The Road Ends at Home
“Frenchy” Ron Vipond was one of the unsung heroes of our house building project. In Frenchy, we were finally able to get a reliable trucker to deliver gravel on an ongoing basis in early June.
Logging for the trees for the foundation of our road absorbed a good part of the Apprentice Bushman’s day, but early evening after supper, a muffled rumble would disturb the country air and the ground around the camper would take on vibrations in harmony with a loaded gravel truck crawling in reverse, through the bush up the lengthening corduroy road. What relief we felt! Frenchy was here! Tomorrow the road would grow another twenty to thirty feet!
Frenchy would make another 30 trips from Prince George to Patterson Rd., after his regular work day in town, before we could wean ourselves off his service. Although well paid for his reliability, his presence was a reassuring factor at a time when we needed assurance.
“I need the practice, he would say when we apologized for having him back the loaded truck along a narrow 14 foot corridor. The 14 foot wide right of way made no allowance for space for a vehicle to turn. Once off the beaten path there was a risk of being stuck, bogged down with a load of over 7 cubic yards: 10 tons of gravel. With patience, great skill and good humour, Frenchy did those 30 dumps over a two month period, in reverse gear, once he reached the front of the property.
Evening deliveries of gravel meant mornings of work with shovel and wheel barrow to spread the 10 tons of material dumped the night before over the corduroy base which the Apprentice Bushman had laid down the day before. Frenchy’s dump would have to be in a simple, unified, high pile since he would not be able to spread the load by dribbling it out over a longer run. The corduroy without gravel was unstable. Without the gravel on top the logs would separate. The placement of the lengths of logs would have to be stabilized by the weight of gravel laid upon the logs. The next load of gravel would be delivered on top of the last load dumped and spread over the log base. “Journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” would be the Apprentice Bushman’s constant refrain.
By mid June the Apprentice Bushman had loaded sixteen tons many times over* by shovel and wheelbarrow, and spread it over the foundation layer of logs. The time had come to evolve beyond the Stone and Gravel Age of his own invention. For this great leap forward into a new age, the Bushman opted for an ancient diesel, front end loader tractor, brilliant with a new coat of red paint. He found “Big Red” idlying non-productively in a used farm equipment lot in nearby Pineview. The Bushman’s labours would now be cut in half with this purchase: “Big Red” assumed the other half.
By mid June also, it was obvious that with the slow progress in the construction of the road, we would not be able to get the Pan Abode building materials from BC Rail close to the house site on our road at the appointed time. This delay could be costly. Storage of the materials would add considerably to the house building project. We managed to avoid the added costs by arranging with a neighbour, Mr. Franklin, to have the materials dropped off a quarter mile in from Patterson Rd.on his property, as close to our house site as we could get. This would store the materials far from the Patterson Rd. frontage where the passing public would not be tempted to help themselves to the lumber, windows, doors and hardware.
A rain slicked slope prevented the B.C, Rail transport truck with the “piggy back’ container of building materials from going up the neighbour’s hill. The truck and trailer slid off the wet clay surface of his makeshift road and came to rest at an angle in the ditch. The trailer was detached from the truck and we were left 24 hours to unload 2 tons of building material from the trailer or face charges of rental per day for the trailer.
The Apprentice Bushman brooded at the many obstacles placed in the way of the realization of the project. The Bushman’s wife blessed with a reservoir of stubborn optimism was able to lend the enthusiasm to counter the physical and mental fatigue that had come to lodge in the Bushman’s mind. With the help of a neighbour who would eventually become the key to the house building project, a team of sorts got to work and unloaded the materials transferring the house, piece by piece, by hand, over terrain covered with bush and dead tree trunks to an area near the house site.
Back to the road
As the road progressed towards the house site we found a cache of logs piled in a flat area at the base of the hill. A part of the property had obviously been logged and the harvested logs had been left to be picked up a decade before. Lumber prices may have dropped or difficulties with machinery may have caused the abandonment of the harvested timber, but whatever the reason the unexpected windfall was a welcome resource to finish the corduroy section of the road. Despite those fortuitous piles of logs, we had used over two hundred trees to build an all weather road which would not be subject to the vagaries of spring floods.