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A mans home is his castle and this is one castle I want people to feel free to speak as you are considered part of the family here, your voice is important.
It is yet another of those restless nights. Those nights when your head has hit the pillow at 11 and someone or something comes along and slaps you awake, at 12:31 am in my case. So here we are getting ready for likely yet another all nighter. I know, never drink coffee late in the evening and worse yet, please close your eyes or look away from the steaming cup of coffee off to my right.
The setting as you can tell is the old writing chair in the corner, Quigley snoring off to my left and Gizmo the cat purring in his favourite perch behind me, his one paw always plugged in on my shoulder. I have no idea where the words will take us in the wee hours, so buckle up and lets see where we venture… The title will find its home later…know that you are loved and appreciated.
Who is Tramp
Many years ago when I was young, wild and often foolish I was back into some far off countryside. Northern Canada in the Yukon, well to be more specific it was both in the Yukon and British Columbia Canada. I had been out playing in the wilderness one day and quite by accident found myself several miles back in some unknown country. The road I followed was not really a road, more like a goat trail, a place my old van named “Rolly’s Royce” cut its teeth. It started out a regular old 3/4 ton Ford van. & years later it was a full blown bush wagon. I raised it up two feet, slipped in a custom 4 x 4 assembly, large steel bumpers front and back with winches on each end. Not much could stop her after that. She was fully camperized and ready to take on any challenge and challenges I found… smiles.
As I would later learn from my topographical maps I was near the great divide between the British Columbia and Yukon Territorial borders. I reached the end of the trail, threw my backpack onto my shoulders along with my rifle and started heading out to what appeared to be a lake in the distance. I estimated it to be some 10-12 miles as the crow flew, the blueish haze that sat in the valley looked promising. Closer inspection through my binoculars indeed revealed a lake.
Tannis my faithful and fearless dog was at my side and we headed out. It was a clear day with a few clouds building in the west over the mountains, traces of smoke filtered through the air but nothing to worry about or so I thought at least. Tannis and I were doing what we did best, heading out on another adventure. Not a living soul was within 70 miles and we were right in our element.
The Fearless One
For those who have not met this little lady, this was Tannis Mountain. She was my rescue dog and faithful sidekick for many years. Don’t be fooled by the cute haircut, she was hot off the grooming table for this pose. Her only objective after any grooming session was to find an old dead fish or anything to mask the shampoo and girly stuff. It was her mission to become one with nature again.
Tannis and I became acquainted one Christmas Eve. I was looking after the Humane Society on a casual basis and got the call late that night. The only words I heard were, “Come and get this dog or I shoot it tonight.” When I arrived I found the saddest, filthiest kennel and dog I had ever seen. Tannis had been left with these people, her owners had left on a holiday. While they were away the marriage ended and they just left her, no one claimed her. Neither the wife or the husband called, this was three months later, she had been abandoned.
My first impression was not a good one. When I leaned down to pet her I was greeted with an attempt to bite off the better part of my right hand and arm. The next time it was with no avail as I scooped her up, well gloved and well covered. With great protest I managed to get her into the back of my car, while avoiding her nasty bites. She was a horrible mess and the smell was terrible as she had been living in a 3 x 4 cage that had never been cleaned. It was late and I did not want to take her to the kennel and leave her alone, so I took her home.
The place she deemed safe was behind the wood stove in the corner. Each time I would get close I would be met with gnashing teeth and a warning I was not appreciated. I just placed a bowl of food, fresh water and milk close by, shut off the lights and went to bed. During the night Tannis remained hidden behind the stove, come morning her food had not been touched. It was Christmas Day. I sat in my recliner chair talking with her and each time I said something she would spit volleys and insults back at me.
To make a long story short I took her and her attitude to the groomers after the holidays and when I picked her up later in the day it was like a miracle had transpired. When I entered the shop the young groomer was smiling, sporting a few bandaids she informed me that I had a tattooed registered American Cocker Spaniel. She had placed some calls to the Canadian Kennel Society and learned the dogs registered name was Tannis Mountain. I walked into the back and she opened the cage and Tannis came running and that was it she was adopted or I like to think she adopted me.
Not Tramp by any means but a problem bear which I was forced to take down several years later.
So back to the hike again, sorry for the sidetrack. Tannis was nervous that morning and was pacing back and forth a great deal. I wondered if there was another animal or the smell of smoke in the air due to the high fire season, Tannis kept snuffing at the air, pacing in tight circles and whimpering. She was reluctant to go but I insisted and she just followed. We had gone about halfway to the lake site when I started to hear the dull roar. I found high ground and the fire had crested the hill and was coming down the slope to my right.
I had two choices, one to attempt to outrun the fire or the other was to find cover quickly. I glassed the area and off to my left. I could see an old outcropping of rocks that would afford some cover a few miles away. The other option was to climb the 6 miles back to the van that sat on high ground. The chances of me making it back there was slim. So Tannis and I started the slow decent over treacherous ground with the fire about 5 miles away and heading our general direction.
What I found was an old mine shaft leading into the mountain near a slow moving creek. There were two entrances and I chose the one furthest away from any vegetation, the other had a massive old spruce tree leaning far to the left near its entrance. I filled my canteen collected a little firewood and slipped into a semi dark opening, Tannis at my feet, all I could see was the whites of her eyes and a deep growl that never seemed to stop.
