MUCHWA BRIDGE ON ALCAN HIGHWAY


| September/October 1970



Muchwa Bridge on Alcan Highway

Courtesy of Herbert Reese, Sr., Greenbush, Minnesota 56726

Herbert Reese

Reese & Olson & Peterson Bros. job in spring of 1943 on Muchwa Bridge on Alcan Highway before we have deck planks and railing all put on. The steel was three old railroad bridges taken down when railroad was relocated. Pieces were piece marked and reassembled -- nearly lost this bridge in flood in spring of 1943 as the water rose to 34 feet in ten hours. Piled trees and debris against bridge steel.

North Dakota Highways, with machinery and labor prices going up each year and bidding more competitive. I had a payroll from 200 to 250 thousand per year. In 1946 I got the First Place Safety Award from A. G. C. for employing most men and having the most hours in the nation without any loss of time due to accidents.

I always wanted an airplane, but thought they were too high priced. So, I decided to build one in 1929. 1 used a 1928 Whippet motor for power, but it was too high speed and too heavy -- also not enough power. After breaking a couple of Hamilton Special made wood propellers and breaking the landing gear I had made out of old motorcycle wheels, I gave up and sold it to Arnold Habstritt at Roseau for $25. I kept the Whippet motor and helped him put on a Model A motor. He finally got it to fly, but landed in some woods after a few short flights and wrecked it. I bought a new Taylor Craft, then an Arconic Chief and a Luscome. Later, I got a Stinson 165 Station Wagon 4-place with radio and all. That was a nice plane. After a few years I sold it and bought an all metal Cesna with radio and extras. I did a lot of flying to the scattered jobs in Minnesota and North Dakota. I sold my plane in 1956 to help pay my bills. I would liked to have kept it, as I liked flying. Even though I was a fair weather pilot, will relate some of my experiences during my years of flying.

In flying out to Cannon Ferry Dam to look at a job in Montana, I did not realize the high mountains near Home-stad. I was up over twelve thousand feet in snow squalls at times and could not see the wing tips. Now and then a mountain peak would come into view. I was hoping and praying to make it through the storm. Then all of a sudden there was sunshine and a green valley ahead -- sure was relieved.

Another time I took off from a road job in Red Lake Game Refuge that was all timber. I got up two thousand feet and all of a sudden, the engine broke a valve and busted a piston and cylinder. The engine vibrated so bad 1 was afraid the wings would fall off. 1 shut it off, but it would not quit- wind-milling -- had to almost pull it up into a stall to stop the engine. Then, I let it fall into a glide, looking for an opening in the timber. I happened to see a roof top in the distance. When 1 got near, I saw a cattle lane through the trees. I was down lower than the top of the barn -- limbs touched both wing tips, but got landed and stopped. I was just a few feet from a big ditch full of water. As 1 went past the barn, a couple of small boys were standing there. They ran and told their Dad and before I could get out of the plane, they were out there. The boys were all excited and wanted to know how 1 could fly with the propeller standing still.

Another time, I flew into a heavy rain and thunder storm and got caught in an up-draft, went up several thousand feet. Then all of a sudden, I had no control of the plane. I started falling or being pushed down by a down-draft. When I got down to a couple hundred feet, the air was bouncing back upwards. I thought 1 would fall through the seat. There was a 45 or 50 mile wind on the ground. I was pushed around and landed into the wind and rain behind a grove of trees. I had to dodge rock piles in the plowed field to get up to the trees. I had a hard time to get the plane tied down. Soon as I cut the power, the wind wanted to take the plane. 1 used my belt to tie the controls ahead and left the engine on part throttle, then 1 finally got it tied down. 1 walked around the grove to the house to ask to use their phone. The central office in Viking did not open until eight a.m. and this was about seven. 1 asked the people their name and the woman told me Ranum. I then asked her if she knew Oscar and Maynard Ranum. She said they were her sons. 1 told her they were working for me. She exclaimed, 'You are not Herbert Reese, are you?' I told her I was and that the boys worked for me for two seasons on Cats and Scrapers on North Dakota jobs. She got her husband up to drive me home. It was still raining and blowing. 1 finally got a call through to my wife and she came down to get me.