I lived in northern BC for 11 years. My original plan was to stay for 2 years, and 2 years turned into 11. One of the things I was told was that I would never forget the people I had met there. That has indeed been my experience and I would like to write about 2 of these people.
The first thing I noticed when I met Danni was that she had a diamond in her nose and a tattoo of a scorpion on her shoulder. She was in fighting shape, she was over 70 years old, and she still rode her horse bareback in buckskins. Not your average woman. I instantly felt a connection with her, and I developed a friendship with her.
Danni had been born in northern California where she grew up with a family that raised horses. I think Danni had been born a free spirit and as a young woman she met and married a man from Montana who made sweet promises to her as he led her into the Canadian north. She eventually found herself raising babies in the bush, mostly on her own. Her husband was only around intermittently. Although she was able to hunt, one winter she found herself with not enough food, and she packed up her children and left the bush on her husband’s CAT that she was able to start. She forged a new life in town.
When I met her she was living in a little log cabin just outside of town, where she raised sled dogs, which she did race, had a garden, and of course she had a horse. To say that her grit inspired me would be an understatement. I have always been drawn to people who are unique, who have a fire that burns inside them and who have seen a bit of hell and come out the other side and lived to tell the story, with humility. I lost touch with Danni when I left the north but the things I learned from her I carry with me, quiet perseverance, a piece of eternal youth in my soul, and the conviction that there are some things in this world that cannot be tamed.
One summer I had the pleasure of being invited to a ranch located at the foot of the mountains. This horse ranch was far off the main highway, and a 4×4 was needed to get in. There was no electricity or running water at the ranch. I had not previously met the owner, and was fascinated when I heard his story. Tom had been born and raised in one of the southern states, and he still spoke with a southern accent. He had actually held a prominent position as a politician for some time, and there were old newspaper clippings hung on the walls of his cabin that attested to this. He eventually tired of the public life and all that it entailed, and felt that he needed to follow his dream of raising horses in the mountains, running a small ranch/retreat.
The thing that most struck me about Tom, besides his obvious impeccable southern manners and sharp intelligence, was his excitement for living and his obvious joy about living in the mountains with his beautiful horses. There was something almost childlike about his enthusiasm, and I remember feeling some of this when I got the opportunity to ride on horseback to a beautiful waterfall.
I was invited to return and stay in one of the smaller cabins for a retreat, and I never did. I doubt Tom is still alive now, but I would bet that he stayed with his horses in that cabin without running water or electricity for as long as he could. Not an easy life, but I bet he didn’t regret his decision of leaving his high profile life of politics for a simple life in the mountains.
These are just 2 of some of the amazing people I met when I lived in northern BC. I am so grateful to have known them. I would like to share more about some of the other people I met in future writing.
Deana Lafleur 2018