Small Frye episodes - Old Time Logging - Part 3

Leonard Lea Frazer

Mike enjoys the smells of the great outdoors, looks after two huge Clydesdales, learns the craft of pole making and goes caribou hunting above the timberline.

There is no substitute for the glorious and exhilarating feeling of seeing the first rays of sunshine on the mountain tops and feeling its warmth as it spreads out over the morning dew on the grass and bushes, the sound of all the spring birds and the deep, probing pungent scent of millions of flowers that near drive you drunk with their heavenly aroma. And last, but not least, the grand smell of hotcakes, bacon, eggs, and coffee drifting from the open cook shack door.

Bounding out of my lean-to bedroom behind the open barn and awakening to all the heaven sent gifts from our Maker, is enough to keep a man right on cloud nine. Then to start the day right, I had the pleasure and honour of caring for two huge Clydes and I had their love, and that in itself was enough to make a man believe in Heaven on Earth.

Each morning I took my two huge companions for a walk and some green grass, a great relief from dry hay and oats, and to get out of that hot barn. All I

Camp cook, Dave Henry, with trail guest on the left, and Anne Chesser of Valemount on the right.
Camp cook, Dave Henry, with trail guest on the left, and Anne Chesser of Valemount on the right.
Isabel Cochrane photo

had to do was untie them both and lead one, and the other would follow wherever we went. I would graze them till I heard the gong for breakfast, and then put them back in the barn for the day. But one morning I decided I was going to change things for them. After breakfast I started in and spent the day building them a good size corral, and were they happy when I finished it. I turned them out where they could run and roll and graze to their hearts’ content! Now, I could leave them out all day to eat the tender grass and lie out in the sunshine. Those two huge Clydes showed me their love and appreciation in every way they could.

Back to my pole-making!

Every morning I would feed and curry the horses and then after breakfast turn them out into the corral and they could get down to the river for all the water they would need.

Then, back up the skid trail I'd go. Making a pole was an art in itself. Every tree would not make a pole. You had to look a pole tree over first. It would have to be straight as it could be with a good green top and no bad limbs sticking out that would be rotten. I walked around each tree looking it over, and then figured where it had to fall. This was very important. If you made a mistake and the tree fell too far downhill, you suffered for your mistake. Not only would you have trouble peeling it up and down the hill, you would have a hard time to skid it. So, you did the best you could to lay it along the hill as level as you could. Then, it was easy to stand on it and limb, measure and peel it.

I found out if I built my skid road in the middle of my stand of timber, I could turn any pole I wanted to. If the butt stuck out, I would hook onto it and pull it

Dave Henry’s horse.
Dave Henry’s horse.
Isabel Cochrane photo

up the trail, then hook onto the top and take it down to where I could hook it onto my string of poles. This way I could lay my trees anyway I wanted to along the hill and I'd still have all the tops ahead in the string.

I was getting good at it. I found I could make from eight to eleven poles a day and I was proud of myself as I was really making big dough. At last I had well over a hundred cedar poles made ready to skid and now I was ready to skid in a big way. The two Swedes had over a hundred apiece so I could really go at it!

I found out that we were running short of meat for the camp and I knew where to get another deer and volunteered to get one. However, Dave (Henry) wanted a caribou.

The caribou stayed up on the alpine country, high on the surrounding mountains. I'd have to climb to timber line in order to get one.

"But, I must get paid for a couple days work at five bucks a day as I have to make enough to buy that team from Jim Burgoyne by this fall," I said. "So, if that is OK by you, I'll get us a caribou. How about that?"

"Vel, by gar," Olie said. "I sure tink he vil agree to dat. You go ahead and get a caribou and ve skol talk him into it. Dave vil make you up two days grub."

I got my pack together and knowing I'd be staying overnight I took one blanket, a small hatchet and some matches. Loading all in my pack board, I took the horses out and gave them enough hay to last them till I got back and took off up the hill on a game trail that would lead me to alpine country.

I made it halfway to timber line by lunch time. Here I found a cold stream, a lovely spot to stop and eat my cold sandwiches and get a heavenly cool drink from the stream. I again took off on my journey. Now, it was not long till I lost the trail and had to make my way through tangled brush and down timber. It was near dark before I made it out into an alpine meadow where I found a beautiful camp under a heavy timber line spruce. Here I could watch a herd of mountain goats as they fed along a steep slope about a mile from camp and I could also enjoy the scenery far below me.

I just had enough time to make camp and get a hot supper of bannock and tea when I heard a slight noise. Sipping my hot tea, I turned my head and there I saw a sow grizzly slowly ambling her way down along the stream. She was a hundred feet from my camp. Carefully setting the hot cup down, I loaded the 30-30 and leaned up against a tree. I wanted no trouble with her that night. If she'd leave me alone, I'd do the same by her.

A slight breeze drifted from her to my camp so I knew she was not aware of my presence. I finished my tea as I watched her coming closer to camp. I did not want to shoot her as the hide would be no good, still I was not going to let her chase me from my nice camp. When she came within twenty feet of the camp, I picked out a burning stick from the fire and hit her with it. It hit her right in the flank and then hell broke loose. She let out a roar and made for my camp. Still I did not want to kill her as I was the intruder on her domain. I grabbed up the gun and taking a quick aim, I hit her just above the high hump on her back and this made her swerve and take off down the hill. I never saw her again and so curled up in my blanket and went to sleep.

As I arose at the crack of dawn I could see the smoke from our pole camp as Dave started to get breakfast. The smoke drifted slowly up the air from the stove. That morning the bear was above my camp, digging for marmots. She never bothered me at all.

I quickly made a bannock and boiled the coffee. Soon, I was on my way up the alpine meadow behind my camp. I had an idea just where I might find a herd of caribou close by. I was not surprised when, on entering a dense stand of timber, I came to the tracks of a herd of them. I could tell they had been there that morning as the tracks were still wet. I knew at once where to expect them. There was a steep alpine meadow not far ahead, and sure enough, on breaking out of the timber I saw them grazing about two hundred feet from me. They saw me at once and the big bull threw up his head and made a dash for the timber. The rest stood and looked at me. I threw a shell into the breach and looked for a dry cow. She was easy to see. I could spot the white on her stomach and she was fat. I knew that was the one I wanted and took good aim. At the crack of the rifle her knees buckled and down the hill she rolled and kicked her way to within ten feet of where I stood. I ran up to her and shot her once more in the head and cut her throat. The rest of them ran back and forth all the time I was butchering the cow and then took off following the big bull.

I finished cutting the meat up into quarters and dug a hole in the ice of a nearby glacier. I buried the meat and covered it up with boughs then started back to the pole camp. I was back in time for dinner with the fresh liver and we all enjoyed liver and onions. Dave had just baked an apple pie so we had a real feast.

We were all up early the next morning and all took pack sacks. We were back in time to make an early supper and had all the meat in the meat house near the Camp Creek before dark. We were all quite happy about our success.

. . . To be continued