane had just taken off from the surface of Lac la Ronge when the motor stalled at about 200 feet. Forced to land, the pilot brought his craft down in a small area of dead timber, the plane's wings and undercarriage were damaged. Attracted by a distress signal released by the pilot, personnel of another plane notified the base, and medical aid was sent to the scene.
By the time the doctor's arrived the passengers had made their way through deep snow to where they had taken off. They made the return trip in less than half an hour and boarded another plane for Prince Albert. In Regina Monday the officers had little to say about their reactions immediately prior to the forced landing. "It all happened too quickly for us to be very nervous," said one.
Escape Injury In La Ronge Plane Crash
Four Regina army officers and a non-commissioned officer were among seven men who escaped without injury when an R.C.A.F. plane was forced down and damaged in the bush near Lac La Ronge last Tuesday, it was disclosed today. The Reginans were members of a court-martial assembled to try offenses against the Army act, which sat in a classroom of the Indian school at La Ronge.
Those from Regina were: Lt-Col. J. R. Hopkins, president of the court; Maj. T. P. Davidson, judge advocate; Capt. P. W. McMeans, prosecutor; Capt. P. S. Deis and, Sgt-Maj. W. H. Matthews. The pilot was P.O. "Lefty" McLeod, R.C. A.F.
The ski-equipped plane had just taken off from the surface of Lac La Ronge when the motor stalled at about 200 feet. Forced to land, the pilot brought his craft down in a small area of dead timber. The plane's wings and undercarriage were damaged.
Lefty and Norseman 3538 at La Ronge.
Norseman 3538 at La Ronge
Photo from the John Quin collection and Credit to Dennis Strom.
One night we were hauling fish from Carter Lake, which is southeast of La Ronge. We are taking a whole bunch of groceries out to them and we're hauling fish back and the last load of groceries we took out, they didn't have any fish coming back for us. So we're traveling along fairly low down, it was a miserable cold, windy day and darned if we don't see a guy walking across Lac La Ronge.
He was heading for the settlement, which was about 30 miles away and he was walking right across the center of the lake. So we landed and dragged him on board and asked him if he was going to La Ronge, he said yes he was. So we give him a ride over and he was astounded, he was one of the local Indians named Oliver Beatty.
John Oliver Beatty (deceased).
One time we were warming up in Dawson, no, we were warming up in Peace River and we were on our way to Dawson Creek. This kid walked into the yard with a packsack on his back and he said, did we mind if he came in and got warmed up a little bit. He was really cold because he'd slept under the bridge at Peace River that night and I said sure come on in.
Where are you going? He said well, he's starting for the coast, I said, well, we haven't got any passengers and we haven't got any freight, you want to go for a ride across to Dawson Creek. He said yes, and so we stuffed him in the airplane and whipped him across there which surprised him more than just a little bit.
We used to have a lot of fun at Peace River, they had all kinds of weird stuff going on there. The warehouse crew were the guys that we dealt with most of the time because they were the guys that got all the freight loads together for us and so on and they were always up to some doggone nonsense or another.
They had some stuff there that they used for treating oil wells, I never did grasp exactly what they used it for. I know that they put it down in the hole anyway, it's called round sand and it sure was round because if there was any, even little on the floor, there is no way you could stand upon it. It was just like walking on ball bearings and yet it was so small you couldn't even see it. So, these boobs when they saw us coming, they had a big salt shaker and they used to shake a few shakes of round sand on the floor of the office just as we were coming in.
Frac sand: Close-up view of frac sand (on the right) and a typical sand of similar grain size (on the left). Notice how the frac sand has a more uniform grain size, nicely rounded grain shapes, and a uniform composition. It is also a very tough material that can resist compressive forces of up to several tons per square inch. Grains in this image are about 0.50 millimeter in size.
Of course, Dan and I would be skating all over everywhere and falling into waste paper baskets and so on. So when we got used to this sort of thing, we decided that we were going to start to retaliate.
Well, one of the guys, the accountant in the office his name was Beacon, and his initials spelled red, so he was always saying reds, my name, and red's my nature. So one day while he was at lunch, we painted everything on his desk bright red, his inkwell and his basket, and his ruler and screwed the drawers on his desk shut and quite a few other little items to just try and sort of straightening things out a little bit.
