Monday, October 24, 2016

A Place at the Table

A week or more ago I posted … somewhere … about an event that the Peace Region Songwriters are putting on December 2nd, 2016 with the assistance of the First Baptist Church, at 1400 – 113th Ave. in Dawson Creek. We put together a concert with performances by some of the members and support of others. We also have door prizes donated by local business. Admission is by donation and proceeds go to charity in an effort to see that at least some of the less fortunate have “a place at the table” during the Christmas season.
The doors are scheduled to open at 6:30 pm with presentation to begin at 7:00.
I have with the help of Brady MacTavish (edit) and Duart Stark (posting) some excerpts of “A Place at the Table” from 2015, primarily my own contribution (since clearance isn’t a problem) but with the theme song itself written by Linda and Bill Studley.
You can get an idea of what we offer at

Monday, October 17, 2016

More early Alaska Highway

Here are a few pictures I've come across over the years of the way things looked when the Alaska Highway was built. After the first rough trail was opened, a trail that took several days and often several weeks to negotiate, freight was hauled as was required. Sometimes to the various army camps, most of which where US Army but there where also civilian camps for those who followed the first trail and in later years Canadian Army camps.
Once there was a pioneer road that would (almost, or sometimes) hold up a truck there where civilian trucks hauling for commercial enterprises, trading posts and the army.
Both the US Army and the several civilian contractors who followed them used similar equipment so the Cat in this picture could be from either source. However, since there doesn't appear to be very many stumps in the trail I suspect this one is civilian.

Mechanics from the 93rd Engineers, 1942

341st Engineers on a structure they undoubtedly built and ...

... what it looks like driving over such a structure.
This depicts early attempts at civilian travel in 1943.
A great many things have changed since '43 such as the pavement that can be seen between the snow banks from this picture of Km 1639 taken on Feb.26, 2013. Something that hasn't changed is the marvelous scenery; that is the St. Elias Mountains in the background.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Road That Couldn't Be Done

There is an anthology (CD) being done by those who have written songs about the Alaska Highway. Recording is in process and a couple of weeks ago I went and recorded a short (4 line) voice over for Barb Munro’s song, “97th Regiment”.
            By the way, the 97th Regiment of the US Army Engineers was one of several regiments who helped build the Alaska Highway. At the time enlisted within the 97th where all black and may still be for all I know. Most were from the south and the winter of ’42-’43 was not a pleasant time for these young men.
            While I was at the studio I was asked if I knew someone with a poem or rhyme that would fit in with this anthology. I had to say no but thought it was a great idea and over the next few days wrote something. It wasn’t great but with some help and tweaking from Karen it turned out alright.

            Here it is.

The Road That Couldn’t Be Done
D.M. & K.L. McGowan

They came to build a road
That some said couldn’t be done
But they did it damn it and did it fast
And even had some fun

The US Army Engineers
Several regiments strong
Cut and slashed through timber
And laid it across the bogs

With local trappers, packers and guides
And with sightings to the sky
They found a way through passes
And over mountains where eagles fly

Civilians from all walks of life
From all across the land
From Labrador, Ontario
And down to the Rio Grande

They dropped them off at end of rail,
A place called Dawson Creek
A bunch of young eastern boys
Too excited to sleep

The final push to build it came
December seventh, Forty One
And before Christmas the following year
There laid the road that couldn’t be done.

Oh, and sure it was only a trail
With decades of work to be done
But now millions of travelers
Use the road that couldn’t be done.

