This period in John's life— the early 1960's, during his time at the Upper Saskatchewan Ranger Station— is fictionalized in Bruce Hunter's novel, In The Bear's House.
The Upper Saskatchewan District, immediately east of Jasper and Banff National Parks, was one of the best big game hunting areas in the province, there being mountain goats, mountain bighorn sheep, moose, elk and mule deer, and black and grizzly bears. The area was not only attractive to provincial residents but attracted non-resident big game hunters from the United States and some even from Europe. These non-resident hunters had to be outfitted and guided in the mountains by local outfitters, a local spinoff industry. Of course I, as resident ranger, had to register and supervise these hunters, and on two occasions had to radio for a helicopter to lift out hunters who had suffered heart attacks.
I was involved in a major rescue operation close to my station. The day it happened I was on patrol at the west end of the district, when I got a radio call from my wife at the ranger station informing me of an accident close by. I returned as soon as possible to find a hunter, one of a trio, reporting that one of this party had fallen and injured himself badly. The man making the report was quite agitated, evidently in a panic; all I could ascertain was that the hunter had fallen on the mountain and one man had stayed with the injured man whilst he had come to report that the accident was on the mountain beside the Cline River Bridge. He had rushed down the mountain without paying attention to his route or blazing the way and could not give an exact location. There was no snow on the low ground and it was impossible to backtrack him, and the mountain in question covered a huge area. I organised a search party of two hunters in the vicinity and our headquarters forester George Ontkean, who happened to be at the station, taking along the man who had reported, hoping he would recognise his route down.
We started out at dusk carrying a cot spring (as we lacked a stretcher), ropes, portable radio, gas lanterns and flashlights. We searched back and forth across the mountain in a sort of grid system. My wife could see our lights all night, and actually the injured man and his companion could hear us call from time to time and had answered. We did not hear them, though, as although sound rises it does not come down very well. I did not expect them to be so high on the mountain as they were — elk very rarely went above the timber line. I assume the hunters had alarmed the elk and they had gone high and over into the next valley.
We eventually found the injured man at three thousand feet elevation about 4:30 a.m., but could see he was too badly injured to attempt moving him. Myself and George Ontkean walked out in the dark to White Goat Cabin, then George took off to Nordegg to order a doctor and helicopter. We could not radio Rocky Mountain House in night time as we had to go through a relay station on Baldy Lookout operated by the lookout man there only in daytime.
I returned to my station to prepare and get a little rest. The doctor, a young man from Edmonton with a large suitcase-sized aluminum first aid kit and Thompson splints, and the helicopter arrived at 11 a.m. It was evident he would not be able to land on the mountain, so we taped on the doctor's glasses and he was lowered by winch. The chopper returned for me to take in more equipment and the pilot thought I didn't need the winch, so I stepped out onto a ledge a short distance above the injured man. I was loaded with all the equipment and two Thompson splints, and had to hang on with both hands, as it was very steep, so I was dragging equipment and kicking the splints ahead of me which would twist and turn every which way. Finally I reached the injured man, who had both legs broken, one arm broken, a cracked sternum and an injured back and who was suffering from shock from being out all night in twenty-degree temperature. He had fallen about seventy-five feet. By the time I reached him the doctor had got the patient sedated and started to cut off a boot. The companion exclaimed, "Those are expensive boots." "A million-dollar leg," the doctor muttered. He opened the first-aid kit, which was fully stocked, but it lacked one very important element required right then: there was no water to make plaster casts; no water on a mountain top. The doctor made do the best he could, using the two Thompson splints and pieces of wood. We started out with the patient on the cot spring, one man at each corner, the doctor tending and steadying the injured man, while a fifth man handled an anchor rope round rocks, trees and stumps, whatever available. I led the way picking a trail and carrying the radio, heading for a little meadow I knew, and had arranged for the helicopter to pick us up there. It was a slow business, and getting late in the day.
The chopper pilot, worried about the approaching twilight, scouted around and found a place closer to the foot of the mountain where some poplar trees were not so high. He put down there, with rotors clipping the tree tops. With a hand axe from his tool kit he proceeded to chop down trees, and by the time we reached him he had a circle cut around him.
 John also recounted this rescue mission in a newspaper article he wrote in 1987.
