Backhoe Work

Backhoe Life

I took the job that George Cowie offered and soon learned to operate all kinds of equipment; dumptruck, grader, backhoe, shovel. That’s Henry Yaeger looking on. In the early years I was laid off in the winters and ran Henry’s Backhoe occasionally (the one he bought from Larry Smith-Larry gave me my first lessons on the backhoe)

I’m pretty sure this photo was taken when we were improving the parking situation in Ford Cove.

Backhoe Life

After I quit the highways job I worked Dave Colley’s backhoe for a couple of years. Then I ran Ted Wadland’s machine for quite a while. I began advertising in the First Edition using some skills I’d learned in a former life. Anybody out there remember Letraset?

Ted and I had a good relationship. Each day after I drove into the yard finished work Jean Wadland would fix me a nice gin and Tonic. Ah, those were the days!

Backhoe Life

We made an arrangement with Bill Adams to do our advertising. This was his first advert.

I think this was Pat Perry’s garden.

Bill Adams said the Backhoe reminded him of a dinosaur and so began a number of very entertaining ads

Backhoe Days

We would take out half and full pages in the First Edition. Soon, the competition, Dave Colley, began matching us cartoon for cartoon. Dave had David Work and I used Bill Adams. The power of advertising; after we began the competition both Dave and I gained more work than ever before.

Backhoe days

Just Cruising

Backhoe daze

Mette Wullum did an excellent job of painting the door

Backhoe Camera

Backhoe Phase

Ray Ekstrum               Pat Perry

Tim and Sarah                 Many people have ridden in the front bucket

Walford’s roof

Backhoe days

Dirty Camera

Backhoe Daze

Hornsbys                                          can’t remember-Galleon Beach-this family watched me from the window the whole time.

Tim Wyndham, Michael McNamara                                   Morritts

1990 was big year, We moved George DePapes Ghost Show to Joe King Ballpark.


Well Witcher

Monster Hoe

Backhoe Pays

In 1990 Ted Wadland and I drove north to Quesnel to purchase the biggest backhoe I’d ever seen, a Case 780.

For a while we were running two backhoes

More Pics

Backhoe Slave

Pushing a tree

Re-building Seabreeze-Bishop and Moyles

Re-building the Thatch-that’s too-tall in the ditch

Ernie Toll

I put boats in the water, I pulled boats from the water. Can’t remember whose beautiful boat this was. Oops looks like a need a new camera from Goodwill

Mechanics delight

The Backhoe was having serious problems, so that winter we hired a mechanic and his two sons to come up to Hornby, stay at Ted’s summer place and fix the thing. They spent a month taking the whole damn thing apart then persuaded us that we needed to send the machine to the mechanics place in Victoria.

I was very reluctant to do this as I had lost trust in this set of bunglers. No choice though, so the beast was loaded on a truck and we waved goodbye. A month later Ted and I decided to go down and see the progress. NO PROGRESS! We told the mechanic we were taking it back.

The day we brought the truck to take it to the Case Dealer the mechanic chose not to be home. The Case guys told us they knew about this incompetent a**hole and commiserated with us and our troubles. A complete waste of time and money.

Summer of ’92

Backhoesaurus Extinct

Backhoe maze

It came back in good running order. However, it’s age was showing. The brakes were going and the bearings were getting mighty loose. It was as if being in the hands of those incompetent mechanics had broken it’s spirit. The business, too, had taken a terrible hit and, after a few more jobs Ted decided to get out of the backhoe business. He offered the machine to me at a good price but I told him that if he was getting out of the business, so was I. The machine went to Walter Schmidt on Denman.

I wasn’t out of the Backhoe world quite yet…

Fourth Wind

Backhoe Days

A couple of guys (good owner,bad owner) had bought a backhoe and wanted me to run it. It’s hard to turn down a job so I entered into another relationship.

I did a few more years of work until the ‘good owner’ sold his half to the ‘bad owner’. The relationship soured. You can imagine how much I’d grown unfamiliar with subservience.

So…I moved on.

So Long

Backhoe Phase

So that was it; twenty, twenty five years on and off  running a machine . Every night coming home smelling of diesel and grease. (beer and G and T’s occasionally)

The closest I ever came to killing somebody was when I was clearing land for Hugh MacDonald. Sitting in the cab you have to keep track of onlookers. All that metal swinging around could make a real mess out of a person. The most common danger point was when I dug wells. People are drawn to the edge of the hole to watch the bucket do it’s work. More than once I had to gently nudge people away from the swing zone. One little twitch of the control and you could send a client into the next dimension. Bad for business. I was pushing a tree onto the burn pile. Hugh had gone out of sight. He was working by hand on the other side of the fire. The top of the tree came over the pile and gave him a mighty whack. Next thing I know there’s Hugh , covered in blood, crawling up the side of the machine trying to get my attention. When he got to emergency it was discovered he had a burst spleen. He came out alright, he lived. Phew!

Years ago I was doing a job for a private contractor burying a water pipe across the road. I had been running the backhoe for about 4 years. When the job was finished he looked at me with genuine sympathy and said “You’re kind of new at this job aren’t you?” Ego deflation. There’s an old saying ‘It takes seven years to learn a skill and two lifetimes to master it’. I kept that in mind as the backhoe years rolled on.

Recently I got to climb in the saddle again working on the new clinic.  I carried a cameraagain, this time a digital.

That’s it. No more backhoe stories. (Actually, lots more, but lets give it a rest).

3 thoughts on “Backhoe Work”

  1. It’s important to never leave your seat when you operate a backhoe. And never go underneath the machine. Know your safety manual and make sure the machine has been inspected and everything is in good working order. It’s a lot of common sense.

  2. This was a fun and very entertaining read. Backhoes are really powerful and some people might think that ” it won’t do much harm, it moves too slow “. Better quote you on ” One little twitch of the control and you could send a client into the next dimension “. People do have that tend to peek into the hole a backhoe is digging, and they forget that it’s pretty dangerous. That’s why today, operators need to be well-trained to use one.

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A semi-practical use for my 10,000 historical photos