Rudy Johnson (left)

Rudy Johnson (left)

Bush pilot recalls the early days

Clarence Moore had to be cajoled into writing a book about his adventures as a bush pilot in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast but is glad he did.

Clarence Moore had to be cajoled into writing a book about his adventures as a bush pilot in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast but is glad he did.

“My children, who are now adults, talked me into writing a book and I admit I enjoyed writing it damn near as much as living it,” Moore says.

Moore’s book Chilcotin Cowboys in Airplanes — Not All Cowboys Ride Horses gives new perspective to the life of a commercial bush pilot, reports his publisher Friesen Press.

Born in Alcomdale, Alta., Moore grew up on a cattle farm where he enjoyed watching birds fly and made up his mind to become a pilot when he was just six years old.

“I saw my first airplane, a Curtiss Jenny, in the fall of 1937 and made up my mind that was what I was going to do,” Moore says.

But first he took a detour into the Royal Canadian Navy.

While on an annual leave in June 1950 Moore came to Williams Lake for a visit with his friend Roy Wellburn and ended up staying.

He took his flight training in Prince George, Williams Lake, and Langley.

Now 83, Moore made his first solo 61 years ago on Oct. 11, 1953 at 10:30 a.m. in the morning. After that he put in 12 hours of flying time in 28 days to earn his commercial pilot’s license.

His first flying job came in 1958 when he went to work for for his long-time friend Rudy Johnson who then owned Chilcotin Airways with some partners.

“I am still flying and working for two companies,” Moore is proud to say.

Moore says his book includes a lot of short stories and personal reflections about his life as a bush pilot.

And while some of the stories involve real danger and injuries such as broken legs and other bones that needed quick medical attention, he has tried to make the book as light as possible and deliver a few laughs along the way.

“If you are not having fun, what are you doing wrong,” Moore says.

His many pilot hats include: bush pilot, executive pilot, freight hauler pilot, chasing cows pilot, hauling government agent’s pilot, working with RCMP pilot, hauling doctors and nurses pilot.

When he first started flying, Moore says the Williams Lake airport was where 9th and 10th Avenue are today and flight communications came out of the then military airport at Dog Creek.

At Stampede time, he says he would circle over the Stampede Grounds so passengers could get a look at the Stampede action from the air.

Moore says the greatest gift the region has is its people.

“They believe that hospitality is not just a word but a way of life.”

He has cherished flying with and for First Nations people, ranchers, cowboys, loggers — all kinds of characters in the region aptly called the Land Without Limits by the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association.

“To this day the area has not changed as much as one may think, they are still out there doing the seemingly impossible simply because they never did learn how to quit until the job was done,” Moore says.

“These folks are not just characters, they are intelligent, sharp, quick-thinking individual entrepreneurs in the truest sense of the word which include the ladies.

“I admire the people that have chosen this life style it is damn hard work and is probably one of the healthiest in the world.”

Moore says that while they are now involved in various careers, he is proud of the fact that all three of his children are also flyers.

His eldest son Geoff, who now works for the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association worked as a commercial pilot for about six years and as a professional photographer and big game guide to many beautiful arial pictures of the region.

Daughter Deb Stirton is a long haul truck driver working out of Alberta. Son Geordie and his wife Cindy (who is very proud to be Rick Hansen’s sister) are both local realtors.

“I am very proud of all my children,” Clarence says. “But it is possible that I am just a tad biased.”

This Saturday, Clarence will be joining his long-time friend Rudy Johnson, at a book signing taking place at the Station House Gallery.

Both men have recently written books about their many adventures in the Cariboo Chilcotin and will be at the gallery from 1 to 4 p.m. to talk with visitors and sign copies of their books for people.

Chilcotin Cowboys in Airplanes is available locally at the Open Book and the Station House Gallery.

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