Then he retaliated by fixing up, our pickup truck with one of those fire extinguishers that produces the dirty brown stuff,you know, is all gooey, sticky stuff. He had it triggered so that when you opened the door, it fired the fire extinguisher all over the inside of the cab. But somehow or other it didn't work, but it was a heck of a good idea and I wish I had thought of it myself, anyhow, the war was on for sure.
We'd picked somebody up out in the mountains and they brought a bunch of fish in and we forgot them in the nose hanger. When we walked in the next Monday things were kind of walking away, so we got hold of Deacon's truck and we wired a fish onto the heater and disposed of the rest of them. You know, he's a very strange guy for all the intricate things that he pulled off on us, he never thought to look at the heater on his truck.
He would drive around Peace River with the window wound down and -50 below with the heater going full blast, just gasping for air with the smell of the damn thing. Nobody would ride with him and so on, he never found the fish until springtime and it had been reduced to nothing but a skeleton, with his skin wrapped around it. Then, of course, he had the nerve to come and try and blame us for doing it to him.
There was another thing where Jim Todd who is the drilling superintendent, got into an argument with MacKinnon and pulled off a snazzy little joke on him. MacKinnon got a couple of the solid blocks of chalk from the hangar, they were made in solid blocks of 12 by 12 or something like that and Jim was trying to sell his car every year.
He bought a new car and the company would weld a railroad rail on the front and rear for bumpers and put a chunk of steel plate under the crankcase so that he couldn't knock a hole in the crankcase when he was driving up and down bush trails. I think it was a Buick, I'm not sure. This isn't a big expensive car anyway and so he was trying to sell this to some guy and the guy was going to come out and have a look at it.
Well, Jim was up north and we were going to go up and bring him out that afternoon and McKinnon had arranged for this guy to come around and talk to him. So, before Todd, got down from the north, MacKinnon had jacked up the back wheels of the car and put them on these chalks, so that the tires were just barely brushing the ground.
Then he took off in the DC-3 and went back to Calgary leaving us to face the music. Well, we made sure that they had heard that the DC-3 had been in and brought him something or, you know, the usual cover-up, sort of deal.
So, he gets into the car and he's talking to this guy about it and he says wait till you see the pickup and he slammed it into gear and floorboarded the gas. The Buick let out a hell of a scream and it threw bits of gravel right clean over the CPA Radio Shack, but I don't think it moved a fraction of an inch and he couldn't figure out what the heck was wrong. He finally got out and looked underneath and there it was sitting up on chalks, so of course, he immediately blamed us for tampering with his sales and we denied it flatly, but we tattled on Don MacKinnon, just to keep the pot boiling.
Well he said, I don't know how I'm going to get even with him and I said well why don't you bale them all up, put them in a nice paper package and send them to express collect to his house because he won't be home. He's gone to Toronto and Jan will accept the parcel and pay the express charges on it. When MacKinnon gets home and has to fork out the money for it when Jan unwraps it and finds the chalks it's going to be a super deal.
Well, that kicked off an internal war that lasted for about three years until poor old Jim kicked the bucket. But it was entertaining to be on the sidelines and keep throwing little potboilers in once in a while just for the hell of it, here was a good bunch of guys around there.
We started one time before they had the highway finished from White Court to Valleyview, it might have been Valleyview. We were trying to find the party that was driving down the cut line in a couple of power wagons trying to get up to Valleyview and Grand Prairie before the road was finished. We flew around and around there and finally, we found them.
By this time we picked my mom up because we figured it was only going to take us a few minutes to find these guys and then we go on into Edmonton. So Mom was coming along to do a little shopping and it took us a lot longer to find these guys than we'd anticipated and mother was in very desperate shape by the time we finally did locate them.
So we dropped them a note and then we went and landed on a lake to wait for one of them to come out and intercept us. Meanwhile, mom couldn't wait any longer, so I gave her one of those round ice cream cans and I don't know how she managed it but she managed to use that anyway. We booted it out the door when we landed on the lake in the wintertime, of course, and good rid of it, but it was a real exhibition of gymnastics. I and Malone sat with their eyes front and center let her struggle with her problem herself.
