Catharine: Ok...it’s March 24th and I’m here... just north. We’re north? No we're south...south?
Wilbur: South and east of Vanderhoof.
Catharine: South and east of Vanderhoof. I‘m here with Wilbur Pond and Wilbur’s going to tell us how he landed on this piece of property that we‘re now sitting at today. Wilbur why don’t you give me an idea how you ended here southeast of Vanderhoof on this piece of property years ago?
Wilbur: Well first place we started off in 1962. Hilda and I and the
girls came to Canada to go fishing’ and I was working as a Brand Inspector
down in there in Oregon and the guy at the sale barn where I happened to
be one day I was talking’ about this and he says “Oh you’re going to Canada?”
"Yeah" I says. "I am goin’ go up an’ have a look and do some fishing."
“Well” he said “Come on over to the house before you leave” he says “I’ll have something’ for you”. So I went over there and he had his outboard motor laid out and he had his fishing’ tackle laid out and his cooler box and everything you know? And he insisted I take it.... So we loaded it all up and we came up here... But he said “Now when you get up there”, he said, “You go to Vanderhoof”, he said “and you find a road turning’ left out of Vanderhoof and you go right out to Nuki Lake”. He says “You camp there and the fishing’ is great.” So that’s what we did...but then when I went back... I was telling’ my friend, Bert Wheeler about this and he said, “Well we ought to go up there in the spring and have a look.” I was telling him about this country and so next spring in May, him and I came up here to Vanderhoof and we looked around and he found a place and he fell in love with it and he came back in July and bought it and moved in. Well he might a made the deal while he was still here in May. And then we went back and next year in July then I got sold out down there and I moved up here and I moved right in with him over there. Lock, stock and barrel. Twelve head a cows, some calves and… Anyway we started looking’. I helped him with his hay first. Then I started looking’ for land and I finally found this place through Gloria Hobson. And we bought it, made a payment down on it and people were still living’ here. There was a Yankee living’ here then too. He was a schoolteacher from down there in Oregon somewhere. And he didn’t move out until September. That’s when we actually moved in here. That’s how we happened to land in Vanderhoof.
Catharine: And what have you did on the land since? What ...did the land look like this? Did you clear it...or...
Wilbur: Well when I came here there was about. There was that field down there. It was cleared and this field across the creek except it wasn’t nearly as big as it is now there was about 30 acres over there. I’ve since enlarged it to about 65. But the land had been walked down and piled and this field down here the same way. It had been walked down and partially piled you know and then I had to finish it up and do all the root pickin’ and... Oh we worked on it for...what?..4 years?
Hilda: At least that long. Yeah.
Wilbur: You know...and then we did that one over there. We finally… We finally got about 120 acres of land here in hay production.
Catharine: And how much property is yours... Is it the 120 or is there more?
Wilbur: Oh no. We bought originally here we bought 480 acres...we bought three quarter sections in a row going’ right down the creek we had a mile and a half of this creek through our property.
Catharine: And what’s the creek called?
Wilbur: Hogsback Creek.
Catharine: And does it... Is it connected to the Sinkut River?
Wilbur: Oh yes. It dumps into the Sinkut River down here right where the Sinkut River starts. The Sinkut River starts out at Sinkut Lake and this creek empties into it about 200 yards about... Out from the mouth.. or from the end of the lake.
Catharine: And how far would you say we are from the lake, Sinkut Lake?
Wilbur: Two miles.
Catharine: Two miles...OK
Wilbur: It’s another mile through my property and then a mile through the next guy. And then the creek runs to the river.
Catharine: And what kind of changes have you seen Wilbur, in the land, in the area since you’ve been here?
Wilbur: Oh, there’s been all kinds of changes. For instance when I moved here you could drive out here from Vanderhoof. You, there was timber on both sides of the road most of the way. I mean almost all the way out here was timber on both sides of the road. And now when you drive out here you hardly see any timber on either side of the road. That is along the highway. Well even on the Mapes Road. You know. There was cleared land along the Mapes Road but there’s a lot more now you know. And right on down the Mapes Road clear to the Blackwater Road I mean there’s no timber left either side of the road.
Catharine: And how big were the trees when you saw them?
Wilbur: Oh they were, on the average about 14 to 16 inches on the stump there were a few bigger, a lot smaller.
Catharine: Mostly pine?
Wilbur: Pine and spruce. Yeah.
Catharine: And what other kinds of changes have you seen?
Wilbur: Well. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. We’ve had. We had neighbours from Montana and neighbours from Wyoming and various other places and they have come and gone. I mean they’ve gone back to the States. I mean there are not too many around. Clyde Perkins over here is one American who moved in about the same time I did and he’s still here but otherwise I mean most of the, most of the Americans have fled back to the old country.
Catharine: How many cattle would you have had...is that the reason why you took the property? So you could raise cattle? Beef cattle?
Wilbur: Well the reason. The reason I took the property was because
of the location basically. I mean I liked it here because I was at the
end of the road. I mean, there ain’t gonna be a bunch of traffic around
through my yard. Where I lived in Oregon, we lived on a county road about
40 miles outside of Portland and during the time that I was there they
had paved the road and them cars would come by there 60 and 70 miles an
hour and I had livestock running’ up and down the road ya know? And they
hit them. I lost I don’t know how many cows, they... Two young kids came
off the hill one night. Coming’ home from the County Fair and they must
have been doin’ 90 miles an hour. And a horse of mine run out on the road
and they run right under it. I mean the horse come out and started down
the road and they just went right under it. The one kid said he felt it
when it went over the top. I mean they were in a convertible. This, a little,
MG or a ...or was it a Austin? It was a little car you know and this was
a convertible. Flattened it. Windshield right down on top of ’em but the
one kid said he felt the horse go over. And the horse got up and run up
over the hill and I heard this squealin’ and I... They skidded their wheels
there for.... must have been 70, 80 yards you know and I heard this squealin’
and I was sitting in the house reading the paper. Everybody else had gone
to bed. And I jumped up and got in my pickup, run out there and here these
two guys are standing looking down on this car and the car is laying on
it’s top and the wheels are about that high off the ground still turning.
You know and I jumped out and these guys...They were still in shock I guess.
I says “There anybody under there? I says “Is there anybody under there?”
you know, and I finally grabbed that one guy by... and shook him. I said
“Is there anybody under there?”. “Oh no” he said, “We’re the only two”.
But anyway that one was of the things that goaded me into moving to Canada was the traffic situation. But I mean I was… I couldn’t expand down there you know. I had 140 acres and I was blocked in on all four sides. Couldn’t expand. And I didn’t have enough money to go down to the Lamuth Valley or some place and buy land because I mean it was expensive ya know. I mean they were gettin’ a thousand dollars an acre for some of that. And I heard the land was cheap up here which is one of the reason’s I came up and looked and it looked like it was. It was. Cheap up here compared to down there ya know? But anyway I sold down there. I sold most of my land to a timber company and I sold ‘bout eleven acres of it privately and I euchred Crown Zellerback out of about four thousand dollars for a little piece of ground that laid on a hillside like this ‘cause they… Ah that’s another story. Has nothin’ to do with me movin’ to Canada but...haa.
Catharine: So when you got the property you wanted to be in this area, did you decide that… How you were going to make a living when you decided to buy the property..?
Wilbur: Oh yeah. My mind was made up. Livestock and hay production. You bet.
Catharine: So had you already taken a look at what the markets were like to actually sell those products when you actually came here?
Wilbur: Actually I hadn’t. No, that’s where my business.... My business was very lacking ya know I just had an idea to raise cattle and this was it ya know. I knew how to raise cattle and I didn’t take into consideration the markets. I figured I could do as good as the next guy ya know? Which is all you’d do but the prices were somewhat cheaper here for livestock than when we were gettin’ down there. But I figured I’d be able to handle it once I got a line of stock together ya know but. I did it all wrong. When I moved up here I took my money and I put it in the bank in there and I scrimped and cut corners ya know and wouldn’t spend anything and until finally it was gone. Because ya gotta live ya know and I still hadn’t got any livestock or machinery. I mean, I mean I came up here with two old tractors and a an old cat. I mean I had a whole flatcar covered with machinery and all our household goods in a boxcar and that’s another story. I mean when we crossed that boarder down there ya had to have this livestock tested for Brucellosis and Tuberculosis and the horses had to have a Coggins test and something else.
