Column: Truss bridges and ranching in the Shuswap

Shuswap Outdoors by Hank Shelley

Last weeks issue of the Shuswap Market News (Opinion section/History in Pictures) had a great photo of Donovan Clemson’s flock of sheep crossing the good old Howe Truss Bridge in Enderby.

The sheep and bridge no doubt bring back fond memories of days long gone by to many middle-age to elderly residents, farmers, ranchers, hunters, anglers and anyone who used the bridge as a means of travel for many years.

Hundreds of the truss bridges were built in Canada and the U.S. back in the 1940s-50s, including Enderby’s, and Trinity bridge. William Howe started building this type of bridge back in the 1840s. Made of iron rods and wood trusses with triangles for the super structure, they have stood the test of time.

As a lad growing up on a small Armstrong farm, my family, like many others, knew the Clemson family who owned a farm in the Knob Hill area, along with the Hitt’s who were known for their turnips.

Donovan was born in England in 1907. He emigrated to B.C. at 16, working on ranches and mining. As well as farming, he was a good author. His book, Lost Mine, was a hit with teens in the late 1960s. On sheep, Pete Cordonier pioneered sheep farming in 1926 with 2,000 head up on Crowfoot Mountain, followed by RA Davidson with 1,000 in 1927. He then moved his animals on to Hunter’s Range.

Read more: Our history in pictures: Pastoral passage

Read more: Salmon Arm man survives head-on crash that totals car, kills bear

Read more: Shuswap Outdoors: Plastic pollution greatest concern for migrating salmon

Tom Thorlakson, from Vernon, also ran sheep on Hunter’s Range. His was the last remaining large flock in the valley. Stories abound of the herder’s dealing with snow blindness in flocks, in late spring storms where hundreds of sheep fell over cliffs, etc., with vets trying to save them, to the shooting of up to nine grizzly bears ravaging carcasses and raiding camps.

Remnants of the old sheep trail north into the big bowl, and looking down into Tanaka Lake, faintly remain. Jimmy Tanaka was staying with Rush or Pappy Graham near Sicamous and went up their trap line via Hummingbird Creek to the lake. While swimming off a raft, he came close to drowning, hence the name!

For the compete story on Hunter’s Range and blogs, go to Jim Coopermanand friend’s Owl Head journey

onto the range. Photo’s show the old Mara forestry lookout as well. As time progressed, Frank Dangel, ran cattle up on the west side of the range. Next week: elk, caribou, cattle rustling and grizzly bears on the Range!


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