Welcome to our ranch near Canada's west coast in Beautiful British Columbia's West Chilcotin mountain region. Where calling the vet means hollering back at the house to bring your kit, new friendships are formed from the back of a horse and true fun for a five year old is getting a machete for Christmas. Where 'cutting the dinks off' has a totally different meaning than what first comes to mind, Muck Boots are a household name, a hand shake still means something and the coffee is always on.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

End of June

First off, there is no more sign of the rogue bear.  I think momma cow took care of that problem.  There is still bear 'sign', but not more bear 'kills' to be found, which is the important part.  
Otherwise we have been riding riding riding, and no, I'm not even close to tired of doing that!  Mum is pretty much 100% now, you would not be able to tell she is still recovering from a broken wrist.  It is certainly not as strong as it used to be, but she has been to the physiotherapist for techniques and exercises to strengthen and get all the muscles working again.  We both agreed that riding is the best kind of therapy anyhow, on many levels!


  

The cows look great and the calves continue to grow.  So far the bulls have remained reasonably sound (only one seriously lame one, that is pretty good!) and of course the grass is amazing.  A couple of our neighbors are about to start cutting hay, and I can tell you that is plain out amazing for Anahim Lake!  Haying in JUNE??  I know, I know, many others are working on their second crop....  But not in our little piece of Beautiful BC! 
The hay is as tall as I am (REALLY tall...haha!).  
Do you see an extra face?

I had a chance to look at the colts the other day.  Crazy how much they have grown already.  And even more amazing that those wee backs and legs will very soon be strong enough to pack me.  


  Hardly looks like the wobbly little fella he once was!  This is the baby that Nikky and I had to stall up with his momma when the big mare tried to steal him!  

Now Miss Kitty, the baby thief, has her own!  And what a solid cutie pie he is. 
   
The weather continues to be hot, and with school now out, the boys are spending much of their time in the creek!  They have been riding with me quite a bit too, but I keep forgetting my camera....


And in other news, we snuck away for the afternoon last Saturday to go to a Horsemanship Clinic with Evan Howarth.  I will talk a bit more about the clinics in another post, but one thing is for sure.  I always come away empowered and inspired by Evan's amazing ability with horses.  Our young friend Cody took the clinic and here he is having some round pen fun with his mare Cessna.  

The big bouncy balls are the best.  Gets horse and rider focusing and working together.  And what better than a game of hoof ball?  

Evan rides his horse through the obstacle first.  Soon, everyone is trotting through the tarp, over the cow hide and hitting the ball.  You wouldn't believe what this does for horse and rider......awesome!  

  
Thought of this first photo when I headed up to check the meadow tonight.  Couldn't quite remember exactly where I had taken it from and was just a bit far back when I took the second one today.  (Rained earlier so looks muddy....) 

Alright, I'm signing off for tonight.  I will be flying with my brother first thing again tomorrow morning for a good look around and see where everything is.  Mum, Olivia and Cody will meet me at the airport and then we will head off to move cattle on the Lille Lake Range.  Not supposed to be quite so hot so hopefully the cattle move okay.  Yesterday was some kind of heat record I'm sure, and it took us 4 hours to convince them to move just a few miles.  That gets to be like work!

Cheers all!  
Punky

      



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Warning! Bear Kill Photos



So here we go folks, the bear kill photos, as promised.  These are just a few of the many many I have. 

For those that might be interested, I've added a link that describes the different types of predator attacks.  I tried to copy and paste a bit, but it shows up in a messed up format. 

http://www.cattlemen.bc.ca/docs/investigation%20_%20evaluation%20of%20predator%20kill%20attacks.pdf

These first three are of the first calf I found.  He looks a bit odd as his stomach contents have been completely removed and eaten.  The damage at the withers is very typical of a bear attack, although it had been eaten on by other smaller animals before I found it.      

 This next photo shows bruising under the skin around the wound to his back/neck area.  There is less of the calf to take photos of as probably a coyote had been there for a good dinner before the Conservation Officer got there.    




Here you can see the damage to his neck and face.  


I'm sure you are all well aware that there would be no bruising at all if the animal had died of sickness etc, and then been eaten on.  His heart was most certainly pumping when the chewing and beating began.  

The following are those of the cow.  

Oh dang it.... a dead cow, no marks visible.  


Skinning poor O404 out.  Just look at the bruising to the neck and face!  This was not a gentle way to pass out of this world.      

The hide is coming right off here, and you can see the trauma to her neck, withers area and shoulders.  

The bruising went very deep in her throat area.  

This photo shows the difference between what a skinned out carcass should look like (the back half of her body) and what the bear did to her front end.   

The skinned out hide lying in front of the cow to show the bruising and area damaged.  What a battle it must have been!  

And if that was not enough, here are a few of her calf. 

If you are sick of looking at these, think of how we feel.  
We raised these animals.    

Cowboy (Henry's dog) checking the scene for us.  You can partly see the slough here, that was flattened during the fight between momma cow and the bear.  And yes, those are cattle in the background.  Smart, aren't they?   

