February 24, 1982 Archives of Fraser Lake Bugle: “The Good Old Days” by Doris Ray
In the winter of 1919-20 the first moose ever shot in the area hung up on exhibition in the woodshed at Fred Braaton’s “bachelor restaurant” in Endako. The restaurant was located next to the railroad station, and the building was originally a railroad construction shack. Fred Braaton also had the distinction of owning the only Model T- Ford car in town. He had purchased it from Henry Bowman who had driven the automobile up from Kamloops over the “tote roads” a few years previously. The animal had been killed somewhere north of Endako by a man named Stella Patrick from the Stellaquo Indian reserve and as Lloyd Ray describes it “It was bragging meat.”
“We came into town to a dance and went around to see this moose. It was such a rarity that they left it on display for a few days.”
Lloyd and Bill Levesque had seen some unusual tracks earlier that winter. “In the winter of 1919 and 20, I and Bill Levesque trapped out on Nithi Rock Mountain. We knew there was no moose and there were very few deer. The Indians and the coyotes had got the deer the year before because the Indians wanted the buckskin and the coyotes wanted the meat…
“Bill and I were coming back – we’d picked up our traps at Christmastime. All we had was a shotgun for a grouse or two. . . coming back down the Nithi river valley above Burn’s Place we met these tracks in the deep snow.
“We thought it was a bear. ‘Must be a bear’, we thought . . . We knew there was no moose. We tracked it about a half a mile until it went under a spruce where the snow was shallow and we saw the hoof-marks of a cow and calf moose. That was the first ones that anybody heard about in this district.
The moose population built up pretty quickly after that because as Lloyd says, “There were no wolves, few coyotes and nobody ever heard of a mountain lion in this area. The big predators had all starved out of the country.
In 1930, after a ten year absence, Lloyd Ray moved back to the Fraser Lake – Endako area. There were “plenty” of moose around at that time. Lloyd tells the story of his first genuine moose-hunt near Tchesinkut creek [West of Endako]
“In 1930, this was during the big fire, we were working on the road. Our roadcamp at Tchesinkut creek had burned up. The Forestry had come down to get us to fight the fire and we’d wanted to leave a guard….
“‘Oh, no ! ‘ They said, ‘The fire won’t come here! “They took us all out, even the cook.
“When we got back, a wind had come up and our camp was ashes. It took us quite awhile but most of us got back as much stuff as we had lost. When we made a list of what was gone we made a fair, liberal job of it. After that we went up to Fred Hick’s place. Fred was a trapper who froze his feet later on – during the war – and committed suicide.
“Anyway, he owned the homestead and we camped for the summer in this big house he was living in. It. was about 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, made of big logs , and split poles for a roof . Being thatched and sodded, it was really cool in the summer time and warm in the winter.
“We finished [the job] on the first of September. That’s when I and Harvey MacDonald had it all made up to go get us a moose. We’d seen several along the sidehill . Everything was burned up and the moose had no place to hide. They were just on the migratory rut and getting ready to find a place where there was some feed. The feed was all burned up.
“We were about two miles from camp and I hadn’t seen anything. He [Harvey] stopped and shot, and I saw one. Harvey said, ‘He’s down.’
“I said, ‘He is like Hell. I can see him!’ He swung his gun around, ‘It’s another one!’
“So we went to butchering. The whole country was ashes – black ashes. It was getting dark and Harvey dropped his flashlight and broke it. Harvey can’t see well at night so we slept under the hide. No place else and it was cold. The fire wouldn’t go. We broke off a few pieces but everything loose was burnt and we didn’t have an axe. When it got too dark we crawled under the moosehide. It was damp and it rained a bit during the night.
“In the morning we looked at one another and we both laughed. I don’t know how we got so dirty in just one night but it was a bad place for getting dirty. We looked like we’d blacked ourselves purposefully. Black as the blackest man in Africa! We walked down to camp and got our breakfast and then we wanted somebody to come back and help get the meat. This fellow, Wiggins, who had ulcers and one foot in the grave but who was a professional packer; and a fellow by the name of Rogers came with us. They had one packboard beween them. The other took one hindquarter over his shoulder and they went to camp. We were left with the two big front quarters.
”We had two big jute sugar-sacks. We boned out the shoulder blades and filled the sacks. Tied up the tops of them and put them over our shoulders. We were better men than the ones that had just left – or thought we were anyway! But there was no shape to our packs. We’d go a little way and have to sit down.
“Finally, we heard a bell… ‘By Golly,’ Harvey said, “That’s the old mare I used to work with. I think I can catch her. She belongs to McGiddigan.’
“He [Harvey] had nothing but his belt but he went over there and came back with this horse. We took our shoelaces off and tied the tops of the sacks together: Then we put our coats up underneath so it wouldn’t hurt her back and threw this pack on. By golly, it worked real good!
“When we got about halfway to camp, here comes Wiggins and Rogers looking for another load. ‘What the Hell’, they said, ‘If we’d known you had a packhorse, we wouldn’t have done any packing!”
“Well,” we said, “We didn’t have a packhorse until after you fellas left but we had to do something!
“Then we had to go home. [To Endako] The moosemeat had to be canned as that was the only way you could preserve it. When you killed a moose in those days you worked all night. If there were any flies left you couldn’t leave the meat. If the flies got on it, you took the old washtub in the middle of the yard and built some boiling water. You took a wire hook and dipped your meat a piece at a time until you were sure that everything was killed – or else you had to can it right away. You could pick all the fly blows off but if there was one left… Well, we couldn’t stand that!”