One Last Cast – Chapter 30

One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Chapter Thirty
Charlie’s Fifth Moose

Charlie’s pilot slept in his own warm bed, but sleep did not come easy. He kept waking up thinking about his subsistence hunter friend spending a cold night on a frozen lake. Finally, Charlie’s pilot convinced himself that his friend deserved it, and, besides, it was dangerous to go back and pick him up considering low clouds and darkness, and the chance that his subsistence hunter friend might mess up the waving light signal again and Charlie’d end up landing in the pucker brush.

The subsistence hunter’s moose was deposited safely with the hunter’s family, but he was still on the lake, probably spending the night with the lake’s lone resident, a trapper in his cabin. If he didn’t stay with the trapper, it would be a cold night indeed—pushing past 40 degrees below zero.

At first light, Charlie’s pilot was at Lake Hood with his Rupe Goldberg, twisted stove pipe, blowtorch, airplane engine heater breathing super-hot air on Charlie’s sleeping bag-covered powerplant. Despite the cold, Charlie’s engine started on the first turn of the prop after only 20 minutes of the heat-induced sourdough-inspired makeshift heater output.

Charlie’s pilot’s ten-year-old son strapped himself in the front seat beside his pilot dad. He’d been there before and was not only familiar with flying, but quite comfortable with going off over the white land in Charlie. By the time Charlie’s cockpit was heated enough to where the 40-below bite was lessened, Charlie was circling the lake where the pilot hoped the subsistence hunter was warm and alive. As Charlie came in low over the cabin, Charlie’s pilot could see smoke coming from the cabin’s chimney and two men standing out front—one of them his subsistence hunter friend.

As Charlie turned downwind for landing, Charlie’s pilot spotted a huge bull moose standing on the edge of a small lake separated from the trapper’s lake by a row of black swamp spruce. In about as long as it took to push in the carb heat control, Charlie’s pilot decided on another go-around and lined up for a landing on the opposite side of the moose-occupied lake. Charlie’s pilot’s freezer was empty. Perhaps father and son could take the big bull and fill their freezer.

Charlie settled comfortably into the soft snow covering the frozen lake and slid to a stop. But, even before Charlie stopped, her pilot had his rifle in hand and was standing on the still moving skis while holding back on Charlie’s yoke with his other hand. The big bull watched and did not attempt to flee but remained standing broadside.

Charlie’s vertical stabilizer made a perfect rest for the creation of Johnathan Browning, and one shot was all it took to dispatch the bull. Charlie’s pilot taxied her to the side of the dead moose, and the task of field dressing proceeded.

It was cold, but the warm moose made the job not unpleasant as the field dressing continued. The entrails were removed from the carcass when Charlie’s pilot’s son told his dad that his feet were cold. His dad burrowed a hole between the pile of moose insides and stood his son in the pile. Before long, his feet were warmed, and he was back helping his dad.

Finally, the moose was cut into small pieces and placed in Charlie’s cockpit—big, heavy pieces on the front floor and seat, smaller pieces in back with Charlie’s pilot’s son sitting on top of his future dinner.

Charlie took off from the moose lake, cleared the row of black swamp spruce, and landed on the trapper lake in one power-on-power-off motion. The subsistence hunter was collected from his new trapper friend, glad to be heading back home to explain his Alaska wilderness winter adventure to his family.

Charlie’s pilot would write in his logbook—Charlie’s fifth moose.

Evan, who lives in Anchorage, has 9 children, 25 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren. As a pilot, he has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska, in both wheel and float planes. He is a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a flyrod or using bait, or lures. He has been published in many national magazines and is the author of four books.