Introduction by Dorthea Calverley
On the occasion of the 1976 opening of the new school in Tomslake, on the site of the old Tate Creek Ranch, the principal — Mr. Joe Bazan — invited the oldest surviving residents of the former Gundy Ranch to attend. That was Mr. Ted Bartsch and his wife Florence.
Realizing that the children knew almost nothing of the life in those early days, they invited Mr. Bartsch back the next day to talk to them. Mr. Bartsch, a well-known raconteur on the Old-timers’ Program over radio station CJDC, described some everyday incidents that had not formerly been aired.
TED BARTSCH: There are many memories or experiences that you old-timers have all had – just simple things as the trips we all made to pick Saskatoons or raspberries in our favorite berry patch. We took the old team and wagon and all of the milk pails to pick berries in. The whole family and maybe the neighbors that lived five miles away would go. We’d pack huge lunches, enough for all, and perhaps spend a whole Sunday. We’d pack up to get home in time to milk the cows and do the chores, and then to bed, to rest for a big day next morning. Maybe another round of logs on the new house.
It occurred to me that the fine new school was on the exact spot where our old log cookhouse used to sit. Many old-timers will remember sitting down there to eat big meals. It brought back memories of the moose we killed at the old salt lick that I’ve told you about in previous stories. We hung the animals up to skin and butcher right where the teacherage stands today. It brought back memories of the games of “Ante-I-Over” we played over that old cookhouse, and of the many still living amongst us that took part.
I guess the day most vivid to me was the day forty-two years ago on the sixteenth of this month of November. Florence, my wife, landed at that old ranch as a young bride, and took part in those “Ante-I-Over” games that we all, grown ups and children had so much fun at.
It brought back memories of the many fine saddle horses there, and the many wild and beautiful places we had to ride them in. It brought back memories of the many horses I broke there, horses that helped many to clear the land that is in beautiful big fields today.
The years of 1929-’30 and ‘31 brought many people to this country. Those summers saw a constant stream of settlers going by, mostly drawn by horses, and consisting of two wagons with the owners’ everything loaded on them. Many stayed overnight with us; some stayed several days and rested. Consequently I have met many of you people. There are others about whom many times I have wondered — whatever became of them?
One outfit that I remember in particular was that of a man who had come all the way from North Dakota with one old flea-bitten white horse hooked on a democrat. [A democrat was a light passenger vehicle, usually drawn by two horses and with two seats and an extended area for baggage. It was intended to be a passenger vehicle only.] The democrat was piled ten feet high with all his earthly belongings, and topped off with a wash tub. There was no seat on the democrat. The man walked beside the horse and neither horse nor man looked as if they had too many miles left on their speedometers. I often wonder what became of him, and would like to know if anyone happens to remember. He didn’t stop so I never got his name or learned what part of this big country he was headed for. Among my reminiscing I could hardly forget the many truck drivers that stayed over-night with us. Trucking from Grande Prairie before the railroad was big business. Many incidents could be told, but I’ll just name a few of the old-timers — Delmont Hasler, Dan Abel, Johnny Peebles, Henry McQueen, Tommy Fynn, Efner Johnson, and the late Buster Fynn, and a man we all called Millionaire Mac.
One incident I always thought rather amusing I will relate. There were many stopping places along the road that made a business of putting outfits up for a night or longer with fixed rates of course. The old ranch was not in this business. The occasion I am going to mention is the only time as far as I know when we charged anything, for we were only too glad to have company. Most of the truckers who stopped were generally there because of rain and stopped a few days. They got pretty restless. They always just pitched in and helped with anything there was to do. As I was generally there alone in the early days, these truckers often took over the cooking and dishwashing duties.
On this one occasion, the roads were extremely bad and it was raining hard. Eventually four trucks pulled in and were stranded for about four days. Some who pitched in and helped were Henry McQueen, Tommy Fynn and, I believe, Buster Fynn. When suppertime came we all sat down for a feast of moose stew except one man, who was pretty well known for watching his pennies awfully close. This man went to his truck and chewed on a stale old loaf of bread rather than eat with us, to make sure he wasn’t going to be charged. Bedtime came, there were lots of beds in the bunkhouse all with good mattresses plus blankets. The man, still trying to avoid being charged, just lay down on an old cot that was there, with no mattress, and no blankets. He covered himself with an old overcoat he had in his truck. This went on for four days until the rain let up. When the roads seemed passable — which meant that they were good — the others all wanted to pay except the one man who felt that he hadn’t done anything he had to pay for. As I remember, I thought they had all done more than enough to earn their keep. I didn’t want anything from any of them. However, the man who was so careful not to accept anything that he might be charged for, and also hadn’t done anything to help — well, I charged him fifty cents a night for the use of the cot with no mattress and no blankets. To say the least he was a hurt and disappointed man, and showed it in a lot of ways. After I took the keys out of his truck, and assured him that he wasn’t leaving until the bill was paid, he paid with tears in his eyes. I assure you he never came back to our ranch. I am sure that Henry McQueen and Tommy Fynn could confirm this story, for we were all amused, since we all knew that he could pay the two dollars so easily.
Just one more little yarn, about George Brookbanks of Pouce Coupe. I’m sure that he won’t mind my telling this one. It isn’t like the one about his going out to plow with eight horses on a gangplow and just couldn’t make the darn thing work. I went out to see what his troubles were. They weren’t much – he had just neglected to put on plowshares! I wouldn’t blame George for not liking me to tell that story! He was just a kid, who had no knowledge of plowing but he could sure handle the horses.
Now the other story is this. We had a little saddle horse, Zip was his name. He was everybody’s pet, and was always around the barns. It was useless to tie him up, for he could always get loose somehow, but was always there and available. It was the custom for George or myself, or whomever jingled the horses in the morning – in plainer words, whosoever turn it was to get up an hour earlier than anybody else, five o’clock being the usual hour to do this little chore, would just jump on Zip, and away he would go after the other horses. No bridle, no saddle.
One morning George and Zip did this little chore. Zip rounded up all the horses and headed them for the barn. Unfortunately there was one wise old saddle horse in the bunch, who thought better of the idea when he got to the gate. He turned and ran. George and Zip were away after him. It was all Zip’s idea. George was against it. About two hundred yards away was a ditch about six feet deep and ten feet wide. Sailor, the saddle horse, jumped the ditch. Zip not to be out-done, leaped, too. George was still against the idea. When Zip took to the air, George was still on top lying flat on the top with his arms around Zip’s neck, hollering “Whoa!” — which Zip didn’t hear. George had started with his bedroom slippers on, but they were now gone. Zip went about a mile back in the pasture and corralled Sailor. George was still on top, but he never went out again on Zip without at least a bridle. After his early morning experience – I never did either.