Corky Williams

Corky Williams

Cowboy poet Corky Williams releases his first book

Corky Williams has been one of the Cariboo's colourful storytellers since setting foot in the remote Chilcotin country back in 1971.

Corky Williams has been one of the Cariboo’s more colourful characters and story tellers since first setting foot in the remote Chilcotin country back in 1971.

Now readers will have the opportunity to enjoy some of his stories and escapades in his new book, co-authored with Sage Birchwater, titled Corky Williams: Cowboy Poet of the Cariboo Chilcotin.

Originally from a ranching family in West Texas, Corky left the farm to attend Texas Tech University in Lubbock, to pursue a career in acting.

At Texas Tech he met his future wife, Jeanine. After their son, John, was born the family moved to Los Angeles for two years where Corky pursued an acting career.

A friend’s invitation to visit B.C. inspired them to make another move to the Chilcotin where they bought the Corkscrew Ranch at Anahim Lake from D’Arcy Christensen.

After a couple of years they sold Corkscrew Ranch and bought the Muskeg Ranch from the Holte Family and moved further down into the Dean River wilderness north of Anahim Lake.

From the propane tank explosion that nearly killed Jeanine, to building their log home, to figuring out how to navigate mosquito swamps and grizzly country, their adventures in the Chilcotin are the stories of legend.

Over the past year and a half, Corky and Jeanine collaborated with lakecity writer and author Sage Birchwater to write their family memoir. While Jeanine was an integral part of the storytelling, she declined to take official credit as an author.

Birchwater and Corky made several visits to the Chilcotin to interview people who were a big part of the Williams family experience in Anahim Lake. and others.

“We couldn’t have survived in that country without the help of our neighbours like Bob Cohen, Bernie Wiersbitzky, Big Fred Elkins and Ollie Moody,” Corky says.

Mack Squinas and his family built their log home for them. At one point Corky says there were 21 people living in tents on the property who were part of the construction crew. “There were eight to 10 babies being rocked in baskets that were hung from the rafters,” he says. “They built our log house and I helped.”

It was a heady time for the young family which now included daughter Dana, born in 1973, who was just a toddler when their home was built.

Big Fred Elkins was their right hand man, and other First Nations people worked on the ranch. While he had lots of experience with dry land ranching in Texas, Corky says ranching in the remote Chilcotin was a whole new experience.

Without Bob Cohen and Big Fred Elkins, he says they wouldn’t have known what to do. “We wouldn’t have known which lands were too swampy or muddy to work, how to keep the river open in the winter to water cattle safely, or which places to avoid grazing cattle.

“Whoever took cattle down into that country was setting the table for the grizzly bear and all his family,” Corky grimaces.

When Corky and Jeanine arrived, pioneer legends like Pan Phillips, Peter Alexis and Lester Dorsey were still ranching with horses. By the time they left, that old way of life was almost gone.

Corky brought the first round bailer and the first four-wheel-drive tractor into the country, and he was the first person to seed the fields with tame hay crops.

“I learned a lot about farming from my dad,” Corky says. “We brought in a little ditching machine, called a Ditch Witch, that we could take right out into the swamps.”

In 1980 Corky and Jeanine sold the Muskeg Ranch but Corky kept working for the new owners while Jeanine came to Williams Lake so John and Dana could attend school.

After a freak accident forced Corky to quit ranching in 1985, he returned to his former livelihood as an entertainer. He launched his career with famed Canadian recording artist Ian Tyson, who invited Corky to perform with him at Expo 86 in Vancouver.

In 1990, Corky and Jeanine split up and both returned to Texas for 15 years. Corky’s acting career took him all over the U.S. including the infamous Ford Theatre in Washington DC.

About five years ago both Corky and Jeanine returned to the Cariboo to be closer to their grandchild, Bryan, who lives in Anahim Lake.

Birchwater says one of his favourite stories in the book is when Corky discovered that he had a daughter with his high school sweetheart that he was never told about.

“It’s just such a human story,” Birchwater says. “Corky’s daughter, Raylene, had been adopted at birth, and managed to track Corky down on the Bordertown movie set in Albion, near Vancouver, where Corky was working.”

He says at first Corky thought a couple of the other actors were pulling a prank on him, then he quickly realized it was for real when Raylene told him details none of them would have known.

“Dana always wanted a sister, and our whole family has welcomed Raylene with open arms,” Corky says.

Corky and Birchwater will be releasing their new book at Williams Lake Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 7 starting at 7 p.m. They will give a slideshow presentation and will be joined by Victoria author, John Schreiber, who is launching his new book, The Junction. Both books are published by Caitlin Press.

 

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

International Women’s Day is March 8. (Internationalwomensday.com)
International Women’s Day 2021: #choosetochallenge

International Women’s Day is marked annually on March 8

Businesses in Williams Lake are invited to participate in a new sticker program that will help make their venues more accessible. (Williams Lake Accessibility Advisory Committee image)
‘Come On In’: New program aims to make Williams Lake businesses more accessible

Williams Lake Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) is leading the project

Celebrate women in leadership, March 8, International Women’s Day 2021 (Unsplash)
EDITORIAL: International Women’s Day 2021 shines spotlight on achievements, ongoing inequities

COVID-19 increased gender-based violence, economic stress, the burden of care giving for women

Amarjit Khakh of Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021: Amarjit Khakh

Kindness and giving, key to full life

Sierra William (left) with her grandmother Eileen William. (Roger William photo)
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021: Sierra William

Xeni Gwet’in woman finds strength in tradition

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Most Read