I also have a couple of pics from back in the day …
Charlie Lake Store 1942

Fort St. John, 1942

Army Barracks, Fort St. John, 1943

Monday, August 22, 2016

High Rider by Bill Gallaher

He started life as a slave in South Carolina and became one of the pioneering cattlemen in that part of Canada’s North West Territories which eventually became the Province of Alberta.
            In 1867 with the US Civil War at and end John Ware struck off to the west, a new land and a new life. Due to his unsurpassed ability to break and train mules he found work on a ranch near Fort Worth where he remained for a decade. Eventually he went north as the horse wrangler on a cattle herd, lost good friends and found others, panned for gold, became a drover again and rode into Canada.
            This is a novel but as is usual with Bill Gallaher’s work it is well researched and faithfully follows the life of one of Canada’s pioneers. John Ware is a legend among those who study the history of horse trainers, cattlemen, bronc riders and the beef industry. With his entertaining and informative writing Gallaher should be.

            High Rider by Bill Gallaher is deserving of high praise and as many stars as are available.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A sense of humor

I have several short stories I've put together over the years but most of them would require three or four posts to make them fit on this blog. Here is one, however that is a short-short. Something similar actually happened about 20 years ago on a ranch up north of Fort. St. John although I've expanded on it somewhat.
If you find the story entertaining, click on one of the book covers over to the right and take one of my novels home. The same stories can be found on (D.M. McGowan) or on Google books, or Barnes & Noble. They are also available in a variety of digital formats.
I'm always looking for reviews and would appreciate comments here or on any of the sites above that also have places for reviews.

What We Need is a Good
Cattle Dog!
By D.M. McGowan

            I can't tell you how Alvin's doing. It's been a while since I seen him. Alvin and I don't spend too much time together any more. Not like we used to. It goes back to that time we went up to Carter's to help them round up their cattle. Looking' back, I reckon I was a bit rough on him, but I thought he had a better sense of humor.
            There was about ten of us who volunteered to help out. Neighbors rode over on horseback, and some hauled their horses in from as far as fifty miles away. I don't have a truck or trailer, so I rode with Alvin, our mounts in his two-horse trailer.
            Most of us got there the night before, a Friday it was, so that we'd be ready t' get started early Saturday. 'Course, the early start was a bit rough on most of us since, once we got a place for our bedrolls, most of us spent the night over a few drinks, playing' cards and swapping yarns. But despite how tough a few felt that next morning we were all out there gathering' cattle in pretty early.
            Along about two in the afternoon, we had quite a bunch of critters up by the loading pens. After turning about a dozen head into the herd, Alvin and I headed south into a low spot we hadn't checked out. Sure enough, there's twenty head or so, down in the brush.
            Well, we pull up near the edge of that brush, and Alvin starts to get down.         "Where you goin'?" I asked him, though I pretty well knew what he had in mind."Well, horses’ll be no good in that brush," Alvin says. "We'll have to go in on foot.

While he was taking his spurs off I rode back up-slope a ways and had a look at that bush. It probably covered ten acres, and was as close as hair on a dog’s back.
            "You're not gonna chase any cows outta that," I said. "Work like that, you need a good cattle dog."
            "Well, we don't have a cattle dog," Alvin says, "so we'll have to do it on foot." He tied his spurs to a saddle string.
            "We could also just leave the herd up where they are," I advised. "By tomorrow this bunch in the bush’ll be lonely, and come out of there on their own."
            "Work don't get done by lettin' it lay," Alvin says.
            I tried once more to discourage him from his course and said, “Some o’ those critters are gonna be several hundred pounds an’ likely t’ stop a fella into the sod.”
            When he showed no sign that such a prospect bothered him I swung one leg around the saddlehorn, and proceeded to roll a smoke. "You get ‘em out here, I'll be sure to hold ‘em for you," I said, though I figured there wasn't much chance of me having to do anything.
            Well, Alvin just glared at me, dropped the reins, and went waddling off into the willows.
            He got four steers and a cow moving that first time out. Of course, when he got right up to the edge of the brush, the cow went left, and the steers right. Alvin was heaving pretty good and trying to figure out how five animals could go in ten directions.
            He went back into the trees, picked up his hat, and carried it out and hung it on his saddlehorn. He also took off his chaps and laid them over the saddle. Then he glared at me, and headed back into the brush.
            I pulled my hat down over my eyes and got comfortable.
            During the next half hour, he kept trying to chase them cows out, and they'd just turn around and go back in the bush, as cows tend to do. Pretty soon his face began to look like a piece of raw meat, and everything he wore was soaked with sweat. I was beginning to worry that he was gonna have a heart attack, and I'd have to haul him out of there.
            He was on the edge of the brush, legs spread, and hands on his knees, and just heaving. I was pretty sure there wasn't a bull on that place with a harder head than his.
            I started to roll another smoke as I let my horse shuffle over toward him. "You know, Alvin," I said, "you're gonna have to cut a switch off one of those willows, and give yourself a lickin'. You're gettin' way behind!"

