July 31,2015


“Tales From Outside The Underbrush” is meant to succeed the monthly series of predecessor essays that were in effect, largely if not exclusively set inside “The Underbrush” of geological exploration and forestry, to a universe outside that specialized environment. This “outside world” is one where life is also lived and experienced, and though most often reflecting a different level of circumstance, is not necessarily suggestive of a higher level of civilized behaviour and experience nor a more intelligent reaction to such by the author; just different and outside the conventional underbrush. Hyperbole will continue to be employed for emphasis or effect, or just to avoid the boredom of straight fact or opinion. Reader reaction and comment is invited and welcomed if delivered in a civilized fashion.

This month’s entry continues the tale.


"Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are."

Old English Saying

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

variously attributed to Sir Winston Churchilll and Will Rodgers

"If God had intended man to walk, he would have given him four legs. Instead, he gave him two - one to put on either side of a horse."

Montana Rancher



It is the 1980s and I am well settled in Vancouver, British Columbia. Having visited the city on numerous business trips while resident in Toronto, I was quite familiar with the city and knew quite a few people. These included clients some of whom were to become personal friends, and that included Brien, a long time close friend of mine from Montreal, and who unlike me had proceeded directly to Vancouver from Montreal, in the process by-passing any residency in Toronto. Integration into the life of the city therefore proved easy for me.

Sometime late in that decade, in circumstances that as usual I can no longer remember, Brien and I and another four or five friends commenced an annual trip to Bonaparte Lake in the central interior of British Columbia, and some 50 miles or so north of the city of Kamloops. Oriented in an east-west direction, the lake was some ten miles in length, and at one end of which was clustered a small camp of several rental cabins. Sparse but comfortable and electrically equipped, the facilities allowed for the consumption of hot food and cold beer, both in prodigious quantities, given the fact that the appetite for both seemed to feed upon the other. As I recall the fishing wasn’t all that good but beer in the boat helped sooth the soul and make up for the lack of piscatorial success. While there was not much else to do, the days passed quickly by working hard at doing very little and the fresh air alone was relaxing and invigorating. Card games and reading overcame any inclement weather.

One good weather diversion was horseback riding on rental horses secured from the owner of the cabins where we were staying. While this did not attract much interest from most of the group, Alistair and I, being prone to do some riding in the area, took advantage of the opportunity, importantly unburdened by any standard trail riding protocol demanded by formal dude ranches.

Somehow along the way while one day out riding alone I came upon a ranch a few miles away from our cabins, and wherein lived a young husband and wife couple. With customary western hospitality I was invited in for a coffee and where I learned more about the ranch and the couple. Some twenty-five years or so having passed, and since sometimes I think I have a problem remembering my own, I will nevertheless embarrass myself by saying I do not recall their names. Owned by a Vancouver plumber resident in that city, and perhaps for some sort of tax purposes, the ranch was home to several hundred head of beef cattle spread over both the ranch’s own land as well as ground owned by the government and known as Crown Land. The couple together managed all facets of the ranching operation and without any employees to help them.

These management tasks sometime proved difficult to achieve given that the husband, a Swede by birth and upbringing was primarily a builder of log cabins and the wife a trainer and breeder of jumping horses. He was not that fond of horses and did not ride. On the other hand, his cabins were masterpieces of beauty, with logs so properly fitted one on another that no caulking was required between them; a feature reminiscent of Incan wall building where blocks of stone were carved to fit upon each other in such a manner that a piece of paper could not be slipped between them. She on the other hand was a horse lover and did most of the riding that was required from time to time to manage the herd of cattle. A growing reputation as a breeder and trainer of jumping horses often played havoc with these ranching duties however, not that the herd needed much managing as such but calving, the occasional lost member of the herd and other normal features of a cattle herd nonetheless required the attention of someone on the ranch. There was one major annual ritual however that demanded the full attention of a rider insofar as management of the herd was concerned.

Normally during the summer the herd spent most of their time grazing in the nearby higher ground that comprised the Crown Lands. Government regulations required that this ground be completely vacant of any cattle over the winter period, and commencing as of the beginning of October as I recall. It was therefore necessary for someone to retrieve the entire herd and move them from the Crown Land down into the winter grazing land in the valley wherein was located the ranch. It was sometime after a number of horse-riding social visits to the ranch that a plan was hatched that second year we were at Bonaparte Lake. Given a husband who did not like horses and riding, and was in any event busy building cabins to order, and a wife who was up to her proverbial ears in breeding and training jumping horses, the task of bringing the cattle herd from the summer grazing Crown lands to the ranch valley land for the winter was a basic pain in the butt for the couple; notwithstanding that it might take only three or four days to accomplish. It therefore remained for yours truly to propose that I undertake the task in return for room and board at the ranch.

Done deal!

To be continued

Copyright © 2015 Ian de W. Semple. All rights reserved

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