PETER CAMPBELL: I was telling you about the early people, – fur buyers, teachers, businessmen, and others who arrived in Grande Prairie when I was young. I remember the buyer, John McAuley, who was buying fur from the Indians and Metis people. So was Fletcher or Bredin & Fletcher, and Williamson – but that was in Sturgeon Lake. Bill Kerr was another businessman at Sturgeon Lake, and who else did I know? Bill Caldwell, was buying with McAuley, and Bill Salmon was a farmer, also a cattle rancher. Jack Thompson (or Thomson) was a big hardware man and farmer. Joe Crummy – I remember.
I went to school to I.V. Macklem. I didn’t get much schooling myself because I was always too busy hustling to make a living. I had to trap. I remember I went to work for fifty cents a day when I was a young man. Finally I got a dollar a day, and worked at that rate for years, on a cattle ranch, for a guy named Plum, married to a schoolteacher from Ontario. He had a big ranch south of Grande Prairie. After him Jack Thompson took that ranch over.
INTERVIEWER: Did you know Monkman?
PETER CAMPBELL: Yes, I knew Alex Monkman. He had a trapline in what you call Monkman Pass. He used to trap with old man William Calliho.
After old Adam Calliho he was living at Flying Shot Lake. Most of that district were Metis people, who had homesteads. Even my dad had a pension claim (?), east of Grande Prairie. Old Bill Grannan was farming close by us, and my brother Harry had a quarter in Five-mile Creek, that’s east of Grande Prairie. Old Gladue had a quarter close to Billy Salmon. And Alexis (?) Belcourt had a quarter, that’s all around in the Flying Shot district again.
They had figured out that the trapping might last forever, so some sold off all the land and moved out in the bush. That’s where they still are – out in the bush. Never made money on their land, – I think most of them sold it cheap – about a couple of thousand dollars is all they got out of it. I remember, although I was only young then. If they’d only hung on to their land and their kids had got some schooling they’d be wealthy men today.
INTERVIEWER: Was it necessary to go to school in those days? Were you expected to?
PETER CAMPBELL: I was trying to, but in a way I was playing hooky whatever chance I could get because we were going three miles. I had to ride an old horse about thirty years old, and I had to beat him with a stick all the way to school and back again!
It was pretty tough for us; my mother had too many to look after, seventeen of us – my dad was a great hustler raising cattle, horses, a few pigs but we just barely made a living. I left home when I was twelve years old and started to work with my uncle. He had land at Flying Shot Lake, too. They used to call him Chief – Alfred Gladue. He married one of my mother’s sisters, the youngest one. Then I went to work for a rancher, south of Grande Prairie.
INTERVIEWER: Is that where you learned to be a packer and wrangler?
PETER CAMPBELL: Not right away. When I first started packing and guiding, I was nineteen years old. There was a guy, – a big English man – named Harry Brace (?). He used to be a big detective in this country. He used to be chief detective somewhere. He came out here to hunt sheep and goats – I took him out. I had no license – I didn’t know a thing about the law then. He says to me – he says- “Have you got a license to guide me?” “No”, I says, “What do I have to have a license for?” He says, “You got to have a license, otherwise I wouldn’t be out here with you”. He says, “I could put you in jail.” But after he got back, he took out his book and says, “I’ll give you a chance, ” and he wrote me out a license. We hunted that day – he got two sheep, a three and a four year old.
INTERVIEWER: Close to Beaverlodge?
PETER CAMPBELL: Away out south in the mountains. We took packhorses and saddle horses. When we got back, the next outfit I worked for was Brooks – Carl Brooks. I was the one that started Carl Brooks off hunting. He built down at Porcupine Lake – that was after the war. (Peter Campbell enlisted in World War I).
He flew over that country with some hunters – they flew so high, and then the plane came down. The plane is still there. Nobody got killed except himself. I guess he’d have been all right – or maybe he didn’t have a belt. I know – you can see that it must have skidded about two hundred yards. They just missed the lake – it was a pontoon plane. There were pieces all over the bush. The last time I went through there with a pack outfit, a trapper had a place inside of that plane, – he’d fixed it for a stopping place.