It was only a small helicopter, and we could not get our stretcher in but had to curl the patient round the seat. His face was the colour of cigarette ash and I was afraid he might not make it. The pilot tried to lift out but could not get enough power for a vertical take-off, so he had the doctor unload and managed to get airborne, then the doctor grabbed the skids and they went out of there with the doctor dangling beneath the chopper. They landed that night at Rocky Mountain House Hospital with the aid of a circle of car headlights. I heard our injured man survived. Then I had a very happy visit from Werner Rugalis, the injured man, and his wife on September 7th 1987, twenty-five years after the rescue. He was quite well except for a slight limp.
As time went on I improved the station grounds so that I had beautiful grounds and garden. In that lovely climate I could grow things I cannot grow now at Rocky Mountain House. Although the altitude was four thousand five hundred feet and deep on the mountains, it was frost-free from mid-May to mid-October; very dry of course, and we had to keep water sprinklers going every day. Hunters used to be amazed to come out there in the fall and see flowers blooming while outside all would be dead.
 See previous chapter.
We got some snowfall and occasionally a severe cold snap but it never lasted very long and the snow would disappear in a few days. We would pick the best days to go out to town for supplies or attend Reserve Headquarters; it was often above zero when we left home, then we found it twenty-five to thirty degrees below zero on the outside. When building the lookout I had occasion to pick up some lumber from No. 2 Ranger Station at Rocky Mountain House and had to have a tractor pull my truck through deep snow into and away from the lumber piles; by the time I got home I could write my name in the dust on my load of lumber.
On one occasion after a snow storm a party of lumber jacks returning to camp from town got stuck in the snow in front of our station. I went out to help them and invited them in for coffee before they proceeded on to their camp a further twenty miles. They were in poor condition for traveling as they had been drinking, and when they came into the house one of them, Frenchie, stumbled as he passed Kathleen, who was presiding at the table. He threw out his hand and grasped Kathleen's shoulder to steady himself, and at that a St. Bernard on the floor raised up and roared at him. I never saw anyone sober up so fast. The dogs were very protective; I suppose she thought her mistress was being attacked.
I had another experience with Frenchie, who was very superstitious. At the sawmill up-river, just as I arrived on inspection one day, I found the sawyer had just been killed. The slab of a spiral-grained log had got caught on the head saw as he was retracing, the carriage shot back, and the point entered his throat, lifting him right over the rollskid log and asphyxiating him as there were no witnesses. The crew were quite upset; the sawmill shut down and they wanted to head for town. I had a job to hold them till the Mounted Police arrived, for I had radioed for them as soon as I arrived. No-one could tell the police as to how the accident happened; we could only form an opinion based on what we could observe. That was, a slab fifty-two inches long two inches thick at the base and tapered to a needle point in hard frozen wood had been thrown back by the saw like a lance, becoming wedged firmly in the man's vertebrae. Together, the policeman and myself with our feet braced against the body could not pull it out, and we had to cut it off with a handsaw on each side of the neck.
The policeman instructed us to take the body into town to the coroner. The foreman piped up, "We have only got an open truck and it is cold." I understood his concern and offered to take the body to my station where I could load it into my station wagon to transport it to town. All agreed on this, and the foreman with another man said they would come with me to the station and help load the body, which was wrapped up in a canvas on a stretcher. With the stretcher loaded in the back of my truck, Frenchie volunteered to ride with me. As we traveled I could see Frenchie was ill at ease, sitting on seat-edge, and kept looking back through the back window. Thinking to distract him I said, "What is the matter, Frenchie, is he sitting up?" Frenchie nearly went through the roof of the cab, crossing himself and muttering; he really was upset now. We got to the station and loaded the body into my private station wagon. It was dark and starting to snow, and there was no particular hurry to get in to town, as the policeman had said next day would be O.K. We did not sleep that night but kept watching in case the weather worsened, in which case we would take off. We did not leave till daylight next morning.
Ch. Jiggs of the Hills,
Buster (Jiggs Jnr of the Hills),
Maggie (Fiona of Jaykay),
Ch. Blondie of the Hills,
Dagwood (Ch. Pemono's Louis the Explorer)
In addition to being working dogs, both of these were also show-dogs (the prefix "Ch." means "Champion"): Jiggs Jnr of the Hills (L), and Ch. Pemono's Louis the Explorer, better known as Dagwood. These dogs will be taking supplies to the fire lookout station, where the lookout man has run out of food.
