The Scrapping Sky Pilot

The Scrapping Sky Pilot

by Keith W. Hudson


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."The Scrapping Sky Pilot" chronicles the early life of the Rev. J.U. Robins, as he grew up in Port Rowan, a small village on Lake Erie in southern Ontario and as a young man, taught in Detroit. Then after hearing the "Call" of God headed West to British Columbia in the late 1800's to open Churches in Rossland, Golden and serve in Revelstock and Sandon British Columbia. Mission life was hard, dangerous and had its humourous times. Leaving his true love thousands of miles behind was one of the hardest things he did. The man, places and many of the events are true. The people he interacted with over these years are fictional The source for this novel comes from a tape recording, made on an old reel to reel tape that Robins made when he was well into his eighties. I praise God that he shared such rich stories with the family and now I take this opportunity to share them with you. May you loose yourself in a time long ago, in snow storms, lumber camps, fights and a love that lasted a life time - through the stories of a man who "fought" for God. Shalom Keith

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781449044022
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 12/11/2009
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

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The Scrapping Sky Pilot

By Keith W. Hudson


Copyright © 2009 Keith W. Hudson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-4402-2

Chapter One

To Live or Die

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (KJV) Matthew 27:46

Step by grueling step he stumbled forward into the blinding wind and snow.

Is this what the Lord has really called me to do?

To die, trying to walk through the pass outside Trout River, British Columbia?

His snow shoes felt like they weighed a thousand pounds as he forced himself to lift them and let them flop back into the ever increasing snow. He had to take them off. The fresh snow was falling so heavily it was filling up the top of the shoes and making them impossible to lift.

He was now plowing through drifts that were four to five feet deep and still heading straight up the Mountain pass.

He knew that to stop was to die.

All he heard was the roar of the wind as it drove the flesh cutting snow against his face and the voices in his head.

His face was wrapped against this ferocious foe as much as possible, but he needed a crack in his scarf see where he was going. In this storm that might not really matter. His metal-framed glasses caused pain to shoot from thebridge of his nose to the back of his head. Snow kept collecting on the exposed lenses making vision nearly impossible. If he took his glasses off he wouldn't be able to see at all He wasn't able to see anyway in the driving snow He reached up and off came his glasses and the pain in his head seemed to ease.

Ahead there were shadows that looked like they might be a grove of trees.

Where were those glasses?

He slipped them back on and stared into the blowing snow and quickly feeling the pain come back like a stabbing needle right up through his nose and out the back of his head.

Once again, the voices in his head were at work.

"I'm not sure if my eyes are playing tricks on me or there really is something out there. All I know for sure is I'm done in and I am going to have to stop soon and rest, even if it is still daylight.

Yes, I'm sure there is something out there. Come on Joe, you can do it. You've never walked away from or lost a fight in your life. Now isn't the time to give up."

Memories flashed through his mind as he put one foot in front of the other.

He remembered his Mother, a small woman who had lived a hard life on the shores of Lake Erie, standing in the door of their home in Port Rowan, Ontario, with the warmth of the kitchen behind her and the smell of the home baking - yes he could smell it even here in the Roger's Pass - the smell of home cooked bread - one step then another. What a way to celebrate a new century!

Eighteen ninety-seven and at the rate he was tiring, he would never see 1900!

The pain in his thighs was like a knife cutting to the bone, yet he had to continue on. To stop out in the open was certain death.

He was only delaying the inevitable, considering he didn't have any food, but he wouldn't give in. Just a little farther!

There was definitely something ahead and as he squinted through his snow laden scarf, it looked like it might give a little shelter.

He stumbled into the grove of brush.

"Not your oasis in the desert, yet I can feel the wind deflecting away from me." The voices continued to talk to him.

He slumped down behind one of the bushes, undid his snowshoes and stretched out his aching legs, rubbing them with his mittened hands.

Ahh ... the relief that flowed through his legs.

He would just nod off for a few moments to get his strength back.


"Don't be a fool - get a fire started - boil some water - then you can sleep."

