Small Frye returns - Episode 2

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 Tangles with a Grizzly -
And later, tells us How to Make Soap

Charlie Frye with bear cub. -  Ella Frye photo
Charlie Frye with bear cub. - Ella Frye photo

From January/February 1976 – Robson Valley Courier
In the spring of 1928, on May10th, I had made a date with my late brother, Charlie, and my other brother Jules, that we should go up the North Thompson to hunt grizzly on the slide about ten miles up from the present day bridge on Highway 5. At that time there were no roads of any kind up the Thompson, just a pack trail for horses. Up that trail, about ten miles, was a land slide that had come down many years ago. It was now grown back in brush and willows after being burnt off by a forest fire. This was ideal country for deer, mountain goats and grizzlies.
The succulent grass and berries made it the very best of foraging for wild game and here, as we passed on our way up to do our assessment work on some mining property, up the river, our trail went right through this slide and at our first stop for lunch we often saw huge bears eating the blue berries and digging for gophers and ground hogs.
We had shot a few bears there in times gone by, but never had we seen any big black grizzly. That was the kind that we could get real good prices for their pelts.
Well, this time we were going to spend a day there and camp overnight. It was a lovely warm spring day, and just right for seeing a bear. We knew he was there somewhere.
So, as we were setting up our camp we sent Jules for a pail of water at a spring nearby.  I started to make a fire but before I lit it I looked up the slide and I saw a large brown grizzly tearing away at an old rotten stump. I reached for the gun and loaded it. I got a good shot at him and down the hill he came crashing through the brush. As he fought his way down, he came right through to where Jules was dipping the bucket into the creek.
When Jules heard the shot he started to run back toward camp. As he ran, I could see the bucket, as he made big leaps, clean above the brush. It did not take him long to get back. Just as Jules made it back into camp, on the run, the big grizzly came tearing through the brush and right through our camp. Things were in turmoil for a minute or so as he tore our camp to shreds in his mad rush down the hill.
He went clean through making a shambles of our supplies. I just had enough time to leap back in the brush and, was so excited, I never thought of shooting him as he passed.
But, after he tore through our camp, I heard him hit up against a large tree stump and here he stopped. He was not dead by any means; we could hear him as he literally ripped that stump apart in his agony. Some of the chips from it flew back up to the camp and he roared and fought that stump making the hair on the back of my head stand straight up. All this time Jules had stood up on another stump nearby and I could see him. So, I handed him the rifle but he shook so much that he fell off the stump. He did, however, get in a good shot at Mr. Bear and this put a stop to his bearing.
After things got settled down we skinned him, finding that, from the tip of his tail to the end of his nose, he would stretch around eight feet. Some bear! The excitement and all was well worth it as we got $50 for the pelt.
But, what really galled Jules and I…  all through the excitement Charlie sat on a stump and laughed at us.

Small Frye – On Making Soap

If I was just to wash my hands or some small pot with good clear river sand scooped up from the bottom of a moving stream and rub briskly over the container or hands and rinse out with clean water, this will suffice for most ablutions. If you have to wash clothes or bathe, well that is something different. You need soap!
There are times, in the woods, when you may have to kill in order to survive. This is a hard thing to do just to make soap. However, the first step involves killing a bear or some very fat animal. Now, you get as much of the fat as you think you may need for your supply of soap, which is not much, possibly ten pounds of tallow (that is clear tallow).   This you boil till it is all rendered down into a paste, after skimming all the scum off. This should be clear enough for you to almost see through. By now you will have accumulated quite a sizable pile of fire ashes, enough to at least fill a ten pound lard pail half full. On top of the ashes you quickly pour all the fat that the pail will hold. Then, you get to boiling it as fast as you can (put a clothes pin over your nose). This concoction is the most detestable smelling stuff I've ever experienced. However, instead of putting a clothes pin over your nose you could put a gentle fire under that hell-brew and go out into the woods and gather wild mint. Try to find the sweetest flower around and pick a goodly amount. Add to the mix some spruce bows or sweet smelling brush, then go back, and as the brew boils down, add your latest addition to it as fast as you can and let it boil down. When this is all boiled to a solid state you form soap cakes.  Now, you’ve got your soap.

Bear sculls near Dunster, B.C.  – L. L. Frazer photo, Dave Henry with a large bear skin in 1910 near the Canoe River. - Nels Dahlberg photo
Bear sculls near Dunster, B.C. – L. L. Frazer photo, Dave Henry with a large bear skin in 1910 near the Canoe River. - Nels Dahlberg photo