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, 

Friday 25 September 2015

Chilcotin's Magical Cowboy

This is from a newspaper article I found, written about my grandfather.  It has been photocopied and was obviously well used before the copying.  I'm re-writing from 'between the the wrinkles' a bit, so any mistakes are mine and I apologize.  

Chilcotin's magical cowboy

Although he lived in obscurity Lester was larger than life

-Paul St. Pierre....former Sun columnist and member of Parliament for Coast-Chilcotin, now a member of the B.C Police Commission

Saturday afternoon around two o'clock, Lester Dorsey will finally keep an appointment on time.  He will be buried in the Anahim cemetery. 

He will be cast into that pale brown rocky ground beside his wife, Mickey, who was buried just a month ago.  She was the sixth and he will be the seventh white buried there.  It is yet now country.  Until the day before yesterday, it was frontier.  

We are lucky, those of us who were privileged to know such people - Lester, Mickey, Rich Hobson - who wrote Grass Beyond the Mountains and died - and Pan Phillips, who is among the last of the old originals, and lives.  

These people were obscure.  They lived an obscure life in a small and inconsequential place.  As chance will have it, for reasons you and I will never know, they were also great people.  They were larger than life.  Heroic is the word.  

Of Mickey, the wife, it is perhaps too late to speak adequately, except to say that she was the most heroic of them all, because she was a ranch wife.  Ranch wives have to be observed to be believed.  They are the greatest and the most unnoticed of all the great Canadians. 

I find it easier to write of Lester.  He was male and foolish, like me.  

So his funeral on that dusty little sidehill next to the stampede grounds at Anahim Lake will be a huge affair, by the standards of that sparsely settled land.  Big men of high reputation in this world will be there, and so will raggedy-ass small ranchers, who dwell on the fringes of the settled world, men who have worked as hard as Lester did but who were less noticeable because they lacked a certain magic.  Lester had the magic.  What was the magic?  I'm not sure.  

To know Lester was to constantly amazed by his fortitude, charmed by his languid grace, exasperated by his stubborn refusal to admit that clocks or calendars existed for the purpose of appointments, shocked by his failure to comprehend what a dollar was or what security meant, and finally, entranced by his stories.  

It was a combination of all these qualities, spread across two yards of lean and agile human male that established Lester as the central point of any gathering.  It didn't matter what the meeting was called for - Lester was the man you noticed.  

It wasn't his position.  He was not sure what that word meant.  It wasn't wealth.  He never had wealth.  He was a good drinker, he could braid horsehair, and he could tell stories, but when it came to make money he never quite found the trick of it.  

A good part of another generation will be spent in Chilcotin sorting out all the memories about the great Lester Dorsey.  

For me, who will also be sorting for some years, the most recent memory will be easiest.  He told me a new grizzly bear story.  I thought I had heard them all.  By some chance I had missed this one.  

All Lester's stories were masterpieces of the art of storytelling.  Each was vivid.  It was convincing.  And there was a kink in the tail.  

The story was that he had gone late of a morning to wrangle horses in one of his many hunting camps in the Rainbow Mountains, a halter in one hand, unarmed and unprepared for the big grizzly that reared up out of a dry creek bed and stood puffing its breath into his face.  

"Running was no way out," he said, "and I couldn't walk past him as if I hadn't noticed him.  I did the only thing I could think of.  I cursed him.  I didn't raise my voice but I cursed him.  I used every dirty, foul word I had every heard in my life."
It was something to see that bear.  He danced on one foot and then the other foot.  He shifted back and forth and he waved his arms.  You could see that that bear had never heard language like that in his life before. 
After a while, the bear got down on four legs again and walked away.  
Lucky for me that bear had such delicate feelings."  

For a man with a reputation for being a bit on the wild side, Lester himself had some decencies.  One was not swearing when women were present.  A lot of the time he didn't remember it, but he remembered the rule more than most men.  

Among either men or women his voice was soft and faintly accented from the American Southlands, where courtesy is everything that matters.

