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, 11 September 2018

Tribute to Mickey Dorsey, by Paul St Pierre

Credit to keeping this article on my grandmother to Rob Phillips.  I enjoyed going though some of the papers and articles Rob has kept over the years, and plan to head back this winter to help organize and display/store so they can be enjoyed for years to come.  
Paul St Pierre was a family friend of ours and a truly entertaining writer.  He has written a multitude of books and stories, and many of them are about the characters from the Cariboo and Chilcotin.  This article was probably from the Vancouver Sun, which he also worked for.  Paul also owned a small home in Mexico, in the same town as my father in law has a place and that we have visited several times.  On our first visit down there, Paul was at his Mexican home, which turned out to be literally down around the corner from where we were.  I called him up, even though he would have only known me as a small child.  He knew exactly who I was with very little explanation and his first statement was "Huh, a Dorsey in Mexico!  Who would have thought!"  We had a very entertaining visit.  

Photo Credit to Jim Swift 
Taken at one of the ranches owned by Mickey and Lester.  


Tribute to Mickey Dorsey
Anahim pioneer was a great woman
by Paul St Pierre 

They are burying Mickey Dorsey at Anahim Lake today, and, with her, some of the vital warmth and humor of the Chilcotin country.  She was a great woman, great enough to never know or care how great she was.  
She was also a pioneer.  There aren't many parts of Canada left where you can die a pioneer at 71.  Most of the nation is too long and comfortably settled.  But the Chilcotin remained frontier land into the middle of this century and she was there, on the last frontier of ranch country, one of that rare and special breed, a ranch wife.  
There are any number of people now who talk a lot about the wilderness, people who will do anything for it but try to live in it. 
Mickey's knowledge was a different sort.  It was first hand.  She cheerfully worked, she faced hardship and responsibility and, at times, danger.  The mere act of survival counted for a lot among the people who settled Anahim Lake during the 20s and 30s but she did better, she did it with style.  
As typical a story about her as any is the one which involves a handful of small children, a goat and a cougar.  
Throughout her working career she was, from time to time, a school teacher.  On one occasion she was teaching at a tiny school on the west bank of the Fraser opposite Soda Creek.  The children had a goat which they lavished affection unusual for a goat.  One day a cougar came to call on the goat and the children demanded that Mickey chase it away.  "The children were in front of the goat and I got in front of the children and stood there looking at the cougar.  I told the children they were all to go away.  They were to run to the ranch house and tell somebody to come down with a gun. 
"For the longest time they wouldn't go.  They were afraid the cougar would get the goat while they were gone.  They weren't so much worried about the cougar getting me but they were fearfully concerned about their goat.  
"Eventually they did go.  I kept standing there, absolutely petrified with fear.  The cougar kept looking at me.  Then somebody came down with a gun and shot it and that was that.  
"But you know, after they killed it, I was ashamed of myself.  It was such a scrawny little cougar, half starved.  It wasn't worth being afraid of.  But to me it had looked immense."  
She could never take herself too seriously.  
She was born February 3, 1911, Hanna Clarissa Tuck, in Sidney, Nova Scotia.  Her father was John Tuck, a shipbuilder, who came to Vancouver to build ships during the First World War.  In 1922 John Tuck retired and moved to Bella Coola.  
Mickey, educated there and at the larger community of Ocean Falls, became a school teacher.  At age 23, when she was tutoring the Christensen children at Clesspocket Ranch in Anahim Lake, she met and married Lester Dorsey, a character as strong as her own, although differently.  Lester is now 78 and although lightly reined in by heart trouble remains an adventurous mountain man.  He has been a packer, a guide, a cowboy, a rancher and, ever, a raconteur of rare wit and charm.  
He is a man of almost incredible fortitude.  However, for all his multitude of talents as a frontiersman, it may fairly be said of Lester that when it came to making a fortune he could never find the time to spot the trick of it.  Mickey had to be a cowboy and a rancher too, all in a land beyond the reach of electricity, telephone or , as often as not, road.  In the 30s about all that could be said of the economic development of Anahim Lake was that the ranchers were making it just a trifle less empty than it had been a decade before.  
She raised five sons and a daughter, educating them most of the time by correspondence school conducted in the kitchen of her home.  She had to learn about horses, Herefords, wolves, bears and bitter, lonely winters.  Because Lester usually lost interest in a ranch once a road reached it, they moved to new ground more than once in the Anahim country, starting each time on raw pastures to build a log home, log fences, log corrals and all the other things made by axework which go into a ranch.
She herself would say "There is no such thing as a ranch in this country until at least one generation's work has gone into it."  So she had no illusions that they, with their frequent moves, might expect some day to look out at lush tame hay meadows from a comfortably home furnished with all the appliances that the rest of Canada was taking for granted.  
That never daunted her.  To Mickey, the troubles of this life were just salt and pepper.  
There must have been some bad moments.  But when she reminisced, it was always with the light touch.    
"When I was a bride, and greener than the grass, the only thing I had to cook on was one of those folding tin stoves.  I despised the thing.
"That summer Lester and I and Pan Phillips rode up into the Itchas and when we made camp that first night Pan, very proudly, lifted the folding stove off a pack horse and presented it to me.  It was too much, and I broke into tears.  Neither of them had the faintest idea what I was bawling about, of course."
Occasionally, while her family was growing, Mickey took teaching assignments in various parts of the Chilcotin, one year in Tatla Lake, another at Bald Mountain, another at Rose lake.  When her family was grown and gone, she resumed teaching as an occupation and served a decade at Crescent Heights School at Williams Lake, returning to the ranch during the summer and at holidays.  
She had an immense curiosity about almost everything in the world and a vast enthusiasm for almost everything she did.  Accordingly, she was a great teacher.  At the same time that Chilcotin oldtimes remember her this week in one way, there are a lot of young people in the Cariboo who have a fire in their soul today that this woman lit.  
She never managed to pursue all her enthusiasms.  For one thing, there were too many for one lifetime.  For another, work and family had their own demands on her time and interest.  But she managed to canoe the Blackwater, she managed to see the sub-Artic and the Mexican desert, and was planning, although a little too late, to see the Orient.  
At the last she had cancer and much pain but the spark of humor was never extinguished to her last day.  
Now she is gone, but you may be sure that for this woman, as for the Pilgrim of Pilgrim's Progress, all the trumpets sounded for her as she crossed over the to the Other Side.  


