When I moved to Williams Lake from the Chilcotin in 2001 to work as a staff reporter for the Williams Lake Tribune, one of the more colourful characters I encountered in my human interest news beat was Henry Hicks of Likely.
At that time Henry was a newly minted octogenarian with the spryness and tenacity of a man half his age. He and his wife, Rose, kept Likely clean. For a dozen years they supplied the nearby forestry campsites with firewood and hauled the garbage to the dump.
They emptied the Highways garbage barrels around Likely, and in winter cleaned the snow off highway signs and dug them out of the snow.
Henry and Rose were historians and established the Quesnel Forks Museum and Historical Society. The museum was in the front entrance to their home, which was the last house on the road leaving Likely for Quesnel Forks.
Perhaps Henry’s greatest passion was dowsing. He handed out shiny gold-coloured business cards advertising his services, claiming the ability to not only find water but precious minerals as well.
One miner in the throes of gold fever once hired Henry equipped with his dowsing sticks to fly around with him over his mineral claim.
During my years at the Tribune, Henry and Rose would often stop by and take me out to their favourite Chinese restaurant for lunch and Henry would tell me stories. He told of his years as a pilot during the Second World War, and about his adventures afterwards during the 1960s flying contraband into South America.
He described landing on cow pasture airstrips at night, getting shot at, and racking up his plane on barbed wire fencing.
On another flying mission in the arctic, Henry told of capturing musk-ox calves to be transported to Vermont for an experimental cross breeding program with cattle.
There was never a dull moment in my meetings with Henry.
One day he stopped by the office saying he read of a water shortage at a trailer park in Glendale, and wanted me to photograph him riding down Mackenzie Avenue on the hood of his car with his dowsing sticks ablazing. I got the photo, did the story, but have no idea if he ever found the water source he was seeking.
On November 26 Henry Hicks passed away in Cariboo Memorial Hospital, 10 days after his 92nd birthday.
Donations can be made in Henry’s memory to helpfilladream.com.