Obvious claw marks in the wither area.  

Bruising beneath the hide (what was left) and claw marks.  

What you see from the outside of the nose.  


What you see on the inside.  
Ouch.  


All of these photos were taken for the verification process and sent to the Conservation Officer Service of the Ministry of Environment.  

Okay, thats enough for tonight.  
I'll stop writing gruesome posts (as long as the bear leaves us alone) and get back to the gentler side of ranch life.  

The best to you all, 
Punky


The Bear Story

So I wrote this several days ago, and have come back for a proof read before sending it out.  I know that wild animal/domestic animal conflicts have been a 'hot' topic, and I have no desire to resurrect any well hammered debate or initiate anything but friendly conversation.  My intention with this blog saga was to 'tell it like it is', and shed a bit more light on the ranching industry and our beautiful piece of British Columbia.  I feel that the more information that is available via real people (as opposed to media with an agenda), the better for everyone.  Our industry included.  We get such a bad rap sometimes, it drives me crazy.  Despite popular belief, not all ranchers and guides 'shoot everything they see'.  In fact, quite the opposite.  When we see the caribou racing down the flat, we all stand up to watch and wonder.  No one even thinks about a gun.  When we come to a cow and calf moose on a slippery icy road, we slow right down and back off to make sure they can find a good exit and not be too pressured.  Hay bales are left out in the winter, specifically to deter mommas and babies from being on the road, or foraging out where they are easy pickings for the wolves.  No self respecting outdoorsman would think of harming mother with young babies, be it a grouse or a deer.  A couple of friends of mine just commented the other day about watching 2 black bears enjoy the new green grass in their fields.    
Having said all that,  ranching in our piece of beautiful British Columbia also includes dealings with predators, including wolves and bears.  And there has to be a balance.  I'm a bit apprehensive about putting a post like this out.  Not because I'm even slightly uncomfortable about our life and lifestyle, but because I'm more of a 'hands on storyteller' than a debater.  So to those that want to get fired up about events I'm about to describe,  "come on out" I say!  Get your gumboots, and maybe some gloves (some Vicks for your nose?) and help us skin this cow out.  We will reminisce about what a good mother she was as we take short breaths and examine the shocking and massive  trauma to her body.  We will remember how willingly she took on the orphaned baby this spring, who is now a bag of bones and dried hide.  We probably won't even mention both the short and long term cost of this night's bear play because we will be too busy trying to both keep our heads up for danger (where IS that bear?) and down to read the signs.  When the dog barks, we'll both jump and nervously laugh at our pounding hearts.  If you do want a debate, I'll hook you up with my neighbor, who has a much sharper tongue and quicker wit than I do.  If you want to just hear the rest of the story, stick with me here.      

First, I want to say that what I am describing to you is fairly unusual behavior for a bear, and we have not had problems like this for quite a few years.  (Other areas have.)  There are black and grizzly bears out here, always have been, and generally they mind their own business and leave the cattle alone.  (We have had significant wolf problems over the last few years, but not bear so much.)  I am always very comfortable riding by myself and have never had a scary or worrisome incident to do with a bear.   (Knock on wood.)   Part of the reason for this is that, out here, the bears are still 'wild'.  If you do see a bear, it's usually his hind end as he races out of sight.  This is not the case everywhere (such as Bella Coola, where they wander through mowed lawns and destroy fruit trees only meters from your front door), but our bears do not associate humans with food at all.  Certainly no one feeds them (by choice or by garbage) and they still have a healthy respect for humans.  Which is how it should be....keeps everyone safe.


 
Usually this is the only sign I find of bears!  


Most of the local ranchers took a verification course several years ago.  The course goes in to great depth about how to tell a) IF it was killed by an animal (or died of sickness or other event and then was eaten on later) and b) what the animal most likely was (cougar, bear and wolves all attack very differently and distinctly).  
When we reported the first calf, there happened to be a Conservation Officer nearby.   The calf also happened to be accessible by quad,  and the officer came out and confirmed, as we had thought, that the calf had been killed by a bear.  A young black bear was the educated guess, who had probably been run off by the mother cow.  (I did eventually find her, alive and well.)  We all crossed our fingers that it was an isolated event.  Calves and yearlings can really put themselves in to stupidly dangerous situations....it's not just the cat that curiosity killed.
So that was Wednesday that I found that calf.  
Over the weekend I did another shoeing trip to Bella Coola. 


My friend Lorri taking her turn at the barrel race at the gymkana in Bella Coola.  

