Tales from the Wild

I never thought I would find myself working as a reporter at a newspaper.

Good reporters, as I see it, will stop at nothing to get the story; they are persistent, not afraid to ask tough questions, and most importantly, not afraid to piss people off.

Though Charlie can attest to my dogged determination when it comes to getting what I want, the latter two qualities pose a problem for me. I don’t like to stir the pot, but sometimes to write a good story that people want to read, it takes a little meddling.

Luckily being a reporter in a small town means I’m not writing many controversial articles (though I have managed to unknowingly anger at least a handful of residents). More often than not, I’m covering community events or sorting through photos of bears, birds and moose sent in by our readers.

But the best part of this job is getting to hear people’s stories.

Over the last week I’ve talked to seven floatplane pilots about their careers and what made them get into bush flying. A pilot who's been flying for over 40 years told me about traveling to nearly inaccessible First Nations communities to deliver crucial supplies after a long winter and, over time, getting to know the native people and their unique way of life before Internet, TV and land-based runways made their way up north.

Another pilot described his experience flying solo over the Canadian Arctic and coming across a herd of 10,000 caribou crossing the desolate snow-covered tundra. Later he saw a mother grizzly bear with two cubs.

In one particularly exciting account, a man safely landed his Norseman plane and evacuated six passengers after it caught fire mid-flight. Only after he had put the passengers on a boat and used up the fire extinguisher did he dive in the lake and swim to shore. 

I was mesmerized by every tale, though most of the pilots found my fascination a little comical. To them it was just another day at work.

My next storytelling endeavor is a summer series at the newspaper called “Tales from the Wild.” I’ve asked residents to come to the office and tell me their best stories from the wilderness of northwestern Ontario over a cup of coffee. In turn, I’ll take their story and transform it into an article for the paper. I wrote a small piece telling people about the idea in our latest issue (along with one of my favorite pictures of Daisy and Charlie). 

It's going to take some coercing to get people to open up since most people here are fairly humble and tend to think their stories aren’t important or out of the ordinary. I couldn’t disagree more.