Hagensborg poet, author and homesteader Wayne Padgett, has just self-published his third book The Atnarko Writings, Memoirs and Tales.
This collection of stories and poems of life in the great wilderness of the Atnarko Valley offers wonderful insights into Wayne’s back-to-the-land experiences four decades ago.
In 1972, Wayne and his wife, Sie, settled in a remote cabin on 80 acres at the bottom of the Bella Coola Hill.
The valley was narrow and they spent 15 years farming with horses and raising their three children, Jessib, Quima and Ramone, who were all born there.
Their closest neighbour, Josephine Robson, was an Ulkatcho woman who married white settler, George Robson.
George passed away before the Padgetts arrived, but Josephine, who lived in the cabin next door, remained an inspiration and mentor to them.
That remote back country was populated by a host of colourful characters including Lester Dorsey, Pan Phillips and Stanley Edwards and they are all portrayed in Wayne’s book.
I first met the Padgetts in 1973 when they passed through Williams Lake promoting Wayne’s first book of poetry, Dog Days Poems.
They were on a cross-Canada tour to sell the book and explore the country.
A couple years later Wayne came to town again with his second self-published book, Horse’s Nose Poems.
The title came from Wayne’s childhood pondering of what a horse’s silky nose might actually feel like.
In the summer of 1978 I visited Wayne and Sie at their homestead along the Atnarko River and was impressed by their use of brush fences to contain their animals and keep wildlife from invading their vegetable gardens, and using pigs to cultivate their land for new garden sites.
It inspired me to build brush fences on my own homestead a hundred miles away in the mountains south of Tatla Lake.
Over the years we kept in touch and this spring Diane Toop of the Station House Gallery surprised me with a copy of Wayne’s new book, The Atnarko Writings.
I found the book inspiring as the author takes you on a journey into his unique world and lets you muse on the moment and savour the experiences he shares.
In one account titled, Anahim Peak, it is minus-30-degrees on the Chilcotin Plateau as Wayne tucks into his bedroll for the night next to a roaring campfire.
In the morning he discovers wolf tracks around his camp.
“It seemed the wolves had come in and sat with us on the edge of our firelight,” he writes. “For all we knew they may have watched us sleep. We were too tired to care.”
His style is mostly prose but occasionally takes on a more poetic flair. His accounts are snippets of another time and place that can only be imagined now.
The Atnarko Writings is available in Williams Lake at the Station House Gallery, at Nimpo Lake Store, Anahim Lake Trading or Kopas Store in Bella Coola.