When I got back, I had a message from our friends and neighbors, Henry and Aileen, that some of our cows had gotten into one of their pastures.  Mum and I saddled up and headed over there Monday morning and sorted our cattle off.  We could see another bovine way across the pasture and it didn't look good.  Cows generally don't spend much time all by themselves and this one wasn't moving at all.  
We rode closer and sure enough, four feet were sticking in the air.  :(  There were absolutely no marks to be seen on the cow and our first thought was that she had gotten on her back and died.  
We finished moving our cows and, as we rode back to recruit some help, Henry and Aileen rode up.  We then skinned out the cow to get a better picture of the story.  And it immediately became very obvious that she had most certainly not died from 'natural causes'.  In fact, it looked like she had been hit by a freight train or beat with a baseball bat wielded by a Sasquatch.  It had happened between about 10pm Saturday, and 11am Sunday, and we found her on Monday.  (We know the time as Aileen and her sister had been fencing in the area.)  All the sign most definitely pointed towards a bear (verified by three qualified people), including the body area damaged and the trauma inflicted.  The strange part is that the bear had not been back to claim or eat on his kill at all.  Very very odd.  Bears just don't leave their kill untouched.  If nothing else, they bury it to come back later and certainly would not leave it out in the open.  It also seemed very strange that there were really no signs of struggle on the ground...you would expect to see all sorts of torn up earth.  Aliens were suspected.  We watched closely for Sasquatch sign, or the baseball bat.  We ruled out the freight train as the nearest one is 200 miles away.  It was a bear....but where was he?  (Or she?)      

Ting peaking in to my photo...

We called in incident in to the Conservation Officers and had an extended conversation with a man very well respected and well known in predator control.  We sent photos and described everything as well as we could.  He agreed that the kill most certainly sounded like a bear but was also puzzled by the fact that the carcass was untouched.  There was nothing to do but wait and see.    
(Am I going to give you nightmares?  I sure don't mean to, but if I am to keep this saga 'real', then this is 'really' what we are dealing with at the moment.)
The next day, the cow was still untouched by anything besides birds.  Aileen and I flew with my older brother (or rather, sat in the plane as he flew it) and didn't really see much.  We were both happy to get back on our horses (which are plenty high enough off the ground for me!) and were a bit relieved when Henry decided to join us as well.  Long story short, we found the calf of the dead cow.  In  much the same state as the cow, except a wolf had been enjoying the free dinner.  And here, less than 1/2 a mile from the cow, the story started to come together.  And yes, the calf had certainly been killed by the bear, not the wolf, and definitely not died from sickness etc.  The claw/bite marks across the withers, bruising around the neck and clear bites and bruising to the face/nose area told everything we needed to know.  Poor little Peanut, we grafted that calf on to that momma this spring!!  




So the story as we have pieced together.
  
The bear attacked the calf, perhaps out of it's own stupidity in getting too close, or perhaps as a follow up to the first one he killed.  (I am sure we are not so unlucky as to have two bears working us over!)  As he mortally wounded the calf, momma cow came charging to the rescue and an amazing fight took place.  The cow was an older animal and probably one of our biggest, and they certainly tore up some earth.  There is a little slough near where were found the calf, and the grass is fairly flattened through and near it.   The end result, as we can tell, is that the cow ended up getting away, but dying from her injuries where we found her.  And, we are thinking, that the bear did not fair well in the fight either, and that is why he has not been back to claim either of his kills.  So he is either laid up somewhere, healing up, or perhaps the stinker expired too.  One can only hope. 
We have all been riding more than usual, and there is simply no sign of the bear around, and he has not once been back to his kills.  (I'm using 'he' generally, could easily be a sow.)


I'm not adding photos of the kills directly on to this post as they are quite graphic.  I'm not writing this for shock value.    
 I will put the photos on another post, mark it clearly and you can choose whether or not to open it.  I'll send it tomorrow, so if you are someone that gets these posts by email, and you do not want to see the photos, then just delete the next one.  They are interesting and you'll understand why there is no question about if the animals "died naturally", but I have no desire to force you to see them either.  This 'ranching in the wilderness' business is not always pretty.

As Always,
Punky

PS....still no sign of the bear....perhaps old momma cow really did serve up a side of justice!  
       

      

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A Pleasant Five Hundred Mile Ride

Well, things are not so wonderful in the ranching scene right now.  We now have three confirmed and verified bear kills and its an odd situation with the bear not coming back to feed on, or claim the carcasses at all.  It has certainly caused a lot of watchful miles range riding (not to mention a bit of stress) as with our extensive ranges, who knows how many others have been killed and not found.   Anyhow, I've decided that I won't get in to that right at the moment but will put it in the 'to be continued' file.  I am going to let Grandma Dorsey do the story telling tonight.  I'm too tired and cranky to play nice.....   
 
