MR. BENTLEY: The Englishman, “Slim” Goodings used to live there.
INTERVIEWER: Was he an Englishman? I was told he came from Missouri.
MR. BENTLEY: I wouldn’t know where he came from, but I think he was an Englishman. He always rode a mule, and he rode an English saddle. He had a blacksmith by the name of Dean put a brass horn in it so he could tie cattle to an English saddle. He got started in mules through Al Lamont, and I think the first burro was the one that I took over to him.
INTERVIEWER: Ray Fell told me that he met this burro face to face one time when he was driving a team of mares. The burro came out of the barn and straight for the mares and scared young Ray Fell half to death. The burro was braying, his mouth wide open. Ray was scared – he’d never seen one before.
MR. BENTLEY: How he got there was this way. Slim had dealt for him. He was at East Pine — the burro was — how he got there I don’t know, but anyway old Al Lamont was to trail him over to Slims. My story started right here in Dawson. Old Bill Scrivener had bought a cow and a calf around here someplace. He gave me three dollars to take this cow and calf — I was only about ten at the time — out to Murphy’s Corner. So, I takes this gol’ darn cow and calf on the saddle horn out to Murphy’s. It’s only about fifteen miles out there. I was supposed to be home for supper. When I get out there, old Durney comes by with a bunch of pack horses and he wants me to help him take them into East Pine. So I’m kind of a happy go lucky kind of kid, and I say, “Hell, that’s the kind of a trip for me.” So I help him take those horses, and down into Durney’s.
When I got there, old Al Lamont is about to take this burro around to Slim Goodings. Those dang burros don’t lead very well so he wants me to come along behind and smarten them up once in a while.
INTERVIEWER: That’s no place for a boy — behind a mule!
MR. BENTLEY: So, in the morning — there’s no bridge at East Pine [then] — so we are going to swim him, and then take him by that old Graveyard Trail over to Slim’s. So I’m going to end up at Fort St. John in a day and a half, and then I’m going to come down from Fort St. John to home. Anyway — we gets out there, get the old burro on the end of a thirty or forty-foot rope, with a halter. We were going to swim him across the Pine. But the dirty son-of-a-gun won’t swim. He just keeps right on a-walkin’ right on the bottom! He gets out so far, and up come Mr. Burro a-floating. He’s drowned! There’s a patch – he’s lying right on his side – and there’s a patch about that big around showing his head and all the rest of him is all under water.
We gets over to the other side. That’s the old ford there — and the old guy — what’s his name? — sees us coming across. He comes down for a pail of water or sumpin’ and Al says to him, “Haul him [the burro] over to the manure pile there, and when I load the stoneboat, I’ll haul him down the flat there.”
Al takes off over across the cobblestones there. All of a sudden his old mare gets tired pulling. So he stops to give the horse it’s wind and — what’s that guy’s name? — he looked down at him and says, “The old burro is blinking his eyes!”
“What the hell! ” he says. “He likes that! Give him some more!” So old Al takes him in a circle over the rocks. About the third time he stopped that old burro belched a little wind and a little water, and, by-gol, three or four more pulls and the burro got up on his feet. We put him in the barn there and gave him a couple of hours rest and set off with him. I guess pulling him around over those rocks must have been like artificial respiration.
Well! That old son-of-a-gun is the father of all Slim’ mules. That’s the only animal I ever knew that wouldn’t swim — him and George Grant’s big sorrel.
One time there was Lee Parsons, and I, George Grant and Jim Grant was with us. We came down to the Pine. It was hgh water in the summer, run-off time and the Coldbrook is pretty high. I was riding a big gray. So they said, “I don’t know whether we should cross that or not.”
The old horse I was riding was a good swimmer. I says, “I think I can cross it.” “Well,” they said, “you cross it, and if you make ‘er, we’ll cross it.”
So I took out with the old gray. I got into a little trouble actually. I didn’t get upstream far enough. The current carried me down into a poplar. I figured I’d had it.
The water had cut the bank out and took the top out, making a sweeper. I figured that when old gray hit the sweeper, it would tip him under it. The old son-of-a-gun was strong enough that he walked out around the end, and I got out of there. The other guys went upstream, because they saw I’d missed the landing. Well, this sorrel wouldn’t come in so they tried to chase him in with clubs. Finally he ran up the bank. Lee Parsons come up on him through the willows, and took a swipe at him. The horse jumped off the bank into about twelve feet of water — and still wouldn’t swim. George Grant — he’s on him – and he can’t swim! We sure laughed, but it wasn’t a laughing matter.