Anyway I had taken my cattle into Portland. To have the blood drawn on ’em for Brucellosis and have the TB test done and I got the papers. Ya know I figured I was all set to go ...we drove up to that boarder and I spotted the guy. The veterinary... I called ahead to get the veterinary there and when I drove in there I spotted his rig sittin’ over on the side of the parking lot right at the entry, you know the boarder entrance because I’d seen him the year before when I come with Wheeler ‘cause we hauled livestock for Wheeler up ya know. So I went over there and parked my truck right by his car and got out and headed for the office and I looked up and here he come. He met about the middle of the parking lot. And I pulled out my papers, handed them to him and he unfolded it, took a look like that, came down to the bottom of the page and handed them back to me and says,
“Them aren’t worth the paper they’re written on”. Well I just about floored. Ya know, I figured I was gonna be there for another week gettin’ my livestock tested again and everything. I said, “What’s the matter with ’em?” “Well”, he said, “There’s some State veterinary has signed this thing.” He says, “You gotta have a Federal veterinary sign the papers”. Well I tell you I was ready ta… I don’t know what. Dig a whole and crawl in it. Anyway he went back in the office. “Well” he says, “C’mon” he says. “We’ll see what we can do”. And he went back in the office and he called up Salem Oregon and he chewed out everybody that answered the phone down there. Didn’t make any difference if it was a receptionist or a secretary or what. He just “What kind of a place are you people runnin’ down there” he said ya know. And he finally got a hold of ole Dr. Bird I think. Now what was his name? Anyway, I can’t recall the name anymore but he was a federal vet and this guy assured him. He said “I know the man that signed the papers” he says “And I know the doctor in Portland that drew the blood” and he says “I’m sure everything is alright.” He said, “So you can let the man go and I’ll see to it that you get the proper papers ya know in about a week or less”. So he let me go on through but I mean, we were still there all day because we done everything wrong. We didn’t have our medicals for ourselves done ya know. Well we hadn’t had we Hilda?
Wilbur: Well we carried the papers with us. We were supposed to have sent them ahead? Well I mean everybody down there has a different idea of how you’re suppose to do stuff ya know. And anyway we’re goin’ through this thing declarin’ all our worldly possessions and everything and a guy walked into the room and says “You Pond?” I says “Yeah.” He walked over and he said “You gotta car up the road” he said “up on the track up there.” He says “There’s an automobile inside and it’s loose in there”. And I could just picture them ya know there shunt them. How they shunt them railroad cars up and down the railroad tracks switching and one thing to the other and I can just picture my car goin’ back and forth through that household goods and I figured that was... Be in shambles. It would all be wrecked. So anyway he said “You come over to the railroad office over there” he says “ and get a seal.” He says “You gotta go up there in the, get into that boxcar and tie that car down, that automobile.” He says “And then I’ll have the guy come up and do the inspection while you’re in there”. You know for the customs. Well so here I go and they’re still answering questions. Well no. She went with me. She drove me up there and I said “Oh it’ll be easy to spot because I said “I’ve got that flatcar with that old cat and two tractors on it and ‘n bunch of other machinery” and I said, “my boxcar ’ll be the one right next to it”. So we drove way up there and finally spotted that flatcar and she let me out and the guy had loaned me a wreckin’ bar ya know and I went over there and I stuck that thing in that seal and I was just about to break it and I looked up and I said “Oh Oh there’s some thin’ wrong here”. And then I realized this is a double door car. You know these railroad boxcars they have doors that meet in the middle, they close from either side? And my car was a single door car ‘cause I remember wonderin’ how in the world I was goin’ to get that automobile in there ya know but it was a little Corvair and it went in easy. But I had almost ripped the seal off that boxcar. And then I went… You know it was right next to my flatcar and I got to hunting for that thing and I found it. I’ll bet ya it was a half mile down the siding on another track. They had split my cars at the coupling ya know and put the flatcar on the end of this row and my boxcar way down there on the end of that row. And it was a hot day and I was, ya know, goin’ through hell anyway with all of this stuff going wrong. Anyway I went down there and I ripped the seal off that one and opened it up and looked in there and there’s sittin’ my car just like I’d put it. It had broke loose on one end. The wires had broke loose on one end ya know. It hadn’t gone no where. But anyway I had a bunch of that swifter wire, it’s a wire about, oh that thick but it’s soft. You can bend it real easy. And I got in there and tied that down again and the guy from the custom’s come along and he stuck his head in and looked this way and looked that way. “Oh yeah” he said “that looks pretty good and left”. Ya know that was the end. That was all the inspectin’ he did. And then I went to close up the car after I got through there. Tied it down and got out. Closed the door and put the seal on and she was still sittin’ up the track there. I could still see her. Just about time the time I started up there she turned back off and headed off. Somebody had come and got her. So I had to walk all of the way. I walked all the way up there and then out to the road. I was gonna start walkin’ back to the port of entry. Then here come a guy in a black car up the road and US Customs on the side and he rolled down his window and said “Your name Pond?” And I thought oh no. What the hell have I done now? Ya know? I don’t remember what he wanted but it wasn’t no big deal. Anyway we finally got out of there about seven o’clock that night and the vet had taken my truck and put it in the shed as some trees because them cattle were… Ya know they could... They were too tight to be standed out there in that hot sun and this is July and anyway when we got ready to leave there somebody came out, I don’t know if it was him or who it was and told us “You go to Flood and you unload that truck. You can’t go any further tonight.” You know Flood’s about 15 miles up the road, maybe not that, well 15 I suppose. So that’s as far as we got that day. It took us three days to move up here.
Catharine: And how did all your gear get transported from the United States to here?
Wilbur: All my gear? In that boxcar and on that flatcar.
Catharine: So did it come.....
Wilbur: Except for the livestock. I mean I had the truck with a load of cows on it and she had the pickup with two horses. Did you have the horses?
Hilda: Yeah I think so. I can’t remember for sure.
Wilbur: You had a dog.
Catharine: So did you come. They came on the track north to Prince George?
Wilbur: No, they came right to Vanderhoof.
Catharine: Oh they came to Vanderhoof from Prince George?
Wilbur: Well they came up I suppose on the… I don’t know. Would be the CNR or BC Railroad probably. Anyway it was here, next day or two after we got here.
Catharine: So how many cattle did you start with. Here?
Wilbur: Well the cattle we had on the truck I had... What was it. Seven heifers, ten heifers?
Hilda: No it wasn’t ten.
Wilbur: It was seven.
Hilda: Seven I think. One had a calf… Three of them...
Wilbur: Three of them had calves. Oh and we had a milk cow too and she’d had a calf ....ya know and the vet... My papers... These cattle hadn’t had these calves when I had these tests done ya know and the vet looked at these papers and said “ Where in the hell did you get these calves?” Well I said they’ve had ’em since I had the test done.” “Oh” he said “As far as I’m concerned” he said “them cattle were born tomorrow” You know.... Then the dog had pups about a week after we got here... (Laughs).
Catharine: So did you start...that was the summer of...?
Wilbur: Sixty four.
Catharine: Sixty four?
Wilbur: 1964 yeah
Catharine: And did you buy more cattle the next year and then start?
Wilbur: I bought. I bought a few head here on the place that Blake had owned and one of them were suppose to be a registered Hereford heifer. Well she was the sorriest Hereford I ever owned. She died anyway. She had a calf the next spring and died that summer and I don’t think the calf ever got to be more than 350 lbs. ya know… I finally got rid of it ‘cause I mean it was ..I don’t know where the hell he got them things but they were something’ wrong with them ya know? And I bought two old cows from him that I would milk for a while. We had a Holstein didn’t we?
Wilbur: She finally calved. Anyway I didn’t have a ... I didn’t have a very good calf crop first year. I guess all them seven heifers calved. I brought a bull too. Oh that’s right and I bought a bull from Blake didn’t I? He was supposed to be a really good bull.
Catharine: So were you buying feed when you first moved here or...?
