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.  



Ashlee said...

Thank you for sharing that! I never got to meet her, but love her just the same 💟 I always enjoy learning more about my family!!

Unknown said...

I great lady and friend of my family. So many memories of Three Circle and our pack trip to Batnuni.