Exercise Moccasin
Excerpts from Sgt. Dick Watts' letters home - February/March 1948
© Jean Watts 2003

Part 4

Exercise Moccasin

Lt. Chaffee S/M Wiberg and Dick Watts

Lt Chaffee - i/c 30 mile camp -------------------- S/M Wiberg and Dick with snowmobile at 70 mile camp

30 Mile Camp70 Mile Camp

30 mile camp ----------------------------------------------- 70 mile camp

Maj. Frank RiddellSnowmobiles

Major Riddell --------------------------------------------------------- Two snowmobiles at 70 mile camp

March 7
Well, we worked again this morning and also for a couple of hours this afternoon. We couldn't very well help but go to work this morning, as Riddell went out into the bush again and we had to be present at our stores hut to help load the supplies, etc. on the sled. Riddell took Jerry along with him this morning and I'm glad I didn't go, as the last time I went, I seemed to spend most of my time helping to prepare meals and washing up afterwards. I can see Jerry doing the same on this trip. . . .

The idea of this trip, by the way, is to bring back the boys from the bush, which is all to the good.

During our recent trip into the bush, the sled which I was riding in ran comparatively smoothly because the snowmobile which was towing it (Riddell was driving the snowmobile) was not going very fast. However, on the trip back to camp Riddell decided to go a bit faster, and as we rode along it was just as if we were in the hold of a ship. Another chap and I were lying on a pile of caribou skins in the tent on the sled, and as we lay there the floor seemed to heave, tree branches smacked against the side of the sled, and the whole sled creaked and groaned as if it was about to break up at any minute!

At one point I stood up to throw a log into the stove, and just after I had unhitched the latch on the stove door, the sled gave a lurch and the stove door swung open. I was just going to put the log into the stove when the sled gave another terrific lurch. I fell forward, the log leaving my hands and landing neatly inside the stove; then another lurch, accompanied by the closing of the stove door and at the same time yours truly practically leaving his feet to land on the pile of caribou skins! Some fun?!

Of course, the journey would have been much smoother if the trail had been absolutely flat, but in places it ran along like a switchback at the fair. It's a wonder to me how we managed to keep from sliding off the trail altogether. It was quite a minor feat too, serving a hot meal whilst going through all these motions! We had a more difficult time than a waiter on the train on the Ottawa-Toronto run. You just had to watch your opportunities when ladling out the stew or pouring the coffee, because the plates and cups seemed to come and go of their own free will. The next time I ride in the dining car of a train I think I'll tip the waiter five dollars, because now I know how he feels!

The payoff on our sleigh ride came when Jerry and I were riding on our "tent-sled," and just as we were leaving our camp Riddell asked Jerry and me if we had done the supper dishes. We told him that we hadn't as we didn't want to have to do them whilst on the move, but we would do them at the first opportunity when we got back to camp. Well, the Mad Trapper then said cheerily, "We're leaving right now, but as we'll be on the move for about five hours, you can do the dishes while we are moving. You'll have plenty of time in which to do them." (Some idea!)

Being only too pleased about this, I put the usual bucket of snow on the stove and off we went, Jerry and I meanwhile hugging the floor whilst I at the same time held the bucket firmly on the top of the stove. Well, as time went by the ride became more bumpy than ever because Riddell was evidently intent upon making good time.

Soon the snow in the bucket changed to water and, of course, the water started to slosh about! Well, this state of affairs gradually became worse - there I was trying to hold a blinking bucket of water on a red-hot stove, with the water spraying out over the caribou skins at every odd moment, and if I tried to stand up it was all I could do to keep my balance, because the floor was wet around the stove and the old sled was leaping about like a young caribou in the snow!

Well, it wasn't long before Jerry and I began to feel a bit fed up with this pastime, and we decided to make some sort of an attempt at washing the dishes, even though there were two pieces of ice still floating about in the bucket. I stood up and, holding on to the tent pole with one hand, I held the bucket in mid-air with the other hand while Jerry endeavoured to wash the dishes, looking more like someone playing "Bob-apple" at a Hallowe'en party.

Poor Jerry managed to get through the plates and the cups all right but, as by that time I was practically hanging from the tent pole and the water was splashing about more than ever, we both gave up the attempt in great disgust. No sooner had Jerry heaved (with great gusto) the rest of the water from the back of the sled, than the snowmobile towing us stopped and a very English voice (belonging to an English major who was with us on the trip) called calmly back to us, "Is everything all right in the trailer?" Rather than argue the point, we replied in the affirmative, and on we went into the night. What a trip! I'll never forget that one!

Dick Watts at base campJerry Bower and camp huts

Dick Watts at base camp -----------------------------------------------------Jerry Bowen and camp huts

March 8
It is not a pleasant day, as there is a 25-mile-an-hour wind blowing and the temperature was 30 below at 8:30 this morning - not good weather for standing about in!

I was going to tell you about the way foodstuffs freeze up here. We have had some meat in the backroom of our stores hut (an unheated room) for a couple of months now and it is just as good as ever. Of course the temperature in that room must be about the same as it is outdoors. Everything freezes solid here, though, and when we were out in the bush we had to put anything in cans right on top of the stove and leave them there for some time before the food would thaw out. We heated some loaves of bread for about three-quarters of an hour beside a stove, and when we ate the bread the middle of the food was still frozen! For drinking water we used snow or melted ice, said ice being chopped out of small rivers; we didn't use washing water and didn't bother to shave while we were out.

March 10
All the boys came back from the bush today and now we have to wade through and pack all the equipment they brought in. Feel confident that we'll be ready to leave here by the 25th, though. I'm glad that I didn't go out with Riddell on his last trip, as they had snowmobile trouble and a two-day windstorm to deal with, the result being that they didn't arrive in until three o'clock this morning, and they should have been back the night before last. The boys didn't have much pep when they arrived, and no small wonder.


Exercise Moccasin Page [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Return to top of page
Return to the Watts Family page
Return to Stories Page

Velox Versutus Vigilans