Friday, May 20, 2016

Riding the Skyline

M. Allerdale Grainger, Riding the Skyline. Horsdal & Schubart, 1994.


I bought this slim volume at Baker's Books in Hope. It is part of his local interest collection, the Skyline being the name of a mountain ridge and trail in the Cascades east of Hope.

M. Allerdale Grainger was a Cambridge University graduate who came to BC during the gold rush of 1897. He worked for the provincial government Forest Branch, as Chief Forester from 1916 to 1920, "before following his predecessor, H.R. MacMillan, into the lumber business." [intro, p vi] Grainger worked in an office in Vancouver and escaped by rail into the Cascade Mountains around Princeton every weekend that he could. Mrs Grainger accompanied her husband perhaps one or two weekends a year to the rustic cabin on a friend's ranch. Grainger kept records of his horseback riding adventures in the drafts of articles and in letters written to relatives and friends, including a Mr Denny in England. Travels to Colorado and the Chilcotin add variety and contrast. Collected from the Archives some 50 years later by Peter Murray, these accounts give a glimpse into life in rural British Columbia in the 1920s and 1930s.

The boom and bust of a resource extraction economy, including mines opening and closing around Princeton. The casual job-to-job employment history of non-professionally-trained workers. The interactions with local First Nations. The important role of both trains and horses in this lifestyle in transition. Cars spook horses. Polo ponies become the best bargain, when owners can no longer afford to keep them. Thousands of men pool in work camps mumbling Communist ideals. The real estate boom along the proposed new trans-continental highway (#3, the Crowsnest / Hope-Princeton, completed in 1949).

Living and working with horses is the part that most fascinates me. And the trailside encounters with people who once made the news, like the lost nurse who trekked alone for two months every year, and the man, Buck Allison, who reputedly held the horses for Bill Miner. And of course, the ever-present awe-inspiring beauty of this landscape and its impact upon tired souls.

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