In the first of several heart attacks that finally killed him he went to Williams Lake Memorial Hospital, where there were such things unlovely to him as half-shell nighties and bedpans.  The speculation among his friends was intense.  How long would Lester stick those conditions?  To the surprise of all, he lasted to the day the doctors told him he could go.  

It was his wife Mickey who revealed the secret.  "When they put him in bed I snatched all his clothes and took them home with me.  Lester is extremely modest, you know."

I remember another occasion when he was not so easily corralled.  

He had come to Vancouver General Hospital to have his gall bladder removed.  He refused to remain more than a few days because, he explained, he would miss the annual fall meeting of the Anahim Lake Cattlemen's Association.  Next to the stampede, that is the major social event of the year.

Reluctantly, the doctor freed him from Vancouver General on the promise that he would touch nothing with fat in it for many weeks.  I drove him to Anahim on a trip that involved much pain for him, he having eaten largely on fish and chips, a dish for which he had conceived a sudden passion.  

It was cold that winter.  The thermometer hit 55 below when we paused at Puntzi, where Mickey was then teaching school.  Next morning the car's clutch shattered like rock candy. 

So we missed the cattlemen's meeting, but two days later his aching guts did not deter him from joining me on a moose hunt.  He caught a couple of horses, spilling out his shirt pocket many $10 and $20 collar bills that had been left for him at Baxter's store by a party of hunters.  I collected the money as he moved.  He didn't notice much.  As I say, he had very little interest in money.  I'm not sure he fully understood what it is supposed to be for.  

On that day -10, 11 or 12 days after he had lost a fairly valuable part of his body- we rode across those lonely ranges to Gene Mooney's place. The temperature was still well below zero Fahrenheit.  Every 20 minutes or half an hour we had to stop, make a fire, and put our booted feet into it.  I remember that he wore jeans, a bitty sheepskin vest, a denim jacket, and on his head an unlined nylon parka hood he had snatched from a peg on the wall of his cabin.  Why his ears and most of the rest of him didn't freeze, I have no way of knowing.  

"It's never bad when you got a horse to carry you home," he said, "there was a time when a horse dumped me in weather like this, 'way north, on the trail to Rich Hobson's place at Batnuni." 

He had been wearing no adequate clothing, having been seized suddenly and without warning of the notion to ride across much of the British Columbia map to visit old Rich.  Neither did he have any matches, for reasons only God might understand.  All that bitter night he kept moving, walking a while, running a while.  

"I was pretty near finished when I finally hit a cabin where there was two old trappers."

"I went up and knocked at their door."  "Good morning,' I said, 'I wonder if you could direct me to Rich Hobson's place.'

"They were pretty set back by my looks.  I guess I was pretty white.  But they pointed down the trail.  I said 'Thank you kindly' and turned and started away.  But then I fainted and fell down in the snow and they hauled me into the cabin and thawed me out."  

To be continued............  :)    

*note...what is referred to in this article as "Gene Mooney's place", we now call Six Mile Ranch.

Cheers all, until next time.  

Saturday 19 September 2015

We've won the lottery

Yes, we have won the lottery, but unfortunately, the money is not coming in.

I hardly watch the news (especially in the summer) and it is always so depressing when I do catch it. I went in to Williams Lake on Thursday for some meetings and to finish shopping for the hunts Friday. I had a wonderful visit with some close relatives and then watched the late night news when I got back to the home I often stay when I'm in Williams Lake. (Our school only goes to Grade 10 and so all students must find somewhere to stay to finish their high school. I was very lucky to stay with trail riders that became close family friends and are now know as Granny Lil and Poppa Don to my boys.) The late night news was full of politics, Syrian refugees and deaths of all sorts. Lovely thoughts and images right before bed......... blech. I think I'll tune in again in February.

One of my good trail riding friends wrote me an email the other day and it really struck a chord. After watching that new broadcast for the first time in months, her quote really stuck in my head and I've thought of it several times since.