I packed in there for a guy named Glen Kilgour. Another man I worked for was a man named Sid Childerman (Silverman?). He was a good outfitter, a good man to work for – and Bert Osborne took many hunters out. I worked for him for several years, packing, taking hunters, taking geologists through the mountains, – all the pack trails in this country – clean down to Jasper, – the headwaters of the Berlin (?) River, the headwaters of the Sulphur River, headwaters of the Little Berlin River, and Adams Creek, away up in the foothills.
Once I got hurt, some hunting down in there. The party chief said, “I’ll leave you here, and go ahead down to the main camp.” I said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll make it.” I had no rifle, no gun – no nothing, – just a white saddle horse, but a good one, – and two real good pack horses – they’d follow me like a dog – all of them.
I’ll tell you what had happened. I couldn’t ride, and I couldn’t walk. I tried to cross the Sulphur River and fell into a deep washout. I had a young quarter horse – a very strong horse – saved my life. There was no way of getting out – the walls were steep like a canyon and the water fast. I would never make it. His five-year old horse I broke was strong enough, but not a good water horse yet. When he fell in there, and he got his ears wet, all I could do was hang on the saddle horn. – I let the lines go. He cut the water until he got out of there, with me hanging on the saddle horn. When I got up I said, “I’m badly bruised, ” – my leg was bruised from the saddle. ” I can’t walk; I can’t ride, I can’t get back in camp.” Next day I couldn’t get my leg up. I went back in Muskeg River (he didn’t say how he got there) at the mouth of Tipi Creek, that’s not too far from Grande Cache, to a ranger station in there. I make camp, with two of my horses and myself, – there were some mountain Indians in there. Some young boys put up my camp for me, and looked after me – brought me some [liniment] to rub myself with. I got all right. The swelling went down, so I could walk around good.
I went on from there; the boss came in – the whole outfit arrived. The party chief had went and got that whole outfit. From there I took over. I had to handle twenty-five head of horses alone. There were some wild horses in there. The boss, who was my helper, flew from there back home, and I had to come in with the party from Porcupine Lake. It’s a long ways back – to the Muskeg River, across country.
I went up Grande Cache this side of Smoky River through Jack Hargreaves, from there to Sheep River, through Greenwater Lake, coming out on the south side of the Porcupine Lake. We missed the supply plane which was bringing us some supplies – I put up a camp in there. It took me a long time to get in there! I always used to make these rope corrals before I went to get the horses, all of them with chain hobbles, with rings on them. – They take no time to slip on a horse – If you loosen the hobble and slip a chain on the main leader, they all follow you – all twenty-five horses. They were all trained to run into that corral. I’d start to put halters on them and saddle them. Maybe halfway done saddling, the cook hollers that breakfast is ready. I’m in a hurry to eat – hurry to eat out to work and start to pack again. Then the cook would help me and sometimes the geologists. All I wanted them to do was help pull on the diamond hitch. I used the full diamond – not the three-quarter diamond, – so that the pack stays solid. I had to test every pack before I start packing, to make them even weight, so there’d be no sore spots. I never had a sore back all summer, – I kept them clean, Yah. I had a lot of rough stuff to pack – stoves and such. – If I put a big tent on one side, and a stove on the other side, the stove was a little heavier. I had to make that even, by putting something else on that it made even weight. I’d lead that horse all the time ahead. The rest would follow me. I never let him go, for I’d watch to see whether the stove would pull a little to one side.
I’ll bet we had eight or nine tents around that lake. The boys begun to work with the helicopters, – the geologists. I even went fly camping with the helicopter. This geologist was going to camp – there were a lot of grizzlies around – I had no gun.
It happened that my brother took two German hunters in there. I saw my brother coming down the pack trail to where I was camping. – He was just as surprised – “how did you get here?” I says, “I flew in here.”
The main camp was at Porcupine Lake. He camped in there with us. I had quit drinking then, and didn’t have any liquor. He had some, so they were going to get drunk. I said, “Go ahead and drink.”
We cooked a whole hindquarter of a sheep the boss had killed, – fried some steaks and had supper – and they were quite happy.