Well, I told you about the canoe tied to the Hudson Bay porch in the doorway at Aklavik. There was something that used to happen every spring there that was worth seeing. I only saw it once but it happened every spring when the people from Banks Island came in.
What's the name of that settlement on Banks Island? I forget but anyhow when these guys came in, they all had small diesel schooners. They just ran like cream too, they used to do all their own maintenance and they were nice.
Once they got in off the Beaufort Sea they furled the sails and they came upriver on power with their little diesel running. You could hear these things beating away across the Delta for several hours before they came into view because of all the zigzags in the river and so on.
They were getting fairly close and I climbed up and stood on top of the Otter center section. You can see these white things coming through the brush, but I couldn't figure out what the heck it was until they came around the corner.
Inuit Boats from Banks Island at Aklavik (1956).
There were three schooners and they had hung their whole winter's catch of polar bears and arctic foxes in the rigging. This was their traditional arrival at Aklavik with the Banks Islanders with their whole winters catch hanging in the rigging. It was a very impressive sight too, they had those things geared up, they had deep freezers and washing machines on them, it was a real good sort of setup.
Hudson's Bay Company furs in the arctic.
Polar bears, yeah, we used to see the odd one swimming, that trip that I described where we got trapped by the receding tide down the coast from there. We used to go up as far as Eskimo Point and down as far as Churchill if the tide was out, the mudflats were all exposed and the polar bears shone like jewels, you could see them for miles.
Of course, nothing would do but we had to get down close to the bears, about 100 feet and give them a little bit of a hassle on the way. I can remember this one bear that we had was moving across the mudflats, of course, the mudflats were all seamed with little channels where the water drained out like little rivers that have slowly gone partially dry and he'd hit these things.
He would be splattering across the mud and then all of a sudden he would hit one of these little drainage channels and the water would fly just as though you had thrown a hand grenade into it. He could hump along anyway, but I guess it's now got to the point where you don't fool around in Churchill in the wintertime at night in the village, because polar bears are rambling around there.
At Norman Wells when one of the guys started from the cookhouse to the rig, down in the Delta there on one of the islands. He was on the safety line and he never got to the rig so they started looking for him and there was such a hell of a storm they couldn't find anything.
So they gave him up for lost, later they found what was left of him in the mud pit. A polar bear had snagged him right off the safety line and dragged him off into the end of the mud pit and ate him. It was a kind of a shocking sort of a thing and it sure woke a few guys up around there. They finally got the territories ranger up there and he shot it, because they figured that once the bear had a taste of a human, he had about another 42 men to work on, so he had a pretty good larder all stocked up for the rest of the winter.
I told you about taking off on the inside bay at Goldfields, that was at Clearwater, not Slave Lake that I meant. Charlie bird was the mate and Julian Mills was the captain, in that same bay, I remember one time I flew in there on skis. I landed out on the main lake where the ice was real solid.
Art Bell came in with a Seabee and there is open water on the inside Bay, but not much of it. He tried to land on the open water and the plane skipped and skated until it went shooting off the edge of the water and up into the willows.
Pete Bloomstrand, the caretaker, and I helped Art for about three days, we cut willows and built a corduroy road and we just bulldozed the plane back down by pure, brute strength. We got it back into the water again by that time enough of the bay had broken up, the dart was able to get off without any trouble at all.
There were a bunch of pretty good guys up there, Stan McMillan was a very highly respected old-timer in that country Max Ward, Max and I used to, as matter of fact, The first time I met Max was at Goldfields. He was flying a Fox Moth at the time and I was flying a Norseman and we aided one another in some fashion or another, I can't remember exactly what it was but, he's never forgotten it anyway.
Max Ward in his Fox Moth aircraft.
Max Ward - Ward Airlines.