Wilbur: No no. Blake had put up this hay but he… Did I buy it from him or did he sell it all or what? Anyway I put up hay after I helped Wheeler with his hay over there and then looked around and found this place. I got this place located and I borrowed his, his tractor and swather and… He didn’t have a swather he had a mower and a baler and I made hay over there on the Nuki Lake property ya know and I hauled all that in here. And did I make hay someplace else? I must bought this hay from Blake. I had lots a hay the first year. Yeah. And then of course the next year I had to start buyin’ hayin’ equipment and I think I bought the old baler from Wheeler and I had a, I had a three point hitch mower I brought with me, didn’t I? Yeah. So we just... Oh and I bought a side delivery rig, one of them four wheel rigs, ya know the... The wheels are about this high and they... The motion of draggin’ the thing along the ground turns ’em ya know? And they rake up the hay and bring it over here and put it on the wind row.
Catharine: So all of those were run behind the tractor?
Catharine: Did you use the horses?
Wilbur: The horses I had were saddle horses. The one horse was big enough to be a work horse but they didn’t match. I mean the one wasn’t big enough. But I didn’t have any harness or anything and Blake had a team and they were standed out there in the corral when I bought this place but he hauled them off and sold them before I got here ya know? They weren’t part of the deal anyway. They should a been but… Oh I just… I never got horses until ... when? 70?71? 72. 72 I think. There was a guy brought up a team of black, big, black Percherons from down the other side of Williams Lake and they sold through the Vanderhoof auction market and I bought ’em, harness and all. But I didn’t use em for hayin' because you see I didn’t have any horse drawn equipment to make hay with. I use them for feeding in the winter time and I used them for skiddin’, draggin’ in wood and one thing and another. But I just used the horses for feedin’...’cause it’s really good to feed with a team of horses in the winter time here because you don’t have to plug ’em in. They start every morning ya know. All ya gotta do is get your butt out of bed and go out there in the barn and plug ’em in and harness ’em. You’re ready to go.
Catharine: How many years did you do that?
Catharine: How many years did you do that. Where you, used the horses for feedin’?
Wilbur: Well.... I had them horses for two years didn’t I? And then old Queen died. Then I bought old Chelsea to go with her and she was just a yearling, well maybe two. And before I got her broke with the one that was left. Well then the one that was left died ya know. Then I was left with one work horse. I had a young fellow working for me here, one winter and we couldn’t get our tractor started one morning, so I said “Eddy it’s time to start breakin’ horses” and I had a buckskin saddle horse and I had some collars. I don’t know whether the collar really fit or not but I had a good collar for the, for the big mare.. ya know. Old Chelsea I called her. Anyway we hooked ’em up and took ’em out here and I had a... The front bobs of a bobsled. You know what I mean? Just the front runners and it’s got a bunk on there, hooked them up right down there by the corral and I handed this guy the lines I says “Here you go.” “Me?” he said. “Well yeah, you’re a lot younger than me if you fall off there.” So away he went and away they took off up over that hill with the snow just a flyin’. He’s hangin’ on for dear life... When they made a circle or two out there and then came back, boy they were trottin’ along just .... The mare, the buckskin mare was a broke horse, she was a saddle horse you see so he had some control. And we took ‘em up here on the hill. Used to keep my hay right here. Well not right here where the house is but just back here ya know and we rolled a big round bale on that thing and down there they went and out across the bridge and over back over there somewhere I don’t know where we was feedin’ right then but anyway. Got out there and took the strings off and rolled it out, by hand and I wish I could find them pictures because later on… Oh then I bought another. I bought another little gray colt. A filly colt from a guy that went to Alberta and brought a bunch of horses back and... This thing was wild. He didn’t want to even get in the trailer with us so I got in the trailer and cornered her and put a halter on her and finally .. Must have been two years later I got her and the black mare. And I took a, I had bought a rig that you use to feed round bales with and it was wide, like it was five feet wide you know and you backed it into the bale and these two arms folded out and then when you were backed in there you closed them up and these. There was arms on these things about this long on either side, they stabbed right into the bale and then you could lock ’em in with pins down here on that hand and then there was a winch there... you’d could crank up and would pick this bale up about that far off the ground. And I fed with that for two or three years. But the first time I ever drove that gray mare with the black mare. I took ’em. I took that thing I drug it out here in field ya know? And I got them horses harnessed up and I took them out there and I hooked them onto that thing ya know. And didn’t have anybody to hold their heads or nothin’ ya know I just… I just hooked them up and got the neck yoke up and held onto the lines all the time ya know. And got around and got on that thing and I was prepared for ’em to just take off on a dead run ya know and I clucked to ’em and they just walked off like a broke team, I couldn’t believe it.
I had a little... Ya know I had to take a little time to teach her gee and haw ya know to answer to the reign.
Catharine: Right and left?
Catharine: And I fed with them for must a been at least three years...uhh?
Hilda: Oh yeah.
Wilbur: And then I broke Lucky and Midnight and then they were the ones that run off on me and busted me all up. They were colts. They were both colts out of old Chelsea weren’t they? No. Yeah. Midnight… I took old Chelsea over to Davis’ when had that stud that he got from Buck Nun. And yeah. So they both... both these colts were from that old black mare that I’d bought in Alberta. Anyway. What do ya wanna know now?
Catharine: The house that’s sitting in front of us...we’re sitting in a house that’s new...when was this one built?
Wilbur: Oh that one was there when we came. That thing was probably built around 1945.
Catharine: And the house that we’re in now?
Wilbur: We just built it...what four years ago?
Hilda: Three years.
Wilbur: Well we’ve..
Hilda: We’ve been in it three years and we were. We moved in three years the 17th of December.
Wilbur: Yeah. So it... Three years ago or better we built this. We didn’t build it we had it built.
Catharine: So you’ve lived in this house since you moved here up until three ago. Did you add on to that house at all?
Wilbur: That one?
Wilbur: No In fact we took a lot out of the inside of it. When we moved in there, that thing was just like a rabbit warren. I mean there was partitions and stuff ya know. Yeah. There’d be little cubby hole back here this wide and there was a thing across between the kitchen and the front room. It was open over the top but there was a wall here and a wall here ya know. And we took that out and we should a taken out more but we didn’t but... No we really. We dressed that house up a lot when we put that stuff on that’s on the outside. Like when we moved here it was covered with shingles and every spring the flies would warm up under them shingles and they’d come out and they’d just be swarms of them outside there ya know in the sunshine. They’d hide under them shingles all winter. And I put the aluminum roof on but I never got it all. I never got this part of that one roof finished but it never leaked. The old barn roof has gone to pot.
Catharine: Was that barn here when you moved here?
Wilbur: Yeah...That barn was here.
Catharine: All the buildings?
Wilbur: Well...there was a shop building right over there...see where them poplar trees are growing just off the old woodshed. There was a shop there and that burnt down in oh 74, 75, 76. Somewhere along in there. I had a, I had bought an International cab over truck from a guy in Vanderhoof., He used to have the Pepsi Cola dealership in there. Just a cab and chassis. And another guy and I took it one spring and went back to Alberta. Well actually we went over to Saskatchewan. To Saskatoon. And I had a grain box put on it with a hydraulic hoist ya know? And then on the way back we bought that black mare that I referred to as Chelsea, she was just a two year old. I bought her over there and we loaded up a load of grain. A guy wanted me to haul him back some oats. He lives up at Fraser Lake and we went and loaded up the oats and then we built a bulkhead across the back of the truck. Just about, oh wide as this. Well it was wide as this table is long for that horse and we went out and picked up the horse and took off for BC and got out to the first scales and the guy there says “You can’t haul that horse like that”. “Well” we said, “we’ve hauled it this far. We’ve come 75 miles already”. “Well” he said “you’re not going any further.” And well I said “what’s wrong?” “Well” he says “In the first place” he says, “You’re overloaded on the back wheels”. I had a tag axle under this thing. Do you know what a tag axle is? It’s an axle that bears weight but it doesn’t have any power. No driveline It’s just a tag axle.. Tags along behind the other one to carry weight. So anyway we got up on the truck and we shoveled oats and we shoveled oats to get it forward ya know to put more weight on the front axle and I had some John Deer parts up there too and we threw them up forward and finally we drove it around and I said “We wanna weigh up again.” So we weighed up again. “Ahh well” he said “you’re pretty close now” he says “you’re within about 15 lbs.” He says, “I can go with that”. “Well” I says “I’m gonna go then”.
“Well what about the horse?”
