Keeping the tracks turning

When the Larch Hills Nordic Society’s Piston Bully 200 tracksetter belches black smoke, there’s a mechanic ready to take charge.

Ready to roll: Volunteer extraordinaire Dave Brubaker keeps the tracksetter going.

When the Larch Hills Nordic Society’s Piston Bully 200 tracksetter belches black smoke, there’s a skilled mechanic ready to take charge and get things running again.

Dave Brubaker of Salmon Arm has volunteered with LHNS for about 20 years. During that time, he’s worked on much more than the club’s tracksetters. He’s repaired, maintained and created many other machines and items with his professional mechanical and welding skills.

Recently, Brubaker spent hundreds of hours planning out, welding and helping to paint and install several sets of massive metal gates to protect sensitive bog areas.

“The club bought the steel and I made them. I had the plan in my head. I laid the metal out on the floor and started welding. I was up there everyday for about 10 hours a day.”

Brubaker worked as a mechanic for more than 40 years, mainly looking after huge fleets of equipment in all shapes and sizes.

“I worked on everything you can think of, from chainsaws and lawnmowers to trucks and skidoos, to farm tractors, huge cats, loaders and graders.”

Brubaker’s work as a mechanic took him from working in Vancouver, next to the Fraser River, to a new shop in Williams Lake, to Skimikin Nursery, from where he eventually retired.

Still, Brubaker loves being a mechanic, doing what is often demanding physical work that requires problem- solving and trouble-shooting skills.

“It’s what I’ve done my whole working life. It keeps you in good shape. You’re always lifting, and getting up and down, doing a sit-up from lying on a creeper. It gets me out of the house,” he chuckles.

When he’s not fixing machines, Brubaker skis – cross-country and downhill. In the summer months, he sometimes takes his Harley for a spin.

Motorcycles are what started Brubaker down the mechanical path.

“I first picked up a wrench when I was 18, to work on my Honda 50 and that’s when it all started,” he recalls with a laugh. “I’ve been working at it ever since.”

Before volunteering as the LHNS mechanic, Brubaker helped out mainly with trail clearing for a few years, until the club took him up on his offer to help with machine repair and maintenance. Though Brubaker sometimes drives the club tracksetter in the winter months, he dedicates most of his time to fixing it.

“I mainly wait by the phone to fix it if it breaks down out on the trail.”

When that happens, Brubaker, who is usually already up working at the tracksetter building, loads up his tools and snowmobiles to fix the machine on the spot.

Brubaker said he never really tires of doing mechanical work or volunteering for the many other jobs he does for LHNS, from keeping the club’s machine shed organized to building the odd outhouse.

“Actually, I just really enjoy it.”

Head tracksetter Blaine Carson, himself a longtime LHNS volunteer, said Brubaker is “extremely important” to the club.

“It would cost LHNS many thousands of dollars to hire someone to do his work. Having someone local to call on means we are back in operation much more quickly after a breakdown.”

The latest “Dave Brubaker gates,” said Carson, not only help protect vulnerable wetland areas but also give a professional look to the LHNS facilities.

Before the Brubaker-built gates, said Carson, “at one point Bilbo’s Bog looked like a ploughed farmer’s field,” due to mud bogging.

“We are hoping the gates make it apparent that these areas, many of which are in Violet Creek Park, are closed. The education program and signage, along with our vigilant caretaker, Pauline, has made a remarkable difference.

“On the whole, people are very respectful and take great care of the wonderful resource we have in the Larch Hills, summer and winter.”


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