We were talking about Stan McMillan and Max Ward and so on, there's a lot of good guys up there. Red Francis he was one of the instructors at Prince Albert and subsequently showed up with Saskatchewan Government Airways up at La Ronge. I was amongst those who checked him out on skis on a Norseman, I guess I was the first one that let him fly some of the legs of the mail run instead of just leaving him sitting in the right-hand seat. He was quite pleased about that.
When his wife arrived up to La Ronge, they had one of the company apartments up there that Red got for them. Rene Baudais and I decided to have a little game with Red so when the airplane with Jeannie on board landed and started taxiing up to the dock.
Rene Baudais and I had contracted with a couple of the girls up there, Katie Murasky and Mary Bird and a couple of the Indian girls. Just as the airplane came to a stop to run down and each grab hold of Red by the arm and just stand there looking at him adoringly.
Well I'll tell you, Jeanie climbed off the airplane and she took one look at Red and went storming off up the bank to the office and she said, where's the apartment? She whizzed over there and locked herself in and she wouldn't let Red in and she wouldn't talk to him or anything. We never did tell him who it was that had pulled that off on him, but he was pretty upset about it, and he was big enough to break us all in small chunks if he got super mad.
There is a little guy, an old Dutchman by the name of Burt Van Der Craft at La Ronge. He was the village stonemason. All of the fireplaces that were built in that era around La Ronge were built by Burt, he also had some other things he used to do over in his little place on the point.
He had a still and a brewery also and used to make stuff that was called nine-day beer. Well, I was introduced to this 9-day beer on a very casual basis a couple of times and it was palatable, but just barely. It had some kind of a trick characteristic about it that if it lasted more than nine days, it would blow the caps off, or break the bottles, it was real vintage stuff.
One day I brought his two daughters in from Stanley, Laura, and Mary and dropped them off at his camp and then came on over to La Ronge. That night he came over in his canoe and he says, I got something for you, are you going south today? I said well, tomorrow morning first thing. I'm going down to P.A. because the airplane needs some work done on it, so Willie says, I brought you over a half a dozen of my beer and he says you got to drink it before next Saturday because it's nine-day beer.
So I brought it down and stuck it in the refrigerator without thinking about it and went on a couple more trips and then I came home and I climbed into the bathtub and I was having one of those hour-long soakers of mine. I heard a funny noise and I couldn't figure out what it was but after a while, I heard another funny noise and I got up and wandered around trying to find out where it came from, I took a look at the fridge and there was beer gushing out from under the door.
So I very carefully opened the door with a towel hanging up in front of me to catch any broken glass and removed the remaining bottles and opened them up and it's a good thing that I did because I'll tell you that was wild. In refrigeration they lasted 10 days, I'll tell you when they went they sure burst some of them broke the bottle, some of them blew the caps off and so on, it was a real wild batch of stuff.
Bill McKinney was the Hudson Bay guy then and he was a frolicsome sort of a guy, he had several children and they were going out to school. Mrs. McKinney and the kids lived outside I can't remember, I think they were going to school in Winnipeg if I'm not mistaken and he had a place there and she kept house for the kids and made sure that they got to school all right.
That left McKinney and the two clerks at La Ronge with nothing to do but raise hell all the time. He was quite a musician he could play a lot of instruments and he was teaching the clerks to play a variety of instruments also and anybody else that happened to wander in.
Hudsons's Bay Company musicians, Bill Watt back right.
I did my first stint on an autoharp I think, during one of his little soirees, where we got into scotch sampling and little items like that. He had a snow plane also you know, one of those things on skis with an airplane engine and a prop on it, which we wrecked one night on the hill in La Ronge going down for more supplies, if I remember correctly.
Old-time snowmobile with aircraft engine.
We have the tail end of the Eskimo exercise, it was kind of an interesting thing because a lot of the army guys got rum rations, while they were out in the bush. Now being zombies, these were people who were conscripted into the army during World War Two but refused to go overseas and they were looked upon with considerable scorn by the rest of us of course, because we're all volunteers and eager to go on active service.
We also had a lot of beer at the mess there, but for some reason or other they ran out of beer and they couldn't replace it. I forget the complications or anything like that but anyhow, we had a DC-3 there that belonged to a British Airborne unit. These guys were the cargo specialists that operated all the automatic cargo dropping stuff that they had on the DC-3 and they could uproot all this stuff in jig time and convert it into a straight, cargo carrier or a passenger plane.