Within the half hour the fire crowned itself in the treetops roaring into the valley and creek below. The roar was fierce and Tannis sat close by, shivering but still with the never ending growls. After a long cold night I awoke with a growing dog beside me staring out the cave opening. The fire had passed with doing a great deal of damage mostly in the tree tops but we had made it. The area had plenty of rich green moss on the flat so little would burn. I can tell you I was very thankful to those old miners who had created a safe sanctuary for us that day. Tannis followed reluctantly as I was insistant in checking out the lake far below which lay in the scarred blacked valley below.
I bent at the creek to get some water and I noticed the oddest thing. A set of tracks like none I had ever seen. It was a bear but what was unusual was his left front feet. His right foot was normal but the left was turned outward about 70 degrees, probably from a bad break or injury. His claws tore up the ground as he walked. It was easy to spot in the blacked undergrowth. Tannis kept growling and looking up towards the direction we had come from the van. The tracks of the old bear revealed he had spent his night as we had in an abandoned mine shaft and thankfully it was the one next door.
We arrived at the lake a number of hours later and made camp. Tannis had watched the danger pass and was once again herself. It was a good thing she was black and hardly showed the results of trapsing through the burn. I was filthy, a splash and dash bath was in order. The area we were in had been spared and the meadow was covered in natural moss. making a great place to spread out a sleeping bag.
We spent 5 days back in this area, the lake was filled with trout and grayling. As far as I could tell I was fishing in BC without a license. If a game warden were to have come along I would have been more than happy to pay the fine. The trout were some of the best eating I have ever had.
Tannis and I began the long uphill climb back again on the 6th day. Near the mine Tannis started to growl again. I glassed the area and 1000 yards ahead, sure enough there stood an old male grizzly bear. He was on his hinds legs, his right claw was ripping at the lone spruce to his dwelling entrance I assumed. The only other exit choice we had was directly in his path, it was the shortest route back to the van. Off to my right was an impossible climb up a rock wall with a 65 pound pack, a rifle and of course the dog who hated bears. To the left would mean walking several extra miles through rough terrain. I chambered a bullet and shot high into the tree he was working on. He never moved only turned and snuffed at the air. The next shot was inches away from his head, the bullet slammed into the tree and he began running off in the left direction. His gate was fast but impeded by his crippled left leg. He stopped a few times and looked around, only to be met with another shot at the closest tree. The last I saw he disappeared over the ridge.
Tannis an I made our way up. The closer we got the stiffer Tannis became and her growling grew louder all the time. I stopped at his tree he had been tearing at and there were several deep gouges from his massive claws. I stand close to 6 feet tall and this guys claw marks were a good three feet higher. Needless to say I moved fairly quickly after that and Tannis close behind me.
The bear well he like many of natures characters I met in the wild was given a name that day. He became none as “Tramp” and the tree well it became “Tramps Tree.” I would run across old Tramp a few times over the years as I visited the area many times. The last I saw him was very late one fall, he was heading into his mineshaft den I suspected for his winter sleep. His coat was heavy, the finest coat I think I ever saw on a bear. It was a golden brown and the guard hairs were almost a white. It shone in the late afternoon sun. He stopped once, raised up on his hind legs, sniffed at the air and looked in our direction. I heard a few loud snorts and watched as he tore at the ground with his good front foot. The debris flew high into the air. He was letting me know this was his area and we were but guests.
Sadly one spring I found Tramps remains in the cave. Several bones in a heap undisturbed and a few strips of his fine coat. Old Tramp had slipped away in his sleep that winter. Winters at well below -50 could rob the life out of anything. One of the reasons a wise man stays close to the stove during those times. Two strips of Tramps fur later became the top dressings of a new pair of mukluks. Somewhere in my collection of years past are five of his claws. I guess you could say old Tramp and I have been hanging around together for many years. I made it a point that day to carve his name into his tree. “Tramps Tree” it could likely still be found if his tree is still standing.
I often ponder those days, they were fulfilling years with little or no worries. Tannis passed away many years later and I buried her in a heavily wooded area of my acreage A beautiful spot I had bought here in Northern Alberta. Right beside her a close friend we picked up along the way named Wind. She was a Shelty/Whippet cross who was fast friends with Tannis, her teacher and mentor for a number of years. Wind passed away a year later, I think she mourned a great deal and slowly gave up. I planted two wild Jackpine trees, one on either side of their resting places. Their view would have been a perfect setting for both of them, a small stream and pond out front and the mountains off to the west. The trees were but saplings at the time. Today they stand thirty feet high, look close enough about 15 feet up, you will see the names carved in the bark. “Tannis” on one and “Wind” on the other. I have gone back a few times over the years and the site still remains as it was, only far more mature. I smile as I write this as many I have matured with the two of them.
So here I sit, smiling at the thought I would love to go back to Tramps Tree someday then realize I could barely lift or carry a pack that size anymore, let alone a rifle and challenge that adventure once more. Today I have become a flat lander as you can see from the picture above. Beautiful yes and only a short drive to the mountains. The heaviest load I can carry now is myself and my camera.
Thank you all for allowing me to relive some of my adventures again. I so miss those days but they were a season in my life. I had 15 of the best years a man could ask for sitting on a hillside overlooking some of the wildest country a man could imagine. Right beside me was Tannis Mountain who’s name was derived from the Cree Indian words “Little Girl.” Rest well my little friend, maybe some day we can be together and romp again.
Hugs and Blessings to you all… know that you are dearly loved….Please share some of the places you have lived that touched your heart and impacted you… the floor is open and we all await…
© Rolly A. Chabot