The next day the flyer from Vancouver, McLaughlin his name was – he said, “Let’s try to chase some of those goats down for them”.
I said, “It doesn’t matter to me.”
He said, “I’ll fly around this mountain.” A real high mountain, out rock, you know. He flew around the mountain – I didn’t even want to look down! Straight down, – and he barely going over the mountain! All those billy goats ran in the other direction! [Mr. Campbell laughed heartily at the memory.] There were lots of them, but none of them where the hunters were – all around, but none there.
They went for the bush – they don’t go for the mountains, those goats. He made four or five trips like that, across Green Lake, and over the mountains and over to the main camp. When I finished that camp, he said he wanted to go some place else. I said, “not with so many horses again!”
But by then the boss got in, and I got some help. So I had a geologist and horses again. We went to Greenwater Lake, and camped for a week. When we came back, he decided to close down all the camps for it was getting late in the fall. I’d been away all summer – three and a half months, I think. I’d like to get back home.
The boss told me, – he says, “The boys will fly you home. They’ll land at Swan Lake, and they’ve got a limousine. They’ll drive you home.”
“That will be swell”, I says.
So they did. At the end of a week they came back and got me again. We flew from Swan Lake. We had this little Beaver plane – it was over loaded. I don’t know how to get scared on a plane. I don’t know anything about planes, but I knew we were overloaded – we could hardly get off the lake. Not only that – he couldn’t get up high. He had to stay at a certain altitude and that was it!
The mechanic said, “Let’s throw off some stuff!”
The guy that flies said, “No, Campbell knows where we’re going. We’ll follow the river and won’t go over the mountains.”
So we flew across Kelly Lake, and the Harmony River and from then up to Sulphur River, and on to Porcupine River, following the rivers all the way. He couldn’t get over the mountains. We had to fly over Nose Mountain. You feel the air pockets – you’d drop down a hundred – two hundred feet. We had some guys in there, riding with us, – who had been in Dawson Creek and they were drunk! Ah! They were pretty sick! I wasn’t, because I didn’t get drunk. By Gosh, I laughed at that – some of those poor guys!
On the Porcupine they wanted to do some washing, I wanted to do some washing too, but the river was pretty fast water. I made a mistake, and made myself twice as much work. I got all those cowboy jeans and stuff, put a bunch of soap on my clothes, and put them to soak on the edge of the lake – before washing them out. I thought I was doing a real smart thing. By gosh, when I took them out they were all mud and green stuff out of the algae in the lake, and I had to get water and wash them all over again. These geologist guys put all their clothes in a big pillow case, put soap inside of the pillowcase and put them out in the river, so the water would rush through then – next day they went down to the river – the pillowcase had busted, and the clothes were all gone!
We went back with McLaughlin again. He said, “Don’t you ever go down in that valley again. There’s grizzlies in there, with some young ones.” They were biting and snapping at my clothes – I had to race for the plane.”
I said, “I’ll make sure I take a rifle along.”
That’s the kind of trips we had. We had a lot of fun in those days. Glen Kilgour wanted me to go back guiding some place where I didn’t know the country good enough, in Glen Kilgour’s territory. I think he’s hunting more in elk and sheep country, where I wasn’t well enough acquainted. On top of that, I had to [section missing] all those horses out on the train. Sundry is where he took hunters out from. He shipped all his horses in here one year on the train. We started out from here as far as we could and packed them from there. They hauled stuff out on trucks as far as they can go. That was the summer we put in a rough year, several different trips we made. That was a rough summer. Mountains are very lovely country – very pretty, but it’s a rough life. All right for a young an, but I couldn’t go those places no more.
But I have many memories. I loved them trips! If I were young again, I’d start all over but in a different way.
INTERVIEWER: You’d want to go as a guest – and just ride?
PETER CAMPBELL: No, that was the trouble with me. I always wanted to lay down the law. We had a bad river crossing once, where the boss wanted to help me. Do you know what he did? He wanted to cut down these big green poplar trees for a raft! Greenhorn! We’d get no place! We would sink. He said, we’d go down the river – him and I.
