WERE THERE MANY PEOPLE OUT? Well, there were many people along the road. Well as for that I was off the road a lot. I quit the road down at Swan Lake at Gundy Creek and went across the cutbank back to the country west of the Cutbank River. There was no settlement in there at that time and I had to sleep out under the spruce trees with a saddle blanket. One time there I got supper for that night, on the following night I went without. Then I came in through by old Dawson Creek through Pouce Coupe and through by Rolla and up to St. John and a way on north up by Bear River country, looking for what I wanted to find. But there was too much bush cutting to move up there — one fellow alone. So I moved back onto the Beatton River east of where Rose Prairie is now.
MUST HAVE BEEN SETTLERS COMING IN ALL THE WHILE. YOU WEREN’T THE ONLY ONE THERE? Oh no, there were a lot of teams going out, at that time. As I went back there was quite a number of teams on the trail on the way in. Around the latter part of the summer I started moving stuff in from Wembley. Hooked up four horses . . .
WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR RANCH ESTABLISHED UP ON THE BEATON? The fall of 1928. I got established that fall.
YOUR BROTHER WAS CLOSE? No, well he didn’t come until 1930. And then he lived with me for quite awhile before he established on his own. But meanwhile I’d taken up trapping then. It kinda helped things along. It was the hungry thirties and I didn’t want to go on relief so I got some bannock dust and went trapping.
BANNOCK DUST? Yes, a little flour. And I continued with that for several years and then equipped and bought cattle but that was a poor venture at that time so I just sold out lock, stock and barrel to go trapping for the next ten years. North on the Liard River.
DID YOU TAKE DOGS? Oh, yes. Well we had a dog team.
WHAT WAS YOUR LARGEST CATCH? Oh, we averaged around a hundred skins each winter. Then the beaver hunting would be on top of that. Another forty to fifty beaver. Very few fox up there. It was mostly a lynx and martin country. A few mink and fisher. Some winters you’d never get a fox at all. Mountain country and they weren’t plentiful.
WERE THE PRICES QUITE GOOD FOR FUR? Not at the beginning. But in the real late 30’s and early 40’s the prices were real good.
AND YOU WERE ABLE TO GET ESTABLISHED IN CATTLE AND CROPS THEN? It was the trapping that really got me started. It gave me a chance to start on my cattle again. I started on Halfway in 1943.
AND THAT’S WHERE YOU ARE NOW? Yes. Well, not in the same place but in the same area.
AND DID YOU LEASE LAND ALL THIS TIME OR DID YOU BUY? I purchased and leased, both. I bought off a block of eleven hundred acres and leased approximately the same. I had that and in 1946 I sold that and started a new place which is strictly a horse set-up now, twenty miles or more down river.
DID YOU RAISE HORSES FOR SALE? Yes.
FANCY ONES? Nice horses. I wouldn’t call them fancy, that’s a matter of opinion.
THERE’S A GOOD MARKET FOR THEM? Oh yes, they’re quite saleable.
GETTING THE HORSES UP TO MARKETS FROM THE HALFWAY MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE A PROBLEM? It wasn’t too bad a deal. It just took a little time. The furthest was approximately one hundred and thirty mile trip into Dawson Creek. A number of us would drive in together. We’d bring four or five packhorses to carry bedrolls and grub. Spend about ten days on the trip down. They had good feed and water all the way. Places it would be more convenient to corral and feed than to graze them out. But it was not a bad trip, a matter of staying up overnight now and again or having to hunt cattle next morning if some had made a slip and let a few get away.
HOW MANY WOULD THERE BE? Generally from two hundred to two hundred and fifty in the drive.
AND WHO WERE THE OTHER PEOPLE? Well the furthest out was Bill Simpson up the Halfway at Blue Grave Creek and then there’d be myself next at the Graham River, then next there was Art Mclean, then the Westegaard brothers. Then when we got up to the Cache Creek area the Hudsons would throw a bunch in with us. One of the Hudson brothers would come along and there’d be six of us to take care of the cattle and one to move camp and take care of the packhorses.
WOULD YOU HAVE A WAGON? No. It was no wagon trail, the first eighty miles we traveled along the Yukon trail, the old Police trail, cut in 1898. So as it was a case of strictly pack horses that far, it might as well be pack horses the rest of the way.
THE COOK WOULD HAVE HIS SUPPLIES? Yes. The cook outfit and bedrolls would be packed on the packhorses.
AND EXTRA HORSES FOR THAT? Well, generally half a dozen packhorses. We could replenish the supplies when we got to St. John — take plenty from home to make it to there — and when we get to St. John pick up supplies for the rest of the trip to Dawson Creek.
HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE FROM FORT ST. JOHN TO DAWSON CREEK?
We’d make the river the first day. We’d make arrangements with the highway department and the army at that time. The police would be in attendance to stop traffic at both ends. We’d put the cattle on the bridge early in the morning and cross before the traffic got heavy.
WHAT WAS THE LAST YEAR YOU MADE THAT TRIP? The last year we made that, I believe, be about 1953. That was the year the bridge went out wasn’t it? Ah, no it went out when? ‘59,’58? Must have been earlier than that. Because I sold out in ’56 and the bridge went before that. I think it was ‘53 the bridge collapsed.
(For the record, the bridge across the Peace at Taylor went out in 1958.)