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Smart 55: Drawn by the beauty of the Tatla Lake area

As a young RCMP officer in the 1960s Dave Wright fell in love with the West Chilcotin
Dave Wright sits with his grandsons, Tony and Liam Daud, outside West Chilcotin Trading Ltd. which the Wrights have owned in Tatla Lake for 28 years. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Dave Wright fell in love with the Chilcotin while stationed in Anahim Lake and Alexis Creek as an RCMP officer.

“When I first drove up the Sheep Creek Hill from the Fraser River in the late 60s, I had a German Shepherd dog at the time and I pulled out to let my dog run,” the 72 year old recalled.

“I looked up and I saw those coastal mountains and it was like something grabbed me. And the closer I got to here, the tighter my throat got.”

Several decades later he and his wife Susan decided to move to Tatla Lake. They purchased the West Chilcotin Trading Ltd. in 1993 — the community’s only store, gas station, garage and post office.

Born in Ottawa, Dave was an RCMP officer for 25 years.

As a police officer he was stationed in Anahim Lake, Alexis Creek, Williams Lake, Clinton, Kelowna, Toronto with a drug squad, was with the dog section for many years, did every job available with the RCMP in Port Alberni over 11 years and took a transfer to Agassiz in 1988.

When he was stationed in Clinton he met Susan.

“It hit me like a lightning bolt when I saw her. I was staying with some friends of mine on a ranch at the north end of town and she rode in on a horse.”

They were married in 1974.

While living on Vancouver Island he brought his sons, an uncle and his father up to hunt at Henry’s Crossing for three weeks and returned every year until 1992 to hunt, fish, take pictures and climb with his children.

In 1992, he shot a 1,600 pound moose while in the Chilcotin.

“When I went home my wife said, ‘you know that moose cost you about $18 a pound.’ She said, ‘we should probably cut out the middle man and find a place to live up there. That’s where you want to be.’”

Along with an uncle and nephew Wright returned at Easter, exploring possible purchases.

They looked at a ranch, a couple of small guest ranches, a little construction company, but Tatla Lake seemed to be the best fit with a good school, medical services and a medevac, so they chose Tatla Lake and bought the store from Hugh and Elizabeth Macdonald.

Today the store is inside a cement building constructed in 1978, but originally it was inside the building across the road where the Wrights live today.

“The following summer a cousin of mine from Saskatchewan and I built trusses for a second floor. We got two b-trains of lumber out of Williams Lake and we threw every two-by-four up there by hand and I had six young guys that were from my extended family who came up for the summer and we put a new tin roof on.”

He and Susan raised 13 children and at his 50th birthday they were all there together sitting together in a semi-circle.

A friend said he knew the Wrights had adopted children and asked which children were biologically theirs.

“I said, ‘all of them.’ We treated them all the same. We took them all with us when we travelled and we all went camping together.”

When he left serving with the RCMP in Anahim Lake and Alexis Creek to go into the dog service, some of his First Nation friends threw him a going away party at the Chilko River.

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An elderly man came to the party and when Wright shook his hand to say “goodbye,” the man replied he was not saying “goodbye,” but only “farewell.”

“‘This country has a hold on you and you will be back,’ he told me. When we bought the store in May 1993, two weeks later he walked in the door with a big smile on his face,” Wright recalled.

“He grabbed me and gave me a big hug and whispered in my ear, ‘I told you, you’d be back.’”

When broached about retirement, Wright replied with COVID-19 and other things going on, there are not many people interested in buying the business right now.

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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