Excerpt from "True North"

Red Lake, Ontario
A huge, part-Newfoundland dog ambles over. He leans against me, begging to be petted-and I discover he's loaded with ticks. As I pluck them off, "Large" waits patiently, then rolls over for a more thorough job. Looking like eight-legged burgundy grapes, the ticks make satisfying plops as I toss them into the lake, shattering flotillas of water beetles that are whirling away the day.
Fuel is expensive in Canada. Twenty-six U.S. gallons comes to $US 160-much more than I'd pay at home. I offer my MasterCard to "Laura," Green's Airway's auburn-haired clerk, then phone the Department of Transport to file a flight plan. As I turn to leave, "Laura" slips out from behind the counter and follows me through the door.
"I heard you file for Churchill," she says. "I've always wanted to go there. Not for long, though. It's too cold, you know."
"I don't blame you," I reply. "I've been there eight or nine times, and I haven't tired of it yet."
"It's the polar bears that intrigue me," she continues, "and the white whales, too. Everyone who stops here on their way south raves about them." Then, as I'm about to tell her about Churchill's abandoned forty-cannon fortress, she asks, "Are you just on a short holiday?"
"Two or three weeks. After Churchill I'm heading north to Baker Lake, then up to the Arctic coast. If the weather holds, I might end up in Alaska."
She stares at the plane, her eyes searching. "God," she sighs, looking directly at me, "I'd give anything to go along."
Surprised, I stammer, "Yeah, well . . ." then wave a hand at what she can plainly see-a passenger seat filled with gear. Besides, there's that thing called marriage, which my wedding ring proclaims.
As I taxi away from the pier amid a storm of fantasies, Large begins to howl. When I turn into the wind, Laura is stroking his huge head with one hand and waving with the other. I raise a hand to her, my fingers spread as if to grasp something, then lift the water rudder and pour on the gas."

Thelon Game Sanctuary - Northwest Territories
"By the time I pass the tiny shack at Lookout Point I'm weary of searching for game, so I push the Cub's nose down until I'm twenty feet above the river, pour on the fuel and roll from side to side as I bank through the Thelon's turns. As the shoreline flashes past, waves of goose bumps wash up and down my spine. I am Walter Mitty, come to the rescue in my Spitfire, or perhaps in a Wart Hog-the ugly, low-level fighter bomber of the Gulf War. Darting up the Thelon at all of Mach .13, I hold my heading when the river turns, pull up abruptly to clear the trees, then shove the nose down again as the river rounds the bend.
With my ears monitoring the engine's roar, my eyes constantly measuring the height and distance of the oncoming trees and my muscles evaluating feedback from the Cub, I weave back and forth within the confines of the river's spruce-topped banks. I'm a surfer in the Banzai pipeline-the roaring surf my engine, the speeding surfboard my wings. Whipping up and down the breaker's face, I arc through three-G turns, living on the edge while excusing myself with Robert Burns:

If there be life after death, he lies in bliss;
If not, he made the most of this.

Aiming again at a wall of trees, I pull up hard to leap another point of land. When I shove the nose down, I'm suddenly looking into an explosion of running musk oxen-huge mounds of fur startled into flight by the intruding Cub.
I pull back on the stick, bank left and gain two hundred feet. Scattered, but regrouping below, are more than twenty musk oxen bulls and cows and at least one calf. I throttle back to two thousand rpm, raise the window and circle for photos.
The musk oxen slowly drift back toward the point, pushing through shoulder-high brush as I slip the Cub to an unseen landing on the peninsula's opposite shore. I'm sure that I won't be able to get close to the herd, so I snap a 200 mm lens onto my camera, scramble up the riverbank and begin to push through the thickets.
Something to my left moves. I'm stunned to see a humped-shouldered, seven-hundred-pound bull musk ox staring at me. Less than thirty feet away and looking like an evolutionary throwback with an ominous brow and huge curved horns, he snorts and paws the ground. As his wooly-mammoth-like coat wavers in the wind, I center his bulk in the Nikon's viewfinder while reassuring myself of the musk ox's defensive nature and the claim that they rarely charge."

The author donates all of his book profits to educational charities.

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George Erickson, 4678 Cedar Island Drive, Eveleth, MN 55734