He looked around for wood to start a fire and was pleased to see that close by there were sticks that would work very nicely. He crawled over to the scattered branches, having to dig them out of the frozen snow with his non-cooperative frozen hands, and brought them back to his little shelter.

Joe stamped out the base for a fire. Each time his foot hit the frozen ground - it caused sharp pain right up to his groin.

Thank goodness he still had a few matches. He would have to use some of his sermon notes to help start the fire.

He put his pack in position to block the wind, placed a couple of hard worked on sermon note pages under the kindling and carefully lit the paper and fed the kindling to the burning paper.

It caught!

Within minutes he had a good fire burning and with it, hope.

"I wonder if this sermon ever caught a person on fire?" he muttered to himself.

"Not likely, I still have a lot to learn about preaching but unless I can make it back to the town tomorrow, I won't have to worry much about the future!

Now I have to get this pot off the leather tie attached to my pack.

My fingers aren't working. They are starting to freeze now they are out of my fur mitts. I must get closer to the fire - and warm my hands up for a few seconds and try again. It feels like needles piercing my fingers and hands. Goodness, the pain is unbearable. I'm not sure I can stand it much longer. Rub them together. Get the circulation flowing again. Are they frost bitten? I don't think so - I heard once, that you can't feel them when they're frost bitten and I sure can feel my hands. Keep rubbing - stop crying - you're a man and men don't cry! Well this one sure is - oh the pain! I must be getting used to the pain - I can actually move my fingers without the flashes of pins and needles - I better get the pot while I still have some use of my fingers - I just have to pull this string - there, the pot is free. Now get your mitts back on and get some snow into the pot - I need water and I need food!"

The voices in his head were as real as if someone was in the camp talking with him.

"What did people say about hearing voices - the first sign of insanity? In my case, the voices are keeping me sane! If I keep hearing the voices - I know I'm still alive.

I Think?

Sometime I'm going to ponder the theological implications of whether people hear voices after they die ... but not right now!"

Water wasn't going to be a problem with all this snow around - but food.

"I'll have to cut a piece off the top of my Mukluks and throw it into the boiling water to make soup. It will taste terrible, but at least it will have a bit of food value. It will make my stomach feel full if nothing else."

Joe cut another couple of inches off his Mukluks.

He realized that his earlier thoughts of making it to the camp by morning were conditional on the storm letting up. Already he had spent half a day fighting his way up the mountain in this seemingly never ending storm.

The owner of the halfway house had warned him it was late in the season to try to negotiate the pass. She had said that they were expecting a major storm at any time.

She had been right!

About a mile away from the halfway house the storm had hit and he still had a good five miles to go - almost straight up. He wasn't carrying any provisions. Why should he? He was intending to get them at Trout Lake City. He was told it was only a 15 mile hike from the spot on the Columbia River where the canoe had dropped him.

In retrospect the decision to head off to his new mission field at this time of year had been a big mistake.

Joe was in a hurry to return to the work of the Lord. He had been commissioned to open new Mission fields in British Columbia. He'd already spent a year in and around Rossland, Donald, New Denver, Slocan and Revelstoke developing missions and churches for the Methodist Church and reporting to Wesley College in Winnipeg, designated the Regional Headquarters for the Methodist Church in the West.

It was 1897. He had arrived in Revelstoke in the fall of 1895 as a Probationary Student Minister for the Methodist Church of Canada.

With pride, he had left behind two new Churches established in one year and it was this same pride that had made him decide to return from his furlough late in the season of 1897 to establish more churches. What did they say? "Pride goes before a fall".

Joe carried a 60 lb. pack. To lighten his load, to allow for his books, he had decided against provisions.

He was paying for it now!

Joe couldn't remember being so hungry and although it was 20 degrees below zero, he was breaking out in a sweat.

How as this possible? How could he be sweating when he was so hungry and cold?

"I must drink some mukluk soup at once, this will stop me shaking and sweating."

Joe was right, it tasted terrible, just like last night but he had to get it down.

Joe sipped and shook, then, shook and sipped and all the time the beads of sweat on his forehead were freezing into droplets of ice.

"I have to get this into me or I'll dehydrate. Once I'm finished, then I can curl up and sleep. I'll feel better in the morning. Maybe this storm will die down overnight." Thank God for the voices - at least they were making sense.