So the guy's name was Pudge Davis, Pudge said well, okay so we are out of beer, he says, I know how to get some beer, so he made a phone call and he disappeared at about 4:00 in the afternoon. After we had loaded every empty bottle that we had on the station onboard the DC-3, the cabin was just packed with empty bottles.
So about 3:00 in the morning Pudge comes booming back in and I think he had something like 100 cases of beer in the DC-3. He had been down to some RAF station in southern Manitoba and worked some sort of a swindle with a friend of his that was stationed down there and brought us back the beer, so all was merry and bright from then on.
The CEO of the unit at Prince Albert on that Eskimo exercise thing was a guy by the name of Smoky Stover, after the old fire chief and he was an ex-Mustang pilot from overseas. A very quiet sort of a fellow that you wouldn't expect to be a fighter pilot, I always had them all figured as a bunch of nuts.
Pilot Officer C. H. Stover flying Mustang.
Pilot Officer C. H. Stover flying Mustang Ia AG601 of 414 Squadron RCAF participated in providing cover for the Dieppe Raid. It was the squadron's first operational mission since being formed in August 1941. P/O Charles "Smokey" Stover was engaged by an enemy fighter and in flying extremely low, contacted a concrete electricity pole. In doing so, he lost 2-3 feet of his right-wing tip but was able to return to RAF Croydon with his damaged aircraft. Upon landing at speed and attempting to slow the aircraft down, it nosed over and bent the propeller.
Oh yeah, a guy ran wild with a gun one night in the hotel in Buffalo Narrows and we all went swarming out the door. If the first guy out hadn't tripped and fallen down the steps outside and the balance of the guys fell over him, somebody would have got shot for sure. There were two bullet holes in the door jamb and the other hole going through the middle of the door as it swings.
So that night, George Greening and I were in Buffalo Narrows together, we always used to split a room between us to cut down the expenses a little bit. We climbed up on the woodpile, from there, onto the top of the pool hall and we could get to the window of our room from there and we got the axe off the woodpile and we managed to jimmy the window open and climbed in that way. It was in the wintertime, so we weren't about to stay outside too darn long and we gathered up all our stuff and departed the same way we came.
We went down and spread our sleeping bags between the diesel engines in the engine room of the fish plant. It was warm there and believe me even with the diesel running, it was a damn sight quieter than that hotel was because the guy just was going berserk in their wrecking the place, so we kissed that one of.
George and I got into quite a few little items like that, I always remember the time that we were shooting pool with the mounted policemen and somebody else and an old Indian walked in the door and he says, George, where's my bottle, George? George said, it's in the pocket of that coat hanging up on the wall and the old guy he just looked sick, you know because George had slipped his bootleg bottle into the pocket of the Mounties pea-jacket.
George Greening with the BBQ.
Well one night I got in there quite late and walked into the hotel and the old Chinaman (Derr Tom) said George in room so and so, and I said, okay, has he got anybody with him and he said, no, so I said, okay, mark me down and I'll split the room with him. So I go up there and George said, Jesus, you look half frozen, I said, I am half-frozen I have been flying since 7:00 this morning and that airplane has no heat and he said I have just the thing for you.
So we pushed the dresser out into the hall and he put a chair on top of it and he stood on the chair and lifted, the hatch to the attic and started groping around. He says, what do you want to drink? I said well I don't know, what do you have there? He said Gin, I said no, so he went around to the other corner and he said, how about Rye? I said, well, you don't look like you've got very much of that left.
So he got around to the next corner and he said, how about Scotch and I said right on, I said how much else have you got up there? He says I have got two or three more bottles stashed here but he had a little cocktail bar, or a wine cellar or whatever, set around the hatch to the attic and easily accessible, and nobody would ever get up there. He was cutting up one day along Cowan Lake and playing tag with some duck hunters and one of them let fly and there were all kinds of shot marks in the floats when he got into Big River.
BBQ enroute from P.A to Big River. Photo taken from Tiger Moth by Lefty McLeod and Young. Summer of 1944.
