Sunday, December 22, 2013

Castor gras

The guys in the maintenance hangar are working on an outside customer's airplane. It's a Beaver, not one of those stunning privately owned amphibs with a spotless retro paint job and a millionaire owner, but a working airplane, company logo on the tail and oil streaked all over the cowling. There's a joke that you don't have to teach the routes to a new hire at a bush company. They can just follow the trails of oil from place to place, left by the Beavers.

Maintenance folk always seem to like working on Beavers. I guess it's nostalgia and respect for the famous workhorse. And I guess they aren't too fiddly. I've flown the Beaver. I've also flown a Found, one of the recent attempts to replace the Beaver. Yeah, not there yet. And it's not as if most Beavers need replacing, just a little end of season TLC. I say something about the amount of grease on the airplane as I go by. They're quiet, probably trying not to bust a gut from accidental innuendo. We're not unaware that Americans use Beaver as a slang word for female genitals, but for me it's a great airplane, our national animal, the symbol on the nickel and a big chunk of our history first. It was trade in beaver pelts that drove the early Canadian exploration and economy.

They were used to make hats, and the pre-worn greasy ones, castor gras were the most valuable.

Last time I saw a privately-owned one it was parked between me and the FBO. As I walked by, admiring it, a man in his sixties asked, "What are you grinning at?"

"Pretty airplane," I said, as though it weren't self-explanatory.

"We come with it," said another man.

You know, if you wanted to get picked up by rich, self-confident men, an airport would not be a bad place to hang out.

1 comment:

majroj said...

Trivia: if it wasn't for beaver trapping, western America's European-American exploration (by the "Mountain Men", and French and other Hudson Bay trappers)would have been taken up much later.
And "castor" is the gummy musky stuff from beavers' anal glands they mark territory with.
And way out own left field, oil from the riccinius communes (Castor Bean plant), aka "Castor Oil" was both a very early aircraft engine lubricant….and a violent laxative.