Friday, 31 August 2018

Here's yer sign

So I got an email this morning that asked if I still wanted to be part of Mountains Beyond the Cows.  
I do.  
I signed up for the notification of new postings.  

No apologies, life is what it is.  I haven't posted for almost 2 months now, but have not forgotten.   And the occasional posts/emails/snarls from friends/family/friends I haven't met/others, do produce results.  

Okay, to try and somewhat catch up, I'm going to do a photo journey for you.  

July 7th
Photo credit to Lorna Jimmie  
As a community, we had an amazing rodeo weekend.  Contestants were delighted  with the new events added and prize money available.  
Personally, I'm always happy when Monday rolls around after rodeo weekend, but with our new events and format, it was quite possibly the most exhausting weekend ever.  Worked out well and the spectators were happy, but next year..........  more delegating is a huge priority.  

July 8th
View from my kitchen window

July 9th

July 10th

July 11th 
Tired boy, tired dog...

July 12
Cows on summer range

July 18th

JULY 19th
Lunch Lake 

July 21st 
Coming in through the fog.

July 22nd 

July 24th 
This is a photo of a photo.  During our 16 day mountain ride we go right over the Itcha Mountains to the Pan Phillips Fishing Resort for some much appreciated R & R.  Rob and Linda were outstanding hosts, as usual.  This time was a bit special as Rob brought out his collection of photos and newspaper clippings.  I hope to get back in there this winter to help them organize and preserve what has painstakingly been collected.  The photo shown is Rob's father (Pan Phillips on the bay horse in front) and Barry Remple (brother in law) heeling the moose.  The back story is that the moose had actually been caught in a steel trap meant for a fur bearing critter and probably would have died if not for the men taking the time to capture and free the animal.  
July 26th
Cody and Vickie arguing over who gets the dinner plate (he won this time). 

July 27th 
Riding past Pipe Organ Moutain

July 28th
Climbing over the pass from Pan Valley.  "Smile Magalie, you could be famous......."  :)

July 29th
Peaches testing out the contents of Liz's bottle.  Delicious.....  

