Chris Beel is a mechanic through and through.
“It’s not just that it’s what I do best, but I still enjoy it. Even after all these many years of doing this sort of work I still find it challenging. There’s an element of creativity involved, too, and that keeps the work interesting.”
When a fellow’s hobbies are hard to separate from what he does for a living, you know the guy is doing the work he loves.
A VP 2 aircraft Beel has been building for about five years is nearing completion. He’s actually been making many of the parts for the craft, melting metal to form the necessary shapes.
The plan is to finish it and fly it.
He has had a pilot’s licence since 1978.
There’s also a ‘86 Nissan 300 ZX sitting in the yard, a vehicle Chris refers to as his “midlife crisis car,” and one he’s now says he is prepared to sell—to the right person.
At the time of this interview there is a shop being built behind his house. TANA automotive will be open for business in the spring.
Beel wishes to be clear about the fact he continues and will continue to work with Norman Leclerc, who owns Rugged Terrain Repair.
“I come from Vancouver Island where the mechanics tend to work co-operatively; it seems an unheard of concept here. Norman and I are not partners in a business sense, but we do work together for the benefit of ourselves and our customers.”
Beel’s spirit of co-operation extends to marriage; he was married twice before he arrived in the North and met his third and final wife, Lori.
“I came to Watson Lake to get away from a woman,” he says with a grin. “She wanted money and I didn’t want to give it to her.”
He and Lori were both working at Bee Jay’s when they met; they were married two years ago. Beel praises her for her honesty and her ability to manage money.
“She’s great at figuring out how we can do things in a productive way,” he says. “Lori has the business plan worked out.”
Lori grew up in Cache Creek, BC. She was never interested in city life, so Watson Lake suits her fine.
These days she works as a clerk at the local Super A grocery store. However, the hope is that she will eventually work full time in the automotive business the couple is building.
What drew her to Beel?
“He’s kind and generous. He wasn’t really interested in dogs at first, at least not to the same degree; I’ve owned a dog ever since I was in Grade 2 and can’t imagine life without one. Hoss is the dog that hooked Chris because he chose Chris and is completely devoted to him. It’s hard for anyone to resist a creature that loves you totally.”
The couple own the only house in Watson Lake on a hill. Actually, the hill is the remaining part of an esker and, as such, provides them with a nice view as well as privacy.
There are gardens, flowers and a picket fence, suggesting the couple enjoy their home and invest time and energy into creating an attractive, comfortable place for themselves.
They now also have a mutual love of animals, sharing their home with two cats, a terrier, a blue heeler/shepherd cross and three dachshunds.
The three dachshunds are the stars of the interview; they are engaging little animals with alert faces and a readiness to interact.
“I was born in England and have been back several times,” Beel says as he plays with the dogs, trying to get them to settle for a picture. “My sister-in-law in England was a breeder of dachshunds and I always found them interesting. They tend to chose a favourite person and become very attached.”
Five years ago they got their first dachshund, Desiree. She’d had a rough puppyhood, coming from a ‘puppy mill’ and is still more timid than the other two.
Hoss came from a woman in Whitehorse, Judy, and he clearly had a wonderful youth, being very relaxed and outgoing. Though he is friendly and approachable to guests, he is manifestly Chris Beels’ dog, staying close to his owner for much of the interview.
Rosie is the newcomer; at just 12 weeks old she is the one who gets the most attention and deservedly so, being quite ridiculously cute with her almost non-existent legs and floppy ears.
Why dachshunds over other breeds?
Beel, a practical man, is ready with his reasons.
“They live quite a long time, which is a good thing, obviously, and they are easy keepers – they don’t eat a lot.”
Are they easy to train?
“They can be stubborn,” he says.
There are plans to breed Rosie; they would like her to have a least one litter of pups and, after seeing how very adorable she is, it is not hard to imagine there would be no problem in finding homes for them.
Beel likes living in Watson Lake.
“It reminds me of the ‘50s and ‘60s here,” he says. “It’s not commercialized. There aren’t malls tempting you to spend money. And I don’t think it is an expensive place to live, though I don’t find a lot of people who would agree with me about that.”
Tor Forsberg is a freelance writer who lives in Watson Lake.