My rating: 9.5/10. Paul St. Pierre perfectly captures the atmosphere and people of Interior British Columbia’s “Cariboo Country” Chilcotin Plateau. He’s dramatized things to make “good fiction”, but not so much as you would think. I live here. I know people – heck, I’m related to people (by marriage, that is – my husband’s family is venerable Cariboo-Chilcotin pioneer, 1860’s gold rush era) – who could have stepped into or out of this story.
My husband says he remembers reading this as an English class novel in the early 1970s, and I also remember a class set in one of my Williams Lake schoolrooms, though I never personally “studied” it. Reading this novel for the first time as an adult was a real treat, for I had read so much regional literature by then – stellar and otherwise – about our personal stretch of country that I realized how good this fictional vignette really is; if not a sparkling gemstone, then at least a nicely polished, glowing golden agate from the banks of the Fraser River.
The story moves right along; a quick little read for teens and adults. Highly recommended.
Young people for whom this story is written should not try to find Namko on the map of British Columbia. It is fictional. So are the characters in this book.
There is such a region, however. It is the westernmost extent of Canada’s cattle country, lying between the Fraser River and the Coast Mountains. The story is my attempt to tell the truth about life on these remote ranches. If it does not, the fault is mine.
15-year-old Delore Bernard starts out as the lowest hand on the 200-mile cattle drive led by his father Frenchie from the high Chilcotin to the stockyards in Williams Lake. Soon into the trip, before they’ve cleared the home ranch meadows, Frenchie breaks his leg as his horse bucks him off and falls on him. Frenchie, to everyone’s surprise, appoints Delore as “boss” in his place, a decision unquestioned by the rest of the cowboys, who for various personal reasons, are perhaps quite happy to have a young and green official leader.
Delore’s trip to the Lake is complicated by a stampede, cows caught in bogholes, packhorse wrecks, a runaway or two, an encounter with a murderer on the run, and the cowboys’ weakness for strong liquor, among other things. But, as Delore implies on the other end, it’s all in a day’s work for a Chilcotin cow boss: “Nothing to report.”