July 30th
Corkscrew Island Camp

July 31st
Horses having a much needed break.  

Aug 3rd
A young friend that helped me out a lot this summer.

Aug 5th 
Summer Range

Aug 6th
Try it, you own't regret it. 

Aug 8th
Sweet Rea, teaching another kid to ride.  Ava is having a blast and kept telling Jackson (who was leading her) "keep going buddy, keep going".

August 10th
Heading for High Camp in the Ilgatchuz.

August 12
Luckily we had an excellent nurse along to fix up Jackson after his painful reminder about sharp axes.

August 13th
A weird evening.  The smoke rolled in shortly after we set up camp and the skies were dark.    

August 14th
We knew it was going to be a good day, and it was!

August 15th
Dog down!

August 16th
Jackson and I (and Brady and Zip) did a big climb up the side of Pipe Organ.  Was a bit smoky but still beautiful.  

August 17th
A smoky morning in Pan Valley.

August 18th

August 19th
Trailing the horses home at the end of the ride.

August 20th
Back to the ranch to deal with a wolf bit calf, luckily already healing well.

August 21st
We've been kicked out of the Park again, so its another short season.  Very frustrating.

August 25th
Could not agree more.

August 26th
Plenty of late summer feed.
Looking through the impressively long ears of Shmoose with trusty Zip to my right.

August 27th
Finally getting the cows to summer range after a very long day (and several hours to go before getting to the Cabin.)

August 28th
Salt is often brought to the range in the winter and stored in these pails.  Being by myself, I was at a bit of a loss of how I was going to transport them to where they needed to be.  But good old Shmoosey solved my problem by allowing me to tie them to my saddle and I led her to where we needed to go.  During our very long ride the night before, she also allowed Ben to ride double so he could rest against my back.  And I packed my very sore footed Zip dog for several miles as well.  I don't know if we happened to end up with the best Standardbred ever, or if they are all this amazing.    

August 29th
Sorbay carefully taking my niece for a ride through the heifers.

There may be a few stories to tell along the way, and I will get back to that!
Hope the summer has treated you well.
All the best, 


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

New Horses

We are always on the lookout for good horses.  We raise our own of course, and our little stallion has produced some absolute champions.  We generally raise two or three a year out of our own mares.  Any more than that and it is almost impossible to keep up with getting them well-started and putting on the necessary miles.  Can only ride so many.... 

Guest horses are worth their weight in gold around here, as any outfit.  And it seems they get old too fast!  Some of our retirees live out their lives on the ranch, with the more suitable ones given away to good homes, usually one with kids.  Every kid should have an old champion to take care of them, and every old champion horse should finish their working days with the exclusive attention of an adoring kid.    

My top hand Jackson and his amazing little Rawsy dog, riding Squirt.  

They don't all make the grade of course, but we have never had trouble selling a horse either.  Any horse that was born and raised out here, or spend a significant amount of time on the ranch, is generally a good one.  The reason we might sell often has nothing to do with the quality.  Size is one reason we might sell, although they don't all have to be huge.  The ability to get along is a group is very important, being cranky or tending to kick is not an option.  We have found that horses that we purchase that are used to being with only one or two other horses, often have trouble being in a larger herd and can get too protective of their buddies.  Most of them figure it out though and do just fine.  

We've recently acquired three new horses, and I think every one is going to be a keeper.  Two are from the area, one is actually out of our stallion and a  mare we sold to a friend.  Mum  had to do some serious haggling and trading to get him....but our retirement aged old friend "Tiny" (who is not 'tiny' at all!), will have a great new home in trade for this young fella.  I've put a few good days on him (he came to us already started under saddle) and he is great and getting better.  He has been dubbed "Biscuits" as the friend we got him from is a cook (and an excellent one at that), know locally as 'Bernie Biscuits'.  :)    

Biscuits doesn't look very big in the photo...but he is quite a large fella.  But anyone standing next to the long legged "Shmoose" looks short.  Ask me...my stirrup on her is above my belly button!!  

I purchased "Marie" here from another local source.  They had used her on a couple of pack trips but she had not yet been ridden.  I haven't spend much time with her, but so far she seems wonderful.  Packs the saddle around with no worries about tarps or ropes or  much of anything else.  She has a wonderful demeanor and a kind eye and I'm looking forward to seeing if she strides out like I think she will.  Flashy too hey!  Adding a bit of color to the outfit!  