So her she is, well on her way to Vanderhoof. 
Cheers all.  :)  


This is Grandma Dorsey, with one of her boys 
(we haven't figured out which)  

"We were well hardened to riding.  Our main concern was horse flesh.  We watched them carefully.  the signs along the trail corresponded with the described landmarks.  We left the course of the Blackwater River, tarried to inspect the dry lakes, crossed the stream that flowed from the Batnuni Lakes and followed the new course along the shores of Batnuni Lakes.  We made our second stop that day by the Batnuni Lake and went swimming.  A strong wind started to blow from the lake.  
According to our tattered map, an old corral was located in the underbrush close to the peninsula where we were swimming.  The peninsula hadn't changed and before long we found the old corral that had been built to hold cattle on the beef drives to Vanderhoof.  For several years the Frontier Cattle Company had driven the beef drive through this area.  Just behind the corral the trail wound steeply over the hill.  In winter it was still used by trappers in the area but we found it difficult to follow.  When we lost the cattle trail we followed the game trails; for cattle are excellent engineers and their trails are usually surveyed to give you the easiest climb.
The uncertain wind from the lake had been a storm warming.  We were sure of this when we could hear the cry of the gulls circling the lake.  We traveled steadily upward.  The sky became overcast now, snow fell.  Before long we were cold and wet through.  It was better to travel than to stop for we were in jackpine and spruce country and horse feed was scarce.  Late in the afternoon a hail storm covered the ground with a inch of hailstones.  A sleety snow followed and before long it was pitch black on the mountain side.  In this blackness the horses could follow the trail much better than we could, but we checked quite often to see that they were not circling back on their tracks and starting home.  
Two hours after dark a squall came howling out of the north and we crouched in our saddles and thought about warmer places.  The wind cleared some of the blackness and a few feeble stars showed through.  We were wet and cold but we were grateful that we were still on the trail.  
Just before midnight the trail leveled and started downhill.  Peggy dismounted to check the trail for sign and found a freshly chopped jackpine stump.  We gave up our idea of camping out and traveled on.  Someone must live within a few miles.  
Then a dog barked, a welcome joyous bark that made the snowy dropping tress look more like snow clad statues.  Our eyes searched the wilderness for a light.  The dog continued to bark and a few seconds late we saw a yellow glow from a window.  We had crossed the mountain and were at Goodlands Ranch on the Nechako watershed.


Photo Credit Vreni F.  

A cheery greeting from an open door and as we entered the corral gate, Mr. Goodland came to take our horses to the barn.  The house was warm and before Mrs. Goodland turned up the wick of the brass lamp, I could see a red glow from the front of the heater where a couple of jackpine logs rested on the coals.  
The Goodlands had built their ranch on a wild meadow high on a hillside.  They had cut their road from Vanderhoof.  They provided us with good company, good food and good beds that stormy night.  Our horses were fed grain and fresh mown hay while we enjoyed the excellent hospitality.  So ended our sixth day on the trail.  
We awakened late the following morning.  The sun pierced the grey ceiling with a feeble show of light.  We dressed in our dry clothes, said our goodbye's and crossed the puddles to the road that led to Vanderhoof.  This road was well traveled.  We passed the Sinket Mountain lookout, and as we descended the hill before us we could see the wheatland.  By evening the settlers homesteads were closer together.  We were approaching the railway and civilization.  We found lodging eight miles south of the railroad and were in Vanderhoof by noon on our eighth day from home.  
Vanderhoof, our destination, was a railroad town in a wheat farming community.  Rangeland was limited, but shipments of stock from surrounding areas were driven into the stockyard to be delivered to Prince Rupert by rail.
When we crossed the railroad tracks our horses shied at the unfamiliar sights.  Vanderhoof was used to saddle traffic and our arrival was of little consequence.  We crossed the bridge on the Nechako River and followed eight miles downstream to the Tritt Ranch.
They were alarmed to hear that we were taking the young stud back with us.  He was a beautiful Percheron yearling with a white star on his forehead.  I christened him Capan.  We spent three days at Vanderhoof.  By that time Capan was used to our saddle horses and to us..  We led him daily but his keeper came with us when we departed until we had crossed the tracks and headed into the wilderness.  We had ten days left in which to make the return journey.
Capan caused us no trouble.  After the first day out he followed us without a lead rope.  When we camped he was willing to stay with our horses, and he pranced around and enjoyed his freedom.  The third day as we were skirting a swamp, Capan threw his head high in the air and sent a shrill call across the opening.  We stopped.  There on the far edge of the swamp a bull moose with a mighty rack of horns answered the call.  We had been travelling downwind, unnoticed.  The moose paused, looked majestically over the landscape and pawed at the muskeg.  Capan called again and raced toward the swamp as a challenger.  But he was not built for swamp travel and the mud sucked at his feet and started to bog him down.  After a struggle he freed himself, looked to the bull moose charging across the swamp, looked to our saddle horses on the hillside, and whinnied in terror for them to wait.  Capan realized his mistake as he left the swamp with the snorting bellowing moose close behind him.  His coltish clumsiness seemed to disappear as soon as he was back on the trail and we let our horses out.  Peggy was in the lead on Honey and Lady was right on her heels.  Her mane flew back in my face as I crouched low.  She needed no other urging.  I glanced back.  Capan was running all out now.  The bull moose was lumbering along the trail blowing and snorting.  When I glanced back again the moose had fallen behind but was still shaking his huge head at the terrified Capan.  When the excitement was over we walked our horses until they cooled.  When we stopped for our swim we washed them down in the cool river water.  
At the Home Ranch we picked up our pack horses and followed the same trail over the Itcha Mountains.  There was not extra time left for exploring.  On the twenty first day we picked up the baby at the old Hudson Bay House and I hugged him close to me as we rode the six miles to the Pelican Lake Ranch.
It had been a pleasant five hundred mile ride.  Capan had been delivered safe and sound.  Now it was beef drive time. 


