By Lloyd Jeck
Old-timers, and maybe some who are not so grizzled, will remember Ike McKinney. Ike and his wife Rita moved into the Robson Valley around 1950, maybe a year or two earlier. They were a popular couple, and Ike became a successful contractor, mostly with trucks and loaders. Their home was in the McBride area, but he worked the equipment throughout the valley.
Ike picked up a contract to load cedar telegraph poles onto CN railcars at Valemount (Cedarside). There was a substantial number of poles involved, measuring from 30 to 70 feet in length, and many railcars were needed. Ike approached me and said he needed a “toploader” and would I come and do the job?
The toploader is the person up on the railcar, who is responsible for assigning each pole its special place and also applying the crosswires required at precise levels to hold the load firmly on the car. I believe this was in September 1963, and I was very much involved with my own affairs, but I accepted Ike’s offer.
I had done some toploading for the poles my brother and I produced each year, where we used a Gin-pole to lift the pole, one at a time, up over the top of the side stakes and then lower it to its resting place. At Cedarside, Ike used a front-end-loader with which he brought up several poles at a time. There were times when this proved to be very difficult for me to get the poles positioned properly. One such time, I stuck the toe of my boot under the edge of a heavy pole to keep it from rolling the wrong way. At the same time, I was wrestling with two more poles as the loader forks lifted out of the way. Long story short, the big toe inside of the blocking-boot, was crushed. Safety equipment, such as steel toed boots, was not common in those times.
As we only had a couple more cars to load, I stayed on the job until finishing the task. Over the next while, the complete toenail detached from the toe and, when I washed my feet, I could lift the nail off to clean it and the toe, and then replace the nail beneath the folds of skin on either side. The doctor said that he could not put a splint on the toe, but it would heal eventually – which it did.
The McKinney’s retired to Kamloops in 1985 where Ike passed away, at age 89, March 14, 2015.