Imbert Orchard recorded an interview with Ivor Guest in 1964. Guest had travelled from his home in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Fort George, British Columbia in 1910. Here is an excerpt of that story from “Voices of British Columbia” by Robert Budd.
“We went to Ashcroft, bought a team of horses and a wagon, put our belongings in it and started for Fort George. We weren’t horsemen, I wasn’t. We got along about ten, twelve miles from town. One horse begin to make a funny noise. So I didn’t know what it was, and we gave him a drink of water and the further we went, the more noise he made.
Jerkline transporting freight on the Cariboo Road near Ashcroft, BC, 1909 (credit: Voices of British Columbia)
So a fella came along, McMullin, with a jerkline outfit. Jerklines were three teams and a leader. McMullin came along and I said, “Look, what’s the matter with this horse?”
“Oh,” he said, that’s old Yeller, he’s got the heaves.”
“Well, I said, what do you do for that?”
“You can’t do anything for it. Just take it easy and he’ll do alright.”
So we went along with the heave-y horse all the way through to Fort George, but all along the way there were many of these jerkline outfits. All the freight went in with horses then. We didn’t see a car, of course, no trucks, all the time we were on the way.
They had some wonderful big roadhouses on the Cariboo Road: the Hundred Mile, Ninety-Five and Hundred and Fifty, and so on. We tented out but we did stop a time or two and the teamsters they all stopped at these roadhouses and sleep and eat there. The horses were put up and fed.
We got to Quesnel, and at Quesnel they had a ferry and a fellow was running the ferry across the river; he took us over. And we started for Fort George. The road was a very, very poor road. After we crossed the Blackwater River [West Road River], the road was just slashed out through the timber. No road at all. It was pretty hard going and no feed and no place to buy any.
It was a nice spring, nice weather, and there was a little grass, but we’d have to take the horses way down someplace where we could find grass. And we finally got into South Fort George on the Fraser River; the first day of May, 1911.
Well, we had quite a time to feed the horses. I went to get oats, and oats was twelve cents a pound, and I got fifty cents worth in a little sack and gave each of the horses a feed, all there was in that. And of course, I made up my mind right then, we had to get rid of these horses.
The next day a man named Paulette came along and he said, “I’d like to trade a canoe for this horse,” he said pointing to old Yeller.
I said, “sure!”
So he brought over a canoe. “Look, nice new canoe.”
It looked good to me. And he put the canoe up on the beach and a couple of paddles and two traps. So I said, “the horse, you know where he is.” He got the horse.
I went uptown and met a fella, Ernie Livingstone from back in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I told him how I traded the horse.
He said, “you traded for canoe?”
I said, “yes, looks good, brand new and nice shape, everything.”
So we went down and looked. He looked at it, and the first thing he said, “I knew it was no good.”
“Well,” I said, “what’s wrong with it?”
“Well,” he said, “see that split in the bow and the split in the stern?” He said, “it’s gonna have two halves, that’ll just break right in two.”
“By golly,” I said, “I’ll fix that up. I’ll put tin on it.”
He said, “you can’t put enough tin on there to hold it. It’s gonna split.”
Sure enough, I put the canoe in the water. It came out and it just broke in two. That was about a week after I traded, it broke right in two, two pieces.
Paulette came back and he said, “that horse died.”
“Well,” I said, “you can have the canoe back.”
He said, “both stung!” and laughed.
(note: I named the horse and omitted a few paragraphs)