“There It Is! Hello Old Friend!”

Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.After finishing flying the duck surveys in our respective crew areas, due to a plane malfunction, FWS Biologist/Pilot Rob Spangler and I were asked to fill in and fly the Northern Manitoba spring duck surveys. As we were flying along a transect near Cross Lake, we broke off line and flew north to the Cross Lake Narrows. We searched a bit, and as we got closer, I finally shouted out in excitement: “THERE IT IS!!” “It” is a 12’ X 12’ trapper’s cabin, where I spent the month of August in 1993 and 1994 trapping and banding ducks. They were some of the most challenging, and yet enjoyable, times I have had with the FWS in my 25 year tenure with this wonderful outfit.

The old dead snags from the great fire of 20 years ago have been replaced by rapidly growing aspen trees. The only way in is by boat and/or float plane. And boy did the memories start coming back. One of the most memorable was the time one morning when I opened up the cabin door, and kept the screen door shut (to keep the bugs out), so that I could listen and watch the sandhill cranes dance on the other side of the water channel. It was one of THE BEST ways to wake up in the morning. I thought I heard a twig snap, and soon saw a big black nose grunting with every push of its nose at the screen door. Yes, it was a black bear. I was still laying in bed, and the gun was against the wall. I whispered to my duck banding partner, Mark Krom, still lying on his side in a bed facing the far wall, to not move. I knew that in moments, the bear would be in the cabin, and then things would get real interesting. So I reached under the bed, grabbed two cast irons pans, jumped up and ran at the door yelling and screaming and banging the pans as loud and hard as I could. I heard twigs and branches snapping and breaking like firecrackers going off, as the bear turned a quick 180 and made a hasty retreat. I stood there laughing hysterically, all the while shaking at the possibility of what “could” have happened. Mark then said, “I wanted to see the bear, I wanted to see the bear!” I remember saying: “Not with its head stuck through the front door did you want to see a #%&%$# bear!”

That was the beginning of the tale and the day, with many, many more to come. Mark remembered how the fellow in the movie Never Cry Wolf “marked” his territory to deter wolves from coming too close. So Mark proceeded to drink copious amounts of water and did the same to every trail anywhere near the cabin. It must have worked, because we never saw the bear again.

My Cross Lake Duck Banding camp adventure, just as many memories of my times afield with the FWS, is and always will be, a very fond memory, and an “Old Friend.” The visit there several days ago reminds me of an old saying: “You will lose track of a lot of friends throughout your life, but when you see them again, they will still be “Old Friends.”

My old duck banding camp, located on Cross Lake, between Norway House and Thompson, Manitoba. I spent two extremely enjoyable August's here during 1993 and 1994. It was great to see my

My old duck banding camp, located on Cross Lake, between Norway House and Thompson, Manitoba. I spent two extremely enjoyable August's here during 1993 and 1994. It was great to see my "old friend" again. Photo by Rob Spangler, US FWS