Flash Back Fridays


1979 A story by David Boulding

One day, a fellow walked into the office and demanded Myrna pay him either 20 or 50 thousand dollars. The amount demanded is irrelevant. What every- one remembers was that he had two semi-automatic 45-calibre pistols in holsters, one on each hip. He claimed to have the mineral claim on the sand that covered the top of the Sand hills road. He said the sand contained gold.

Sand Hills Road is called Berry Creek Main by the loggers. It is the road that branches off the highway about three miles from the road to Strathcona Dam. Originally logged in the late 1960’s, this hill is about 1500 feet above Upper Campbell Lake. The hill has fine white sand that covers about 100 acres and seems to be about 200 feet deep. As a teenager, I went with Jim and two shovels to help load this beautiful sand into his pickup truck. The sand was sprinkled on the rocky beach at the Lodge. Later, Kenny Boulding and I made many trips gath- ering sand by shovel.

At this time, Jim had bought Mr. McKenzie’s ancient Case, 580 Back- hoe. Mr. McKenzie was the push for Elk River Timber and had a side business with this yellow rubber-tired backhoe. After Jim had a backhoe, I bought an old fire truck from a farmer in Comox. The farmer had re-engineered the 1949 flat head six cylinder Ford into a dump truck. With the Dodge 300 Fargo 4×4 re- vitalized with a strong work box that had some dump capabilities (a complex sys- tem of cables and a massive steel post behind the cab driven by a power take off) and now with a dump with an honest gosh goodness hydraulic ram dump Jim Nelson and I could have truck races to town to get gravel to build the septic fields from the Uplands pit on the Spit. We would roar out of Campbell River and go past the John Hart Dam turnoff at close to 50 miles an hour, three or four hun- dred yards later as General Hill steepened we would both be in first gear and at barely walking speed.

The famous tractor and dump truck.

The famous tractor and dump truck.

In the early years, we would take several people and a shovel for each and go to the sand hills to get sand for the beach to appease Myrna. Af- ter the backhoe arrived we had plans to get serious about getting sand. We could not drive the backhoe down the highway or up the steep sand hills road because the backhoe would over-heat and there were safety issues relating to driving a machine with no brakes.

I later acquired a tandem dump truck, and now we could more easily get our hands on both gravel and sand as needed. It was Toby Keith Hay, the famous walking mountaineer, who suggested if we put the front end loader bucket deep into the box of the tandem dump box, secured it with chains; we could lift the front wheels of the backhoe off the ground. Now we could trailer the backhoe anywhere the tandem could drive.

Our first forays were calm modest missions. Kenny Boulding and I had been filching gravel from the government gravel pit from across the lake towards Gold River. The government agent had had enough and eventually made Jim pay 10 dollars a load. Now equipped with a tandem dump, a single axle dump and a rubber tire backhoe that was mobile gone were the days of shovelling into a pickup.

One long weekend in spring, we brought home over twenty loads in the tandem dump, and about the same amount in the old 1949 Ford. The Lodge roads were wonderfully gravelled that year. After the weekend, the gravel pit su- perintendent could tell we had been there and raced over to the Lodge to give Jim a bill.

He asked Jim how many loads he had taken. Jim pointed to the tiny Dodge Fargo 300 4×4 truck and said, “The boys must have taken at least 10 loads as they worked all weekend.” “Ok…then you owe us a hundred bucks.” “Ok,” said Jim. After that screaming success, Myrna wanted beach sand for in front of Cabins 1 to 7. Using Toby’s ingenious backhoe attachment method, we headed up the sand hills. That year, a rich gentleman from Victoria had a 16 year old nephew from Ireland on his hands he did not want. So, he approached Jim and asked how much it would cost to take him on a series of apprentice programs in wilderness leadership courses beginning the first of June and ending September 30. I was not privy to the financial details, suffice to say, it was in the thousands. This Irish farm boy was no more interested in outdoor education than in high energy parti- cle physics. He wanted to play with me, with the backhoe, chain saws, dump trucks, other toys we had. So I drove the Ford Dump: Sean the red-haired Irish kid drove the backhoe. For two weeks we carried tons of sand from the sand hills to Myrna’s beach.

Then this crazy man, who looked like Century Sam, arrived at the front desk, claiming in a strong Alaskan miner type accent that we owed him money. Later, Jim suggested we give the sand hills a rest for awhile and concentrate on getting cedar shakes from behind the bog.

This fellow terrorized people for a couple of summers. He would pop out of the bush armed like Billy the Kid and tell whoever he met hiking to leave immediately because were on his mining claim. The two large handguns were enough to cause anyone to take a hike quickly out of the area. He surprised eld- erly hikers, groups of kids, and staff on their days off. He was seriously deranged. Eventually, some smart person complained to the R.C.M.P. and he disappeared never to be seen again. That’s when we went back to the sand hills.