Chapter Two

A Call to Mission

"And he saith unto them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (KJV) Matthew 4:19

Joseph U. Robins was a student Missionary for the Methodist Church of Canada assigned to British Columbia, completing his second year as a Student Minister - or "Sky Pilot" as the men in the lumber camps tended to call him.

Joe wasn't a big man but he considered himself in good shape.

After graduating from school in Port Rowan he had moved to Detroit and was an elementary teacher in the Inner City. To supplement his meager teacher's salary, Joe had fought as a professional boxer for a couple of years before he had accepted the "Call" of the Methodist Church on his way to becoming a Minister.

Joe could remember going before the District Meeting of the Methodist Church in Hagersville when he first indicated his desire to go into Ministry.

A dourer group of men he couldn't remember ever meeting.

They held their court at the Methodist Church in Hagersville that spring day in 1885.

They had asked him if he believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior. "Yes" said Joe.

Had he been baptized? "Yes"

Had he been confirmed in the Methodist Church? "Yes"

Did he believe in the Trinity? "Yes" responded Joe.

Would he recognize the authority of the Methodist Courts with respect to discipline? After a short pause, Joe said, "Yes".

He reasoned that one must accept the will of the employer, or quit and if he felt that strongly about a decision of the Court - then he would have to quit!

Would he abstain from the use of tobacco? "Yes"

Would he abstain from the use of snuff? "Yes"

Would he totally abstain from the use of all alcohol? Joe didn't have any use for alcohol, so a ready "Yes" was not a problem.

Finally, they asked him if he would "fast" on a regular basis as part of his spiritual journey.

Joe didn't know how to answer. He stood and stared at the assembly.

He believed in a well-balanced diet and knew from his fighting days that he needed food to have the strength to fulfill his vision. How could he answer this question honestly and not throw away his chances of being accepted. Wasn't he already defying the authority of the Court that he had just finished saying he would respect? Was he finished before he was even started? Surely this was not what God had in mind for him? He knew he had been "Called" to be a Minster.

He remembered vividly the day he was out sailing on the bay. It was this summer's holiday and he had just completed two years of teaching inner city kids in Detroit.

He knew he had had a major influence on many of the children in his care but he also knew there was no way they were getting out of the ghetto that was their home and their lives. Did he want to spend his life in this futile existence or was there something else he should be doing? He'd spend the summer holidays exploring his options.

Here he was sailing the little craft he and his father had built when he had just become a teenager.

His Father was a well respected ship builder out of Port Rowan and the hours that he and Joe had spent building this little craft were some of Joe's fondest memories.

Joe could make the little craft dance over the water. The weather was perfect, wind offshore, water calm and the sun warm. All was right in God's world.

Joe had always gone to church as a youngster and had won awards for his ability to recite verses from memory. He enjoyed both the rewards but more importantly, the recognition of the adults and his peers - especially the girls.

Joe was tacking to head off to the far shore when he heard a voice in his head say to him, "Joe, it's time to change course".

Where was this voice coming from?

He was alone in his little craft.

Again he heard the voice, as if there was someone sitting in the bow talking with him over the sound of the wind, "Joe, I want you to become a Minster in my Church and I will be there for you."

Joe didn't know what to make of all this. He lost his concentration and almost tipped the little craft over. Quickly, righting his course, he gained control of the boat and himself.

Where had that come from? Was that God speaking to him?


He had wondered what to do with his life, and God had told him. He would immediately head for shore and seek out how he could become a Minster of God's word.

Here he was before The District and ready to loose it all. Hadn't God said he'd be with him? Where was He now when Joe really needed Him?

The Assembly was growing uneasy with this young man. Why wasn't he answering? All he had to say was yes, and he would be approved.

The other two young men who had gone before Joe had answered all these questions, including the fasting question without a hesitation.

"I don't think I can say yes to this question." Joe responded.

Well, this threw the assembly into an uproar. Never before had anyone ever challenged this direction - should they approve him for a Probationary Appointment?