I worked my dogs sledding and packing a great deal in the wintertime. They saved me a lot of work and were great companions. I bred St. Bernards and Samoyeds for work dogs and high-standard show dogs. They won many show trophies over the years, and the pups were in great demand if I had any for sale. The St. Bernards were slower but better for heavy work. They would travel about eight miles per hour, but when I put a Samoyed lead dog and one pair of Samoyeds in front to set the pace, they would make much better time. A straight Samoyed team, generally seven dogs (a lead dog and three pairs) would make fifteen miles per hour on average, and when racing they could do much better. The dogs loved to work and run. When I was taking them out on a trip I first tied the sled to a tree and bedlam would break out, which continued while I harnessed them and hitched them to the sled. When I pulled the tail rope slip knot they would shut up and take off like a shot.
I raced them two years in Edmonton at the Muk-Luk Mardi Gras, and placed well up with the winning teams. I won a trophy one year; placing fourth against a field of twenty-two teams. Many of the teams were flown in from the northern part of the province and the Northwest Territories; some of them were half wolf. The public had to stay away from them, but the Samoyeds were very popular with the public as they could be petted and fussed over and that they loved.
The St. Bernards could run very fast if given enough incentive, such as when I would run across a band of wild horses on the plains. The horses were very inquisitive, and when they saw us would stand with pointed ears till we got quite close and then they would take off. There would be no restraining the dogs; they would take off after the horses and I would get a wild ride on the back of the toboggan and riding the brake till I slowed them a bit, and the horses out-distanced us.
There was quite a number of wild horses in the earlier years but sadly they thinned out later, when Indians got permits to trap them.
It was a beautiful sight to see a band of horses running over the shoulder of a mountain, long manes and tails flying as they headed for higher ground where they could watch their back trail.
On one occasion I came across a mare who had just dropped her foal. She took fright and wanted to run but didn't want to leave her foal, but presently the foal stumbled to his feet and staggered after his dam. I did not disturb them more than necessary, and last I saw of them the foal was making good progress.
The wild horses were quite hard to tame, although one of my own horses had been wild and caught as a two-year-old. She became a very good pack horse and when bred to a thoroughbred stud she produced a very good foal. That became my saddle horse which I rode for years.
I traded a saddle and $20 to an Indian for a little wild stallion and broke him to pack, but if any brush touched his pack he would jump twenty feet. After working him for some time I turned him loose with my other horses but he upset them so much I had trouble catching any of them and eventually I had to shoot him. At least he made dogfood.
The elk would come down to graze on the plains, often just outside the garden fence and in the pasture with the horses. Often I caught a horse with the elk all around it and the elk were not unduly disturbed.
There was quite a number of bears, both black and grizzly, the latter staying mostly in the back country. The black bears caused some trouble around camp grounds if they found garbage. On one occasion a fisherman came to the station and demanded I shoot a black bear that had eaten all his food. Then he told me he had left his grub box on the camp table while he went up creek fishing, I told him that it was he I should shoot for leaving food to tempt the bear. It was a yearling black bear and after his first success he frequented the camp ground. I finally had to destroy him.
I spent twenty years in the mountainous back country and never had serious trouble with bears. Most bear attacks are caused by some reason, if it were only known, but sometimes it is not readily apparent. For instance, coming between a female bear and her cubs is dynamite, as is getting too close to their food supply, which is often an animal they have killed, and they generally sleep it off in the vicinity. This happened to the ranger at Prairie Creek Ranger Station when he was out on a pack trip and camped near Meadows Cabin. He had turned his hobbled horses loose for the night, and in the morning they had wandered off a bit. While looking for the horses he unknowingly came between a black bear and its kill. The bear took off after him and he tried to climb a tree, but the bear got hold of his leg, pulled him down and mauled him terribly and left him for dead. When found he was in very bad condition from loss of blood. A doctor was flown in by a Mr. Cipperly of Olds who owned a small plane and who volunteered to try to land in the very rough restricted space. The pilot of the plane managed to land but was unable to bring them out, and the injured ranger was brought out on a tractor. He was suffering from severe lacerations on his legs and back and damage to his nervous system. When he was released from hospital he carried on at his ranger station with the help of an assistant but for years he was a nervous wreck, suffering a lot of pain. He eventually recovered to almost his old self. Here was an attack with an apparent cause.
