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When Men Were Men and the West Was Tough

(Author unknown, from the Katie Lacey manuscripts)


 

Duel on Keremeos Creek

A wish has been expressed to hear some details of the duel - perhaps the last fought in Canada - fought on the banks of Keremeos Creek in the 1880s.

Full details are not available, but the principals were Frank DeLury, a Frenchman, and “Cowboy” Jim Laughearn, so called because he was the first man in the country to wear woolly chaps.  He came here from Granite Creek, and besides being connected with several shady enterprises, was noted for being quick on the draw.  While in Granite Creek he had made Charlie Rinehart, the “badman” of the camp, get down on his knees and eat grass in front of the saloon, greatly to the edification of the rest of the camp.

In the Keremeos duel, the principals, instead of standing out in the open with their pistols, were to walk in opposite directions around a cabin and shoot when they sighted each other.  Instead of going the way they agreed, “Cowboy” Jim followed his opponent and, as he was peeking around the corner of the cabin, shot him in the seat of his pants.  The wound did not prove fatal, but it evidently satisfied the Frenchman’s lust for duels.

Great Fight of Camp McKinney

W.B. Hine, one of the old-timers now gone on, used to tell of a scrap from which both participants emerged with a wholesome respect for the other’s fighting ability.  This happened in the boom days of Camp McKinney, when Mr. Hine was driving stage from Fairview to McKinney.

Among the men employed there at the time were George Prather, a member of one of the pioneer families, and Dan McKenzie, an Easterner known as “Big Dan”.  Prather and Dan were noted for their fistic prowess and, if occasion demanded, either one could handle almost any man in the camp.  The sporting element in the camp wished to see them clash with each other, but they were very friendly, and months went by with no trouble between them.

One night, however, they had a disagreement.  They were going to fight then and there, but were persuaded to wait until daylight.  Next morning, every inhabitant of the camp who could be there lined up on the hillside above the main road through McKinney, and a memorable fight was staged.  Prather and Big Dan both came out of it badly battered, but it was hard to say who was the better man.

After the fight they both needed attention and bandaging.  Big Dan was taken out to McCuddy’s stopping place about half way between McKinney and Fairview.  Mr. Hine stopped there on his way with the stage from Fairview, and seeing McKenzie so bandaged up, inquired if there had been an accident at the mine.

“No,” Big Dan replied, “George Prather and I had a fight, and if anyone asks you if that man can fight, you tell him I said yes.”  Continuing his journey to McKinney, Mr. Hine found Prather in a like condition, and feigning ignorance of the scrap, inquired again if there had been a mine accident.  “No,” answered Prather, “Dan McKenzie and I had a fight, and if anyone asks if that man can fight, you tell him I said yes.”

Who, Who?

Another McKinney yarn was of two Dutchmen coming in by way of Rock Creek.  They missed the stage connections there and started to walk to the camp.  Darkness overtook them and the hoot-owls which were plentiful in that district started their “who-whoing”.  These lads, never having heard an owl before, thought someone was inquiring who they were.

“Two Dutchmen from Vancouver,” they would shout as each successive “who who” came out of the darkness around them.  By the time they reached McKinney they could hardly speak.