You know, I had to find somebody else to haul my horse home!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Firearms Statistics

I've just heard and read where people are saying that this horrific action in Orlando, Florida is all the fault of firearms laws. I can't agree and suspect that people are thinking with their hearts instead of their minds to even have such statements come out of their mouths. Such statements defy logic. It was a horrific act perhaps fueled by religious fundamentalism, poor education or outright ignorance but it was committed by, and therefore the fault of a person.
However for those wishing the proper firearms information as collected by EVERY group that does collect ALL the information, here are the statistics.

Firearm statistics from 2012

In the US Guns are used 80 times more often to protect a life than to take one. This is comparing self defence against suicide, homicide and accident combined.

There are approximately 270 million privately owned firearms in the USA
Each year in the USA a gun is used about 200 thousand times by a woman to avoid sexual abuse.
3 out of 5 felons say they will not mess with an armed person.

Gun ownership rate per 100 residents
USA            88.8
Yemen         54.8
Switzerland  45.7
Finland        45.3

Highest Homicide rates per 100 thousand residents

Honduras              91.6
El Salvador            69.2
Côte d'Ivoire         56.9
Jamaica                 52.2
The USA is way down this list at #103 with 4.8 per 100 thousand.

A recent study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy concluded that there is a negative correlation between gun ownership and violent crime in countries internationally (more guns = less crime).

Nations with strict gun control laws have substantially higher murder rates than those who do not in general. In fact, the 9 European nations with the lowest gun ownership rate have a combined murder rate 3x that of the 9 European nations with the highest gun ownership rate!

In the UK where handgun ownership is illegal, there have been 2034 violent crimes per 100 thousand versus the USA where there were 466 violent crimes per 100 thousand during the same period.

An analysis of FBI crime statistics reveals that those states which have adopted conceal carry laws have reduced
Murders by 8.5%
Rapes by 5%
Aggravated assaults by 7%
Robberies by 3%

With few exceptions, most public mass shootings in the USA since 1950 have taken place where citizens are banned from carrying guns. Despite strict gun regulations, Europe has had 3 of the worst 6 school shootings.

US Police                                      VS     US Armed Citizen

794,300                                             80,000,000 gun owning          
police officers13                                            citizens


11%                                                            2%error rate
error rate
14.3                                                            2.3 average deaths
avg. deaths of a shooting                           of a shooting rampage
rampage stopped by police
15                                                         stopped by citizens
606                                                             1,527
criminals killed each year                           criminals killed each year

In 1982, Kennesaw, Georgia passed a law requiring heads of households to keep at least one firearm in the house. The residential burglary rate subsequently dropped 89% in Kennesaw, compared to just 10.4% drop in Georgia as a whole

Today, the violent crime rate in Kennesaw is still 85% lower than Georgia's or the national average.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Here is an excerpt from “Homesteader”, my third published novel and the second with SBPRA. This is the piece very near the first where Hank and Harry meet the man who will prove a problem for them, Portis Martin. It is also one of the reasons that Hank decides to apply for land under the Homestead Act … to prove a thorn in Martin’s side.

I'm not sure where these pictures were taken but this is the type of country they would have been riding through on their approach to Calgary, first on the train and then mounted and trailing down the eastern slope.