“Well” I said, “I’m goin’ with the horse”.
“Well you can’t!”
“Well” I said “show me in the book”. Well he’d been readin’ the book about that thick. Been goin’ through it a page at a time tryin’ to find a law that says I can’t haul that horse behind that grain... ya know.. and sideways. I said they haul horses sideways all the time. It’s the only way to haul horses. But he said she hasn’t got any protection from the wind. So I got an extra piece of plywood and I built a thing up there by her head and it buggered, blew it down on the first 20 miles but anyway I rigged that up and... “Yeah well” he says “Go ahead”. So we came all the way home with her and she was fine but when she… When we got here that bulkhead that I’d built ahead of her to hold the grain back had give out and she was standin’ in oats just about up to her chest. Havin’ a feast. (Laughs).
Catharine: Well Wilbur, you’re talking about getting away from traffic. How about wildlife traffic. What kind of wildlife changes have you seen here that have been through your property and...
Wilbur: Here? Ohhh...when we first moved here we could look down there in them willows almost any morning that first winter, they’d be a cow moose or two standin’ there ya know? And sometimes they’d walk right through the yard and then we had moose. There was rhubarb out here, on both sides of the house ya know and we’d find moose droppings in the rhubarb the next spring. Ya know we hadn’t actually seen them here but you knew they were here. Oh and bear. We had bear run through the barnyard and I think one time a bear. Oh that was a little… That was a little moose that came up the side of the field that time we run right between the house and the shop. Coyotes. Coyotes by the dozen. Beaver. Her and I were was workin’ on the fence down there one time and we, an otter. You ever see how they run in the snow? Like an inchworm.
Catharine: So do you see those...that amount of wildlife now?
Wilbur: No. We hardly ever see anything out there except coyotes. We still see coyotes.
Catharine: And how longs that been...since you’ve seen the amount of wildlife that you used to see?
Wilbur: What’d we see last year huh?
Hilda: We see the odd moose.
Wilbur: We saw a bear, right over there on that guy’s property. Big old black bear and we saw... We didn’t even see any deer last year did we? One moose, one moose showed up over here. We never hardly see… We did too here this winter. Remember we saw those two comin’ up the field? They were comin’ to the hay. So there’s still some around.
Hilda: We saw one or two deer last summer way in the back.
Wilbur: Yeah. Here just two years ago. I think it was two years ago we saw a black wolf right over here across the field. My cattle were over there in the field and I had got up about 6 o’clock one morning and was lookin’ out the window at the cattle and all of sudden the cattle started comin’ this way and then they started runnin’ ya know and they run right up to here... to the creeks... And came across that creek about eight abreast. I mean normally they come across there single file but not this time you know and I could see something. I could see something black behind ’em runnin’ back and forth back there ya know but I didn’t know what it was until they got on this side of the creek and there that wolf stood and at first I thought it was the neighbour’s dog. Cause they’ve got a big black dog ya know. Stands about that high I suppose, about that high actually and I thought that sure looks funny for a dog. So I got my binoculars and looked over there and it was a wolf ya know. So then I hollered to her to get my rifle. It was down stairs and she went down there and got it and I went out on the deck and set on a chair with a you know one of these chairs I guess... Anyway it was just a chair with a back on it and I sat on it and tried to take a rest over the back but I should’ve taken two chairs out there ya know. And I got in too big a hurry ‘cause that thing was standin’ broad side to me and I should’ve drilled it dead centre but I was afraid it was gonna break and run and so I fired before I was actually ready and I missed him. Not by much because he just about turned a somersault. And then he took off runnin’ and I shot three more times. I’d be never... He’d be runnin’ this way ya know and I’d shoot and he’d head this way and then I’d shoot again and he’d head back this way ya know but I couldn’t hit ’em. Not runnin’. I used to ya know 30 years ago, I’d a hit ’em but I wouldn’t a missed him the first time 30 years ago either.
Hilda: You lost two calves to wolves that once… that year.
Wilbur: Well we lost two calves but they thought that one was from a bear..
Hilda: Oh right.
Wilbur: But we didn’t know for sure but we know we lost one to a wolf because he was settin’ up in here ya know and that’s where a wolf get ’em..
Catharine: Between the legs...
Wilbur: Yeah. Grabbed him by the scrotum actually. Yeah.
Catharine: You were telling me about hauling water, did you not have running water in the other, in this house?
Wilbur: When we moved here. There was power poles standing out there but there no electricity to that house. There was no water piped into that house. We had a well just outside over there. Did ya notice a little building out there? Well that was built since but that was just an open well with a thing built up with a little roof on it. And we used to draw a well up, water up, out of the well with a rope and bucket and had a biffy standed over there on the creek bank about where them fuel tanks are.
Catharine: And you were telling me about hauling water from the creek and the..
Wilbur: Well, that first fall ’bout November when it really got cold the dang well went dry ya know. So one of our girls grabbed a bucket and she went down to the creek and got a bucket of water and brought it up and we were all drinkin’ it except her. She drinks coffee. She don’t hardly drink water and the girls and I were sick within two days ya know. So, I don’t know how. How’d we find out what it was? Did we go to the doctor? Did somebody tell us or what?
Hilda: I think somebody said it was beaver fever.
Wilbur: Yeah. As I say, you gotta quit drinkin’ that creek water. So we had two ten gallon cans. We started haulin’ water from the Mapes school house then and there was lots of people around there. You’d be surprised at the number of people who were haulin’ water from the Mapes school house ‘cause they had a drilled well over there ya know? And I’d go over there to get two ten gallon cans full of water and I’d … Sometimes I’d have to wait in line but we got alright then… I mean our beaver fever what ever it was went away so the girl she said “I don’t know if it was that water or not.” She says “I’m just goin’ try it and see.” So she took a bucket and went back down the creek, drink another bucket of water and two days she was sick again ya know, so that’s what it was.
Catharine: That was your daughter?
Wilbur: Yes. And the next spring. Let’s see it was that winter wasn’t it? I took a course. I went over to the Mapes school house. Jim Griffith was teachin’ the course in wiring and I went to school over there for two months I guess? Learning wiring. House wiring. And the next spring in March I started.... February... I started into wiring that house and I wired the whole house and the barn and I put up that original pole out there and put all that riggin’ on it and wired the shop as well. The shop has since burnt down. And I didn’t have a clue where to start. I knew how to proceed once I got started but I walked in the house there and looked in all the... What I do first? And I stood there wonderin’ and I said “Well I know I’m gonna want a light, right there ya know.” Indicated a spot on the front room ceiling. So that’s where I started. Drilled the hole and away I went. But I was...two months wiring that house and barn and shop. Must have been at least two months and they had… Meanwhile they hung the wire in. Well as soon as the snow was gone they hung the wire on ya know and brought it down here. But they wouldn’t hook me up until I had an inspection and fast ya know. Well I’d call up the electrical inspector and tell him I’m ready ya know. I think I’m ready. And he’d come out and he’d go through everything with a fine tooth comb and then he’d leave me lists of things. A whole sheet full of stuff that I had to do over. It wasn’t right ya know? So then I’d get to work and I’d do all that and I’d call him up and I say “I’m ready.” Ya know and he’d come back up and the next time the list would only be half a page long and I don’t know how many times we did that finally he approved of it and they hooked us up.
Catharine: When was that?
Wilbur: That’d been 1965, wouldn’t it? And then we didn’t get water in the house until.... When did? When did we put water in the house? We had one pipe come in.. Well we had a well... No we didn’t have a well drilled did we? We just run a pipe out… My brother in law came up from Oregon. And him and I went in the basement down there of that old house. There is a basement in that house and we chipped through the concrete on the wall next to the well and then we drove an inch and a half pipe through there with a sledge hammer. We sharpened it on the end ya know and kind of welded it together to make a point. And we hammered there for three or four hours and we finally put that pipe through that dirt. This is clay. I mean this stuff is hard. And finally went out there and looked and it came through into the well and then we cut the end off and then we run some plastic pipe through that... I think a three quarter or something and we put a pump in the basement ya know? And primed it until we sucked water up out of the well and we put a pressure tank down there and we had a pipe come through under the up under the kitchen we had one spigot up there with a bucket under it.
Catharine: And you had running water..
Wilbur: I had running water.
