In 1964, from June through September I worked on the Penalty Ranch across the
Peace River from . I went back a few times
in subsequent years. The man who owned the ranch, René Dhenin had come to the
country from Fort
St. John Southern Alberta in the 1920s and was a
packer, guide, freighter, horse trainer and cattlemen in the area well into the
This year, 2017, is the 75th anniversary of the beginning of construction of the
Although he had already been a guide for several years René was not involved in
the initial trail blazing and the following rhyme explains why.
The concept of a land route from the “lower 48” states to
had been around for several years. There where three routes in strong
contention. Where the Mackenzie Highway
is today was one choice, from Peace River town up
through Hay River in the
then west through the North
West Territories Yukon. A
much better idea was where the Alcan actually is, from , north-west through
Creek, BC Yukon. A third choice that
was favored by many in the US Army was where the Hazelton – Cassiar – Watson
Lake Highway is now.
Thus, in 1942, confusion abounds.
René’s story bellow is a part of that history.
As I’ve mentioned before, the CD with the songs from local artists acknowledging and celebrating the 75th anniversary can be found at many businesses and art galleries along the
or take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTt25BOVaqs
Near Muncho Lake
Minnaker River Valley - Mile 178 on Alaska Highway
He told me of a walk he made back in forty one
With a day pack, rifle, knife and hand gun
He received a wire at
, it said “Services required” Fort St. John
It specified the date then added, “All equipment, horses supplied.”
“From US Army Engineers” he said, “I’d worked for them a lot,
With my horses and guiding them over hill and ‘round the bogs.
So I put my horses out to graze, stored all tack and gear,
And hitched a ride, me and a pal, early spring that year.
Rode the caboose from
, then Pullman car to Cowtown. Dawson Creek
Partied there with folks we knew then railroad again coastal bound.
It took four boats along the coast, each one getting smaller
Then we walked a couple of miles, the Telegraph Trail to follow.
At Telegraph Creek there’s another message, addressed directly to me
And after days and weeks of travel, one I sure didn’t want to see.
Once again from the US Army, my services no longer required.
I’m off in the
and before I’m hired I’m fired. Coastal Mountains
My pal says he’s off to the sea, without my work, no work to be found.
He’ll get a ride on some coastal scow and he’s for
But I make my living with horses and tack, and it’s to the east not west
So we say our goodbyes, off he goes, and I head for a high mountain pass.
I’d walked a week or so, low on grub and getting gaunt,
When some mountain caribou appear; more meat than I really want.
I took a fat cow and did her up, skinning, stripping and eating my fill
Packed some fresh wrapped in hide, but smoked jerky for most of the kill
Crossed many a creek and skirted muskeg, rivers as well, one or two
But coming down in the Omineca, there was the Finley a river I knew.
So I made a raft tied with bark, planning to float down to the Peace
But white water broke up the raft, lost it and most of my meat.
Back when I shot the caribou I’d made the hock skin into slippers.
On stretchers they floated and I found ‘em but lost my boots in the river.
Had my rifle slung on my shoulder, pistol and knife on my belt
So except for my boots and the meat, came out of it all pretty well.
Another day to dry myself and another week of walking
I’m not far from
’s Hope and the supply boat’s docking. Hudson
So I caught a ride down river to home where all my equipment sat
So you see I missed the start of building the Alcan, but maybe best at that.