So I'm sharing.

.... life is all about perspective. I like my nephew's comment to someone when they said they wished they could win the lottery....he said, "man, you live in Canada, you already won the lottery!" To my way of thinking a glass is never half full or half empty, it is always just plain full....be it water or air...it is all good!!

Leslie's nephew is right.  When life gets a bit fast and furious (as it tends to do),  we need to remember that 
in Canada, 

we can Dream Big,

follow our own path,   

choose our company, 

have clean air and clean water, 

plenty of food, 

 safe space to sleep,

and even if hobbled,
  generally make our own decision of when to move along.  

Yep, we've won the lottery.  

Thoughts for the night.  :)

(Thanks to Chris Harris and Magalie S. for the photos.)

Cheers all,

Monday 14 September 2015

Crazy colors

So when you add red (cherry pie filling) to white (melted cream cheese and sour cream......folks, I'm here to tell you, the cheese cake turns out pink.  Amazingly pink actually.
Hunters like pink, right?
Cause pink it is.

This photo does the color no justice at all.  

Well, I should not sound so cheeky quite yet.  It is my first attempt at not following a recipe for a dessert (if I had, it might have mentioned "Incredibly PINK Color"), so it may not work out at all.  I've kept aside a small tasting for the Guide Outfitter to assess.  He is far too intelligent to actually be negative about anything I cook (he who complains, cooks!) but I can usually tell by his eyes how he really feels.  Who knew all these years of 'reading' horses would come in so handy?!

So yeah, I'm still cooking but very nearly done.  Only a few more batches of lunch cookies to make and then all is well.  I've done a few 'firsts' during the process (pink cheese cake) but generally I've tried to stick to good solid food that I know works.  The homemade garlic bread was hard to give up!  I only made as much as I thought I needed for the hunts (what was I thinking!) and there were some sad faces all around when it got wrapped up and put away.  "Not even ONE piece mom?!"
Don't worry, the boys are hardly suffering and have spent plenty of time taste testing the mocha cheese cake, many varieties of cookies, apple muffins, bbq ribs etc etc  Nice to have the 'school snack' corner of the freezer filled as well..... 

I am also working through getting the hunting horses re-shod and moving the odd cow around.  The colors are so amazing right now.  I guess because it was so dry and then our cool fall weather came on so quickly, but wow, it is truly impressive.  Sometimes I feel like I'm riding through a dramatic painting.  I've taken a few photos but it really don't even do justice.  Maybe with the outstanding cooking wages I'm going to get (HA!), I'll buy myself a good camera.  I think I should have done a bit more negotiating in this department earlier!  Next year I'll be better prepared.....    

 The Five Mile Ranch transition has certainly not been easy and unfortunately,we are still working through that.  The previous owner should be here this Wednesday to pick up his last load of stuff.  Yes, I did mention the takeover date was August 1st.  Apparently that agreed on date means different things to different people. Sigh.  

And their cattle should all be leaving on trucks the 5th of October.  (I'm booked that day, no time for cowgirling. And busy the day before.  And don't have time to gather cattle the day before that.  I think my horse might be lame the day before that, or maybe I will be.  :)  Snarky, snarky......I know, haha.  I'm trying to stay to the high road here, but it has been a long, stressful ordeal.)  I will be very happy on October 6th.  I know a person should never base happiness on a specific date or event, but on that day we can really 'take over' the ranch fully, and start incorporating it into our lives.  It is going to take some time to really fit it in to our operation to the best advantage, but I will say that the hay situation there is wonderful.  Although the ground is terribly rough and full of holes, it does produce plenty of hay.  (About 880 ton this year.)  And when drought has hit the rest of the country and hay prices are at an all time high, this really is something to be thankful for!  
Stop, drop and sleep!  
(Photo credit to Magalie)

Remember that tiny little sorrel baby that Nikky and I helped back in the spring?  Look at him now!!  :)  

Cheers and all the best!

