Small Frye - Episode 1

Small Frye Gets His First Moose - And finds out what it’s like to be cold

Leonard Lea Frazer

Editor’s Note: We are beginning a new historical interest series by Leonard Lea Frazer called the Small Frye Episodes (see introduction below). Frazer’s Time Space Equation and Reluctant Travel Writer stories will continue, but alternately.

The Small Frye Episodes, originally printed over 35 years ago, are set in the area from Blue River to McBride in the 20s, 30s and beyond.

Introduction by Leonard Lea Frazer:
Mike Frye was a child of pioneer stock. As far as we know, he was the first white child born in the Yellowhead Pass. He was born in a covered wagon on November 22, 1911 at Tete Jaune Cache while his family was en route to their new homestead at Albreda (south of Valemount). The big wagon, drawn by four horses, was driven by Mrs. Edith Frye. She had an apple box next to her on the front seat containing the new baby. On the way, the horses were scared by a bear that ran out of the woods ahead of them and in the excitement the rig was tipped over and mother and child both were thrown out on the ground, but neither one was hurt.
Mike managed to be a regular nuisance as a baby but his mom was proud of him and liked to show him off. He settled down a bit as he grew old enough to help make moonshine and fight the big dollies that came up the creek near their home at Albreda. He never did care much for school and, the only reason he went at all, was so he could have a chance to run around with the opposite sex. But, he got tired of that early in life and took to the bush to do trapping, making cedar poles and logging by horse.
He followed this sort of life until he was forty years old, and then decided to see the rest of the world. Mike took to following the construction of huge pipelines, including the Trans Mountain Pipeline, and building a compressor station, always working with Canadian Bechlel, at that time, the largest engineering firm in Canada.
In McBride, he at last found someone to make him settle down. He married Sadie Grace Marsh who later became the editor of the McBride community newspaper. It was during this time that Mike wrote the original “Small Frye Episodes” from 1976 – 1983.  They were published, much to the enjoyment of local readers, in the Robson Valley Courier. He and writing partner Ed Sager published a book, “The Bootlegger’s Lady” in 1984.
The Small Frye Episodes return this week for the first time in 33 years. From out of the newspaper vaults comes a character that takes on all sorts of challenges and dangers. In the stories Mike works and travels with family members and friends and helps make history by always taking the easy way out.


Small Frye Gets His First Moose - And finds out what it’s like to be cold

The stories in this episode contain graphic hunting descriptions that may upset some readers. The episode is a reprint of personal, actual accounts documented by the pioneer/author considered to be practices of survival.

From March/April 1976 – Robson Valley Courier
I guess I was at least twelve years old when I got my first moose and it was just a miracle that I killed him.
I had a trap line set out for beaver and it was around ten miles long. I had a hard time to trap my first beaver as I just did not know how to go about it, and this was my first year at beaver trapping.
My line was along the river most of the way and I always carried my big 45 Colt Automatic and two clips loaded. I really wanted to get a shot at a moose or deer and had seen many tracks on my way back and forth. I saw one moose as he broke out of the brush and tore off through the swamp. I fired two shots at him and missed both times. But, now I had to have a deer or a moose. I moved carefully and, just as I broke out of the timber into a small meadow, a big old bull got up and looked at me. He was only ten feet away from me and could not get away. I raised my trusty old gun and let him have it as fast as I could pull the trigger. I had the poor beast so loaded down with forty-five bullets that he had to lay down. I put the rest of the shells into his big head. I had heard of how you had to cut the throat of a beast to make him bleed, so I put the gun back in the holster and took out my big hunting knife.
I soon found out something about wild animals and just how tough they are. I had no more than touched the knife to his throat when that big beast came to his feet with a bound and knocked me over into the ground. He took off at a staggering trot into the brush.
As he passed me I could see blood pouring from his nose and mouth and a dozen other holes in his poor hide.  “Surely some of those should kill him,” I thought, as I got to my feet.
I loaded the clips up again and took off after him. I came up to him several times that morning, but never got a shot at him. I knew he would have to lie down soon, as he was bleeding profusely, and would soon run out of strength and would have to lie down. Later in life I found out that, if I had left him alone, he would have laid down a lot sooner.
I chased him for two hours and by then I was sweating. Finally I came onto him. He tried his best to make it to his feet. As I started to load him down again with lead, he thrashed all over the meadow. He would get up and throw his big head around and down he'd go. I got as close as I could and kept pouring the lead to him until, at last, he gave up, shivered a few times and died.
Now I could cut his throat and did. I had my moose at last. What a proud young man I was when I got home that night with a big chunk of hide and a quarter of moose meat. I was fast becoming a provider of the Home. Of course, since then, I've learned a lot about hunting moose.  