Friday, 12 June 2015

Reality Bites Deep, and the next leg of the journey

Mum and Olivia and I moved cows up to the top end of the Lillie Lake range 2 days ago.  The area was logged off last winter and sure looks different than the last time I was up there!   


Luckily mum and dad spend some time in the area earlier with quads so we knew which spur road to travel.  We finished shifting the cattle in the early afternoon and then I got dropped off to swing through another area.  After several hours of not finding animals where I thought they would be, I finally found a large group of cows.  It was about 6pm by this time.  I decided I should move them anyhow so convinced them to start on.  They were unwilling and cranky about it, and with both my horse and dog already tired from their many miles, it was a bit of a challenge.  And then, when we got to a large island of trees, all the cows stopped and started bawling and milling around in a tight circle.  This is typical behavior when they come across a dead animal (we always say they are having a funeral) and my heart sank as I rode over to find out what it was.
I've debated whether or not to post a photo, but staying with the theme of keeping this blog sage "real", I decided I would put just one up.  After all, unfortunately, not everything we see are range cows with mountains in the background and amazing sunsets.  Sometimes reality bites.   


The calf was intact enough to show all the signs of a black bear kill including a mortal wound at the top of the back (breaking the spine), excessive bruising under the skin (showing that it was alive at the time of the mauling, not dead from sickness or other factor and then eaten), and all the stomach contents gone.  I took some photos and continued on with the cattle, looking hopefully for the mother.  (Which I never did see.)  
The next day dad and a Conservation Officer came out to the scene to verify the kill and confirm that it was a bear.   
There are several possible scenarios here.  One is that it was a isolated incident of the calf getting too close to a bear, getting mauled, and then the bear being run off by the other cows.  But the kill is fresh enough the cow should still be near the calf.  Unless the mauled calf ran away with some others while momma fought the bear....and then the calf died in a different location than where she is looking for it.  (When a calf bawls in pain or terror, all the cows will come at a dead run, roaring their anger and aggression at whatever possible danger there might be.  We can always tell when the animals are being harassed consistently by any predator as they get really aggressive towards our cattle dogs, when normally they just ignore them or easily and quietly move off when being pressured by them.)

Calves coming in for a good look at my young dog Bree, who endures their curiosity patiently.  

Another scenario that I hope didn't happen is that the bear mauled the calf first, momma came charging to the rescue and the bear killed her instead, with the calf getting away but dying anyhow.  We've had that happen before too.   
Anyhow, I guess we will see how it all unfolds.  The bear has not been back to eat on the calf (which is odd and makes me suspect the second scenario).  We will probably never know what really happened, except we have one less calf and I am doing a lot of loud singing when riding through the bush at the moment!  
Alright, enough doom and gloom....these things happen.  Part of the romance of living in the wilderness right?  

So on to the next part of Grandma Dorsey's ride to Vanderhoof..... 

