Yellowknife’s famed trucker Alex Debogorski is coming to Williams Lake next week to sign copies of his new book Ice Road Truckers.
While the History channel’s top-rated Ice Road Truckers reality show may have made him famous Debogorski says it hasn’t made him rich.
He still spends his winters delivering supplies from Yellowknife to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk over long stretches of dangerous river and ocean ice roads, and into Whitehorse, Alaska.
“I’m only famous. I’m taking $20 donations to get my teeth fixed because that’s as far as I can count,” Debogorski jokes.
Among the 100 or so vehicles, trucks and equipment he has in his automobile collection Debogorski drives a diesel Ford F-350.
And being friends with people in the Likely and Quesnel area related to his passion for gold mining, it seems fitting that he will be signing copies of his book at Lake City Ford. He will be signing copies of his book and spinning stories for visitors at Lake City Ford from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 26.
“We will have a barbecue going all day so people can come by and have a hamburger and talk to Alex,” says Dave Polack who is organizing the event. “We’re pretty excited to have him and really hoping everyone comes out to see him.”
By the animated conversation he provided in this Tribune interview, Debogorski is indeed, as his book promotion states, a natural storyteller who knows how to spin tales about his colourful life growing up in the backwoods.
Whether he’s recounting tales about his hair-raising confrontations with bears, calculating the strength of newly formed ice, divulging the secrets of providing security in a bar room full of combative, drunken miners, or saving the life of another trucker, his book keeps you wanting more.
The book introduction goes on to state that Ice Road Truckers follows the heart-pounding adventures of the tough-as-nails truckers who risk peril every day to deliver goods and supplies in Alaska and across Canada’s frozen north.
Debogorski shares tales of his adventures-and misadventures-in the north, and explains, in his own entertaining voice, how he got to where he is today, working-class hero, bona-fide celebrity, and the improbable star of a smash-hit television show.
“I was born with something you can’t buy and it is very difficult to earn,” Debogorski says. “It’s called poetic licence.”
Debogorski’s parents were born in Poland and immigrated to Canada from Britain in 1953, the year Debogorski says he was “born in the museum” in Berwyn, Alta.
The museum was the community’s old hospital, he admits.
After growing up in Alberta’s Peace River country with three brothers and one sister, Debogorski says he headed off to university to become a lawyer.
He did one year at the University of Alberta then married his sweetheart and the love of his life, Louise. They have been married for 40 years and are the proud parents of 11 children and 12 grandchildren, the majority of whom continues to make their homes in the Yellowknife area. Their youngest child is 12 and their oldest is 40. They are now expecting their 13th grandchild, he says proudly.
Early on Debogorski says he worked at all kinds of jobs to keep his family — hauling, shoveling and raking — “I’m a farmer who doesn’t know how to farm.
“I had a claim in Barkerville back in 1976,” says Debogorski. “I prospected around the area for a while and lived in a garage in Wells. Then I got wet and hungry and my wife said I had to come home and get a real job.”
He tried his hand in sawmills and oil rigs and other jobs before finding something that fit.
“I had 16 T-4 slips the first year after university until I got to the coal mines,” Debogorski says.
While he eventually found his niche in trucking and has made home base in Yellowknife for the past 35 years, Debogorski says he still dreams of becoming a gold miner. He sold his earlier claim years ago but still has a small claim in the Barkerville area, which he bought a couple of years ago.
He says he is looking forward to meeting people in Williams Lake and is considering driving his vintage Cadillac with the big horns on the front down for the fun of it.
“You know you are a red neck when you patch your car with fibre glass and have to pump water out of the truck to get it on the road,” Debogorski quips.