On the Ropes - Tom Roper

Lessons in gold panning, and a very close call

All that glitters may not be gold

My friend Les dropped by yesterday and we had a chance to catch up.

We had worked together back in the day of the Swiss fire near Houston at a portable mill called Prince George Precut. Les was the sawfiler and I was the millwright.

The Swiss fire had gone through the timber so fast, just the bark was scorched and the wood was salvageable. As we got to know each other we discovered we both had an interest in gold and many conversations followed along that topic.

We decided to take a weekend off and head west to the little ghost town of Doreen, just past Cedarvale. I brought my canoe and we crossed the Skeena River at the landing site.

All was well, the river was down and the townsite was quite neat to see.

As it turned out there was smoke coming out of a chimney and I convinced Les to check it out. We met a neat old-timer, John, who was unofficially caretaking some of the buildings.

John was happy to have some company and he gave us a few tips on where to pan for gold. He also made us some tea and when I asked if I could get a picture of him, he immediately went into the bathroom to comb his hair and tidy up.

We then set off for Lorne Creek to dip the pan. There were lots of trails to explore and as we were heading towards Fiddler Creek, an ATV was approaching from that direction.

The operator looked like a bit of a bushman and he was packing a sawed-off shotgun in his scabbard attached to his machine.

He didn’t seem that friendly and both Les and I looked at each other and thought “oh, oh. “

“Don’t go in that cabin” he said in a demanding way. “I’ve got it wired .“

“Uh huh. We were not going into that cabin,” I said. This was not looking good.

“I’m going to get rid of my father-in-law,” he said.

“Ok,” we said. “We are just doing a little panning and then heading home.”

“Don’t get in my way” he said and he turned around and was gone.

Whoa. Les and I decided immediately to shut down the panning and get back to the canoe before this character returns. Fortunately, the boat was still in one piece and we loaded and scooted back across the river.

After returning home we talked about the encounter for a few weeks and then one night on the evening news here was our new found friend.

His name was Trapper and he was being charged with the murder of a mushroom picker.

That was one of those close calls you can do without.

If you have a tale to share drop me an email tr.ranch@hotmail.com or call me at 250-877-1806.