Our horses were fresh and lively and we started out for Kluskus, thirty miles away.  We followed a trail until we reached the Blackwater River, then we followed the river and lakes for the rest of the day.  Twice during the day we un-saddled and let our horses feed.  It was just after sunset when we arrived at Kluskus, the little Indian village on the lake shore.  The village was deserted.  We picketed one horse and hobbled the other, and went for a swim in the lake before we cooked our rice ration for the day.  It needed salt but we were hungry.  Wood was scarce so close to the village.  We spread out our chaps for a ground sheet.  Our saddle blankets were badly worn and as we tried to shake them out, they fell in little squares at our feet.  The pieces were carefully put together again for a saddle pad and we did not disturb them again.  We did not have much protection but we lay down to rest.  When the stars were beginning to fade, Peggy started to cook the rice and I went to catch the horses.  As I leaned over to untie the hobbles on Lady, Peggy's horse, it grabbed my belt in her teeth and lifted me from the ground.  She apparently did not care to be disturbed at that early hour.  
We left the fur trading route at Kluskus and followed the trail to the crossing.  The water was low at this time of year.  The sun came up as we crossed the river and the ducks and loons were noisy with the coming daylight.  
The river wound among the hills of the rolling country on its leisurely way to the Fraser.  The sun slanted across the ridges showing the country in its brilliant autumn colors.  We rode silently through the early morning world in wonder and admiration.
When the warmth of the sun became stronger we let our horses feed and lay down to rest.  We slept on the hillside an hour before we rode on.
At noon, we came to the Jerry Boyd Crossing on the river.  The river was wide here for the water flowed from one large lake to another.  In the middle of the river a long wide stretch of water flowed about two feet below the surface.   The surrounding water was a dull hue.  The water of the undertow consisted of whirls of water that never seemed to break, they just disappeared.  A heavy water soaked raft was moored at the river's edge.  The logs were large but only a few inches floated above water.  This raft was used for transporting wagons and loads across the river.  The horses could swim in spite of the strong undertow.  We were both curious about the raft so we dismounted and jumped to it from the shore.  Long poles has been carefully deposited at the side of the raft and shorter paddles for handling the undertow were placed close by.  I was sorry we had already crossed the river at Kluskus because this appeared to be a very interesting crossing.  As I kneeled beside the paddles a long piercing call came from a high ridge along the river bank.  We turned quickly and saw the figure of a man at the crest of the hill.  He waved at us and then bent his arm in a beckoning motion.  We jumped from the raft and went toward the ridge where the river entered the lower lake.  As we came closer we could see it was an Indian camp.  Two tents were pitched on the promontory that looked across the lake.  A rack for drying fish was in a central position between the tents.  A smudge beneath the rack added the pleasant odor of wood smoke.  A fish net was drying on a peeled pole near the rack and a wagon was pulled in close to the camp.  Some children peeked at us from the protection of a mother's skirt.  Two hounds eyes us and rumbled a bit but did not bark.  
The man walked toward us.  He was a sturdy old man, and as he smiled he held out his hand and announced that his name was Jerry Boyd.  After shaking hands he pointed to the crossing and said, "That is a bad place.  Don't try to cross without help.  I will help you."  
We thanked him for his offer and explained that we had already crossed the river at Kluskus, and we were on our way to pick up a stud at Vanderhoof.
Across the campfire from him, his wife put a tea bucket on the coals and he invited us to join them for a meal.  After our scant fare the smoked fish tasted delicious.  We both enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere until it was time for us to leave.  
"I will not be here when you come back this way.  There is a cabin just behind those jackpines.  Help yourself to anything you need.   I am going to Quesnel for supplies"
He walked over to his new wagon and leaned against it.  He would have to cut a few trees to get to where he wanted to go, but he was happy to change from a life of packing horses.  His wife handed us a few extra strips of smoked fish to take with us.  A little boy in somebodies old rubber boots waved to us and we were off.  It  had been a casual meeting on the shore of a wilderness lake but our hearts felt warmer.  
At sunset we stopped at a lakeshore and let our horses feed.  We bathed their backs in the cool water before we went for our swim.  The brilliance of the poplar trees was reflected in the still lake water.  The sunset colors radiated and sparkled around us.  Ducks and geese were settling on the lake and were nearing the shore to feed on the swamp grass and rushes.  This was their time of day, and their talking could easily be distinguished as we mounted our horses and rode along the the trail in silence.  Other flocks honked as they passed overhead to other lake of their choice.  We rode until all the radiance in the sky had vanished and a semi darkness settled.  
We chose a beautiful campsite and as our little pot of rice and fish boiled, we laid our chaps on a smooth spot.  We ate.  We rested.  The clouds floated against the moon, then drifted away and left the night silvered in the highlights and black in the shadows.  
Peggy rolled on her elbow.  "We don't have to worry about sleeping tonight."
"Wait until you taste my good rice breakfast tomorrow at five o'clock."  We slept.
The cold morning air awoke me.  Peggy stood over a snapping campfire warming her hands, and I was glad to join her.  
"How about that good rice breakfast you promised me?"  Then she pulled out the worn map that Pan had drawn for us.  
"Let's plot our course.  This will be the longest day.  If we can make the distance we can have some blankets tonight in a ranch house on the other side of the mountain."
"We can make it if we ride four hours and rest four hours so our horses don't tire.  I hope the ranchers on the other side don't eat rice."  
"Let's start and have breakfast later.  We have a good day ahead." 

Cheers all, until next time.
Punky 

Another amazing photo of the Pelican Creek/Trails End Ranch.
Credit to Jim Swift  

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ranch News and Grandma Dorsey's trip to Vanderhoof, Part One

I really love this time of year.  The hours are long with having more daylight, but the change of pace is wonderful.  We are putting on lots of miles range riding and seeing momma's and babies so fat and sassy is really awesome.  It's fun to remember the slimy little bean that was picked up and carried from the pens to the barn to be warmed up in the hot box.  I couldn't begin to hold him now, let alone pick him up!  Or the tiny wee twins that weighed less than a bag of flour when we helped bring them in to the world, and are now as big and robust and cheeky as the rest.


Cattle on the Lillie Lake Range, Ilgatchuz in the background.  

In other news, we have been working on our "town house", which is a cabin I bought many years ago, right in the town of Anahim Lake.  It has been rented out for about 10 years now, and was in dire need of some love.  We had the logs sanded and have put a nice stain on them.  Eli leveled the building and is now re-doing the foundation.  Did you know he was a stone mason?  I'll be sure to post photos of the rock work when it is done.  We are planning to put it up for sale when the foundation is done, so if anyone is looking for a wee cabin in the wilderness.......  :)

Sunset over the Cless Pocket ranch pastures.  Rainbow Mountains and Anahim Peak.  

