Billy, a retired forest ranger, is my father’s best friend. As a pastime, Billy and Dad travel all around northern New Brunswick together and visit all sorts of interesting places and things. When I was a child, Billy would visit the school occasionally, capturing the interest of the students with different and amazing stories. Sometimes he brought in things like a deer embryo or a beaver skull. We loved it when he would choose to speak to our class; not only were we able to set our pencils down, but his stories always fascinated us. At my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, after the dinner speeches and songs, we had ‘open-mike’ where anyone could come up and say a few words or tell stories about either Mom or Dad. Later on in the evening, most people had had a turn speaking. The crowd was all warmed up and I was thrilled when Billy went up to the mike. He settled-in comfortably and I knew we were all in for a nice long story.
“I usually drive into Wilfrid’s driveway between 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning.” Billy began. I knew this as a fact since it has been going on for years. After Billy pulls into Dad’s driveway, they would sit in the pickup for a few minutes to discuss where it was that they were going to go. On this particular day, they decided to go and climb Mt. Carleton. It was the middle of January. There was a lot of snow on the ground and it was quite cold. Wilfrid mentioned that they didn’t have any skidoos but Billy wasn’t concerned. He suggested they play it out as far as it would go. The two of them were dressed in snowmobile suits and brought along their helmets. They stopped and picked up a few sandwiches at a corner store in Drummond then, after an hour, stopped at the little general store in Riley Brook for some snacks. They noticed two fellows there who were buying some hard liqueur. From their accents, they knew that these men were from Grand Falls. Billy struck up a conversation with them and found out that they were going to Mt. Carleton also to do some ice fishing. A short while later Wilfrid and Billy arrived at Mt. Carleton and drove as far as they could with the pickup. There wasn’t a soul around. They got out of the pickup and started to walk along a snowmobile trail. They had to walk six miles before they would get to the mountain. Wilfrid was a bit concerned since it was hard walking through the snow and asked Billy what they were going to do. Billy said that they would hitchhike. If somebody comes along, they would convince them to give them a ride on the back of their machines. They weren’t on the trail very long when they heard the whining of two snowmobiles coming. They flagged them down. It was the two guys that they met earlier at the general store in Riley Brook. Billy began telling them all sorts of interesting things about Mt. Carleton. He described such things as the helicopter-landing pad that the dignitaries from the parks branch near Fredericton use when they want to climb Mt. Carleton. See, they didn’t climb the mountain like ordinary people do, they went by helicopter. It was located near the top of the tree line. You could climb the mountain by snowmobile right up to there. He neglected to tell them that it would be under four feet of snow. Nevertheless, his stories got Wilfrid and Billy a ride to the mountain. They had powerful machines and in no time at all, they were doing 60 to 70 clicks. Eventually, they climbed up to where you could see the top of the mountain. It was another four hundred feet up; all snow-covered boulders and rocks and there were no more trees. The machines could go no farther. The first guy asked about the helicopter landing pad and Billy told him that he was sitting right on it. The guy laughed and said that he thought that you could see it and Billy said that you could in the summertime but not in the wintertime because it was covered with snow. Billy invited them to climb the mountain with them and they refused; they were set on going ice fishing. They asked Wilfrid and Billy how they were going to get down out of there. Billy said that they would worry about that when the time comes. Before they went on their way, Billy asked if they had any matches or lighters with them and no one in the group smoked. He also told them that, when they left, to look and see if their pickup was still parked there. If it was still there, then that meant that they were still up here so make sure to tell someone. He made them promise not to leave the park without telling someone where they were. By now, the two guys were feeling the booze pretty good. Wilfrid wasn’t too sure that they were hearing any of this or not.
Wilfrid and Billy zigzagged up through the boulders wadding in snow to their knees slipping and sliding. Eventually they got to the top. It was beautiful! It was around three in the afternoon; the nicest time of the day for sunshine and for temperature. Billy pulled out his camera and took a couple of pictures. After a few hours, they decided it was time to come down because it was going to get dark soon. They climbed down to the edge of the first drop-off, which was a two to three hundred foot drop down to the tree line. They wondered how they were going to get down out of there without breaking any bones. Billy came out with the bright idea to lie on his back, stick his feet up in the air and slide down rear-end first through the snow. It worked quite fast so now he was standing at the foot of this rock face and Wilfrid was still at the top wondering how he was going to get down. Billy shouted to Wilfrid that the only way to get down was the way that he did. He hollered for Wilfrid to let it go, lie on his back, pick up his feet in the air. Using those marvelous tips, Wilfrid did just that, and in no time at all, he appeared at Billy’s feet.
They found the trail and started to walk towards home. They walked until the sun went down and the moon came out. He distinctly remembers seeing the moon. Billy was starting to feel a bit nervous and Wilfrid said that for once he thought that they went a little too far. They had always been lucky but this time, he thought that their friends forgot about them. Billy agreed saying that they were pretty liquored up the last time that they saw them. They would walk with their helmets under their arms and tell stories then after a while, they would stop and rest for a bit then continue on their way. By now, they both felt that they were stranded, they had no cell phones and no one knew where they were. Suddenly, Billy thought that he could hear a whining noise a long ways away and he asked Wilfrid if he thought that the sound was getting closer. They agreed that a snowmobile was coming their way. A few moments later a machine showed up hauling a hand-made toboggan on skis. He made a U-turn right around them and stopped. Billy got on with the ranger and Wilfrid sat on the toboggan and held onto the straps. The ranger took off like a shot out of a gun. After they went for about a mile or less Billy looked back and it looked like a snowman coming behind them. He tapped the ranger on the shoulder and shouted, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” The ranger wanted to know what the problem was and Billy answered, “Take a look behind you.” It didn’t look like a human being at all. It looked like Frosty the Snowman. They dug Wilfrid out of the snow and he still insisted on riding back there so they made him turn around for the rest of the trip back. When they got back to the truck, the ranger decided that they should have a little conference.
Billy And Will at Mt. Carleton
Billy hugged the microphone with his hands and grinned. He eyed Mom and Dad then all their friends and family who had come out on this beautiful day to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They were completely absorbed in Billy’s story. Billy continued, “That ranger told me he said, you know? You two guys are quite lucky. I said how’s that? Well, he said I went up on that ice to visit them two fellers; they weren’t coming down too fast off the lake. And I wanted to see if they’d caught too many fish. And he said they had caught a couple but nothing outlandish. and just as I was about to leave them one guy said Do you know Bill McCue? And I said Yes I do. Well, he said, We left him and another feller up on top of that mountain five or six hours ago and they’re waiting for you to go get them. So he said, I had to go back to the office, and get the trailer and a few other things and he said, then come up and get ya’s. But he said, If they’d a never mentioned it, we’d a never come looking for ya.” Billy laughed, then he continued, “And so, All things worked out well at that point. We’d come on home, and we talked about it for a long time. That’s the story of our Mt. Carleton trip.” Of course, Billy didn’t let me down; he ended his story the same way that he ends all of his stories. He smiled at the crowd and with a twinkle in his eye he added, ” …And I have the pictures to prove it.”