By D. M. McGowan
Copyright © 2000

It was close to noon before we met the first discouraging thing although it took us several minutes to realize it. It was a man of perhaps two hundred and fifty pounds riding a sixteen hundred pound horse. He came out of the bush on the north side of the draw that ran down hill off to our left, followed by two average size men on two average size horses. We didn't know he was a sorry cuss at that moment, but it didn't take us long to find out.
            They sat and watched us approach for a few moments.
            Our pack horses were free and followed well, but just in case I dropped back and pulled the halter shank out from under a pack rope. Passing the lead behind my back to my left hand I flipped it over Blackie's rump and looped it around the saddle horn. When Harry saw that he dropped back and did the same with the other pack animal.
            The three strangers rode down into the draw and up our side to meet us. The way they jerked their mounts to a halt justified my leading the pack horse. I put a half hitch slip in the lead rope so I wouldn't have to hold it.
            All three of them wore the tall crowned, big brimmed hat of the time over hair too long and dirty. Their high healed boots too narrow for their feet branded them as cattlemen. They all wore handlebar mustaches, usual for the time, but were otherwise clean shaven which was not always usual for men riding the range. The two average size men wore stove-pipe chaps over canvas pants, cotton shirts - one blue and one red - cow hide vests and red neckerchiefs. The big man wore wool pants, a plaid, flannel shirt, tweed vest fully buttoned with a watch chain stretching across his ample middle and a blue bandana. They all wore Colt pistols, the younger and smallest man carrying two, hung with butts forward.
             They drew up abreast, no more than two feet between each of their mounts. The youngster, who, by the appearance of his weapons and how he wore them seemed to think he was a gunfighter, was in the center.
            This young fellow and his appearance drew my attention more than he should have. Riding alone in the wilderness or working with wild cattle and horses it always makes sense to wear a hand gun. But in those days many people couldn’t afford a hand gun, let alone two. And wearing them butt forward as this young man did meant they would be catching on things like his rope and the brush as he was trying to do the work of a cow hand. Therefore I suspected he was probably a poor range rider and a good trouble maker. I should have ignored him and paid more attention to his riding partners.
            The way the three of them charged right up to us and stopped so close didn’t add to my feeling of comfort. They were crowding us and had an arrogant manner about them. I didn’t like the look in their eyes and I was glad I had taken the pack horse lead shank.
            Even though he was a few years older than me, Harry Gilmore always followed my lead. Part of the reason was that, up until the fall before, I had been his boss for about a year. Mostly, though, it was because he was part Sioux - although few ever knew that - and several years of folks tramping on him and his people meant that he generally followed and kept his mouth shut. What that meant for me at the time was that I knew I would be handling the conversation with the fat man, and I could depend on Henry to back me up, whatever happened.
            “Where do you think you’re going?” the fat man asked.
            Maybe my confidence in Henry's loyalty and ability made me a little too mouthy in my response to the big man's arrogant manner. And, as I said, I was paying too much attention to the gun man and not enough to the fat man. "East," I replied.
            He tried to stare me down. I smiled and he shifted his gaze to Henry, rolling his chew around in his mouth.
            He forced his big horse forward a few steps so that its head was on Blackie's off side, its nose about a foot from my right knee. "Where did you come from?" he asked, bringing his gaze back to me.
            "West," I replied.
            He spit tobacco juice at Blackie's cheek.
            Blackie was a good horse but he wouldn't put up with very much foolishness even from me. He was also one of the fastest animals I ever rode. It seemed that stream of tobacco juice was still in the air when he turned and bit the fat man's horse on the shoulder.
            Sixteen hundred pounds of horse squealed and jumped to the left, blood flowing down its leg from a three inch gash. The horse ridden by the young gunfighter, at least six hundred pounds lighter than the fat man's horse, was too close and no match for the bigger animal. Rider and horse hit the ground hard.
