David Zirnhelt with his sons when they were young and their Belony horses. (Photo submitted)

David Zirnhelt with his sons when they were young and their Belony horses. (Photo submitted)

RANCH MUSINGS: The road home from Lhoosk’uz (Kluskus)

Columnist David Zirnhelt shares part five in a series

In the first four parts of the story “Kluskus or Bust” our working holiday with our family involving team and wagon and three other horses, we had several adventures. Some of them were minor “busts” but no show-stoppers.

We got the job done: a reconnaissance of the proposed rebuild of the historic Kluskus IR at Old Kluskus. A positive report would follow indicating that it was feasible to rebuild a village where the community wanted it. It would have a modern school and new homes for the villagers.

Read more: RANCH MUSINGS: Kluskus (Lhoosk’us) or bust: a working holiday

Our experience of being welcomed and guided around the Kluskus Lake area and having shared some of the culture will be a fondly remembered story for our family, from beginning to end.

Near the end of our stay our youngest son (he was five) thought it a good idea to take some flowers to a young girl who had been among the local children that our kids played with during our stay.

Gallant though he thought he was being, he did not make the grade as far as manners go. I don’t blame her for repudiating him. He was an interloper, like the rest of us, in their country, even though I was working for the community on this project.

After our goodbyes and thank yous, we hit the road with our team and wagon with the three saddle horses out riding.

The sun had shone the whole time we were at Lhoosk’uz and that added to the magic of being in a very foreign land, a Shangri La. The trip in with a wagon wreck, the snow and rain had not been like a trip to Hawaii, my wife assured me.

She agreed that this trip had been preferable to a Hawaiian holiday! But perhaps this was a premature conclusion although heartfelt at this point of the return journey.

We had to bypass an old bridge by driving the wagon through the creek which we had done uneventfully on the way in. This time in the middle of the creek the wagon came to an abrupt halt, hung up on a big rock.

Our teams were used to logging and were not shy (balky) when it came to pulling hard and we never said “Whoa” in a mud hole, lest we not get the wagon going again. However, we were stuck as the oldest horse spun out leaning into the collar and spaying black swampy creek bottom mud all over Susan’s (my wife) face and clothes.

I, on the other hand, was completely dry. The lesson: don’t sit behind one of the best pulling horses in the area. He thought he could pull the wagon out by himself!

Read more: COLUMNS: Wagon road to Kluskus (Lhoosk’uz): part three

That was not to be, so we paused. The boys, who were our outriders, quickly put spare cinches on their saddles as breast collars and attached ropes and chains to the wagon and pulled the wagon out with effectively two teams pulling the wagon off the rock in tandem.

The rest of the trip I dared not ask again if this trip had been preferable to a Hawaiian vacation.

It was uneventful and enjoyable until …

A few miles from home the highway wagon tongue broke, sending the rolling wagon over the bank spreading sleeping bags, camping gear and food along the road side. We sucked it up and picked our gear and supplies. We were close to home and could go for repairs.

This whole adventure became one of our top family stories with fond memories of a welcoming and sharing host – the Lhoosk’uz First Nation. We will forever be grateful.

A footnote here: we have never been to Hawaii.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.


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