RANCH TALES: A true character rides the range

Andrew Stobie was born at Duns in Berwickshire, Scotland, Oct. 3, 1866, and came to Canada at the age of 21

Andrew Stobie was born at Duns in Berwickshire, Scotland, Oct. 3, 1866, and came to Canada at the age of 21 to take care of the sheep operation for the Western Canadian Ranching Company, which operated the Gang Ranch.

After five years, he took over the cattle operations of the Gang Ranch as well and for the next 30 years, worked as the operations manager under general manager, Jim Prentice.

Stobie was a true character. Harry Marriott, in his book Cariboo Cowboy, described him as, “a freckle-faced man with square shoulders and large frame, with light brown hair and sand-coloured moustache.” Alexander Gillespie, who was also from Berwickshire, worked at the Gang Ranch for Stobie in 1902 and 1903.

He recounted the results of Stobie’s attraction to hard liquor. Gillespie and a young native man were mending fences on a Gang Ranch range across the Chilcotin River and Stobie was along to supervise the operation.

However, the Riske Creek store and saloon was only a short distance away and Stobie’s thirst caught up with him. He left the two men to their work and went for refreshment.

When the men made camp that evening, there was no sign of Stobie and, when morning came, he was still missing. Gillespie suspected the cause of Stobie’s absence and rode to Riske Creek where he found Stobie deep in his cups.

Stobie had been clever enough to ride the old packhorse, Buckskin to the saloon, knowing that the wise old horse would bring him back to camp, no matter what state he was in, as long as he could stay in the saddle.

Gillespie loaded him on Buckskin and started for camp but, about half way there, Stobie was feeling sick and decided to lay down for a rest. He told Gillespie to tie up Buckskin and go ahead.

That evening, there was no sign of Stobie and Gillespie thought he must have headed back to Riske Creek. But, as he later recounted, “Somewhere in the small hours of the morning, I was nearly frightened out of my wits by the very irate Stobie grabbing and shaking me violently, swearing like a real cowboy and wanting to know why the ___ I hadn’t tied up that ___ Buckskin. I had tied up Buckskin, but that little horse knew that if you keep on pulling at a knot with your teeth, it sometimes comes undone and this one did. Some packhorses know as much as men.”

Stobie’s long walk back to camp had sobered him up but not improved his disposition.

Ken Mather is a Spallumcheen author. He can be reached through www.kenmather.com.