The Ranchers’ Ball was the event of the year for everyone in the Nicola Valley.

This was held once a year in the fall time, at the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows Hall, which was across the street from the post office. This building was taken down many years ago.

Ranchers from all over the Nicola Valley and beyond would plan to attend this most prestigious event.

Native musicians such as my cousin Joe Pete Saddleman, who had the accordion, and Alfred Charters with his violin, and the Lindley brothers, Isaac and Louie with their guitars, would play at the ball.

There were non-native musicians who joined in with the natives for a great country ho-down.

On the day of the ball, my dad Billy and my brothers Clement and Clarence would have their sweat house fires going by the lakeside to heat the rocks.

My dad used the sweat to cleanse his body, never to seek visions.

The rocks, once hot, would be placed inside the sweat house.

When the men were ready for their cleansing sweat, they entered inside, then splashed cold water on the hot rocks, which caused the steam to rise, much like a sauna.

After a time, they got out, went to the lake, jumped in, washed themselves, then went back into the sweat.

At the house, we were having our bath with water that was heated on the cook stove.

Our hair was curled next. My sister-in-law Elizabeth used her curler that she heated inside of the coal oil lamp. We did not have electricity then.

When we were ready to leave, my brother Clement was the driver.

We piled into the Chevy car and off we went.

The moon was bright. The road had small water puddles from the rain earlier.  

I saw an old owl sitting on the fence post, its eyes gleaming like diamonds. It lifted its wings as if to wave to us, then gave a hoot.

Night animals were out, coyotes looking for mice for their dinner.

We arrived at the IOOF Hall, the big door wide open, lights from the inside looking very warm.

The music was already playing.

We walked in together as a family to people sitting down at tables, visiting with one another.

I heard men call out to my dad: Hey Billy, it’s good to see you and your family.

Mr. Brian Chance, manager for Douglas Lake Ranch, came over and shook my dad’s hand in a warm welcome.

There were other ranch owners there too, and then the announcement came: “Welcome all you ranchers and your families. Let the ball begin. First the square dances, then waltzes. Now men, grab your partner and swing.”

If Alfred Charters was not up playing his fiddle, he would be the “caller” for the square dances.

The ball was a sight to behold, with women in long flowing skirts and men in their western gear as Alfred called the dance, with his booming voice, the music with a mixture of violin, guitars, drums, and accordions.

The Ranchers’ Ball was the big event of the year. Ranchers got together to celebrate their harvest of hay, cattle, horses and most of all, they gave thanks for the abundant harvest to K’welencuten.

Isaiah 30, verse 23, “Then will He give you rain for the seed with which you sow the soil, and bread grain from the produce of the ground, and it will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will feed in large pastures.”

As always, in friendship,

Jeanette McMaster
Elder, Upper Nicola Band