A timber operator, Dave Edwards, was awarded a timber permit on the south side of the Saskatchewan right next to Banff Park. The Forestry Department assisted in building a bridge across the river as the timber operator had to build many miles of road to reach his timber. We had to chop through five feet of ice to drive pilings for the bridge. Five miles further on they came to Siffleur River and set up a sawmill to cut bridge timbers. Just above the proposed bridge the Siffleur came out of a deep gorge, and a mile up the gorge I found a beautiful waterfall, falling about forty feet into the head of the gorge, which was the same depth and in places only about four feet wide. One could have jumped it, except it looked so far down. At different times two people were drowned in the waterfall as the surrounding rocks were wet and slippery from spray. When they fell in there was no chance to get them out till the river emerged from the gorge. It was an unlucky location, as just after they set the mill up the sawyer sawed his thumb off, sawing right down the side of his hand.
I heard a rumour that a bear had been shot at the camp. When I investigated they denied this, but my dog led me to where a female black was buried. She had two young cubs which per force I had to destroy. The camp crew had made the kitchen garbage pit right beside an outdoor toilet used by the woman cook. One day she was confronted by the bear, which they then shot. Here, again, was a human cause of the trouble.
 The David Thompson Highway. See previous chapter.
As I said the original road was a very rough trail. Right next to the entrance to Banff National Park the road traversed a very steep hill with a very sharp turn at the bottom. I always went down with my truck, in low gear to navigate the sharp corner. One day when I turned the corner there was a sow bear and two cubs ambling along the trail. When she heard me she headed into the bush with one cub following; the second cub climbed a tree alongside the road. There he was hanging on with back feet and one front paw, his other paw on his hip, looking down. I braked my truck but did not disengage the clutch; I was always interested in watching any wildlife. The little cub looked so cute hanging there, but his dam, about thirty feet away, missed the cub and suddenly stood up on her hind legs, saw the truck, and gave a loud woof. I just had time to let out the clutch or she would have been in the truck with me. Bears can move very fast, surprisingly so.
On another occasion, when I returned to my truck from an inspection trip into the wood, there was a female bear and cub nosing round the vehicle. I just took a walk and came back after some time when she had gone. I respected the bears, and certainly like humans they have a very protective instinct for their young. Recognising this, I spent twenty years in the bush without any trouble from them.
On another occasion I saw this protective instinct in a manner I would not have believed, except I saw it for myself. I was aboard a helicopter, piloted by Jack Lunan, flying up Cline River to Pinto Lake, when on the shoulder of the mountain at the entrance to No. 1 Creek we spotted three mountain goats, a billy and nanny with a new-born kid at their feet. The nanny seemed upset. I managed a quick snapshot of them and asked Jack to circle back that I might get another photograph, and as we circled past them the second time I could see the female goat going up the mountain but the billy was standing over the still recumbent kid. He was ready to do battle with all comers. Unusual, I thought, as it was generally the female that was the most protective.
It was one of the greatest pleasures in my work to watch wildlife, although sometimes I saw tragedy, as when I saw a few-hour-old bull moose calf nuzzling his dead mother who had been killed by a loaded lumber truck. A moose calf is a most ungainly looking object, only a moose cow could love one. We managed to save this little orphan and fed him with a bottle, and he went to the Calgary Zoo. I liked to stalk up on wild animals and watch them, a bear playing with her cubs, she hitting them with her paw and they would roll over and over and come right back for more. We often saw them playing on the hillside above our cabin when they were feeding on wild berries, putting on the fat for winter hibernation. The black bears all spend the winter in hibernation and that is when the cubs are born, very tiny when born, but their mother suckles them and when they emerge in the spring they are adorable, cuddly little fellows. The cubs stay with their mother during their first winter hibernation and when they emerge the second spring she drives them off. For a time they are pathetic, lonesome young bears, till they learn to fend for themselves. The male grizzly doesn't stay in hibernation all winter but occasionally comes out and travels around. They don't hibernate in a regular den or cave but will lie down on the lee side of a large rock or overhang where the snow will drift over them. I have seen several such places; one was a small overhanging rock ridge with a small spruce tree growing near the edge. As I watched it, steam from the bears breath issued forth and froze on the tree above, which looked like a Christmas Tree as it was covered with hoar frost. The emissions were some moments apart as the sleeping bear breathed very slowly. Next time I passed that way he was gone.