            The mustang grunted, squealed, and jumped to its feet. The rider's left foot was caught in the stirrup as the horse lunged away from another collision.
            The fat man put his hand on his pistol and turned his gaze from the donnybrook back to me. His hand froze when he found my Colt was already in my hand. I didn't point it at him, just let it hang there, muzzle down, my forearm resting on the horn. Very slowly he put his right hand back on top of his left which rested on his own saddle horn.
            At the same time the third rider shook out a loop and turned his mount toward the bucking mustang and dragging rider. Within a hundred feet he had the animal roped. It stood on the end of the lariat with legs spread wide and vibrated. The bundle attached to the stirrup didn't move.
            "I'm Portis Martin," the fat man said.
            I was doing my best to maintain a calm, this-is-an-everyday-thing appearance, but was in fact having a tough time with that. Not only had I been approached poorly in a generally friendly land, but one of my best friends had just been spit on.
            "Henry James," I responded. "Some folks call me Hank, but you can call me Mr. James." Without taking my eyes from him I inclined my head to indicate my saddle partner. "This here is Mr. Gilmore."
            The roper dismounted on the off side and, speaking slowly and calmly, worked his way up the rope to the frightened horse.
            Martin made a sweeping motion with his arm. "This is all my land an' the cattle on it are mine," he said. "Them horses you're ridin' are a whole lot better than any drifter'd be usin'. Or cow punchers, fer that matter."
            The other rider took a grip on the headstall on the shaky animal. Very slowly he reached for the stirrup and released his partner's foot. He led the horse off a few steps, and then returned a knelt by the motionless body.
            I had to give Martin high marks for guts. Like I said, I wasn't pointing it at him, but I had a loaded Colt in my hand and he was calling me a thief. At the same time I had to give him fairly low marks for smart. "You callin' me a rustler?" I asked.
            He smiled. "Well I don' see no cows with yuh, but its bin a while since I seen drifters with 'nough truck they gotta have 'em a pack horse. An', like I said, you're on my land."
            "Thought this was the Cochrane Ranch," I said.
            "Yuh rode off it a ways back," he said. "This land here, an' the land north o' Cochrane right t' the mountains is my problem."
            "Looks t' me like a railroad track over there," I noted. I didn't turn to look at it, but kept my eyes on Martin.
            "Right smart fer a Yankee," Martin responded.
            I ignored the attempted insult. During my years in the country I had tried to lose my American way of speech, but it appeared I had not been completely successful. "Be about fifty yards?" I asked.
            "I reckon," he nodded, his expression somewhat puzzled.
            "Railroad claims a hun'red yards each side o' the roadbed," I informed him. "That means we ain't on your land. They also claim alternatin' sections on each side of the rails, so a lot of what you're claimin' ain't yours."
            Martin worked his chaws for a moment, and then sent another stream of tobacco juice into the dust. He made a point of missing Black. "Ain't no nevermind," he said. "Ain't no railroad men out here. Me that runs this country."
            "Too bad," I said, putting my pistol back in the leather.
            "What's that supposed to mean?" he fired back.
            "Country's likely to go to hell," I replied. "One of your men just got himself squished an' dragged. If he's lucky, he won't have more than a broken leg. For ten minutes you been arguin’ with me and you ain't even looked at him. You look after the country same way you look after your hands, why, I reckon we're all in trouble."
            I turned Black and we started away.
            "Don't make no nevermind fer you," Martin said. I looked over my shoulder at him and he continued. "You'll be leavin'."
            "Don't reckon," I said, then added before he could threaten me if I stayed. "You claimin' all this land that ain't yours, makes me wonder if maybe we should ask the Mounties to see if you're claimin' cows ain't yours."
            Martin smiled. "Rode intu this country in '73 with them boys. Got me two stripes 'for I took t' raisin' beef."
            This was not news that I found comforting. However, I didn't let it show and just smiled. "Then they won't likely be too su'prised when I describe our meetin' here today." We rode on, being sure to stay within' the railroad right of way.