Lefty McLeod and I (Jack Greening), in Norseman 2469, coming up on George Greening in Waco BBQ. Between Big River and P.A.
Lefty Mcleod putting skis on Waco BBQ, Nov, 1944.
George Greening with CF-BBQ, date and location unknown, possibly at Patuanak.
George Greening, (left) Lefty Mcleod and Jack Greening at Prince Albert Airport Feb. 1945.
Another time George came into Big River in the BBQ Waco with a couple of guys on board and he turned away from his empty tank. The Waco was a very peculiar airplane it just had a gravity feed and if you got down very low on your tanks, you had to turn with your full tank on the upside so that it would keep on feeding the engine. But he turned with his full tank on the downside and the engine ran out of gas and he was a fair distance short of the lake when it happened and before he could get the engine started, he was into the trees.
George Greening standing on the BBQ, Halvor Ausland standing on the ice. Photograph taken at Deep River Mink Ranch, 1940s.
Len Waite said afterward, Len was the boss, I didn't mind so much him getting down into the trees because he did a damn good job and nobody got hurt. But the thing that hurt me was the fact that I had to have a fifty dollar logging permit to cut trees through the bush so that I could bring them down out of there.
George and Tommy McCloy were flying the Anson one time and they came in and they were giving us a big line of guff about all the caribou that they'd seen and how they've been chasing them. While this was going on, Jimmy Barber found an old caribou antler and wedged it into the undercarriage. So we finally got them out of the airplane and started jeering at them and showing them this antler wedged in the undercarriage and asking them just exactly how low were they when they were chasing these caribou?
We took a lot of ambulance flights too from time to time, the press always played them up as a mercy flight and tried to make them a matter of high drama and so on, but mostly they were just cut and dried trips out and back.
The odd one provided a little unusual side effect, so I went out to Kerrobert one time. They said there was a girl there that had to go to the mental institution in North Battleford and boy, you could hear them coming with her for a mile.
She just screamed steadily all the time and we got her into the airplane and it was the Waco again and the only way that we could put her in was with her head, right between the two front seats. She was whooping and hollering all the way across to North Battleford, my ears were just about numb by the time we got there.
The radio operator in Prince Albert called me and asked me where I was and I tried to tell him and he said, well, what the heck is that funny noise? Well, just a minute I said and I unobtrusively dangled my hand down and pressed the mike button right close to her.
Her husband was on board and I didn't want to make a big thing of it and then I answered Orville and I said, that's an example of what we're into right now. She was a really beautiful girl about 22 or 23 nice looking, but she was wilder than a March Hare and I don't know whatever had gone wrong, but she sure flipped her lid.
One time, we went out to Sturgeon Lake and we picked up an old gent a real nice old guy, a little pappy type. I took them out and policeman and I put him in the back seat and put his seatbelt on and all he did was kick the back of the front seat and yell, gee and haw, as though he was driving a team of mules or something into Prince Albert, he was harmless, but it was kind of interesting.
The longest flight that I ever made wasn't to do with anybody that was mentally disturbed, or at least it didn't start that way. I started from Prince Albert with the Indian Affairs doctor to investigate somebody that was supposedly very ill north of Stony Rapids, in one of the barren land trapping camps of the Indians from Stony Rapids.
In the middle of the winter of course the days are pretty darn short and by the time we got to Stony Rapids, it was too dark to go anywhere. So we hung up there for the night and the next day. we took off with the doctor, the mounted policemen, and an interpreter. We landed it at a camp on ???? Lake first and gee, it was just a beautiful camp it was made of log buildings that were semi-dugouts, you went down about four steps to go into them. But they were just spotlessly clean, of course, everywhere that we went they supplied us with tea, bannock and jam, or the best that they had in the house, caribou stew or whatever.
There were a couple of sick people there that the doctor was able to attend to on the spot, but we were directed to another bunch that was on Charlie Lake. So we're going up to Charlie Lake and there was a kid there with that had fallen on his face and had broken his front teeth, you know they were all dangling and he was in a great deal of pain.