Old George held one arm up, and he’d holler, “Oh, whoo! whoo! whoo! whoo! And down he’d go. That old horse would hit the bottom. Then he’d make a jump, his whole belly would be out of the water, and George Grant, holding his hand up and hollering, “Whoo! whoo! whoo!” — and down he’d go. They jumped and walked on the bottom until they caught a sandbar. George got out of it all right, but George and him had a little water before they got out. That’s the only two animals I know of that won’t swim. I’ve seen a rabbit swim, and a squirrel swim.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever see a pig swim?
MR. BENTLEY: O, yes, lots of them.
I can tell you a little pig swimming deal that gol-darn near cost Jim Reasbeck his life. We used to raise these Duroc Jersey pigs. We lived here and the old town was over there past Rotary Harbour, roughly. Jim, who was a little younger than me, whenever he would see Dad in town, he’d cut through the field and come over to our place to ride pigs. We had a big boar that was just a little smarter than us guys. We couldn’t get on him. We used to put a little feed in the trough, then get behind and leapfrog on. Well, this day the creek was high, and our pig pasture was in that horse-shore. We had that fenced with slab panels. Then on top of the panels was a string of barbed wire to keep the horses from reaching over. We carried the panels out across the creek, tied to this wire. This day, Jim was lucky, I guess. A pig won’t buck, you know. He’ll just spin and go “umph, umph, umph”, that’s all he’ll do. They just spin like a top. Anyway Jim leapfrogged onto the old board, and he took off just a ‘running and hit the creek. The creek is as wide as your house is long. Jim gets out there about the middle and he falls off. We were just kids, then — ten or twelve years old — and Jim was going to drown. That’s all there was to it. The current carried him down into them panels and he crawled out on them. Talk about luck! Heck, a pig can swim just as well as a horse. They tell you stories that they’ll cut their own throats and such but they used to swim that creek just like dogs. If they were on the other side and wanted to come across — nothing to it. They’d swim and eat grass on either side and all around it.
The creek then was a lot different from what it is now. There wasn’t all the broke land in the country. It was good sucker fishing. In the spring when the water was cold there were suckers in all these holes.
INTERVIEWER: Tremblays used to net them. They’d put a fish weir in downstream.
MR. BENTLEY: The way we used to do it, we’d build a box about eight feet long. Just the frame out of poplar sticks. Then we would cover it, on the bottom and two ends and two sides with chicken wire, small mesh. On one end we’d cut a hole about a foot in diameter. We’d build a funnel out of chicken wire and stick it in. Then we’d get a place in the creek that wasn’t too wide, and we’d run a wing from each bank. The fish would hit the wing, which would bundle them down into the funnel and into the box. Heck — in a night we’d have a big catch.
INTERVIEWER: Did the Indians teach you that?
MR. BENTLEY: I don’t know who taught us. Maybe the Napoleons. Felix used to work for Dad. Everytime he wanted some money or a wagon or a horse, or something, he’d always come to dad and dad would give him a job, and he’d get what he wanted. Dad would get about three times the work out of him. I’ll never forget one time he was haying with Dad. I was about thirteen at the time, and I had made me a bow and arrow out of willow. I was around there shooting sticks, and couldn’t hit anything. It was a poor deal anyways.
Felix said, “I’ll make you a bow and arrow.” By gol, he went down there by the creek and got a willow — oh, about two and a half or three inches. He tapered it down with a knife. He put a string on it, and built some arrows, and he could shoot! We used to take willow and make a ring out of it about four to six inch size. We’d throw it this way [underhand]. He’d pin them to the ground every time.
What I was going to tell you about … I was fooling with this thing one day, and old Wes Yaegar comes riding down to see Dad about something. They’re out there behind the barn hauling hay — Dad and Felix. I goes out there with Wes Yaeger to show them where they are. I could show them just as well, but you know how a kid is going to go. So, I’m fooling around with this bow and arrow, shooting at hay piles.
Old Wes said, “Will that thing shoot!”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, ” I can’t shoot,” I said, “but Felix can shoot.”
Old Wes says, “Oh, he couldn’t hit nothing with that thing.”
Felix said, “Go and put your hat over there on the hay cock.” He always wore a big hat – maybe you’ve heard.
INTERVIEWER: I’ve heard that he wore an enormous hat.
MR. BENTLEY: He wore a black Stetson hat, and it always hung down on him. Anyway, he went over – about one hundred seventy-five feet and put it on the side of a hay pile. Old Felix let go with that gol’ darn bow — psst!
Wes said, “You missed her!”
Felix takes another arrow and — psst!
Cripes, you couldn’t see that arrow – just like a streak!
“Yeah, I believe I did,” said Felix, “But maybe you’d better go and look at your hat.”
He went over there – and there was two holes right through it!