I know what it is like to be cold, [and I do mean cold]

As some of you may know by now, that I am or have been a very stubborn little man and, when I make up my mind, I am sort of set in my ways.
Now, I'll tell you of a chase I made after a deer at 45 below zero. It was at one of our cabins on the North Thompson River (The Lewis Creek cabin). I had to have meat in order to make it through the winter on my trap line.
I knew where there was two deer grazing along the frozen river. I had seen their tracks several times as I ran my trap line. I never got to see them but knew with a bit of strategy I could get one or possibly the both.
It sure would be cold to butcher any game at 40 and 50 below but I had to have meat as I had to keep going and meat was one item of food that helped me to keep warm.
My partner, Louie Knutson, was trapping down river from me about ten miles and it was seldom that I saw him. I knew if he would come up to help me I could get those deer. I had it all figured out how to get them for sure.
As it was, I often saw the steam coming from them deer as they ran ahead of me on the cold river ice. I often thought of taking a snap shot at the cloud of steam, hoping to connect with a deer. They were very wary and all I ever did get was a fleeting glance of them as I rounded a corner of the river. They would take off up or down river away from me. I could have shot at the cloud anytime but, after a while in the woods and being forty or fifty miles to travel to civilization for ammunition, you learn not to miss any shots nor do you cripple game and let it get away to suffer.
So, if you do shoot, you are going to make sure you get your game and kill it fast. On our trios back and forth on the lines, sometimes Louie and I would meet and have lunch together. As I was making tea I saw a cloud of steam coming up the river and I knew it was Louis, so I waited for him, and as he set his pack down I told him about the deer. He was interested at once and decided to come back with me that night and we would go after them the next day.
The next morning I cleaned all the grease off the rifle and cleaned the barrel. If I did get a shot at the deer I did not want my gun to freeze up. I'd had that happen before in 50 below weather and I could not afford to have it happen again.
The morning broke bright, clear and cold. I'm sure it was 50 below or colder. We had a quick breakfast and I took off up the trail. It was cold; the trees were snapping and my breath froze as I breathed. My idea was to get up river from them and let Louie go down the river and we would herd them together, me coming down and Louie coming up we would keep them between us. Our scheme was to herd them off the ice into the deep snow, if we could, and kill them with the hatchet. They would not get anywhere in the deep snow.
I got ahead of them alright as I could see their fresh tracks going down river. Now the only place they could travel was the river or climb out onto my well packed snowshoe trail and I had no idea of letting them get that far. I'd keep them on the run till they met Louie coming up river. They would have no alternative than to turn around and come back to me and I would be ready for them.
It was not long till I saw a cloud of steam and it was coming at a fast clip up the river.  Soon I saw another cloud of steam and knew it was Louie. When I first saw them they were about half a mile below me and closing in fast. Now, I had to watch them and not let them past me. I could not shoot at them, as I might hit Louie, so I fired in the air and when they got to within twenty feet of me I fired again. I hollered and the poor beasts floundered up the steep bank of snow off the river. I took off after them. Now, we had them as they could not travel in this deep snow. They were soon floundering and trying desperately to get away from us. Soon Louie was there with his axe in his hand and his snowshoes. He had no trouble travelling on top of the snow along side them. I followed him and I got there when he swung the axe, cutting the head clean off one of them. I ran past him and soon had decapitated the other one. We were both sweating from our efforts. All we did was take out the entrails and load all the meat we could pack and head back to camp trying to get there before our clothes froze. If that happened we would be in a spot. The rest of the meat we left right there. It was all dressed so all we had to do was come and get it the next day.
By the time we made it back to my cabin we were pretty cold as our clothes soon froze. We had all the meat we needed for the rest of the winter. That was definitely the coldest hunt I ever experienced in my life but it was well worth the effort.

“Ella’s Moose” – photo courtesy of Ella Frye of Valemount.
“Ella’s Moose” – photo courtesy of Ella Frye of Valemount.