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Cooking again

Out of the saddle and in to the kitchen.  I'm pretty much organized (on paper anyhow) for the fast arriving hunting season but have been making the last of the main meals (spagetti sauce, shepherds pie and bbq ribs) and just have a few desserts to go.  There are only three camps this year, but it still takes some thinking and planning.  I found myself in the store in Williams Lake, list in hand, with a total mind blank.  Like, seriously........... my note says 'hot sauce' and as I stared blankly at the rows and rows of options I thought "I want my MOM!"  

All photos are credited to Magalie S., with one exception (indicated below photo).

Unfortunately, my mom, with her years of experience and expertise was no where to be seen.  And really, I'm an adult, I've been part of this type of business since I was 12 and I can figure it out.  I gave myself a mental smack in the forehead, grabbed three bottles of mid cost range hot sauce with pretty labels and moved on.  Hot sauce, check.  Oh geez, lemonade or orange juice...........ack!  
It's DIFFERENT when you have to make all these wee little decisions and just hope the ones with the pretty labels are the 'good ones'...........  But what the heck, I'm sure all the hunters are friendly and easy going.....(or at least polite enough not to yell at me........or Eli will find himself shopping next year!)  There is no lack of food anyhow, that part I am sure of.  

When I found myself blankly staring again (which noodles?!), I did have an 'a-ha' moment and called Dave.  Dave and his wife Deb (Allison) are long time friends of ours.
In fact, Dave and Deb used to own the Five Mile Ranch that we just purchased, and were our closest neighbors for about 13 years I think.  I remember as a kid being SO excited to go over there to watch a MOVIE on TV (we didn't have that option at all.)  Through Dave, I also worked in Switzerland and he eventually directed me to go to Olds College to get my Farrier Science Degree.  I did quite a bit of range riding for them over the years and started several of their horses.  Eli started guiding for him about 8 years ago and now, of course, we have purchased the Lehman Creek territory from him.

Photo by Chris Harris

So I phone Dave.  He asked how much I'm willing to pay for recipes and lists.  "Plenty" I reply, and barrage him with questions, which he quite willingly answered.  Phew.....  (I didn't ask him if the pretty labelled hot sauce was good, I was past that aisle already.  Decision made.)  He got some entertainment out of my confusion and I got some good solid advice.   
Among her other talents, Deb is an amazing cook.  I asked her earlier this spring (on my first round of cooking) for a couple of the recipes that she has used in the past.  Tomorrow I will try out the rum cheesecake.  If it doesn't work out, I guess I will still have the leftover rum for consulation.    
I hope she does not mind, but I do have to share her sweet and sour recipe.  It has made me laugh many times to think about it.  (But guess what, it works like a dream!  So good.)  Don't worry about running for your pen, it won't take long.  These are my instructions from her, almost word for word. 

As far as the sweet and sour, it was different all the time depending on what I had in the cupboard.  I use fruit for the sweet like pineapple or peaches (made it with fresh apricots and moose meat the other day).  
Splash some cider vinegar in for bit, some chili powder for kick, some soya sauce for balls and brown sugar to smooth it all out again.  And of course, fresh garlic.  

Isn't that awesome?  Love it!  Talk about 'cooking by taste'..... 

Another of Deb's talents (oops, now I have to call her Allison...) is that she has an amazing voice and the songs she writes bring shivers to your spine (or do mine at least!)  I just found a youtube sample of one but there are many other awesome ones.  There is a link on there to her website and I think she has other samples on there as well.  Well worth the listen.  


Alright, I'm out.  Cheers all.  

Friday 4 September 2015

A New Season

Well, I'm back.  Back from the last summer trail ride, and back to posting on a regular basis (I hope!)  The ride was really great, as expected.  The weather was cooler, but still good.  We saw many more caribou than usual at this time of year, so that was a treat.  There were even a few flowers still bravely clinging on. 

