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 18 May 2015

A taste of Grandmas Dorsey's life.....

My grandmother Mickey Dorsey's life was really amazing.  She started out almost a 'city girl', became a teacher and in her travels fell in love with Lester Dorsey "a true frontiersman, tall and lithe in the saddle".   She moved to Anahim Lake and the challenges she faced (by today's standards) boggle the mind.  Certainly she is not the only pioneer woman to have these kinds of 'adventures', but luckily she left us with a book to enjoy (never published) and this is an excerpt from that.  She writes very simply and "matter of fact" because that is how life was back then.  No complaints, just do it.  You need milk?  Milk a cow.  No one to help?  Do it yourself.  Don't know how?  Figure it out.   
But I'll let her tell her own story.....    

After haying was over the fall roundup took place.  Again the men went to the flats to gather the beef for the annual beef drive to Williams Lake.  I packed a grub box for them for the three days they expected to be gone.  I had only enough milk to last the baby three days, and Lester promised to bring some from the trading post when he returned.  The third day passed and the milk was finished.  A few of the range cows had drifted back on the meadow.  At daylight I saddled my horses and drove the few head into the corral to see what I could do about the situation.  I  had to learn to milk a cow.  I managed to separate the cow from the other two and the calves.  Then, turning my horse back in the pasture and barricading the corral to be sure the cow couldn't escape I went back to the cabin and the baby.  The baby lay fretting in his basket.  I knew he was hungry, and I fed him some cereal, but it was a bottle of milk he wanted, and there would be no milk until morning even if I was successful with this unfriendly looking cow.  I had heard of rice and barley water for babies so I boiled some rice, and put some of the strained water into his bottle with a teaspoon of sugar.  He decided he wasn't quite that hungry so I bathed him, put him to bed with his untouched bottle and settled myself for the night.
     Several times during the night the baby awakened me with his fretful cries, but each time he refused the rice water, and each time I could hear the cow in the corral bawling for her calf.  At daylight I arose and cooked some cereal for the baby but he still refused the rice water.  I bundled him up and took him with me to the corral in his basket.  I left him in his basket at a safe distance from the corral propped against a stump.  A rope lay over a low branch of a tree near the corral.  I picked it up, shook it out, and crawled through the bars.  The cow ran as I threw the rope.  I missed and before I had time to recoil the rope she charged at me with her head close to the ground.  Never have I climbed a fence so quickly.  I won that race but the cow only circled the corral and snorted.  I knew the cow was not gentle but I had not expected so much trouble.  I sat as quietly as I could on the top rail of the corral and pondered my situation.  I would have to travel 16 miles and ford a river carrying the baby if I could not milk that cow.  Where was my pioneer spirit?  This cow had been milked before so Lester had confirmed.  If others could milk her so must I.  The cow was still walking around the corral, and as she passed me I dropped the rope over her neck.  At the same moment she leaped into the air and down I came to the ground with the rope still in my hand.  By the time I had regained my feet the cow was at my heels, but fear helped me to the top of the fence that second time and I still had the rope in my hand.  I dropped down on the other side of the corral and as the cow snorted and bellowed at me I tied the rope to the top log of the corral.  The cow backed up.  The rope tightened on her neck and she was strangling for air.  I was terrified, suppose I had killed her?  I tried in vain to loosen the rope.  Her eyes bugged out and I was sure she was gasping her last.  As she fell to the ground the top log of the corral came crashing down.  I loosened the rope on her neck and tied it to a lower fence log.  Her breathing quieted and her eyes closed.  She stood up and I was able to shorten the rope.  By this time the baby was bawling nearly as persistently as the calf.
     I had seen men tie the hind legs together to keep a cow from kicking so I tried my hand at that.  The cow could kick the ropes off as quickly as I could put them on.  The baby howled louder.  I had to get that milk.  With the next hitch I had better luck and the legs stayed tied together.  I picked up the bucket and approached the cow.  She shook her head and bawled and I knew we were in for more trouble.  I squeezed, I pulled, I rested, I bawled.  I repeated this performance many times, still no milk.  Both the cow and the calf were very disturbed by this time so I opened the bars and let him in.  As he sucked I tried again and again, and a small stream of milk trickled into the bucket.  I was overjoyed and put every effort into milking.  The cow strained at the ropes but they held.  I squeezed and pulled, the milk covered the bottom of the bucket.  The calf was a much better milker than I but I was sure I had three cups of milk.  I took the bucket of milk out of the corral and deposited it in a safe place.  Then I took the ropes off the cow while she was still interested in her calf.  I left the cow and calf together for a while and I walked proudly to the cabin with the baby and my scant supply of milk.  
     When I reached the cabin I put Dave on the bed with another bottle of rice water while I went to strain the milk and prepare another bottle for him.  I filled two bottles with the precious milk.  In the meantime Dave had decided to accept the rice water, had finished the bottle and had fallen asleep.  Now was my chance to separate the cow and calf so I could milk again in the evening.  I knew the cow must have water so after several attempts I managed to let the cow out through the bars and the calf was imprisoned in the corral.  Four days went by without any sign of the men.  In the meantime I milked twice a day and each time the milk supply increased.  As the cow became accustomed to me we got along much better.  On the fifth day the men came home.  I went down to the corral to meet them.  The top log was still on the ground, and the tracks in the corral showed that we had a few struggles.  Lester looked the situation over before he spoke.
     "Looks as if you might have had a little trouble with the cow.  It's a good thing you got acquainted with her before we leave on the beef drive.  We leave tomorrow but you won't be too lonely.  There's people across the river haying now.  They are so near you can holler at them.  You have the boat to go across if you want.  We'll be back in a month."   
This is just one of Grandma Mickey's stories.  Some of the others will make you laugh out loud, shudder in terror or just shake you head in plain amazement.  The baby she mentions is the first born, my Uncle Dave.  And does he have some stories to tell!  
And wait until I get mum to agree to let me tell some of the stories of her childhood.....  I'm working on it.  

Cheers all,


FBIL said...

love it!
Eric Krueger

Gabriela said...

More stories, please! Thank you!