High Country Adventure for Antique Gas Engines
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Self-taught mountain man
On early outings to the mountains, Jordan was almost totally unprepared. “It was 1983 before I had a 4-wheel-drive pickup and started getting off into the bush,” he recalls. “I had no gun, no proper boots; I just started heading off.” As time passed, he learned the necessary skills and acquired gear. Today, he’s at ease in an unforgiving environment. “I don’t really worry about going anywhere, anytime,” he says.
Still, solo forays into the high country require careful preparation. Cell phones don’t work in the bush, and so far a satellite phone has seemed an expensive nuisance. He leaves a detailed plan of each trek with his wife and follows the plan to the letter. “They’ve got to be able to find me if something goes wrong,” he says. “If I say I’m going to a certain place, I can’t change my mind; I have to go. You’ve got to be well-armed and have a plan.”
Such advice is particularly useful when dealing with bears. Jordan’s had a couple of close calls. On one memorable occasion, he and a black bear sow with cubs nearby surprised each other. “A black bear with cubs is a real tricky proposition,” he says with understatement. “Even from 40 feet away, she looks big.” She rose up on her rear legs; he fired his Winchester into the air, trying to scare her. She dropped to all fours, rose and dropped again. When she turned to check on her cubs, Jordan grabbed his packs and chain saw and plunged over a steep bank, making a sharp vertical exit.
The backcountry is less remote today, thanks to the wide availability of ATVs. “The general population is getting more mobile and going farther into the bush than they used to, and in greater numbers, which means that they’re covering more ground than I can ever hope to,” Jordan says. “They’re starting to pick up bits and pieces to take home to decorate their family room. Usually they take the shiny bits like brass oilers, bearings and serial number plates, which, of course, makes my blood boil because then I have to go to the effort and expense of either replacing the missing pieces or having them made.”
By and large, Jordan’s engines are fairly rough, rare and very early, reflecting the influence of U.S. prospectors and miners. “They came to the Kootenays in droves,” he says. “They were smart, savvy businessmen who’d already worked with this equipment. And the manufacturers worked very hard to market equipment to them. If they hadn’t, we’d all be collecting English engines.”
Riding a slump, one suspects he would be happy to find any engine at this point. “I haven’t found a complete antique gas engine in the bush for nine years,” he says, “but I fully expect to find another one.” It’s just a matter of patience and persistence, and at 50, Jordan has plenty of both. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he says. “That’s what’s unusual about me: Since 1989, when I started looking for iron, I spend every spare minute every day on this.