Alaskan Don Sheldon: Bush Pilot or Prospector?

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Perhaps it was on account of their habit of always looking for a clearing long enough to set their taildragger down, if needed. Or, because they had to endure nervous geologist/ mining engineer passengers shouting over the noise of the engine, pointing out rock formations from the air as a means of diversion—"Wow, look at that textbook syncline over there!"

Maybe it was from all the card games at roadhouses while waiting out storms. Real poke-er games where everyone joining 'in' stated so by slapping down a poke of gold dust. Games where "I raise you a pinch," contributed to a glittering pile in the center of the table.

Alaska Bush Pilot Don SheldonThe real reason why so many mineral discoveries can be attributed to the true Alaskan Bush Pilot, is that his professional choice of livelihood was even more "bottom line challenged," than the pursuit of being filthy rich, covered from head to toe in gold bearing muck. Keeping his plane flying was measured in "square fives" the very expensive AV gas that used to be freighted to villages packaged in a beautifully built wooden crate that contained two five gallon cans that translated into—if you nursed the updrafts, and didn't get lost too often—so many freight or passenger miles. As much of the gold won or lost at the table was really measured in gas, it didn't take the independent puddle jump operator long to be looking for the real stuff, himself.

I can remember the stunned look the legendary Don Sheldon gave an Outside MBA waiting to fly off the "City Strip" at Talkeetna to visit a mining show, when the bean counter totaled the value of the number of planes Don owned (SuperCub, 180 on wheels, 180 on ski wheels, 180 on floats), and suggested to the legend of what was to be the book, "Wager With The Wind," that Don would enjoy a far greater rate of return by selling out, and putting the funds into a safe annuity (or something as silly as that).

 
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