Author Tags: Cariboo
Beyond the Chilcotin (Harbour 2009)
Beyond the Home Ranch (Harbour 2011)
Beyond the Chilcotin: On the Home Ranch with Pan Phillips
A pair of legends-to-be crossed the border from Wyoming in the fall of 1934. They weren’t exactly Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, but both were charismatic men, born to be wild.
Rich Hobson Jr. had lost his savings during the 1929 stock market crash and befriended Floyd “Panhandle” Phillips, a gregarious storyteller. Hobson, the son of an American naval hero, could write—having attended Stanford University—but it was Phillips, the Illinois farmboy, who could talk. Both dreamed of being ranchers.
By the time the two greenhorns arrived at Anahim Lake, 200 miles west of Williams Lake, in a Ford panel truck nicknamed ‘The Bloater,’ winter was fast approaching.
According to Pan Phillips’ daughter Diana Phillips in Beyond the Chilcotin: On the Home Ranch with Pan Phillips (Harbour $34.95), they would have frozen to death were it not for the hospitality of a neighbour who invited them to winter under his roof.
In the spring they crossed the Ilgachuz Mountains and founded the Home Ranch, later made famous by two of Hobson’s classic books on B.C. ranching.
Grass Beyond the Mountains (1951) mythologized a 1937 cattle drive known as the ‘Starvation Drive.’ This story was serialized in Maclean’s.
Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy (1955) recalled their struggles to maintain their four-million-acre spread during World War II when supplies and manpower were scarce.
It didn’t hurt that Hobson included his recurring vision of a beautiful blonde woman to break the solitude.
When the two men parted company in the 1940s, Hobson started ranching in the Vanderhoof area with his wife, Gloria, leading to his final book, The Rancher Takes A Wife.
Hobson died in 1966 but his stories have endured, providing stimuli for a CBC TV series, Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, filmed in B.C., and an annual Vanderhoof stage production.
More than twenty years ago, Jack and Darlene Brown wrote The Legend of Pan Phillips and now Diana Phillips has emerged with Beyond the Chilcotin.
The new memoir gives short shrift to Pan Phillips’ first two marriages, but picks up steam when her mother, Betty Kushner, is hired to cook for the Home Ranch in 1944. After she meets her new employer Pan Phillips for the first time in Quesnel, they make the six-day, 180-mile journey on horseback, along with Betty’s newborn son, Ken (not Pan’s son).
The pair soon became a couple. Diana Phillips was born in July of 1945, at the Quesnel hospital, and brought to the remote Home Ranch in a Pacific Milk box perched atop a rubber-tired wagon [pictured above] pulled by horses.
“I’m not even sure who came to get us,” she writes, “It could have been one of the hired hands. “My Dad was not known for his dedication to family life!” Betty Phillips was the only non-Native woman at the ranch and mail was their only contact with the outside world into the early 1950s. Diana’s father called the shots.
“Since Dad did most of the grocery shopping, whatever was on the shopping list that he figured we didn’t need, we didn’t get. If he liked it, he bought it.”
A photojournalist named Richard Harrington took superb photos at the cattle ranch in 1956 and 1960, with the result that Diana Phillips had pen- pals around the world.
The high quality of Harrington’s images makes Beyond the Chilcotin extraordinary—as much as the character of Pan Phillips, who is revealed as a droll country sage and a bit of a ham. He often said, “A cowboy is a shepherd with his brain knocked out.”
Although she writes mainly of her own experiences, Diana Phillips allows her father—half mountain man and half cowboy—to steal the show. She ends by recalling Mike Poole’s 1969 documentary about her father’s last cattle drive for CBC’s This Land of Ours.
“Dad was in seventh heaven with the filming and always wanted to hold centre stage,” she recalls.
Phillips supplemented his income with guiding and the purchase of a portable sawmill in 1959. The Home Ranch was sold in 1970. Diana Phillips doesn’t mention that her father later moved to nearby Tsetzi Lake to run a fishing camp with his son. Born on March 13, 1910 in Pike City, Illinois, Pan Phillips died at Tsetzi Lake on May 18, 1983.
EXCERPT from Beyond the Chilcotin:
“Mary Cassam had a small, skinny Hereford heifer one spring that was obviously in calf and she wanted to sell it to Dad. He was reluctant to buy it. She was persistent. Finally a bargain was struck. Dad would pay her the money they agreed on but only after the heifer calved. If she died, it was Mary’s loss. The heifer was delivered a month or so before calving. She went into labour but was unable to give birth. Dad decided to perform a Caesarean on the heifer. He got her standing up and she stood through the whole operation. She kicked the first cut he made, and then he started pouring turpentine and continued slowly cutting. Turpentine will numb and disinfect. After the calf was removed, his stitching job left a lot to be desired. I had to leave as soon as he started cutting as I cannot stomach too much of that sort of thing. So I did not witness the stitching job he did inside, but the outside one was there for all to see. There were six or seven stitches on an eighteen-inch gash. For the next few weeks it was touch and go if she would die of infection or live. The turpentine treatment continued. It was probably due to the turpentine that she survived at all; it killed the flies and disinfected inside and out. By rodeo time in July the heifer went to range and Mary got paid. The heifer was shipped that fall to the cattle sale in Quesnel. She had a very thin scar that was hardly noticeable.”
Beyond the Home Ranch
Press Release (2011)
Diana Phillips tours Central BC sharing anecdotes from her second memoir Beyond the Home Ranch
Join BC bestselling author Diana Phillips as she presents captivating stories from her book Beyond the Home Ranch (Harbour Publishing, $34.95). Diana will read passages and sign copies of her latest release at locations around Central British Columbia through December 10th. Admission to all these events is free.
Beloved author Diana Phillips is excited to launch and introduce Beyond the Home Ranch, her second book to communities around her home in Vanderhoof. Diana has produced another volume of stories documenting life in British Columbia’s backcountry. Her frank accounts of her experiences as a young cattle rancher capture the spirit of a lifestyle that has disappeared. Beyond the Home Ranch is a vivid account of ranch life as Diana reflects on the struggles, joys and satisfaction of living her industrious life.
Fans of her first memoir Beyond the Chilcotin have anticipated the release of Diana’s second book and will have an opportunity to meet the author as she tours a few locations before the onset of winter. Diana will make personal appearances at a number of locations in Central British Columbia in the coming weeks including these confirmed events:
Fraser Lake Library, 228 Endako Avenue, Fraser Lake on Sunday, November 13 at 2pm.
Quesnel & District Museum & Archives, 705 Carson Avenue, Quesnel on Sunday, November 20th at 2pm.
Open Book, 247 Oliver Street, Williams Lake on Monday, November 21st at 2pm.
Nuthatch Books, #1-104 Birch Avenue, 100 Mile House on Tuesday, November 22nd at 2pm.
Books & Company, 1685 3rd Avenue, Prince George on Sunday, November 27th at 2pm.
Brookside Resort, 55110 Highway 16, Cluculz Lake on Sunday, December 4th at 9am.
Hobson History Museum, 2464 Burrard Street, Vanderhoof on Saturday, December 10th at 2pm.
Diana Phillips resides in Vanderhoof and still works in the cattle industry. Her first memoir, Beyond the Chilcotin, details her remarkable childhood growing up on the Home Ranch as the daughter of Canadian folk hero Pan Phillips.