Catharine: Kay...tape number two.
Catharine: Wilbur’s just about to tell us about a cattle drive that he has on.
Wilbur: Well. Gotta go back to about 1971 or 70, I don’t remember for sure but anyway. Larry Shantz came into this country from over Alberta ‘round Edmonton, Ponoka actually. And he started an auction barn down here in Vanderhoof. And I was one of the first guys hired out to him. Well, things went along there for couple a years or three and he came into my yard and he drove in here and he said “Have you gotta three point hitch mower?” And I says “Yeah I have”. “Well” he said “Are you usin’ it?”. And I said “No, because I’ve got a self propelled swather now”. He said, “Do you want to rent it?” I said “Sure, I guess so”. “Well, OK” he said “How’s a hundred bucks sound for the summer”. I said, “It sounds real good”. “OK” he said. “I’ll give 50 now and then 50 when we bring it back”. So, well we had to take the… We had to take the mower apart because he said it’s goin’ to go on an airplane. And I said “Where in the hell is it goin’ anyway?” “Well” he said, “it’s goin’ out to Home Ranch”. Well I had no idea where Home Ranch was at that time.
Catharine: And the piece of equipment was for...cutting hay?
Wilbur: For cuttin’ hay, yeah. Well turns out that old Pan Phillips had sold his.... Well he… I guess he had the whole thing then. He’d sold out to some California turkey ranchers. And they’d come in there and they’d brought in another 400 head of cows and calves and they needed to make a whole bunch of hay so they were gonna cut all that meadow.
Well, we took the, we took the cutter head off so then we, all we had to do was load the frame of the three point hitch mower and then the cutter head ya know in two pieces and I wired on an extra sickle bar and I wired on an extra pitman rod and a box of teeth. Ya know sickles for the thing? So we got it all loaded up and he took off and I didn’t see my mower again ‘til that fall. When I walked into the auction barn one day, oh along in September I guess and he said “You ready to go on a cattle drive?”. And I said “hell no.” I says, “I wasn’t thinkin’ on going on any cattle” “Well” he said “you want your mower back don’t ya?”
“Well of course I want my mower back.”
“Well” he said “you’d better get ready to go on a cattle drive then” he says “You can... When you get out there you can load your mower up and take it down to the lake and then they can fly it back here”. This is how it started.
Anyway we wasn’t suppose to have to take any saddle or any horses or anything. They’re gonna get all the horses and all the cattle, everything off the Home Ranch and bring ’em out so we just took our saddles and I took my chaps and my spurs and all my gear. And Jack Kluber, John Kluber actually flew us out there. And he’s the guy that got killed in a plane crash. Not a crash but a plane blew up down on the river. Killed him and another guy. Anyway he flew us out there and we were supposed to land at Home Ranch. When we got there and this big meadow’s covered with cattle.
Catharine: And whereabouts is Home Ranch from here?
Wilbur: Well its off there about, oh I don’t know between somewhere between 120 and 150 miles I guess.
Wilbur: Southwest. Mostly south but a little bit west. Yeah.
Wilbur: It’s on the other side of the Blackwater River.
Wilbur: Well. Kluber says “I’ll circle around a little bit here" andhe says “maybe somebody’ll come out and drive them cattle off”. So we circled, we circled a strip there two or three times and nobody came out. ‘So” he says “well” he says “we’re goin’ to have to go down and land at Pan’s fishing camp”. So here’s this hill over here and a little lake and then the hill over here and another little lake over here ya know. And he flew that thing in there and landed. I mean this is a big two motor plane and I swear you couldn’t landed a kitty car in there, ya know? But anyway now we’re at Pan’s fishin’ camp and I climbed out of that plane and I walked over and there was two guys talkin’ by a cabin and this one old boy’s leanin’ up against the door jam there and I said to nobody in particular, I said “Which way to the Home Ranch from here?” and this old guy leanin’ up against the door he said “Well” he said “You go back to the end of the strip” he says, “and take off across that creek. It’s about four miles over there back up through the hills.” “Well” I said, “how the hell am I suppose to get there?” “Well” he said “There’s a saddle horse standin’ right there all saddled.” and it was. There was a saddle horse tied to a fence just outside there. I just walked over and took the reins off the line, off the fence and turned around and climbed in the saddle and away I went. And it turned out that was Pan Phillips I’d been talkin’ to. I had no idea. Anyway, I got up to the Home Ranch and looked around there. There was four or five guys around there. I finally located this mower and it was exactly the same shape that it’d left here. It was all the two pieces and the sickle. The sickle that was wired to the cutter bar and they… They hadn’t even taken it apart ya know. They sure as hell hadn’t cut any hay. Which is why we had to get the cattle out of there ‘cause they were all gonna starve to death if they’re left. Anyway there was an old guy out there name of Ed Adams and I kinda saddled up to him and I says “How am I gonna get this dang mower back down to the lake?” I says, “There’s a plane comin’ in here. Supposed to be comin’ in, in the next couple of hours. And I gotta get this mower back down to the lake so they can load it up”. “Well” he says. “I don’t know but I’ll see if I can rattle, wrangle up a team”. So he got on his horse and went out and started hunting horses but he finally come in and we… Then we had to get to work and find harness for ’em and collars that fit and I mean them guys, the rest of that bunch ‘round there didn’t know nothin’ ya know? Well I finally got the dang team hooked up to wagon and got some help out there and we loaded this mower in the wagon and I took it back down there. I can’t remember if old Ed went with me or who went me but somebody went with me down there. Down to help me unload that mower and we got there and the plane had already been there and left ’cause here was all our gear. All our saddles and so on and so forth, some grub and one thing an another stacked along side the rock by the lake, ya know? So anyway I had to unload the mower then load all that stuff up and go back to the ranch. Back at the Home Ranch. And the guy that was runnin’ that place, his name was Bob Anthony, he said it was Bob Anthony. I guess it turned out that wasn’t his name. But I’d heard there’d been trouble out there and I went to the RCMP here in town before I ever left and asked them if I should take a rifle or something with me, ya know and the old Sergeant here he says “No, God no Wilbur ” he says “Don’t do that” he says “There’s enough trouble out there already”. Ya know? But this guy says “well” he says “we’ll get the.. .”He says, “I’ll get my crew together” he says, “we’ll the gather the cattle off the meadow in the morning and I and you’ll sort ’em”. Ya know? And he went into the bedroom or somewhere there. This is in the, was in the main ranch house and he came out with a sheaf a papers like that. There’d been all kinds of litigation, already up to that point. But I didn’t know anything about. And he shuffled through there until he come to such and such a page and he says “See right there” he says. “Them cattle with Pan’s old brand on are mine” ya know? So they had rebranded the cattle that they hauled in there that summer these four hundred head with Pan’s brand but you could still tell the new brands from the old you see? And that’s what we did. We sorted out the, all… Everything with the new brands and he kept the, he said he’s gonna keep the cattle with the old brand there but he didn’t tell me what he was goin’ to do. But I didn’t ask ‘cause I mean, he knew I knew that they were gonna starve to death if they, if he kept ‘em there. But anyway the next morning we then went, we got 'em all sorted. Yeah.
Geese flyin’ by here.