The bears put on a lot of fat in preparation for hibernation, as much as six inches all over their bodies. This is what sustains them during the long winter months. It was very desirable to get a bear in the fall, just before it hibernated, as the fat made wonderful shortening for pastry. I have salvaged as much as sixty pounds of fat from one bear. The meat was too rich unless carefully cooked, and was not favoured much. Also, when skinned out, especially for a trophy skin, the long muscles and toes looked too human-like. The fat had to be properly handled, first parboiled in salt to remove the bear taste and aroma, then rendered in slow heat. The result was a softer product than conventional lard and shortening and made wonderful flaky pastry. Any cook who ever used bear fat would gladly trade two pounds of conventional shortening for one pound of bear fat.
The Stoney Indians, an off-shoot of the Plains Sioux, from their reservation at Morley west of Calgary used the Kootenay Plains for a hunting area and some-time residence for over two hundred and fifty years. They traveled from Henley up through what is now Banff Park to the summit of the Dolomite River, thence down the Siffleur River and on to the open plains, now known as the Kootenay Plains.
The Kootenay Plains was where fur traders from the fort at Rocky Mountain House met the Kootenay Indians from the west to trade for furs. The Kootenays came through the mountains from British Columbia and were enemies of the Stonies and Cree Indians to the east. History records an Indian massacre in that area.
 The Hobbema Reservation is now known as Maskwacis.
The story I found when researching the history of the region was that a party of western Kootenay Indians had a fight with the eastern tribe, and all the Kootenay Indians were killed except one pregnant Indian girl who was captured as a slave. This latter part of the story was confirmed to me later by Chief Smallboy of Hobbema Reserve.
 Walking Buffalo's biography.
I knew a man named Tatânga Mânî, Walking Buffalo, George McLean (he was known by all three names); the name George McLean was given to him by an early missionary, John McLean, who adopted the boy and saw that he got a good education. When he (George McLean) visited his half-brother Silas Abraham at the Bighorn Indian Reserve close to my ranger station, I had the opportunity to talk with Walking Buffalo. As he was a well-educated man, I was interested in the local history and matters pertaining to the local Indians and the whole general area about which he knew. I asked Walking Buffalo about the massacre in years past, and he gave me their version. A long time ago his people were hunting on the plains when they saw a party of strange Indians. When his people approached the strangers all took fright and ran away over the mountains to the west, except one Indian girl—"Got baby in belly, could not run," and his people kept her.
 Read the biography of Chief Smallboy (Apitchitchiw).
Chief Smallboy's relationship with with the the Kootenay Plains and his advocacy for native culture is described in Chief Smallboy: In Pursuit of Freedom by Gary Botting.
About two years before I retired from the forest service, Chief Smallboy of Hobbema applied to me for an area to hold their Sundance. As I had the Stonies having a Sundance on the district and had to keep them apart, I allotted Smallboy's band of Cree Indians an area immediately across Cline River close to the Ranger Station. I wished they had not been so close as the tom-toms beat day and night.
It was part of my duties to keep my eye on the Sundance and to report to the Mounted Police any irregularities. On the last day of their main activities I visited the Indian encampment where Chief Smallboy very proudly showed me his new fire-red Pontiac station wagon parked in front of his teepee. Having duly admired his new vehicle, I was invited to sit in the front seat with him. While sitting there some of the dancers came out of the Sundance lodge dancing the chicken dance. The chief pointed out one dancer, giving the name Something Raine, "Him grandfather, baby in belly Indian girl captured Kootenay Plains." Apparently the Indian girl was the forerunner of the extensive family of Raines living on the Hobbema Indian Reservation at the present time.
There was a goodly number of derelict abandoned Indian cabins on the plains when I took charge of the district, and I had the job of cleaning them up. I found some artifacts such as pieces of the Bible in the Cree language and a religious pamphlet, evidently Catholic, as it contained a sketch of the Confessional and the Last Supper. This did not make sense to me as I knew the Stonies were Methodist. Years later I obtained a photostat copy of part of Father Lacombe's journal and learned that he had spent a year and a half at Rocky Mountain House fort while he was translating the Bible into the Cree language.
The Indians to the east of Rocky Mountain House were Blackfeet and Cree and tried to keep the traders from traveling west to trade with the Kootenay Indians, as they did not want the Kootenays to get guns, which at that time they did not have.
Alexander Henry, in his journal, tells that when he went west exploring in 1799, his party broke up into small parties, each man having three dogs. They left the fort and traveled east, thereby misleading the Indians as to their destination. They later circled back onto the river to go west. The advance party shot game and preserved it by chopping ice in the river, thus leaving supplies for those following. Henry mentions the abundance of buffalo, moose, deer, mountain sheep and goats as he traveled through the Kootenay Plains. He also mentions the river from the west running into the Saskatchewan River, the present-day Cline, calling it Rivière du Meurleton, or Mirleton. David Thompson in his journal also calls the river Mirleton.
