The hidden years,138, the oilcamp

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Tuesday 25 August 18:37


The oilcamp

It had all in all taken one hour before the Arctic was back safely on the road. A second bulldozer had appeared, keeping the  back under control. Where the first towed us with a chain in front in a painfully slow acceleration,the rear machine functioned as an anchor. We walked back to the comby and looked her over. Apart from some dents and a mirror that had just been ripped off by the trees and a footboard that was damaged it was astonishing to see that there was not too much real damage. ‘We have come out well,’ Bill thought as he looked here and there to see if he could find the large oblong outside mirror somewhere, but that lay somewhere under a lot of snow waiting for the spring.'Then you are now my outside mirror, ‘growled Bill and I saw him counting in his head what it would cost him, money wise. The unloading happened quickly and we walked to the main barracks to get some food and drink. There were men with Parka's on, eating, a heat gun connected to a gas canister blew scorching heat from its cannon, but  just a few meters from the cannon you could no longer notice the effect. ‘Those are the kind of jackets that you want here,’ said Bill, ‘‘ they have been build up in several layers, which works very insulating, they are the polar jackets par excellence '.

‘What is next, Bill,’ I asked? 'What', my boss wanted to know, while stuffing egg with bacon in his mouth? ‘Well,’ I said, 'we have lost a few days  and we were going back to Calgary.’ ‘ That's the way it goes sometimes,' said Bill, ‘if every run would go smoothly than they’d have for us half the work, each load would be perfectly loaded and no one would ever sink through the ice. The reality is different, something always happens on a run.’ ‘So,’ I asked? ‘First we’ll eat,’ thought Bill, ‘and then I’ll make a call to the Central office  and then we’ll take it from there.’ Then we’ll  look for a black smith’s, because they have machines here, that need to be maintained and then we will see if we can get something that resembles a mirror. ‘

Everything in the camp was paid for by the oil company, the men who worked there were months away from home, that is if they still had a home. It was strange to put your plate just in the cart for dirty dishes and walk away without paying. With our army dump coats on and our hands deep in pockets we walked outside, it was cold, cutting to the bone. Bill's breath deposited immediately a light icing, first under his mustache, and after a few more breaths it turned his beard white. In the center stood the rig, a kind of tower and men were engaged with a huge wrench to rotate a gigantic lever. The nuts and bolts were disproportionately large and the spanner had a lever rod of about a meter. I looked back and saw that now they were hanging in pairs from the lever as if they were rowing.

‘We are in luck,’ said Bill and he pointed at a few barracks with a chimney protruding over it  which wafted out black smoke. ‘Coal, which you can smell from here,’ and when we opened the door we saw two men standing by a blacksmith’s fire, they were belting with a hammer a red-hot piece of steel. They wore thick gloves. One looked up, 'yes', he asked. ‘Our mirror has fallen off,’ said Bill. ‘ Come along then we ‘ll spot weld it, ‘said the man.'No, we’ve lost it,’ continued Bill. ‘Take a look behind the shed there are some wrecks and  if there is one with a mirror which you like, take it off and come back here. Tools are located here along the side, bring them back, otherwise I’ll kill you . ‘ Bill and I walked through the snow and our feet were cold at first and then became numb.


There were a few wrecks and the only right mirror which was more or less suitable, had a very different size. ‘That's the one,’ said Bil, ‘what a beauty’ .I began to understand things here, what things looked like did not matter, it had to have a purpose. With an iron saw we sawed through the brackets that held the mirror in place and soon we were back in the workplace. ‘A real beauty,’ the man said, 'come closer with your truck, then we’ll put it in place.' Everything was pragmatic here, the truck was half in the opening of the shed and the man came walking with his welding electrode. To me, he said, ‘do not look into the sparks or you will go blind’ and within 10 minutes after a shower of sparks, the mirror of our Arctic was back in place .He hardly looked at us but went back to the forge where his colleague was still pounding away at a red piece of metal to get it in shape ..

‘Come,’ said Bill, ‘we‘ll go make that call.’

San Daniel 2015

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