He got up at three o’clock in the morning ya know? I mean we’re all out in the bunkhouse and I laid there in my sleeping bag and watched him get up and I thought “Man they really get up early around this outfit’ ya know?” Well I should a got up too. Because what he did was. He went to the cook shack and he got the cook who was as crooked as he was I guess, and they went out in the… They cut out fifteen head of cattle out of my corral and run ’em across the creek and put ’em in a another pen over there. Ya know. Figurin’ I wouldn’t be able to get an accurate count that next morning, which I didn’t. I mean, its pretty hard to count when the cows and calves are goin’ together and they’re runnin’ through a gate ya know. Out of four hundred head you can miss by 10 percent, well I didn’t miss by 10 percent but I might as well of. Anyway then he took his crew and helped us get a. We had a helluva time gettin’ them cattle off that meadow ya know ‘cause I mean you’re... They’ve been there long enough. They just, they were just taken in there that spring but I mean by this time they’d decided this was home ya know. And we gotta drive them through the bush to get ‘em out and finally get ’em onto a road and start ’em off. And it took everything everybody had to get them cattle moved ya know. Cows runnin’ back, cows bawlin’ ‘cause their calves and... Anyway I had three women on this drive and I put one of these women on the wagon I said “You’re gonna drive the wagon”. “Oh yeah, I can drive the wagon fine” ya know.” So this old Ed Adams he guess, I guess he watched her for a while drivin’ that wagon and he came back to me after an hour or two and he said “Wilbur ” he said “You better get your horse up there” he says “And take that wagon over” he says. “Cause she’s gotta go down that hill to the creek”. And he said “If she pitches off there with that wagon and team” he says “You ain’t gonna have an outfit left because she’s gonna lose it.” So I did. I rode ahead and caught up with her just a little while before she came to that hill and I let her have my horse and I took the wagon and I just got to the top of that hill and for some reason I… I said “Whoa”. I stopped the team. And when I did they kinda stopped and set in to the britchin’ and that one horse... The straps that hold the britchin’ up back here. They broke and dropped that britchin’ right down around her hocks. Ya know? Well Lord I was glad I was stopped. Anyway I climbed off that wagon and I got out my knife and I started cuttin’ rope off the. Ya know we had everything tied down and I rebuilt that harness with rope. And then I drove them off of there and down the hill. Ya know but this one mare she’d kick her butt out to the side she didn’t want to hold anything back and the other one actually had to hold the wagon back goin’ down the hill. Anyway, we got down there, went on down through past Pan’s fishin’ camp and we got out to a place called Willy Kasams which is right on the banks of the Blackwater River and then we had to stop cause I mean it was gettin’ dark ya know. We gotta make camp yet and get fire goin’ and build supper and so on. Anyway when we finally got everything kinda organized there we found out three cowboys are missing completely.
Catharine: From the outfit?
Wilbur: Yeah. And I hadn’t seen this Bob Anthony or whatever his name was or any of his crew since I took over the wagon ya know. But what happened was that he got the... Them three cowboys, the only three guys that I could actually call cowboys. I had women. I had a hockey player, I had two Indians, I had ya know a guide and outfitter and ya know. I had a helluva crew. And these three guys that Bob Anthony had got ’em up in front. He got about 75 of them old cows that were kinda leaders and got ’em goin’ up the road and he got these guys up there and he says “Now you guys get behind these cows” he says “ And keep ’em on the trot” he says “And don’t let ’em look back.” And the reason they were missin’ that night when we made camp was because they were ten miles ahead of us ya know. No calves. Just cows. And that Anthony had cut around through the brush some way and completely circled ‘round so I didn’t even see him goin’ back. And he knew I was messed up. When we were three days… We finally gathered up what cattle we could get the next morning and pushed them on through and by the way we woke up that next morning with six inches of snow on our blankets. And we pushed through to this place called Paul’s Meadows on Tsacha Lake ya know. And then I left a couple guys there to hold what cattle we had and we were three days right there puttin’ our drive back together ya know. And some of them cows had gone clear back to Home Ranch and we never did get ’em.
Meanwhile this Anthony had got up that next morning after we… After our first day out and he got his crew together and he took them 15 he stole from me and the rest of the cattle with Pan’s old brand on it and he headed off the other way toward Anahim. Anahim Lake ya know. I’ve never seen him again to this day.
But we hung around that Tsacha Lake and there was a couple out there had put up a bunch of hay. I don’t know how in the world they cut it unless they cut it with a scythe. Maybe they had a mowin’ machine but they had just kinda put it in a pile, they hadn’t made a stack and of course our cows got into it ya know. So I put these three so called cowboys over there to well... No two. Two cowboys and a hockey player, I put ’em over there to guard that hay ya know. Cause that woman come around there, she was madder then hell cause our cows were eaten up her winter hay ya know? Well then the rest of us were ridin’ for three days tryin’ to gather cattle and get ’em back and .. I tried to hire a, a little Indian that lived back up there by Willy Kasams but he didn’t. He wouldn’t hire out to anybody, but he did come and help us ya know to get cattle. Cattle gathered up. He knew the country pretty good. And then just before we pulled out.... I think there was two guys. Two Indians came in. Old George Shantiman and another guy. And they, they hired on to help us make the drive which helped to be hell. Anyway we started out from there and it was a circus. I mean, cattle runnin’ off in the brush ya know, and these guys didn’t know how to get ’em back and them three women especially they wouldn’t leave and go up and try and head somethin’ off, they just stayed by the cattle on the road ya know. And we’d get into camp at night and. This one guy, actually he’s a helluva good guy, Ron Crosby, over here. He was kinda buddies with that hockey player ya know. And they’d climb off their horse and come in to camp “What’s fer supper” ya know and I’d say “The hell with supper get your horse taken care of”. And they’d finally get their horses unsaddled and kinda taken care of a little bit ya know and then they comeback and then the one would holler “Kungfoo” and he’d run for the other one and they’d wrestle ya know. Wrestle through the groceries and tip things over. Oh I’ll tell ya. We had a time.
Well then one day I was… I always wound up in the drag. I mean I was a helluva trail boss ‘cause I was riden’ drag most times but....
Catharine: Was that in the back end?
Wilbur: Somebody had to be back there because all these calves would dribble back and dribble back and dribble back and pretty soon you know by the end of the day you’d be back there with eighty calves ya know. And somebody had to keep movin’ them along but... And I had the, and I kept the wagon behind me. I wasn’t gonna let that woman get ahead with that wagon, she… Hard to tell what she’d a done. But one day she hollered at me. “Bill” she says “There’s somebody back here that wants to see ya”. And I turned around and looked and here’s some old Indian ya know. So I went back there.
“I look for my boy”.
“Well what’s his name?”
Well this guy, well this was one of the guys that I’d hired back up there by Paul’s Meadows so I said “Well” I says “I think he’s up ahead somewhere driving cattle”.
“Oh, how far you tink?”
I said “I have no idea.” I says “You wanna work?”
Ya know and he just turned his horse around and he went to driving cattle and he came all the way with us ya know. Helluva guy, this man I mean, I don’t know what kind of a saddle he had but he… When he took the saddle off that horse that night he had a great big fistula up here on his horse ya know. And he’d say “Saddle no good make sore”. Ya know and then he’d pick away at the edges of the saddle blanket where it had got crusted up with that stuff ya know and he’d pick that off. Next mornin’ he’d put it back on and he’d very carefully placed it so it wasn’t going to irritate that ya know and saddled up and away we’d go. He rode that horse all the way. And I had three or four cows break off one day. We were comin’ along a place where the, the creek was down quite a ways. Like from here down to the house and pretty steep and so they’d hollered about these. Hollered back these cows that broke off and went down the creek and I rode over there. Was tryin’ to find a place to get down this bank ya know. ‘Cause I, it’s steep. And I heard a crash and a bang and I looked around and here come. That old Indian and he just pitched off there and down he went. I mean he was… On the bottom before I could even find a way to get there ya know. And he gathered up them four cows and brought ’em back up...Ya know, I mean, he’s the only guy in the outfit that I could think of that would’ve done that.