I said, “Please! – please just don’t help me. I don’t want your help.”
“All right!” he says – – – he got mad.
So he starts off, down the river. There were some Indians down there – he figures they got a boat. He ended up in the river.
I saw the boat across the river so I took the other boys and said, “Come on down the river with me, boys.”
We took some of those old dried logs off a drift pile. I took a pole and tied myself a raft of just four logs. The water was plumb full – pretty high. I got beyond the rapids as far as I could, and then I said, “Don’t try to help me. If I go off I can swim. You boys would drown. If I drown, I go alone.”
So I crossed and found the boat tied up to a tree, not even locked. So I went up the stream with it. A big boat is nice to handle. I came out right where the boys are. Next morning we start out. We drew up right along side the boat and I start to haul the stuff. Then the party chief arrived. His face was that long when he saw that we had brought the boat across.
I said, “I don’t want no help. I’ll handle this alone.”
First I took the geologist across, and the chief horse wrangler. Then I took the horses across, upstream. My big strong white horse – he takes the lead. He’s not scared of nothing – he’s a real water animal.
He’d swim that river right straight across, every time. The horses would all string along; if you leave them they’ll all make it. There was a half a day’s work.
The party chief said, “You’ve done your day’s work, we won’t move today. We’ll camp right here!”
We’d get all the stuff and horses across. So that’s where we stayed that night. We went fishing, the cook and I, and by gosh! I saw this big trout in there. We set a pole and a line, and by gosh, he took my hook, line and all. I just saw part of his mouth!
In the Sheep River – I caught a good trout in there! Steelhead. – I’d never seen a steelhead before but these boys called it a steelhead. He wasn’t too long a fish when we measured him, – a little better than thirty inches, – but he was thick, thick through – with a small head. My first hook – a small one – he snapped right off. But in the river there was a bend, and a pool there. The water was so clear! You could see six of those big trout swimming across, just ready to snap any bait you put in – but I had no more hook, and no more line. I went back to a trapper’s cabin, and made myself a hook out of a spike. I pounded it out, and sharpened it with a file. Then I found a sling cord and fastened it to the hook. Do you think you could pull that fish out of the water like that? No sir, I’d put the bait on the hook and just drag’em out – right out on the sand.
I really got scared in there. I was sitting on a long pole – no way of getting out except to jump in the water and swim – when I heard something. Here was a cow moose and a calf, right behind my back. She was ready to fight me, but I just don’t move. I thought: “If you come after me, I’ll just jump in the water.” But she didn’t – the calf went the other way, she just followed the calf and left me alone. I guess I’m getting tired, – talking so much.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you so much. That is the most interesting story of guiding and packing that I have ever heard or ever read. This will go on tape and be kept, to tell what it was like to be a young man in the Beaverlodge mountains.
PETER CAMPBELL: It’s every word true, what I told you.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much.
FOOTNOTE: (on another occasion he told us this:)
This country, as my dad described it was Beaver Indian country. It was all beaver Indian country; there were no Cree, – just Beaver Indians as far as they know. They were nice to those Crees who came from “outside”, most of them from Lake Ste. Anne, – Eastern Canada some of them.
I did see that Beaver Chief, Wolf, one time. He had seven wives, – seven because he was a good moose hunter. I hear he had an argument with the priest one time. The Catholic priest said, “it isn’t the right thing to do to have seven wives”.
Wolf said, “I don’t have any trouble. Maybe in your country – but in good moose country, you’re entitled to seven wives.”
I remember seeing him when I was a kid. He was a tall, tall guy. He was Beaver.
INTERVIEWER: So there were tall Beavers.
PETER CAMPBELL: Well, this one was, but some of the others, I know are small – like Slaveys. They are all the same type of people. I saw a Slavey Indian over there – I thought he was a kid, but he told me he’s got two children. He was just a little guy just like a kid!
All the Fort St. John country was full of Indians. There are still some in North Pine – they’ve got a big reserve there. I think that’s where the best of them are. They don’t mix with the Crees, – no, I think they never did, but I don’t know anyone who remembers that far back.