Doctor Tucker just pulled his teeth out just bang, bang like that right in front of everybody and I must say the kid had more guts than a canal horse because he just whimpered once and that was it. There were no women in the cabin there, the cabin was jammed with guys, maybe 12 or, so sitting around the walls. The way this kid reacted was sure credit to his old man because he never made a sound, I thought it was extraordinarily brutal of Docter Tucker to do that to him.
But anyhow, we were directed to somewhere else where another girl was supposedly extremely ill and she was almost a stretcher case. So we got her and we improvised a stretcher and later laid her across a couple of seats with the backs folded down.
From there we were chased over to Snowbird Lake where there was somebody else that was sick. I was getting a little concerned about running out of gas, so I said, this has got to be the last stop, we have got to go back to Stony before we do anything else, so they brought this guy down, he was cheerful as hell.
He was a mental patient, and there wasn't anything I was super disturbed with about him. I didn't think anything because he climbed into the airplane and sat down in a seat and did up his safety belt, and then just sat there. I thought, boy, this guy may be nutty in one department, but he sure got it all together in another way.
We had a lot of fun with that F27, just the same, the factory rep, engineer, and pilot came along with us to see where we were going with their airplane, or, it was ours by that time. But they came along as just sort of advisors on one of our first trips to Norman Wells, Inuvik, and we also went over to Fort McPherson to the rig over there.
They had scratched out an airstrip on an island in the middle of the Peel River, just dug out all the driftwood and graded it up with the caterpillar and filled all the holes with wet sand that froze almost immediately. It was a real classy runway, the only problem was that we didn't have any radio beacon there.
If we were going to find it, we had to do a let down at Inuvik and if we had sufficient room underneath the overcast, then we went screaming off across country at 500 feet until we got over to McPherson. So that worked out pretty fair, but these guys From Hagerstown were just absolutely all atwitter when we went in and landed on this sandbar on the river. It wasn't exactly what they had in mind.
The Associate Airways helicopter crew at one of our camps had a big argument with their comptroller in Edmonton and eventually proved him to be wrong. So they made an abacus for him out of elk turds and locking wire and birch tree branches, that it was pretty classy by the time they got it finished.
They shined up the locking wire, which is brass and they shellacked all the elk turds, it looked great. They sent that to the comptroller and it is still on the guy's desk, I saw it last year when I was in for a visit.
When they closed that place down, Hartley was there and there were two camps, Shell was on one side of this little creek and our camp was on the other side. Of course, the guys were visiting back and forth all the time and swapping supplies and this and that and the day came that we're going to pull them out in the fall and Hartley was flying Shells Otter, and I was flying ours.
We both arrived over this lake at about the same time it is called Wapiti Lake. I said to Hartley, what the hell is going on down there, it looked like there was a war going on. He says I'm damned if I know, but let's get down and find out so we got down, taxied in and sure enough, it was a war.
These guys had made a cannon out of the stovepipes of their camp stoves and they were knocking the whole camp down anyway. They had devised some system to shoot Raid insecticide cans back and forth at one another and they had these Raid can cannons go off and then some genius figured out how to light a Raid can and send it across, of course, the Raid cans burn like a damn candle. So these great flaming Raid cans were shooting back and forth across the creek and the guys were having a terrific time at was a kind of adult cowboys and Indians operation all around it was really funny to watch it.
Things we ran into of course were ducks and birds of one kind or another, the muskox on the runway at Eureka and the Buffalo at Peace River sawmill. We did hit a jackrabbit on the runway at Calgary one night and we dug thirty-some-odd snowbirds out of our engine in Regina. The good one I guess was when we were on top of a cloud layer and we passed a flock of geese at 12,000 feet in the DC-3.
Ballad of a Bush Pilot, 1983 Version.
Composed by Capt. H.B. "Lefty" McLeod - Retired
I finally flew a DC3,
a Lockheed Lodestar too,
With happy grins and close-shaved chin,
I thundered around the blue.
From Fairbanks Lands to Nassau's sands
We were a happy group.
From Ellesmere's shore to Baltimore
Our lives were just duck soup.
