It began when the garrison at Fort Nelson ran out of flour. The officer commanding sent a convoy of four-by-sixes down to Dawson, end of steel, to see what was the matter. He briefed them very carefully on “how to drive” – maximum load to carry, etc. Somehow they made it, with empty trucks.
On the N.A.R. tracks a boxcar of flour had been “spotted”, which the army boys proceeded to off-load no more than two tons per “four-by six” which in those days was a huge military vehicle. One after — another radiator to bumper — the trucks moved away from the big sliding car doors, until the local “drayman” created a diversion. He had been sent to finish unloading a carload of flour consigned to the local Co-op store. In a few minutes he was breathlessly reporting to the Co-op manager.
Fred, a quiet-spoken man, of no imposing stature, strolled over to recover his goods from a heavy unit of the American army. The red-faced sergeant was reluctant to give up the precious commodity. Fred’s ability to “dicker” not only resolved to impasse, but made a good “deal” for the Co-op, which had another car-load en route from Edmonton.
It was about three in the afternoon when the lightly loaded American trucks, fully equipped with chains, moved off on the graveled Fort St. John road.
One of the local Linklater boys – hardly out of High School — was to take a load to Fort St. John on his father’s Ford two-ton. The rated tonnage wasn’t even a “close approximation” in those days. They were more often loaded with four tons or more. Linklater, experienced in local conditions, waited until late evening when the road had frozen a little and the mud stiffened.
About ten miles west of Dawson Creek the old highway crossed Coal Creek. Its steep descent and ascent was complicated by a couple of hair-pin turns that were the test of the old horse-freighters, but no great impediment to the truck — barring a skid on ice or exposed wet clay. After he started his descent, Linklater suddenly braked to a halt, and backed his vehicle a little way up the hill again, than strolled down to see what the matter was. The whole American convoy was halted, its leading truck only partially up the little hill. One of the Americans was partly crosswise in the road. When travelling singly, instead of in convoy, some of the Americans simply solved that kind of problem by “driving her over the edge” and jumping clear.
Linklater walked the line until he found someone who admitted to being in charge.
“Would you please clear the road so that I can get my cargo through”, asked the lad.
The answer he got was intended to be discouraging.
“Have you a tow-chain?”
” Well then, hook it on the back of that truck, and let the man behind straighten him up, so I can get by.”
“How you-all think you can get up theah, boy?”
The tow-chain was dragged up the slippery hill and one by one the big trucks were assisted up the slope.
The lieutenant in charge, asked, “How do you do that, boy?”
“You have to rev her up, sir.”
“Sergeant, why don’t we do that?”
“We can’t, sir.”
” Why can’t we?”
” It’s the governors, sir. They are set for fifty.” (Mph)
“What can you do about that, Sergeant?”
“Knock em off, sir.”
“It’s against the regulations to destroy army property, Sergeant”, sternly. Then — “You have your orders to get this cargo to Fort Nelson, Sergeant.”