But anyway we continued on and we finally got up to goin’ back to Paul’s Meadows the word came around that we were goin’ to have trouble with the Indians up ahead because there was a camp up there, called Old Antoine’s or something. And they… They said that they were gonna stop us. They weren’t going to let ’em go through. They weren’t going to let us through with the drive you know. So this one guy that I had was a guide outfitter and he had a big old grey packhorse and so I borrowed his packhorse ‘cause my horse was gettin’ pretty wore out. I mean it wasn’t in good shape when I started ya know. And I rode all the way out to that Indian camp called... Well it was right close to Machooos Crossing on the Blackwater River and there wasn’t a soul there. I couldn’t find one living thing, not even a dog ya know. So I turned around and started back and I hadn’t got a hundred yards on the way back and it got dark and I mean it was dark. It was so damn dark that the only thing I could see was a bare outline of this grey horse under me and a strip overhead like I’m ridin’ through the jack pines ya know. I could see a bare strip of light up there. Like in the sky ya know. And that’s the way I rode all the way back. Of course that old horse it didn’t bother him any. And I got back to that place on the meadow where I’d left them three guys to guard the hay. And one of ’em was drunker than 700 dollars. And he had wondered around there that afternoon and found a bottle that somebody had stashed. Now this... This cattle drive went in that way, ya see from down by Nazko that spring and I think what happened was that one of these cowboys on this... No the guy that moved them cattle in was haulin’ whiskey in to them with a helicopter ya know. And one of them guys had taken a bottle out somewhere and stashed it and this Tim Wheeler found it and he proceeded to drink it. (Laughs). Oh yeah it was just one thing after another like that. Anyway the next morning we finally got the cattle together and away we went. And we got up to this. We just got past this place where the Indians were gonna head us off or where they, we thought they were and we had to cross a creek and it’s runnin’ high, like that snow that we had that first night out was meltin’. And that creek was runnin’ high. And we couldn’t get them damn cattle started in there cross that creek ya know. And finally this one kid... He’s a fair cowboy ya know. He roped a calf and drug it across ya know and they finally… The cow followed and then the rest of them came but, and we got… I think that was in the morning and anyway we got down to the ridges where it started to break over into the Blackwater River. And I took the wagon again then because they said “Ya know that woman can’t drive that wagon down there”. Well I could see that. I couldn’t hardly drive the damn thing down there myself. There was a, it was just a ridge. A hogback ridge like that you know. And the road run right down the top it and it got pretty steep in places and at one point there was rocks stickin’ up in the middle of the road and they’d be. Them Indians had been goin one side or the other with their teams and wagons and I figured I had enough clearance I could make it over and I didn’t. I hooked that rock and I. That bolt underneath the centre bolt and the bunk, I bent it way back I don’t know they ever got it apart but anyway we kept right on with it. And then we got down there across the river. That was an easy crossing ‘cause the water was about that deep ya know. And wide. Like it was, oh I’d say from here out to the poplar trees over there ya know.200 feet at least and you’d see fish swimmin’ around on the top of that gravel and we’d made camp that time. Just on the other side of the river. And Old Dave Helkinberg and I, we had a pretty good size foam mattress that we were sharing ya know. And I says “Dave” I says “We’re sleepin’ right here on the crossing”. And we did, we pitched our foam right down there on the edge of the river. And that’s where we slept that night. ‘Cause I was afraid them some of them cattle would go back and if they ever got back there… Ahhh we’d never get ’em ya know. And we finally, the next morning we got up and headed out and we made it up to what they call Nun’s Ranch. Which is on another lake. I can’t remember the name of that lake but this... It’s 50, 60 miles out there past... Well it’s beyond what they call a flood...ya know Knewstubb Lake, Kenney Dam and the Knewstubb Lake. It’s 30 miles I suppose beyond that and we stayed there for about three days. I, I had to have. Some of these cowboys wanted to get back. They wanted to go home. Like that Ron Crosby and Tim Wheeler and the hockey player. He quit us. Well no he didn’t quit us yet there. But anyway the plane. I’d got, radioed out to Shantz and he was goin’ send in some more guys ya know. So we waited there for the plane to come in bring these guys in ‘cause there’s only way a plane can land out there is on the water ya know. And I’d been riding’. I had two horses. Oh where the hell was… When the horses sent in I’d weared out… She had Wayne up here shoe up my, two of my horses and I had them brought out and a guy by the name of Gary Telford came out and brought my horses. Anyway I’d been ridin’ this one horse ‘cause she was kinda green broke ya know. I ridin’ her around there one day when the plane came in so I just took the saddle... I left the saddle on her. I loosened the cinch a little bit and put a halter on her and let her graze and I took my other old mare and I was ridin’ out to the plane belt ya know. One at a time haulin’ these guys in so they didn’t have to wade through the water. And I was bringin’ a guy by the name of Steve Gouder out off the plane. And I see that young mare of mine go buckin’ across the hills ya know. And I, one of them got to the back. I says “bail off, bail off” I says “I got trouble over there ya know” and I rode over there as hard as I could and she’d got the saddle under her belly and kicked it all to hell, jerked the riggin’ out of it. I put it back together and finished the drive with it but… And it happened again after I got home a couple three years later. It’s a wreck now. But I mean its just stuff like that all the way ya know. Well then, I had this Steve Gouder and a guy by the name of..... What the hell was that ah... What was that pedro’s name that was here… Worked for me??
Hilda: Who? Who?
Wilbur: Peter. Peter... Mork. I had a guy by the name of Kevin Mork and Steve Gouder and this Gary Telford and it seemed like there was one or two others. Anyway they. They were kinda halfway cowboys now ya know so if they’d do better. But I still had the ... No, ya, we still them women. And we got up to what would used to be Walter Erhorn’s old camp and, well Neal and Bob can tell you about that when you talk to them but Walter’s dead. Anyway when we got there that was the end of the line for the wagon. We couldn’t take the wagon any further. So we left the wagon and I told everybody to make a lunch and put in their back...their shirt or in their saddlebags if they had any or whatever and we started through that area there just north of the Knewstubb Lake and we never made it through that with them. Guys gotta… Them guys that was ahead got turned around and some of them were drivin’ cattle back and... Ah I had a hellava time ya know..
Well this Dave Helkinberg, he was up ahead and he knew. He could see
we weren’t going to make it ya know. I mean he knew how far it was through
there. So he found a peninsula on the lake, went out like this and kinda
like that ya know. And it was narrow enough across here he figured we could
hold the cattle so he was drivin’ the cattle. Every time somebody would
come with a little bunch of cattle he’d head ’em out on there ya know.
And I was course in the drag again with the calves and we pushed out there
and then I’d made them guys go to work and build four big fires. I let
’em drag up wood there for an hour and a half ya know. So we’d have enough
fire to last all night and we… I kept two men awake all night ya know.
And I took my turn too. And we kept those cattle out on that peninsula
‘til morning ya know ‘cause if we, they’d a got away. We didn’t have a
meadow or nothin’ to camp on you see that night. And if they’d a got away
from us we’d a never would a got our drive back together. Well we held
’em with them fires. With them four fires and two guys watchin’. But some
of our horses got away and they’d headed back down the trail ya know ‘cause
they’d come from Home Ranch. They were all Home Ranch horses. Well we still
had enough horses so in the morning. I got two guys saddled up and they
headed off down the trail and they finally come back with ’em about 10
o’clock. Well we should a been out of there by seven ya know on… Hittin’
the trail. Anyway them young… They had about 8 or 10 young Simmental bulls
in this drive and them damn bulls kept breakin’ back and they started to
give out ya know. And I had, I had one that I’d finally nursed in by myself
and he’d walk about from here to them trees out there and then he’d lay
down. He had to have a rest. And nothin’ I could do but stand there and
wait for him to get up ya know. And I come in about and hour and a half
behind everybody else but I finally made it with him. Well then Shantz
and a guy by the name of Jack ....
Wilbur: Yeah Jack Reid, who was out here on River Ranch at that time. They had come in with a helicopter. Well that night, in fact they came in the night before when we was campin’ with the cattle out on that peninsula. They’d flown over and dropped a sack a groceries ya know. There was a, they must have been bakin’ soda or somethin’ in that… Maybe it was flour I don’t know. Whatever was in that sack and when it hit the ground it… Just a big puffa white cloud ya know. But there was canned goods in there and everybody grabbed a can and some of the labels was off and one guy’d have prunes and the other guy’d have chili and somebody else would have spaghetti and meatballs. (Laughs) Anyway we had something to eat for supper. And the next morning we headed out and then... Like I said we had to nurse them bulls along. Well we finally got into what they called Big Bend Arm up here. And that’s right off the end of Knewstubb Lake. Well then the helicopter came in and he took all the women. Flew ’em out to Home Ranch ‘cause they all wanted baths and one thing or another ya know. And Shantz was there with a pick up and took them Indians and everybody else. He left Steve Gouder and I with that 400 head of cows… Head of cows and calves and all them damn horses. He left the two of us there ya know. Well the next morning Steve and I got up and the cattle were gone. But they’d gone up the creek. Luckily they hadn’t headed back over the trail the way we had come ya know. And we had breakfast and I had to start taken’ care of them horses ya know. I had all them damn horses Them Indians had led a bronc all the way through and he’s picketed out there. And I had to around and water all these horses that were picketed or hobbled. Ya know, lead ’em to water one at a time and then feed ’em oats, the ones that had to have oats, and move ’em to a new spot so they could get at grass. And meanwhile Steve, he’s up the creek huntin’ cattle. And finally I got done and I started up there and he’s comin’ down with a bunch and he... He told me. He says “I think there’s a whole bunch on the other side of the creek” he says “cause I heard bawlin’ over there in the timber”. So I said “Ok, I’ll find a way to get across and I’ll go up the creek on that side” And I did. And I come down with probably 180 or 200 head. And there was a place in the creek where it washed around like that and it left a cut bank ya know. Kind of a gravelly place. And them cattle come down and they’d walk along the creek and they’d get in there but then where it came down to the creek it was straight up and down over there ya know. And the water was pretty swift through there and they didn’t want to go around. So I’d have to go around and dig ‘em out of there and push ’em back and course I couldn’t do this on my horse...I left my horse on the hillside, grazing. This is this young horse ya know, that about... Green broke?
