Northern Exposure

This is the second part of a series of stories about the founder of our business, Ralph Weller. He inspires us every day---we hope you'll find this common man's life interesting.

By June of 1943, he'd traveled three times to Leavenworth, KS, by train with thousands of other draftees. The first two times the Army doctors told him, "Son, we can't recommend the Army take you with those gunshot wounds you got when you were 19." He told the third doctor he wanted to work and coming to Leavenworth every few months was playing hell with that effort. The doctor suggested he find "war work" because the Army would never take him.

Ralph Weller was 27, single, able-bodied (except for those gunshot wounds) and ready to work and support the war effort. He'd heard that an outfit in Omaha was sending crews to Canada to move oil drilling rigs & barges. So in June of 1943, the Osborne County, Kansas draft board gave Ralph permission to leave the U.S. to work on a 100% War Project in Canada's Northwest Territory.

He went from the sun swept plains of Western Kansas into a cold, nightless Arctic summer. Pilots flew men and equipment in and out on single engine Norsemen bush planes. Ralph immediately joined a crew and started 12-day treks to take rigs and equipment from the drilling sites back to huge storage yards. Crews consisted of 2 Cat skinners, 2 Indian guides, 2 cooks and a wagon master. Ralph

was a Cat skinner. He drove a D8 pulling giant sleds loaded with cargo, as well as a bunkhouse and cookhouse. The Cat and its crew moved into the Arctic, living on the sleds. The men took 12 hour shifts and crawled back over the moving sleds to eat and sleep.

Their route took them over the Great Slave Lake, frozen deep (they hoped), and crossed by D8 Cats fitted with hooks instead of grousers. The Cats pulled the heavy sleds up a continuous slope caused by the weight of the sleds on the ice. The company sent his pay checks home. He got $15 per week for spending money and an occasional game of poker or dice in the bunkhouse between shifts. His Cat was a "good one" and he never found any of the "soft spots" in the Great Slave Lake.

Ralph would have gladly dodged bullets in Europe or the Pacific, but, like so many of our parents & grandparents, he did what he could to make sure our country remained strong in the face of so much evil and opposition. We're proud of him and we try to run his business now with that same dedication and refusal to step back.

What did he do with the money waiting for him at home? Most of it went to his dad but there was enough left over to buy a 1940 black V8 Ford 2-door sedan his grand dad Weller found for him---but that's another story!

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