We were lucky enough to be able to have our friend Evan Howarth come to the ranch to help us start some colts.  Here Cody is doing a great job with Marie.  

And now you'll meet "Shmoose".....short for 'she moose'.  You can chuckle, but it suits her absolutely perfectly and I'm in love with this mare.  There are few things in the world I appreciate more than a good travelling horse and that she is!  She is a Standardbred off the track and is absolutely amazing.  How she can be so good in the nasty mud and brush is beyond me, but I suspect it has something to do with those incredibly long legs, and of course, the outstanding attitude, which makes all the difference.  What she lacks in the beauty department, she makes up for in heart.  She is not much of a cow horse (yet), but I do love to travel the miles on her.  She has the hugest trot of course, which is super fast but exhausting to ride for long, and the wildest fast running walk I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy.  The other day we were flying down a trail (me trotting, Jackson and Cody at a fast lope) and they were laughing so hard I thought someone might hit the ground.  Between belly laughs and gasps for air, Jackson said "she runs like a caribou!"  Too fun.  She even lopes reasonably naturally and seems to have really taken to her new life in the bush.  I've been thinking about trying a Standardbred out for a while and if Shmoose is any example, I'm sure impressed so far.  

 Jackson riding Grey Power (with his ever present cow dog) and holding Shmoose for me.  I'm probably looking for a stump tall enough to get back on her....

And so, I started this post sometime ago and time has marched on, as so often happens.  Our first guests of the season turn up tomorrow and off to the yonder mountains on Thursday.  The weather has been crazy this year.  Cold or hot.  Knock on wood for some plain old 'warm'.....we could use it.  The riders will appreciate it for the upcoming trip, the growing grass could use a break from the frost (not to mention my garden!) and our Rodeo is coming up this weekend as well.  We've worked hard to make it a more family friendly event this year and hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate.  Its a great 3 days, but so incredibly busy with such a small volunteer pool to draw from.  I'm already looking forward to the Monday afterwards.  :)  

Cheers to you all!

This is a photo of a good job well done.  Eli has been really working through the projects around Five Mile this year, and it shows.   It has taken a while, but sure feeling like we are able to move forward here occasionally, instead of always just rushing from one crisis to another potential one.  

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Good Dogs

Was riding home the other night after a long day and thinking how lucky I was to have such a great, dependable team of dogs.  I've been meaning to write in the blog for ages anyhow and I figured they certainly deserved some special mention.

Many of you that have been with me for a while will remember my Dealer dog (he occasionally liked to write a bit as well.)  Last June, about this time actually, he got stepped on badly and ended up with a broken leg.  Not great, not great at all.  
Being without a good dog in this country is completely unacceptable, especially with bigger groups of cattle.  The country is by turns too open with huge spaces, too closed in and tight, and too muddy to get around in.  A dog makes cattle gathering and moving possible and they are absolutely worth their weight in gold. 

Back to Dealer.....from a young dog he has had a health problem.  I'm not entirely sure where is stems from, but when he over exerts himself, he acts like he is having an asthma attack and, if not noticed and rested instantly, he will almost act like he's having a stroke.  He shakes and staggers and whimpers, barely keeping up to a walking horse and almost seems like he can't see.  It really takes a lot to put him in to this state, but it is terrifying.  So long story short, I've given him to a friend of our who is living in the area and doesn't necessarily put on the miles I sometimes do.  It was very strange to give him away (for him especially I'm sure) but he has bonded very well and is a happy dog.  His new owner rides with us occasionally and while he certainly recognizes me and almost unconsciously tries to work with me, he does well for her as well.

Here is my Dealer dog as a pup on his first trail ride.  I'm delighted he has a good loving home but I do miss my buddy.  The saying "a dog is the only creature in the world that loves you more than he loves himself" is certainly true with this fella.  