Mum is healing really well, and back riding, although still careful.  She is going to another specialist appointment near the end of the month.  
Eve and Laura are off on their trip to the United States.   Perhaps I should have let Immigration know what they were letting loose in their country, but I guess our American friends can handle them.  Maybe....  I can't wait for the stories when they get back.  Those two can hardly manage to buy milk at the grocery store without some sort of epic adventure happening along the way, and it never fails to be entertaining!  
Olivia is hard at working covering for everyone and really settling in to the routine.  Her and mum have almost all the pre-cooking done for the trail rides and we sure enjoy getting the fall-outs from the baking.  Terrible to have to eat the batch that didn't set right, or the broken cookies.....  The sacrifices we have to make!
The boys are really well.  It's hard to believe that school is almost finished for the year and that they will be in Grade 1 and Grade 4 next September!  Times is flying by too quickly.  They spend most of their spare time fishing/playing in the creek, inventing new tricks to give me grey hair on the trampoline or bartering for TV time.    

A truly spectacular photo at one of the ranches my grandparents owned.  This is at the Pelican Creek Ranch, now known as "Trails End".
  Credit to Jim Swift 

So, I promised to follow up from the last post, where I started the story of Grandma Dorsey's ride to Vanderhoof.  I think I'll send it out in two or three parts.  Enjoy!

I could hardly wait for the meal to be over and as soon as we left the table, I cornered Peggy and Nan.  Peggy would go with me if I left the following morning.  Nan would take Mike to Bella Coola with her.  Dave and Steve were old enough now to stay and help with the round-up, but I still had to make some provision for the baby, Bitzy.  
As soon as the dishes were washed and the children were in bed, I caught my saddle horse and rode six miles to the home of my nearest neighbor.  They were dreadfully alarmed at my late arrival but they agreed to care for my young son and I knew he would have good care.  The stars were fading when I turned my horse loose in the pasture, so I hurried with the necessary preparations for the family.  By the time breakfast was on the table, the wrangler had the horses in the corral and we were ready to go.  Lester was a little shocked at the speedy departure but he made no objection.  After all, he did want the stud from Vanderhoof.  With a few last minute instructions and farewells we were on our way.  
I carried the eight month old baby in front of me in the saddle quite comfortable on a roll made up of his blankets.  he was very fond of riding in this manner.  His clothes were lashed to the pack horse that Peggy was leading.  Alice came out to greet us as we rode up to the old Hudson Bay Post and Bitzy went to his new home quite happily.  We stopped at the Trading Post and loaded up with the provisions that we thought we would  need on our three week trip to Vanderhoof.  The dealers at the Trading Post thought we should reconsider our decision but nevertheless they gave us their blessing, and we left with only a road map to show us the way through the wilderness.  Certainly the trails were not marked on the map, but we could follow the watersheds and eventually arrive at our destination.  
We planned our first stop at the Tallywhacker Ranch near the foot of the Itcha Mountains.  Neither of us had ever been there.  In the day light we could follow the tracks but when it turned dark the tracks were hard to follow.  We bogged down once in a muskeg meadow and were forced to circle that opening.  Then we came across a drift fence and heard the welcome sound of a dog barking.  The insistent barking of the dog saved us from the disgrace of having to camp in the Bryant's pasture the first night out.  Such mistakes are looked upon with disgust by ranchers of the area, and I wanted to be a credit to my family so I thanked the dog for his help.  I gave him three extra pats as I walked by.  Maybe someone else might need his help in the future, and I felt the dog should be encouraged to help bewildered wanderers.
Alfred Bryant and his sister Bunch were running this newly established ranch.  As we approached the doorstep, a lamp was lit and our host and hostess came to greet us.  We rewarded them with the mail and the latest news from the Trading Post.  When we asked for directions on the next stage of our journey they were very simple.  "Just follow Corkscrew Creek and the left hand fork.  When you get over the divide all the water flows into Pan Creek and you can't go wrong."
I had been to Blackwater but never over this trail so the day ahead would be a new experience.  We looked to the Itcha Mountains in the north and followed the course of the mountain creek down its steep mountain path.  The stream course provided natural showers over the rock obstacles on its way to Anahim Lake.  We forded Corskcrew Creek at the Three Crossings and followed the left fork to the source.  There on a little alpine plateau we made our camp.  We pulled a few roots into camp so we could enjoy a good campfire.  The horses were staked and hobbled near by and we were at peace to enjoy our surroundings.  The rocky peaks and crags glowed with color in the flaming sunset.  The horse bells resounded to the rhythmic motion of the feeding horses.  We rolled up in our blankets and enjoyed the silent world until we slept.  
We left early the next morning because we wanted to spend some time with Pan and Betty at the Home Ranch.  At noon we crossed the creek and rode into the yard.  Our arrival was a big surprise.  We delivered the mail and talked over the plans we had made for our trip to Vanderhoof.  
Pan and Betty were quite sure it would be better to stay a week or so with them before returning to Anahim Lake.  
"You can possibly get to Vanderhoof and back in 21 days.  Already you have used up three of the days and you have only come sixty miles.  That leaves four hundred and forty miles yet to be covered."  
"Besides that, we want to stay in Vanderhoof for three days to see what the country looks like."
Peggy thought the situation over.  
"The pack horse can't travel that fast."
"Then we can leave the pack horse here and travel light."
"Good idea.  We'll leave early in the morning and double the distance each day."
"We can't load our horses and travel that far in a day."
We decided to take a few cups of rice, and a can in which to cook it.  For extra clothes, we took a bathing suit.  It was light and would do to wear while we washed our clothes in some lake.  We would sleep in our saddle blankets to cut down the weight of extra blankets.  Pan drew a map for us to follow that would take us all the way to Vanderhoof, and he explained where to find the best horse feed and the best river crossings. "I better draw that map on lightweight paper to match the rest of this pony express outfit." 
Betty cooked a big breakfast.  "Eat plenty, rice might get a little tiresome before you reach Vanderhoof."    

