Author Tags: Cariboo
Patricia Joy MacKay was born in England and immigrated to Canada in April 1964. Despite having no experience in the culinary arts when she arrived, she worked as a cook on guest ranches in the Cariboo for four summers, where she discovered that working cowboys and open spaces really did still exist. Pat lived and worked in the Cariboo-Chilcotin until 1989, when she moved to the Sunshine Coast and began operating a small farm with her partner. In April of 2012, she moved back home to Williams Lake and published her memoir, Drugstore Cowgirl (Heritage House 2013). The term 'Drugstore Cowgirl' refers to a person who wants to be a cowgirl - or cowboy - but doesn't have the skills. However they like to dress as one on occasions.
"From the age of ten," she writes, while living in England I had dreamed of becoming a cowgirl, but when I emigrated to Canada in 1964 I discovered that I was frightened of horses and cattle. Being desperate to see the wild west - and cowboys - I found work as a cook on a guest ranch in the Cariboo.
"It was a learning experience as I had never cooked before. The first year I worked at the Flying U Guest Ranch at 70 Mile House, then spent the following summer at Pollards Guest Ranch at Clinton, worked at the Ashcroft Hospital that winter as relief cook followed by a stint as secretary to the administrator and in 1968 moved out to the Chilcotin.
"For the next two summers I cooked at the TH Guest Ranch in Hanceville and then a year at Lee's Corner Cafe, also at Hanceville. Eventually I did get to learn to ride - a little - and met many cowboys from teenagers to old men. In 1970 I married one of them and lived in Alexis Creek and worked at the school there.
"Some of the people of the Cariboo/Chilcotin - Indians, pioneers, their children and grandchildren - became great neighbours and friends - and some still remain so. The closing paragraph of my book says it all.
'Even now I can feel the heat of the 'summer sun as it burned in a lupine-blue sky over the land. A land filled with lakes and grasses, wildflowers and cottonwood trees, and rivers that flow in their never-ending search for the ocean. I can see the prairie meadows of Riske Creek, with its volcanic rocks and rich grazing: recall the smell of earth, grass and pine needles, all poignant memories of this place called Chilcotin - the land of blue water. A place that even now holds me in its hand as I will forever hold it in my heart.'"
Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Drugstore Cowgirl: Adventures in the Cariboo-Chilcotin