As he picked up his three-year-old grand daughter Natyra to give her hug, Lawrence Elkins said he was about her age when he first rode a horse.
“We were moving with a team and wagon and I was crying and crying so my dad put me on a saddle so I’d quit crying,” he recalled.
“I don’t know how long I rode that day, but it sure kept me quiet.”
During an interview at the Williams Lake Stampede while his grandson Cody was competing in steer riding at the Little Britches Rodeo, the soon-to-be 70-year-old said he was the second oldest of 12 boys.
Born and raised on the Anaham Reserve west of Williams Lake, Elkins grew up helping his mom Annie Elkins at home, packing water and wood and helping his dad, Thomas Elkins, raise cattle on the reserve.
“We had a ranch on the main reserve, the hay fields were on the lower part.”
He attended the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School from kindergarten until Grade 4, attended Grade 4 and 5 at the Anaham Indian Day School, and then was back at the mission until he went into Williams Lake for high school.
“They were lonely times, I missed my family and parents, but two of my brothers were there,” he recalled of being at residential school, although he said playing hockey in the school’s house league was a highlight.
He also played recreational hockey and softball on the reserve.
Eventually he quit high school and went home to work with his father, who was now doing guiding as well as raising cattle.
“I assisted dad with moose hunting and all his American clients,” Elkins said, adding most of them came from the west coast of Washington and Oregon, sometimes California.
Elkins was heavily involved with the rodeo circuit competing in saddle bronc riding and competed for 20 years mainly in B.C.
He was 16 years old the first time he competed, although that was the bareback event.
In 1978 he garnered the title of North American Champion in Saddle Bronc Riding, and still has a buckle at home he won during a state fair in Spokane, Wash.
After helping his dad with cattle, Elkins branched out on his own in 1976, raising cattle until 2004.
These days he continues to work as a cowboy, chasing cows at Chilko Ranch, assisting with weaning, branding and shipping cattle. He also owns a dozen head of horses and figures he’s put in more than a million miles on horseback.
Elkins has lived on the reserve all of his life and has five grown children — Junior, Trudy, Carmen, Tyler and step daughter Geraldine.
A self-described hockey grandpa, he can be seen hanging out at the hockey rink on the weekends or at tournaments with his wife Rose who was a Stump, although this year they will be dividing duties because grandson Cory Loring is playing for a rep midget team in Prince George.
When asked about First Nations politics, Elkins shrugged.
“I’m not interested in it,” he smiled.