With oven hot and coffee pot
We lived like kings of yore
We dined on steak and chocolate cake
Could anyone ask for more?
Instead of Hogs and Injun dogs
Directors now we hauled
To Hogtown's lights on many a night
Whenever we were called.
An edit from office said
"You now wear decent suits"
White shirts and ties and haircuts sharp,
we'll civilize you brutes"
In time the DC3 grew old
as good things always do
A Fairchild fine now joined the line
to help our jolly crew.
Behind us lay our natty suits
And flesh pots of New York
"Twas back to flying freight again"
Of milk and beans and pork
Many a desolate barren mile
Now slipped beneath our darts
As to the arctic rigs we took
Big loads of grub and parts.
The endless gloom of Northern Lights
Depressed all those on board
We flew the brute to Resolute
And lonely Mokka Fjord.
The years went by and at the gate
with GM turbines four
There stands a Lockheed one eight eight
The Friendship is no more.
The throaty growl of Allison's
replaced the screaming darts
The only other difference was
bigger loads of parts.
The day then came when I quit the game
And I could fly no more
With gyros toppled,
shock legs bent,
I sit upon the shore.
I shoot a line, none good as mine
to throngs of wide-eyed sprogs
Of flights beyond the Northern lights
and Great Bear's clammy fogs.
The flights still grind by overhead
From early dawn to late
I loaf and think,
in sunsets pink
Let others fly the freight.
Composed at Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan by
Capt. H.B. "Lefty" McLeod - retired
February 4, 1983
Credit the Vernon Flying Club
BALLAD OF A BUSH PILOT
In days gone by I used to fly
A Fairchild eighty-two,
And was it fair or stormy air
We'd always muddle through.
For hours I'd sit upon the bit
of kapok-padded seat,
My knees tucked in beneath my chin
In comfort, hard to beat!
The instruments, the cowling dents,
The grease spots on the glass,
I still recall them one and all
As through the years I pass.
I see also in passing show,
The day my motor quit;
While taking off, it gave a cough.
There was no place to sit
But in the trees; and I said "Please
Don't fail me now, old chum!"
With groan and crack she broke her back,
But I just cut my thumb!
My head I felt, undid my belt,
And said, with logic true:
"Two motors would, if they were good,
Have carried us on through."
Things happen strange and courses change,
And soon there came a day,
In Sioux Lookout, when I took out
A Beechcraft "Eighteen A".
You'll never know, nor can I show
The ecstasy I knew;
As days went by, I found that I
Forgot my Eighty-two!
I threw away my shirt so gay,
I shaved my face each morn,
In navy blue, brass buttons, too,
A Captain I was born!
Things happen strange and courses change,
As I have said before;
The joy for me was short, you see,
For that year came the war:
They took away my "Eighteen A",
My uniform so fair
I hung aside, and then I tried
To fly a Travelair!
I missed indeed twin-motor speed
That I had known so well.
It lured me north and I went forth
Beneath the Yukon spell.
"Strange things are done
'neath midnight sun"
'Twas said, in days gone by.
That still is true in forty-two
For malemutes now fly!
The Northern Lights still see queer sights!-
I've flown o'er Dawson's Trail,
(Where dog teams plied and strong men died)
A Condor full of mail!
The mountain'd marge of Lake Laberge
I found akin to Heaven,
And Whitehorse Field, is where I wheeled
A Boeing Two Four Seven!
I've carried boats and smelly goats
In Junkers thirty-fours;
I froze my toes in Barkley Grows
On Great Bear's rocky shores.
In summer heat and winter sleet
I've flown them old and new;
With radio beams and endless streams
I still just muddle through.
Throughout the years of sweat and tears
This wish has come to me.
Before I die - I want to fly
A Douglas DC-3
Composed in Boeing CF-BVT while flying down the Mackenzie River, September 21, 1942, by Captain C. R. Robinson.
HANGAR NEWS COPA Flight 65 - September - October, 2020
This is the conclusion of Lefty McLeod's recorded audio recollections. Part Four, web link below, deals with Lefty's Falls and an article about Lefty, written by RCMP Officer Bill Poole. Several newspaper articles about Lefty and more photographs.