Strange Work

🕔Jun 07, 2006

In our Spring issue, Anastasia Ledwon asked our readers if what they do is weird.

Throughout the Northwest region, folks seem pretty darn capable of taking care of themselves. Too capable, in fact, since nothing seems to surprise any of you.

From farriers (one of the worst jobs ever, according to the Discovery Channel) to Port-A-Potty rentals; from bush living to artist weavers—we appear to have it all. Nothing, it appears, is too weird. And half of you have actually done most of those jobs. I needed a new angle.

“Well,” the man said, grinning and leaning back in his chair, “I do nothing and make a pretty decent living at it.” Not quite a statement of weird work, but a darn appealing one! I had to find out more.

Bernie Kreft is, among other things, a claim staker. “As a kid, I always enjoyed looking for Easter Eggs; the idea of finding treasure, of making something from nothing, has always appealed to me.” However, as we delved further into his fascinating assertion, it turned out that he does work quite hard, “…at least in spurts,” he says.

The basic premise of his job is staking mineral claims (nowadays done by computer), hoping to interest companies in doing some exploratory drilling work, and then selling the rights to the high-potential mineral properties.

Some of the sites he’s never actually visited. “I go mostly on fine-tuned intuition, coupled with a sound understanding of basic geology,” Kreft says, when asked how he manages to pick enough ‘good’ claims to turn a profit.

Computer time is a major component of Kreft’s work, consisting mostly of e-mailing, but also includes claim work, stock trading, research and consulting. Phone calls add up (“I like talking,” he says) and travel during the summer months is common.

Business meetings are out: “I find the usefulness of a meeting is inversely proportional to the amount of people present.”

As a prospector, he enjoys the outdoor work and considers this his quiet time. And since he controls his own schedule, he has plenty of time to spend with his wife and kids. “Right now I plan on going gold mining this summer,” he says, “and that will be a family-adventure type thing.”

“Although this hodge-podge supports the entire family, my wife handles the day-to-day stuff. Without her, the entire ‘operation’ would rapidly grind to a halt,” says Kreft.

Well, the job isn’t that weird, but does he at least have any weird stories?

“Sure. Had a guy try and sell me a property that had gold bars buried on it,” he says. “The bars were to be used to buy the earth back from French-speaking aliens that were controlling the U.N.”

“Had another person who swore she could find gold on my property by rubbing gold nuggets on a paper map of the claim,” he continues.

“I think being able to work with people is helpful,” says Kreft when asked what sort of training might be required for similar work. “I have no formal training but I would say that my greatest skill is being able to read, comprehend, and remember at a high rate. I actually work fairly hard at what I do,” he states, “but I am able to do what I want, when I want.”

Being Frank

At the other end of the spectrum is Frank MacDonald. His claim, if he made one aloud, is that he does everything. All at the same time.

Most of us have a list of employment we’ve had over the years, usually one thing after another; MacDonald just kept adding to his original list of things he does, and is now an adept juggler of jobs.

He began his work life back in Greenwood, BC, near Grand Forks, getting on-the-job training for heavy equipment used in mining. “Those were the long-hair days in the early 70’s,” he says with a smile. Work was plentiful and allowed him to move around a lot, spending summers mining in the Yukon and winter/spring working on cattle ranches around BC.

“As long as you didn’t burn too many bridges, it was easy to leave and still have a job to come back to. In many cases, I’d just walk up to a mine looking for work and be handed a hardhat.”

By the late 70’s MacDonald had settled in the Bulkley Valley and started raising a family; his 2 children are now in their 20’s. He took up carpentry and house-building in Telkwa. Then it was back into mining, at Equity Silver, where he earned his Heavy Duty Mechanic Certificate.

When the mine closed in 1994, he started up Hungry Hill Adventures, and became a licensed guide for ecotourism, hiking, and fishing. But the tourism business didn’t pan out as hoped. “Nowadays I just hike for fun and get people to come along,” he says.

His mine experience and training for mine rescue competitions led him to become an instructor in mine rescue and safety. This, in turn, brought him into Search and Rescue, a volunteer position but work nonetheless. He is currently president of the Houston chapter and hopes to complete his SAR Manager training this June. “I’m also training to be a First Aid Instructor,” he says, something that will help the local SAR groups.

The years with Hungry Hill Adventures led to numerous other jobs. His photographs hang for sale on the walls of Brewstir’s coffee shop in Houston. He is still a licensed guide, now involved in hunting as well. “I have a CORE training course to teach coming up,” he says. He’s also certified to teach the PAL firearms course.

And there’s more: a snowplowing business, hobby farming, and currently working as a licensed logger in bug wood stands. “I did some prospecting and line work for awhile, too.”

“I’m one of the founders of the Houston cross-country ski club,” he continues. He was also president, race coach, ski instructor, groomer, and logging contractor for the club, at one time or another.

Frank has also been involved in his community as a volunteer. He represented non-motorized recreation at the Morice LRMP, has worked locally with the Innovative Forest Practices Agreement, and organizes musical events and coffeehouses in Houston.

Finally, using his work and life experience, he is teaching Valley youth through the Youth Experiential Learning program. As you can see, his life has given him a lot of experience.

“It’s nice these days,” he says, “because having done all these jobs and being involved in all these ventures, people just call me up for all sorts of different projects.” From sign-making to teaching, from logging to ski coaching, MacDonald is truly a jack-of-all-trades, A busy one.

These two interesting people have done many different things, albeit not really that weird. Let us know if your work fits a weirdness profile. We’d love to hear from you!