Friday, 5 June 2015

A trip away

I just got back from going on a school field trip to Barkerville, about 50 miles east of Quesnel, BC.  Barkerville is well worth the visit, if you are in the area.  Here is the site if you are interested.  www.barkerville.ca  It is a historical gold rush town that lets you step back in to history and have a hands on experience.  Buildings and homes have been preserved and restored and the history is amazing.  Lots of fun and entertainment for all ages.  Our school went to court to decide the innocence or guilt of a man from 1868, very much enjoyed the Theatre Royal show, dressed up to have our photo taken, had a great stage coach ride and admired the blacksmith at his work.  It goes without saying that we went gold panning.  Of course we also enjoyed the shops and I have to say that I was very impressed at the quality of the items for sale, and the prices were very reasonable.  If you are looking for a good Dutch oven, beautiful silk art or a handmade fire poker, this is the place to be.  I'm really kinda kicking myself for not doing some Christmas shopping!
While there, I met up with a man that spent many years in, and still has strong ties to the Anahim Lake area.  (I was also astounded that he knew of this blog saga!)   He runs the stagecoaches in Barkerville and has done so for many years.  He told me his love of the Percheron draft horses came from spending time with Lester Dorsey (my grandfather) and told me of one of Lesters stallions "Murray" that "if you had a piece of rope for around his nose and could find some way of getting on the big bugger" would let you ride him away from his mare herd with out a complaint.

Stagecoach ride with Glen E. in Barkerville.  When he saw me taking the photo he said "blow that one up for your Uncle Dave!"    


That reminds me of another of my Grandmothers stories from her book. It is quite a long story, so I won't write it out tonight, but here is a small taste.....  

We went on with the meal until Lester spoke."Round-up starts next Sunday.  The cowboys from Cless Pocket Ranch will meet us at the flats.  I also have to make arrangements about getting the new stallion from Vanderhoof."  
Instantly my thoughts turned to the wonderful chance of a saddle horse journey to Vanderhoof, 250 miles to the north through a country of beautiful lakes, rivers and mountains.  I looked at Peggy and I knew she read my thoughts because she nodded her head.  I looked at Nan and she nodded too.  I felt I had all the support I needed.  
"I'll get the stud for you, Lester." I said as calmly as possible.  
"Good idea." he answered with a nod and went on with his meal.  
I could see he wasn't giving much thought to the project but he had agreed and that was all I needed.        

And off they went.

Moving cattle earlier this spring, near the "Holding Grounds" which was the communal pasture and corral system for the area for many years.  This is what Lester and the others would have been rounding up in to in preparation for the cattle drive.  


The "flats" that Lester is referring to is range we still have and use.  In fact, I rode through much of it today as I looked for and then moved some cows within it.  The rains have come nice and steady this year and the grass is really amazing.  The bulls all appear sound and are well distributed.  The cows are fat and sassy and the calves are healthy and gaining well.  Knock on wood, the predators are finding something else to eat, and besides one smaller grizzly track, I've hardly seen much sign of them at all so far. 
I have taken a few photos lately, but I'm too lazy to go out to the tack shed and get my camera off my saddle at the moment, so I'm going to add a few of our mountain creatures.   Our trail ride season is just around the corner!  
    
Wishing you all the best.
Punky

Oh, and one more thing I wanted to mention....well, two actually.  If you are enjoying this blog and want to receive new posts to your inbox, you can 'sign up by email' at the top right of this page.  If you are reading this on a smart phone or tablet, you may have to go to the bottom of your page and click on "see web version" to see where you can put your email address in.
  
Also, many of you have written to me your own stories and memories and I would really love to have them shared for others to enjoy.  I've spent a few minutes tonight trying to make the 'comments' a bit easier to find, so hopefully you can write in there.  Between posts (when you look on the web) you should see a light green box that tells the author (me) and the time of posting as well as options to share.  You should also see "Comments" (if someone else has written) or "No comments".  Click on that link (the words) and you should then have the option to comment yourself.  
Clear as mud right?
Ha, welcome to my world.  A computer tech I am not!  Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you!    





Photo credits to Kris A.