Joe then went on and the room became quiet, "I am willing to fast if my Doctor says I'm healthy enough to fast and I feel it won't affect my health."

This was not an answer the Assembly wanted to hear. Immediately there were men on their feet asking for recognition to speak and question Joe, trying to get the eye of the Chair.

The Chair, Rev. Lewis, used his gavel with the assurance of a Circuit Court Judge delivering a verdict of hanging.

Bang, Bang, Bang went the gavel and gradually the Assembly resumed a certain level of decorum that allowed Rev. Lewis to speak over the din.

"Well Mr. Robins, you've certainly stirred the pot today sir!"

"I felt I had to be honest sir." responded Joe.

"Indeed you were Mr. Robins, indeed you were."

Joe turned to be able to see both the Chair, Rev. Lewis, and the members of the Court, sitting out in the sanctuary.

He couldn't remember having seen so many frowns in one room.

Were these really the men God had called to spread His word.

Do I really want to be one of these?

Lord, what should I say, he pondered?

Then he remembered a prayer he had learned in Sunday School:

"Lord I give myself to You, let your will be done."

He had prayed it before, but usually he had put conditions on the prayer. Sometimes he had even tried to bargain with God. You know, if you give me this I'll be good forever. He wasn't sure if God had ever gone for those prayers.

This time he said the prayer and meant it - no conditions - just your will be done!

He opened his mouth to speak - when all of a sudden he had an idea.

He cleared his voice again, and with a strong voice full of confidence he certainly did not feel, asked the following question?

"Mr. Chairman, Members of the Court, all of you have taken this oath at your call to Ministry. May I be so bold to ask, how many of you faithfully fast as part of your spiritual journey?"

Hands started to be raised, then slowly came down -only two of 20 still held their hands up. Rev. Lewis wasn't one of the hands that stayed up!

Rev. Lewis looked around the Court.

"I think you've made your point Mr. Robins. By looking around this room I think we would be very hypocritical of us to ask you to do something that we don't do ourselves. I am going to rephrase the question. Mr. Robins, assuming that you are in good health and your Doctor agrees with the concept of fasting, would you consider fasting as part of your spiritual journey?"

Joe immediately replied, "Yes Sir!"

"Then it is with great humility and great pride that we recommend you to be a candidate for Ordained Ministry of the Methodist Church of Canada." and the room broke out in spontaneous applause. Joe was on his way to his Mission Field.

Chapter Three

Where It All Started

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (NIV) Philippians 4:13

He tucked in behind the wind break he had made by sticking his snowshoes into the snow and tying a blanket around the frames.

He knew he was fighting a fever as well as the frigid cold winds.

Joe stoked up the fire with the largest branches he could find, hoping the fire would last until dawn - he didn't really want to crawl out of his blankets before then if he could help it.

Although dead tired, sleep didn't come easily to Joe as the wind continued to howl.

His mind roamed back to his childhood days on the beaches of Port Rowan - especially those summers of his youth.

The images were vivid, like he was reliving them all over again.

His Father was a tall, well built man who was a ship builder in the village of Port Rowan, Ontario, nestled on the shores of Lake Erie. Not only did he build lake boats, but had been involved in building a number of ocean clippers out of Halifax.

It was one of these ocean clippers that caused his death, in a round about way.


Excerpted from The Scrapping Sky Pilot by Keith W. Hudson Copyright © 2009 by Keith W. Hudson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1 To Live or Die....................1
Chapter 2 A Call to Mission....................7
Chapter 3 Where It All Started....................13
Chapter 4 Love is Sweet....................51
Chapter 5 David and Goliath....................67
Chapter 6 Slate and Chalk....................87
Chapter 7 Young Minds....................91
Chapter 8 The Adventure Begins....................111
Chapter 9 Rossland....................117
Chapter 10 "The Scrapping Sky Pilot"....................167
Chapter 11 Revelstoke How firm a foundation....................217
Chapter 12 Revelstoke - Revisited A Builder of God's Kingdom....................257
Chapter 13 A Heart Filled Break....................279
Chapter 14 Sandon An Oriental Experience - Mission to the World....................287
Chapter 15 The End Is Near....................305

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