And finally got all them cattle. While I was pushing one bunch over the hill some more would come and wander in there. I don’t know how long I was in there but anyway I finally got ’em all pushed out of there and back up over the hill ya know. About this time my horse had grazed over top of the hill and come down the other side. And I wandered over there and found her. She was facing like the, it was downhill this way ya know and she was facing that way and I walked up to her and picked up the reins and put ’em around her neck and instead of turnin’ her around and gettin’ on from the left side I thought I’ll just get on from the right hand side and I put my foot in the stirrup and started to step on and the saddle slipped a little bit and she gave a jump and I came off. Ya know, I mean she didn’t really throw me but… I turned and… To catch myself and I hit a rock and it just shattered that wrist. It just popped like somebody shot a 30/30. Well then here I am afoot and she’s gone. She went down with cattle. And I’m walkin’ along there holdin’ my wrist and talkin’ to her like an Indian. Tryin’ to get her so she’d let me get up to her ya know. And I’m walkin’ through that cattle and I seen somethin’ and I looked up to my right and here’s old Larry Shantz comin’ on horseback. He’d come back with a pick up and saddled up somebody’s horse and come down to see how we were doin’ ya know. Well he, I said you’d better catch my horse for me.
So he caught my horse and led it over there and I said “I think I just broke my arm”.
“Oh is that right?”.
“Yeah” I said “you might have to take me to town”. “Well” he said “we’d better get these cattle all across the creek first huh?” ya know. Well... So there we were. I had to ride across the creek and get the, that, that Indian bronc that he’d... Wandered up and got right next to the bridge ya know. And the bridge was a bunch of poles with dirt on top looked... There was a big hole in the middle about this big a round and it washed through and the cattle had to walk either around that side or around that side ya know. And they’d only go... Well two at a time at the very most. Most of the time just one ya know. And we had to put about two hundred across there. I had to go get that horse and lead it out of the way so it wouldn’t block the bridge and sit there and wait ya know. Until they finally got all them cattle pushed across and then he wanted to get a count on ’em ya know.
Well anyways pretty near dark when we finally got… I mean this all started in the morning ya know. And I hadn’t had no lunch. And he finally decided “Yeah, I’d better take you to town”. And we started ridin’ ’cause the pickup, his pickup was back oh, two miles I suppose. I think a guy by the name of Bert Irvine had a cabin up there, someplace and that’s where Steve and I had started out from that morning. So we’re ridin’ out there and here’s two Indians sleepin’ beside the road ya know. There’s part of my crew ya know. And pretty soon you rode along and there’s another one comin’ That’s George Shantiman and he pulled a bottle out of his hip pocket ya know.
“Whaty ya holin’there boss... How you doin’ anyway?”
Ya know....he’s drunk as a hoot. And he handed me up that bottle and I kinda held the reins in this hand and reached down and I got that bottle and I had a had a swig and I handed it back to him ya know. And he well staggered around there talkin’ to me… You couldn’t understand what the hell he’s sayin’ very much and… Anyway, pretty soon he pulled out another bottle. This was... The first one was a 26er and this second one was a pint ya know. “Yeah” I said and I reached down and I grabbed that bottle and I just reined the horse around him and on I went ya know. I had that drank by the time I got to town and I was drunk too. (Laughs) But that arm was hurtin’ pretty bad ya know. And it was broke. Old Doc Moonie set it and he never washed the arm or nothin’ and when I... About a week after, that thing started healin’ up ya know... I was in there with a knittin’ needle or a (?) or somethin’ tryin’ to scratch that arm. Well they finally took that dang cast off… That was just crusted under there ya know. Stunk!! I never understand why they wouldn’t of at least wash the damn thing. He’d knew I’d been out there on the trail for two weeks ya know. Anyway that was the end of the cattle drive for me.
Catharine: So it took two weeks?
Wilbur: Yeah, I was out there… I was out there more than two weeks wasn’t I?
Hilda: Oh yeah.
Wilbur: I mean by the time... By the time we put that time in at the Home Ranch ya know... Sortin’ the cattle off and getting’ horses shod up and gettin’ our equipment ready and outfittin’ the wagon and then the first day we never made very... We never made it very far except them three cowboys with them 75 head... They got... We probably made it about 5 miles and they made it about 15 and them cattle came back the next day anyway.
Catharine: Ok we’re back on.
Wilbur: I was goin’ to say it was at Nun’s ranch where we spent about three days , maybe four. I think we were there three or four days. Anyway... Some of his cattle got across the creek and got in... Mixed in with ours and he had them yaks. Ya know... They were goin’ to raise yak bulls for rodeo stock out there. And we had to sort them out when we got ready to leave there and Lee Nun got his old paint stud out and was gonna give up a hand ya know. And he didn’t know I saw him but I was up above him on the hill a little ways and he was down in the… Kinda in the willows and I seen that horse bog his head and go to buckin’ and pitched ole Lee off down there. (Laughs) Anyway, while we there, there was a calf. Them, them three women that were on the drive figured this little calf was never gonna make it. I don’t what they, reason was that, for thinkin’ that but anyway. They were gonna give the calf to Mrs. Nun. And I wouldn’t let ’em. I said “that’s not your calf to give away” I said “we’re gonna take it on the drive and if it dies before it gets there, it dies.” I said “It’s gonna be with the cattle” ya know “it’s not yours to give away”. Well I, I didn’t make any friends there. Ya know… Anyway then after we got out to Big Bend and I fell off the horse and broke my arm… That was the end of the drive. Well they finally come and got the cattle… The rest of them guys and they.. Shantz had brought hay ya know ’cause I mean it’s gettin’ way into October now and they’d feed ’em everyday along down the road ya know and they’d trailed ’em out to that River ranch and that Dieter Berg was the... Who was the guy that actually engineered that project gettin’ them in there. He went out for some reason that I’ve never figured out. He was, he took all them... He took all them Simmental bulls out of the bunch ya know. And moved them over onto... Well actually it was Gloria Hobson’s place and put an Indian there to take care of ‘em and he... But he wouldn’t bring ’em any hay and this Indian was actually the one that was that had helped us out back down there by Willy Kasams but he wouldn’t hire out to me. And he said. Finally Dieter Berg came out one day with a rifle and he shot all the bulls. Two or three of them starved to death and then he came out with a rifle and shot the rest. And I went out there and he took me out in the brush and in the snow and showed me where these bulls were ya know. Now why would he do that? I mean he didn’t know anything about livestock. But anyway this Dieter Berg. But he went out there and shot them bulls.
Catharine: So where did the rest of the cattle go?
Wilbur: Well the rest of the cattle finally came on in here. They kept them and wintered ’em. They kept ’em at River Ranch that winter and the next spring. I think they calved them out there. I don’t remember how that worked but anyway they brought ’em into Vanderhoof auction and sold ’em and it turned out the cattle had Brucellosis and they scattered Brucellosis all over this country. Ya know some guy’d buy five head over here and some guy‘d buy ten head down there on the Blackwater or some where or...ya know. Some of them went west and some of them went north. Our neighbour right across the road over there got it. It’s a wonder I didn’t bring it home with those horses. Cause horses can get it too, they can’t die from it but they can carry it ya know?
Catharine: Pass it on... So was that the last cattle drive that you went on?
Wilbur: That’s the last cattle drive. Yeah.
Catharine: Do people still drive cattle long distances up here?
Wilbur: No. If they have a two day drive it’s a long one nowadays. Mostly, I mean it’s 15 miles or less and they can make it in one day.