 Tom Wilson's biography.
 This is the best picture we can find of Bessie Barnes' painting of Mount Siffleur, zoomed in from a photo of John's living room wall in 1991. The location of the original painting is unknown.
I have photostat copies of Alexander Henry's journal of his explorations in 1799, also of David Thompson's discovery of the source of the Columbia River in 1846, in which they both describe the Mirleton River and the surrounding mountains, positively identifying it as the present-day Cline River. In 1888 while traveling with Stony Indians, Tom Wilson saw the plains for the first time and thought there was potential for a ranch on this well-grassed open plain. Tom Wilson was in partnership with a man Campbell, with headquarters at Lake Louise; they had a contract packing for the railway then being surveyed through the mountains. In 1900 they started a horse ranch on the Kootenay Plains and put up a set of buildings on White Rabbit Creek at its confluence with the Saskatchewan. In later years Tom Wilson built a large log building further up White Rabbit Creek and operated a trading store for the benefit of surrounding Indians. Prior to this he exchanged his portion of the business at Lake Louise with Campbell for Campbell's interest in the ranch. Tom Wilson finally sold off his horses in 1912 when he moved to Banff. About 1900 another ranch, Barnes Ranch, brought in a herd of horses, but it folded up in 1905, existing long enough for a complete change of brands. A nearby mountain, Elliott Mountain, was named after rancher Barnes' son Elliott. I have a beautiful oil painting of the Siffleur Mountain, which is located at the corner of the Siffleur Mountain Range, where it meets the Saskatchewan River just across the river from Whirlpool Point. This was presented to me by the artist, Bessie Barnes, daughter of the rancher, when I retired in 1965, that I would have a reminder of my old district.
While researching and accumulating information on the Kootenay Plains I contacted James Simpson, a retired guide and outfitter in Banff, son of old George Simpson. When I interviewed James Simpson he was an old man and living for the summer at his son's (David) resort at Ya-ha-Tinda Lake. I was trying to ascertain when Tom Wilson started the ranch on the Kootenay Plains. When I told Mr. Simpson what I wanted to know, he told me it was 1900, because in the second year after, 1902, he (James Simpson) snowshoed for five days from Sunwapta, crossing the Brazeau River, down Cataract Creek and Cline River to spend Christmas with his neighbor Tom Wilson. James Simpson had a trapline on Jonas Creek on the Sunwapta in what is now Jasper National Park. He reached Wilson's ranch on Christmas Eve, and had taken along a bottle of Hudson Bay Rum. He told me they celebrated by both getting gloriously drunk and next morning Tom Wilson was very morose and not talking till he suddenly asked James Simpson, "When the hell you going home." Simpson put on his hat, said "Right now," and proceeded to snowshoe five days back to his trapline and almost did not make it.
So much for neighbors!!
Tom Wilson's original buildings, close to the Saskatchewan River, were a storehouse, a living cabin, and a two-hole outdoor privy. Over the cabin door there was a tremendous bighorn sheep head, the largest I have ever seen. Also he had a large wheelbarrow, the wheel made of boards nailed crossways and cut resembling a circle of sorts. I tried to get the government to preserve them as historical artifacts, along with the Barnes' ranch cabin. I was not successful, but later the local chamber of commerce moved Wilson's buildings to the Two-O'Clock Creek area just before the area was flooded by the Bighorn Dam and Abraham Lake. The Barnes Ranch I had to burn down; the chimney still stands. It was used by hunters and the mess of garbage and straw was terrible, and when I visited it in the company of my superintendent one day he said, "Burn it down." The hunters had abused it terribly and someone had stolen the mantleshelf from over the fireplace. There was a huge fireplace with a slab of rock about eight feet long and two feet wide; someone had carried it off. I have a photograph of Barnes sitting in front of that fireplace cleaning his rifle, taken in 1905 — Needless to say, I was severely criticised in the local press for burning the cabin.
The local Indians traded for supplies at Wilson's store. One band under Paul Beaver camped on Cline River, got whiskey from Wilson — supposedly to mix in their lynx bait to keep it from freezing — but they created trouble in the camp, causing old Paul to go down to Wilson and tell him not to give whiskey to the young braves. He kept repeating, "Not give whiskey, not give whiskey." Then after a long silence he said, "Maybe a little whiskey good for old man."
