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Early Days in Osoyoos

(as published in the Osoyoos Times, Centennial Edition, 1958)


 

A trip through Osoyoos recently with a prominent old-timer of this district was the occasion for some interesting reminiscences on his part.

Just north of the Richter Pass he recalled that 37 years ago on the 24 of May, he and another rider were startled by most piercing shrieks.  In the distance they spied a golden eagle carrying what they supposed was a young fawn.

His companion, who was an expert rifle shot, fired at the eagle and hit it.  The eagle dropped its prey but continued on a few hundred yards before falling itself.  When they looked for the fawn they discovered that the eagle’s burden had been a half-grown coyote.

“That was the first and only time I ever saw any bird or animal get the better of a coyote,” stated the old-timer.

At Osoyoos he recalled that about the same year he and another employee of the late Tom Ellis were camped at the lakeside while engaged in doing some plowing for Mr. Ellis.  One night some wild geese came very near their tent and as soon as daylight arrived they shot one.  Later in the morning Val Haynes and Frank Ellis, a son of Tom’s, called at their camp.  They were asked to call at night and help them eat the goose.

Val asked to see the goose, and being shown it said, “You better take that out and bury it.  It’s one of Mrs. Kruger’s tame wild geese and the old one at that.  You couldn’t chew on it a bit, and if Mrs. Kruger finds that you’ve shot it you’ll wish you hadn’t.”

“However,” he says, “we did cook it and eat it, but my teeth were pretty good in those days.”

Mrs. Kruger, on being asked if she ever knew of the incident connected with her wild geese, allowed that she didn’t that time, but had caught people shooting them on two occasions.  To discourage the business she had set a price of $5.00 a bird and the forfeiture of the goose.  This had a very discouraging effect on the hunters.

Passing the old Haynes homestead, where Douglas Fraser now lives, he remembered a beef drive being held there overnight on the way to Rossland.

Tramping on the soft ground near the lake, the cattle got into some wild parsnip or water hemlock, and the next morning 16 of them were dead.  Turkey buzzards had a rare feast for the next few weeks.

In the early days a general roundup was held in Osoyoos in May of each year.  Riders from as far south as the Columbia River came to collect American cattle or bring back Canadian ones, which in those days of unfenced ranges would drift over considerable territory.

Mrs. Kruger’s geese, being fond of bread and bannock, would go around the tents and chuck wagons.  Occasionally one would disappear, but the fine of $5.00 a bird soon stopped that.  “Those geese,” Mrs. Kruger said, “were once the subject of an article in Harper’s Magazine.”  A writer for that magazine, in quest of new material, once stopped at the Kruger home for a few days.  Some kind neighbors from Kettle River had given Mrs. Kruger a pair of young tame geese and as these would not lay until the third year she decided to give them some foster-children to occupy their time.

In sight of their home, two fish hawk nests were visible in two tall trees.  Each spring wild geese drive the fish hawks out and use the nest for their own hatching.  Mrs. Kruger would keep a watchful eye for when they started to set, and when the goslings were just hatched, would collect them.  In telling of this, she said, “We had a little Chinaman working for us who was a great climber.  I attached long ropes to his long-legged leather boots, which were well stuffed with wool or cotton batting.  The Chinaman climbed the tree, wrapped each little bird in wool or batting and then lowered the boot to me.”

When both nests had been visited they took the birds home and after a few days let them travel with the tame geese.  In the fall of the year they clipped their wings.

The writer for Harper’s Magazine did not believe that geese nested in trees.  He headed his article “A Goose Story, By Mine Host and Hostess.”