So currently I'm working two dogs.  I have little Zip who is border collie through and through.  She has all the perks and quirks of border collies but is loyal to the bone and a super tough little nut.  She prefers to stay quite close to me, and although I can send her out to the sides or the front, she keeps close track of where I am.  She prefers to work ahead of where ever I am at and isn't afraid to duck in a grab a nose or a heel if the opportunity arises.  She has never gotten grumpy with people and even though she will protect me to the death from other dogs (or at least puts on a show like she would), she always ends up forgetting how tough she was trying to be and ends up playing with them instead.  She is a fun and uncomplicated dog (just 2 years old now) and it is great to see her strength and confidence grow with her.  I have the basic commands on her, meaning "lay down", "steady", "walk up", "come by" (which means to go left), "way to me" (go right) and "that'll do" which is a call off.  A loud hiss will send her in with teeth a snappin'!  

Zip poses in front.  Magalie and her dog Bell, Raffe, Ben and Tanis with the Itcha's in the background (and happy moo's).

The border collie stare.  Five Mile and the still snowy Itchas in the background.

Brady is my other champion.  She is a cross between a border collie and a Huntaway, which is a New Zealand stock dog, bred to bark as well as herd.  She is a big dog and looks more like a black lab mutt than a cow dog.  But she is absolutely amazing and I will never be without a barking dog again for working big groups.  Any old ranchers or cowboys reading this will be sitting back at that, shaking their heads in disgust right now, but I'm here to tell ya, don't knock it until you've tried it.  She certainly doesn't 'yap', she just uses her voice (and her presence) instead of her teeth.  And that way she is able to effect many more animals than just what is at the very back of the pack.  She has a huge outrun and never leaves an animal behind.  And if she needs help, I always know where to find her.  I thought that her barking might cause trouble, especially with cows with young calves, but the cows really don't take offence to her and just move on.  She is such a mild manner dog (when not working) that she can move and hang out right among the cows or calves.  She will let the calves come right up and sniff her and wanders about only inches from the cows and they just quietly watch her, or continue their naps.  Not so when she gets working though, she is a force to be reckoned with and they fully respect her.  Because I was trying to work both her and Zip as pups last year after Dealer broke his leg, I put completely separate commands on her.  She has a 'sit' (which just means to stop, doesn't matter if her bum hits the ground or not), a "right", a "left", a "walk up" and a call off.  I've just started sending her out with whistles (works so well!), but really she pretty much does what needs to be done.  It is rare to have to re correct her after being sent out.  She instinctively heads for the farthest animal and doesn't give up until it heads for the bunch (or for me).  If she is confused, she stops and looks back at me, waiting for confirmation or a new command.  She is also a total lover of all people and super easy to be around.  

The crazy hail storm didn't bother Brady one bit.  But then, not much does.  

One of Brady's greatest traits is the ability to relax.  Anywhere and at any given moment.  

Now don't get me wrong, I am certainly no dog trainer and my dogs don't work perfectly.  We are not going to win any trials, that is certain.  They tend to be too 'loose' as I am not very strict about commanding every move.  It certainly backfires as they tend to break their "heel" command when we are riding and will take every opportunity to push or gather, even if you don't want them too.  They have to be sent out of the herd if I am trying to sort, as they refuse to stay to the heel and try and 'help' instead.  Tough to sort cattle out, when the dogs are busy bringing them back in.  The flip side of that is that they really do think for themselves, assess the situation the best they can, and react to it.  They have saved my butt on numerous occasions, often stopping wrecks (such as cows heading off away from the herd, or calves running for home) before I even knew it was happening.  With them, I can manage about 3 times the cattle and situations that I could without.  They work well independently, but also are quick to help each other out.  I honestly could not do what I do with them.  

                 A glimpse at the brood mare band.  Bun and Lucy are sharing a back scratch with Bun's baby posing.  You can just see Bubbles rump with her baby behind her.  Unfortunately, the sorrel mare lost her baby this year and Twinkle (Big Momma) on the right is with our stallion for the first time. 

Squirt sneaks in a quick nap while we haul the sorted off bulls to another property.  
She looks terribly sad but was the luckiest cow in the outfit on this day.  I found her stuck on her side in a hole, with a rock against her back.  The rock luckily kept her from getting right over on to her back (which would have killed her very quickly), but there was no way she could get up.  Squirt helped me pull her upright and steady her until she found her feet.  Besides missing a lot of hair and a few meals, she is totally fine.  Her calf was very happy to have his lunch upright again.  

Heading for home.

Cheers all!