Not long prior to my taking over the district, the Indians were given a reservation below the Tershishner Creek Gorge, about twenty miles downriver from the plains. There they were provided with good houses, something they were not used to. It was my custom to give a small Christmas gift of tea, tobacco and sweet biscuits to the four oldest Indians on the reserve; when I would visit them just before Christmas it was a shame to see how they abused their houses-cupboard doors chopped up for firewood and of course dirty and kept suffocating hot.
The Indians live for the present, making no provision for the future; today is sufficient to itself. Theirs was a feast or famine sort of existence. I have had them working for me, clearing and burning brush, making good wages, but I could never depend on them. One day I would have a full crew making good wages and next day none, they would be off chasing wild horses, hunting, or off to some stampede; any distraction that offered. Some of them, a few, become educated and do well, but it is difficult to get them to attend school regularly. It will be many, many years, if ever, before they are completely integrated into ordinary society. Not that I think they should lose their culture, but it is a pity they have no written history, because they have some very interesting stories handed down by word of mouth in legends. The Indians are very loving to their children and revere their dead, and can be friendly and show their friendship by giving gifts. I have a stone pipe given me by old Silas Abraham, which he drilled out of soapstone by hand and it must have taken many hours of labour. The day he brought the pipe I filled it with tobacco and we smoked it together puff for puff; the first puff nearly blew the back of my head off, as I had pulled too much smoke through the hand-drilled stem with a very large cavity. I have been given buck-chin moccasins and gloves also.
They were not always friendly to me, rather the opposite. When I first arrived on the district, the local Indians had not been long on their reserve and many of their horses still ran on the plains and mingled with the wild horses. This was in contravention of the Forest Reserve Act, which I had to enforce by making them pick up their horses and keep them on the reservation. They did not think too kindly of me, and I had difficulty getting any cooperation.
One day I did something that charged the Indians' opinion of me. I was a keen photographer, and sometimes I would give them a print if I had photographed any of them. At Windy Point one day I wanted to photograph the mountain across the river, now known as Mount Mitchener. I cast around looking for a foreground focal point and found two Indian graves on the edge of the river bank. I propped up two little wooden crosses lying on the ground, and with this as my foreground focal point I took a shot of the mountain. When I got the photo developed it was a beautiful shot; I thought this could be a tourist attraction. With this thought in mind, I went down one Saturday afternoon, taking some peeled poles left over from my station fence, and rebuilt the fence round the graves and re-erected the two little wooden crosses. Next I had a visit from some of the Indians from the reserve telling me where there were more graves throughout the valley. I didn't take the hint; I could hardly spend my time being a graveyard caretaker!
They revered their dead, and when I was in business with my greenhouse and florist business in later years, if any member of the reserve died, they came to "Jon-Jon" — their name for me — no-one else would make flowers for them. They preferred plastic flowers that last longer, but they wanted them right now and would stand over me as I made up floral pieces. I couldn't get the Indians to have a family floral tribute, instead every member of the family and every friend had to have an individual piece. They would spend a lot of money on flowers, and the flowers had to be made by Jon-Jon. I once had Chief Snow from Morley Reserve arrive with a diagram showing him the way to Jon-Jon's place.
About this time (winter 1963) I had an accident: while traveling with dogs on winter game patrol, I was on my way to Pinto Lake and Cataract Creek in hope of seeing a herd of woodland caribou which sometimes came down to that area from Jasper Park. I was traveling on snowshoes with a pack on my back, also my rifle, accompanied by two pack dogs carrying my camp gear.
A St. Bernard dog can carry up to seventy-five pounds all day, which is much more in proportion to its size than a horse could, two hundred pounds being a good load for a horse.
We had to cross a small frozen creek that had formed a small waterfall from ice backup. On crossing I slipped and with my pack riding up on the back of my head, it knocked my hearing-aid glasses off; they went careening down the ice in front of me. I made a grab for them, but should not have bothered, as the hearing aid proved to be broken. Then I stopped, one finger was pointing east and west instead of north and south, dislocated I thought, so I just pulled the finger straight and continued on. I was wearing my ring, my wedding band, on that finger, and it did not occur to me to take it off.