As hard as it is to believe that the trail riding season (and summer in general) is over,  a sudden snow in the mountains was a solid reminder that fall is well on its way.  It's been cool enough down here but when the clouds cleared the other day and the mountains reappeared with their white coat, I have to admit that I was quite thankful that the Ladies Ride was a week long, not 10 days!  The leaves and grasses are all changing color, the horses are shedding their summer coats and the geese are starting to gather.  I know I say this every year, but summer went by much too quickly!


Both of these photos are from Olivia's mom Karen.  I took the same photos but clearly I need a new camera!  

Jackson is beside himself with joy that 'chicken season' has finally come and Ben nearly split his face with the biggest grin you've ever seen when he got his first one.  What fun those two are.  When they got back to the ranch, Ben's statement nearly brought everyone to tears.  "Hunting chickens is hard work" he said " I need a drink!"  (He was quite delighted to gulp down a tall cool milk.)   

Those of us cowgirling lately do not have such big grins (unless they are frozen in place) as the weather has stayed pretty darn cold.  Yesterday our crew gathered to move our ex-neighbors amazingly difficult to handle cows up to the range again.  Just to put things in to perspective of how 'challenging' these cattle are to handle, consider this.  When these particular neighbors first bought the Five Mile Ranch, I was hired as the range rider for 200 plus head.  (They had purchased the cattle with the ranch.)  I moved them up to and around the range with just a good horse and two dogs.  Don't get me wrong, I always appreciated and made use of any extra help!  But this is the exact same route as what we did yesterday with less than 80 head, 6 competent riders and 5 dogs.  (And were certainly not completely successful.)  Chasing this 80 head means that they put their heads down in the brush and head off in 79 directions.  If there were more cattle, it would just mean more directions.  Ha ha.  It does not help that the first part of the drive is through very thick brush and spruce timber, making visibility extremely limited and fast travel nearly impossible.  Their main focus is to circle and get back to the ranch.  They've been doing this for years and are very good at it.   

There were some unladylike words in the air.  

My "city boy" Kenny is turning in to quite a working cow horse.  I'm sure he'd much prefer the 'retirement' pasture he came from, and still occasionally throws a temper tantrum, but as a whole, he is pretty darn awesome.  

And no, I certainly did not get any photos.  These couple I've added are from our summer cattle drive and taken by Magalie.    I have thought of using a mounted camera to give you the feel of racing through the brush and timber at high speeds, but I would probably have to have the audio off.  Ha ha.  


In the end, we got most of them up to the main range.  And in the meantime, we were treated to sun, hail, rain and sleet.  Luckily our new range/hunting cabin is near where we finally dropped the cattle so on the way past, we sent Magalie and Chloe to start the heater and it was sure a treat to dry off and thaw out.  We moved much quicker on the way home, but it is still a good couple of hours ride back.    

One of Magalie's excellent photos, taken from the above cabin.  This was on the last trail ride.  

I have had some very interesting discussions lately regarding both horsemanship and working cattle.  Both, I feel, are very similar in many ways.  I believe it was the great horseman Tom Dorrance that quoted something along the lines of "it can not be taught, only learned".  You can talk (or read or listen) until you are blue in the face, but being able to relate that information to an experience is really what makes the difference.  Being 'aware' first of all and then reflecting about what works and what didn't, and most importantly, trying to figure out the "why".    Most of the time we choose to accept events from our own point of view and not take much, if any, accountability for it.  It is a whole different thing to really get down to the depth of "what happened before what happened happened."  (Quote from Ray Hunt)  And then try to build on the goodness or change what didn't work so well.

Alright, I'll quit before I've buried myself too far.  You get like Eli when I get talk "horse"........a far off look and glazed over eyes!  Ha ha ha.  In any case I better get a move on.  Being away for most of the summer means my house looks like the Three Little Pigs moved in and invited their extended families while we were away.  But hey, I got the kids to bed before 10 tonight, so I'm winning!  Ready for school in a few days.....WHAT? 

Cheers all!