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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Harrier vs. Locomotive

Mom and Dad dropped in for a short visit today, and in passing I mentioned that I might accompany my friends Stephen and Audrey and their family to Churchill, Manitoba in August. I knew that Dad had made the trip, but until today I didn't know that his train voyage in 1972 also involved a game of chicken with a Harrier jump jet.

Dad was sent to Churchill by Acklands Ltd. on a business trip, who generously paid for a sleeper berth, which gave him access to the dining car and "the best prime rib I've ever had." The trip from Thompson to Churchill takes many hours, and the train would periodically stop in the middle of the bush to allow fur trappers to snip into their snowshoes and egress into the wild.

As the train approached Churchill station, Dad noticed a Harrier jump jet flying about. As he and other passengers craned their necks out the windows for a closer look, the jet swooped down to hover over the tracks, directly in the train's path. It was perhaps the deadliest game of chicken ever played, with the train's horn shrilling angrily and the exhaust from the jet's powerful engines blasting ground debris everywhere.

Of course in a game of chicken with a locomotive even a multimillion dollar fighter aircraft must yield, so at the last possible second the pilot cranked up the throttle and leaped forward and upward, soaring over the rumbling train.

"What happened to the pilot?" I asked Dad, who had made inquiries after the incident; the fellow was a British national.

"He got sent home," Dad answered solemnly.

What a photo or painting that would have made.

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