That night I reached MacDonald Creek at dark and set up camp under a slung tarpaulin, and got a fire with reflector going. My finger was swollen and throbbing, and I got no sleep all night but sat in front of the fire till daylight. The dogs knew there was something wrong and they did not bed down all night but sat beside me, with a lick of their tongue occasionally.
At daylight, I broke camp and started the eighteen miles back to the ranger station. When I got home my finger and hand were huge. We could not reach the ring with any cutters, so Kathleen got a bone article from her manicure set and managed to get the point under the ring, then with a small three-corner file at last she cut the ring. I think she filed as much finger as ring.
We didn't get to town for about two weeks, when the x-ray showed the finger had been broken as well as dislocated, and that I had not set it. The doctor suggested to just leave it as it had started to knit together, and it wasn't too bad. I was still able to play my bagpipes. Unfortunately I lost this finger and the one next to it in a later accident.
One day John Abraham, an Indian from Bighorn Reserve, arrived at my station with a copy of a reproduction of an oil painting depicting the signing of the seventh treaty of 1877. The painting showed the Governor General David Laird distributing gifts to the assembled Indians, and there was a legend on the back of the picture indicating the various bands and their chiefs. It also indicated the lesser chiefs, among whom was that of the Stonies from Morley and the Kootenay Plains. John Abraham wanted me to make more pictures, as he evidently thought the Stoney chief indicated in the picture was his ancestor Joe Pee Beaver, buried near the ranger station, who had indeed attended the signing of the treaty and received a leather-bound Bible in the Cree language as a gift from Laird. John had the picture wrapped around the Bible, which was in good condition, and both in an old flour sack. I saw at a glance I could not do anything with the picture, it being badly bent and creased, but I considered the Bible valuable, and suggested to John that I keep the Bible for safe keeping in my office and I would try to do something with the picture. John agreed to my suggestion but said, "Keep safe, maybe book good for me." I wrapped the Bible and picture and put them on a shelf in my office. John would come to my office occasionally and say, "Got book," and I would produce them, setting them out on the office counter. He could neither read nor write, and after standing a while, "I go." I would put the Bible back on the shelf till next time.
About this time we heard rumours of a dam to be built at the Tershishner Creek Gorge on the Saskatchewan River. There had been such a suggestion back in 1911 when it was considered and dropped.
John Abraham heard these rumours, and up he came to me at the station, wanting to know if the reports were true. I told him yes they were talking about making a dam. "You stop them make dam, stop them make dam, the Queen give this country to my people!" The Indians thought because I was a ranger that I was all-powerful. It was no use trying to explain it to them.
Well the rumours faded and nothing happened for a year, then in came surveyors, surveying the valley floor for the lake that would result from the dam at the Tershishner Gorge.
Old John came boiling up again, "Going to make dam water here, no good, this our country. Queen give to my people, many my people buried here, need this country for to hunt. Water all here?" I pointed out the survey stakes away across the valley showing what would be the flood level. "Not good, you stop make dam. Stop make dam, you keep book." "John," I said, "if you gave me a whole truckload of books, I could not stop them making dam." "O.K.," he said, "I take book."
Some time later there was a young man translating the Bible into the Stoney language on the Bighorn Reserve. For a while he was domiciled on the reserve and as I had reported the Bible in Cree he managed to get it and it is now in the Glenbow Foundation Museum in Calgary.
There were many hunters coming into the district. One fall a party of three, some of whom I knew, arrived in a small trailer and wanted to camp close to my ranger station. There was the Inspector of Mounted Police in Red Deer, whom I had known overseas in the Provost Corps; Hannigan, who operated several restaurants in Red Deer; and the president of Labatts Brewery, at that time located in Red Deer. I readily agreed, as it offered a chance to renew old friendships.
This party had brought lots of liquid refreshment, and each night after their day's hunt they would come into the station, spending the evening chatting and reminiscing and doing a little drinking. One evening I told the story of John Abraham and the picture of the signing of the seventh treaty, whereupon the president of Labatts Brewery told me he knew the picture I mentioned, that at that time the original painting was hanging in the Calgary brewery. It had been commissioned by the brewery in 1946 and painted by an artist, Bruce Stapleton. The painting had been reproduced and printed and issued on large calendars, no doubt where John Abraham had obtained his copy, and he assumed the Stoney chief indicated on the calendar legend was his ancestor Joe Pee Beaver. The following Christmas I received a framed reproduction of the painting from the brewery president; the reproduction now hangs in my home.