The general store at Douglas Lake ranch is different today, the original store with the old gas pump at the front, is gone, the post office and Mr. Chance’s office is replaced with a clothing line in western wear.
The general store with the old wooden counter top, the old cash register, the big roll of brown wrapping paper, the candy jar, displays of pretty colored ribbons and fabrics, and the wooden floor, which was almost black from the oil, and would creak when you stepped on a certain loose board, are now gone too.
However, the memories that were made from those times so long ago are forever in the hearts of so many people.
As little children from that era, we are now elders; some of us have passed away. Those who remain must not forget those wonderful years. I believe they are wonderful, because we grew up during the hungry thirties and the wars, yet survived them all. It is our turn to tell the stories of our history as our great grandparents did.
The Thompson and Okanagan people respected Mr. Brian Chance, for his honesty. He saw the potential in our people; he hired our men because of their knowledge in horsemanship, in ranching, and hired our women for their skills in cooking and housekeeping. He made it possible for them to experience living among other people of different cultures.
Every Saturday night, there would be movies at the garage; Christmas time there would be parties, with gifts and a big dinner for the employees. On other occasions there would be dances too, which would be alcohol and drug free.
I used to love to visit my three friends, Patsy Boston, Lena Sheena McCauley, and Sophie Alec Chillihitza. They lived in the cabins provided for them at the ranch, while employed there.
Their cabins had running water, and indoor plumbing. I used to watch them get their hair done and make-up on, before going to the movies or dances.
They were like my sisters, as I never had an older sister. Lena would allow me to hang out with them, because she had her eye on Clarence my adopted older brother.
They did get married and had children later on. Sophie was the sister to heredity Chief William Alec Chillihitza from Quilchena. She was the oldest of my three friends.
Before snow got too deep, and the weather too cold, the cowboys would begin the cattle drive to our reserve; oh my, that was a remarkable sight.
From our house by the lakeshore, to as far away as two or more miles up the road from Douglas Lake ranch, we could hear the cattle as they bellowed out.
The people did not mind the cold; the excitement that was like electricity kept them warm, as they gathered along the road or at their windows, to watch the herd and the cowboys as they passed by.
The cattle, with their breath like steam coming out of their nostrils, slowly drag their hooves on the icy, snowy road, as they lumbered along.
As if saying to the cowboys in defiance, as they tossed their heads back and forth, icicles glistening like diamonds which swung back and forth from their chins, “you cannot make us go any faster than we are going, so you all just might as well enjoy the winter air”.
The cowboys with their heavy parkas, leather chaps with fur, and their Stetsons, replaced with winter western headgear, could be heard whistling commands to the cattle, snapping their leather whips as they sliced through the air. Back in those days, men knew the meaning of hard work, their riding horse was their best friend and together they earned a good wage. Cowboys were not just about fancy gear; their gear was designed for work.
Their Stetsons shaded their eyes from the sun, as they chased after horses or cattle through rough heavy brush, and their chaps and boots protected their legs. A cowboy’s life was hard work, but it was very rewarding too.
Charlie Tom was an old timer as a cowboy, along with Scotty Miller.
Scotty Miller was an old Scotsman; he told a story one day. He said he went to Scotland, where he was almost arrested because his western jacket had initials that said, I.R.A., which stood for Indian Rodeo Association. So many wonderful memories.