Author Tags: Biography, Non-Fiction
Luther Corky Williams grew up in the West Texas town of Van Horn along the Mexican border. After getting a degree in theatre arts at Texas Tech University, he and his wife, Jeanine, and son, John, moved to Los Angeles where he pursued a career in acting. Eventually the family bought a ranch in a remote corner of British Columbia’s Chilcotin Plateau. Fifteen years later Corky resumed his acting career as a cowboy poet at Expo 86 in Vancouver, and various film, television and stage productions in Canada and the US.
And then there was the time a rancher was driving his D9 Cat down the highway and he passed out, drunk, and fell off… As recalled in Corky Williams: Cowboy Poet of the Cariboo Chilcotin (Caitlin $24.95), the rancher came to his senses and followed the track on the road to find his rig. Not sure of the direction his bulldozer was heading, he asked a passing tourist if he’d seen his Cat. She asked what colour it was. Trying to help, she started calling, “Kitty, Kitty!”
It just one of hundreds of tales that Sage Birchwater has diligently collected from the Texan émigré Corky Williams who came to the Chilcotin in 1971, buying the Corkscrew Creek Ranch near Anahim Lake. Not your average redneck, Corky Williams liked the counter-culture kids and had a background in theatre.
A near fatal outhouse accident at the Anahim Lake Stampede in 1985—when he was sober—required an emergency flight to Williams Lake, then onto x-rays in Kamloops. “The doctor showed me the x-rays and the shoulder blade looked like you’d hit with an axe.” Unable to ranch, Williams met Ian Tyson at the Chilcotin Inn for an audition that same year.
When storyteller and songwriter Ian Tyson mounted twenty-one sold out performances of his Cowboyography show at Expo 86, Corky Williams was prominent in the cast. The rancher-turned-thespian soon got an agent and appeared in tv shows such as The Beachcombers and Bordertown. Williams enjoyed an impressive career as a touring stage actor in the U.S., based out of Texas for fifteen years, until the Chilcotin called him home.
“I just had a wild hair up my ass to get up and come back to Canada,” Corky says. After tracking down the invaluable and ubiquitous local historian Sage Birchwater, the “cowboy poet” Williams commenced an extensive memoir. It includes first-hand input, gathered by Birchwater, from Anahim Lake notables such as Bob Cohen, Big Fred Elkins, Bernie “Burnt Biscuit” Wiersbitzky, Mike Holte, Ollie Moody, Mike McDonough, Susan Hance, Bella Leon and George Leon.
And then there was the time Big Fred suggested they should blow up some of the beaver dams and sandbars in Corkscrew Creek. The old dynamiter Morton Casperson set a three-minute fuse, which gave everyone time to retreat, but Morton’s mutt refused to follow. They kept calling the dog, to no avail. Corky was certain he was headed for the big doghouse in the sky. Boom. “Well, would you look at that,” said Big Fred. “That dog is going as fast as I have ever seen one run. The only thing is, he can’t get any traction ’cause he’s twelve feet off the ground.” Miraculously, the dog survived the blast but didn’t come home for five days.
Corky Williams: Cowboy Poet of the Cariboo Chilcotin (Caitlin 2013) $24.95 978-1-927575-18-5