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.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Chilcotins Magical Cowboy, Part 2

continued from the newspaper article by Paul St Pierre........

The memories crowd in on you.  

You say to yourself, how did he live so long?  How did he breathe so easy and talk so gentle?  What manner of man was this?  How did he come about?  Is he the last of the strain?  Did they break the mold after they made this one?  

As to biography, he came here from Washington State, where he'd been born someplace, not exactly determined, in the Grand Coulee country.  He came to Anahim Lake trying to put as much wilderness between himself and the law as possible.  

Lester had been fooling around at a country fair, making a horse that was only half broke rear.  The horses's front fee came down on a quieter citizen's head and broke it.  Lester fled .......the bugger got up and walked away.  

There were, at that time, in the early '20's, no roads to Anahim.

Lester packed for the company of gentlemen adventurers we call Hudson's Bay, leading his horse train up and down the Precipice Trail between Bella Coola and Anahim Lake.  

He cowboyed here and there.  He drank the popular beverage of the country.  It was called Peaches Wine and was matured behind the stove in a bucket.  

He frequently went hunting.

He fell in love with the high country, the land above timbering.  Or, as it is sometimes known, the Hills With the Crust on Top.  

He never lost that love.  He was happiest on the alpine meadows.  He loved that country when riding alone.  He loved it when he guided hunters there for caribou.  He loved it when, in later years, he learned to use a snowmobile.  

The snowmobile was the solitary piece of machinery, out of all the inventions of modern man, to which Lester displayed common decency - - even, at time, affections.  All other machines of the modern age he abused.  If maltreatment of tractors, trucks, and other engineering masterpieces was grounds for fines and imprisonment, they would have had to hang Lester.  

In his passion for getting above timberline by horse, or in winter, by snowmobile, he missed only one great ambition.  

Like most men who hunt a lot, he got tired of the gunfire but became enamored of photography.  His private ambition was to guide a party of National Geographic magazine photographers into his mountains at the southern end of Tweedmuir Park.  He talked of that ambition many times but he had no more idea of how to contact the National Geographic people than how to contact the Queen, and the great photographic mission was never achieved.  

What did he do, all these years since the early '20's?  He played very hard and he also worked very hard.  

In the '20's, 30's, '40's and 50's, decades when ranchers were poor, he founded and built up several ranches.  he sold them commonly, as rapidly as roads reached them.  During that time he and Mickey raised a family of five sons and a daughter.  

In many ways he was a character of contradictions.  

For once thing, he loved company.  He would ride 20 miles to find it.  He welcomed people on his place casually, but with all sincerity.  but he also held a particular feeling about his own ranch and part of that feeling was that it should not be open to visits by people in their family automobiles.  A ranch, his place, was something you should reach by saddle horse, perhaps by wagon, occasionally, in good weather, by a robust old high-wheeled truck.  

At his last place in the Anahim country the government, no doubt confident that it was doing him a favor, ran a half-decent gravel road beside his western fence line.  It only irritated him, and expressed the wish, as he had done before under different circumstances, that the god-damned government could learn to leave him alone.  

His angers, what there were of them, were directed vaguely, against vague entities such as governments, banks, insurance companies, and other grand institutions he only dimly understood.  But his angers -- like his speech, like his manners -- were gentle.  

He was once asked what he hated most in his life.  "Hate?" he said, "Nothing.  Nobody.  I would never hate anything or anybody.  It isn't in me."

So, with the quiet manner that went so oddly with a man so naturally flamboyant, with the modesty so oddly set against a man of immense ego, with the capacity for grinding work so oddly matched with a man of princely laziness, he made his way in our world.  

Many times he was trail boss on one of the last of North America's long cattle drivers, when Anahim Lake's ranchers drove 200 miles east across the Chilcotin plateau to the stockyards in Williams Lake.  

A memory of those days that remains is a photograph of him leaning against a fence at the holding ground that once stood above that town.  He wears a large hat, fearsomely abused, a checked cowboy shirt, immense heavy batwing chaps, and boots with spurs.  the ultimate and perfect portrait of the working cowboy.  

In truth, Lester was more cowboy than rancher.  In truth, he was more frontiersman and mountain man than cowboy.  

In the end, he was slowed by not hobbled by the heart attacks.  In the last year he had started building a new log cabin on his last ranch.  

When we last met he said he was planning one more grizzly hunt in the hills to the north of Anahim Lake.  "I better do it this year or it might get too late," he said.  

He did leave it too late, and missed the last hunt.  It can't be said he missed much else in his 78 years.  

Would the large crowd that will attend his funeral gratify him?   Probably not.  He didn't much like funerals.  "They give you a bunch of flowers you can't smell anymore."  

*****************************************************************

I have a few vague memories of Paul St Pierre on the ranch from when I was very young.  Those of you who are familiar with his books might remember that he also had a home in a little town called Teacapan, in Mexico.  As it happens, my father in law also has a house and some property there.  After some inquires during our first short stay in that town, we found out that Paul's home was less than a stone throw away!  I got his phone number and gave him a call.  I explained who I was and there was a moment of silence before he said, "Huh!  A Dorsey down here!  Who would have ever thought.  You better come for a visit!"  So of course we did and enjoyed a glass of wine (never mind what time of the morning it was!) and many fine stories.  Sadly, we did not manage to meet up again, and Paul has since passed away.  I'm sure he and Lester are enjoying many good stories and perhaps just a wee nip of the Peaches Wine together.  

Cheers all, 
Punky  


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