Story and Photos by Ken Warren (ISN)
July 14, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Welcome to the twelfth article of Ken’s Blog, where historian Ken Warren takes us through some of his childhood memories, sharing with us the lives and times of his sports oriented family growing up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the 1900’s and beyond. In this article Ken returns to Canada, reports a grow-op and confronts a mountain lion on his property.
Even though Dwight Chapin with his column in the San Francisco Examiner, and Congressman Norman Shumway made the U.S. Immigration Department bow down to the pressure from our bosses and citizens of Tuolumne County and offer us green cards to work in the USA, their offer came a day too late. In order to be rehired by the Sooke School Board, I had to reapply for work by May 30th. With time running out, I telephoned the Sooke School District May 29th to confirm that I was returning to my old job of Work Experience Coordinator. I called a day early because May 30th was a Friday, and the end of the week can be a difficult day to reach the appropriate people. Late Friday night I received a call from a woman in charge of the Juvenile Justice League. She had started the ball rolling to save us from deportation after she read Dwight Chapin’s column. She had a letter from her Congressman, Mr. Shumway, to confirm that our Whispering Pines jobs would be ours for as long as we wanted them. I didn’t tell her that we were returning to Canada until the next day when I went to her home to get a copy of the letter.
STEVEN AND DAVEY JOIN US IN CALIFORNIA
We were glad to be going back home to Canada. The experience in California had been tough, but interesting; and we did really care for the boys. However, in terms of wages, my job in Canada was $44,000 annually; while our combined pay in California was $3,480 annually. Admittedly, we also got housing and food as well for all four of us; five of us when Steven joined us. I never mentioned Steven joining us above. He left Calgary and joined a sales group that treated its young salespersons like slaves and prisoners. Steven phoned us from Toronto asking us to send him airfare from there to Sacramento. You can see from our annual salary that the airfare would be more than our monthly salary; however, we managed to rescue our 18-year-old. My brother Dave and his girlfriend happened to be coming down from Victoria to visit us for a week, so he picked up Steven at the airport in Sacramento. We had a great visit with Dave and Carol. As for Steve, we hardly ever saw him. He trekked all over the mountains fishing. That is, until he discovered, while following a creek in some underbrush, a major marijuana operation. What did Steven do with information about this discovery? He told his parents, right? Wrong! He told our counsellors, and Bob Chandler, our boss, right? Wrong. No, he told our ten boys from an assortment of California prisons. The boys must have loved him. They took large black, plastic bags and filled them with the tops, the buds of the plants. They also took many whole plants still in their planters. The property was less than a mile from our home, so you can imagine how much looting eleven teenagers can do to a grow-op.
It was our psychologist, Pat Elliott, who first detected that the boys were smoking grass. Being a hippy type, she had probably been around it much more than us. So, we were astounded at how much stuff we found in the black bags they had hidden in the house, and the potted plants they had hidden in the woods on Whispering Pines property. I found out from Steven where the grow-op was, and two police detectives and I carefully hunched and crawled through thick four feet high bush, the dicks with their firearms drawn, to an opening that revealed about twenty 4′ x 8′ dug-outs 3′ deep. Inside many were plants that hadn’t been raided yet, and others with just their tops taken off. Water hose from a nearby creek circulated into each of the dugouts, and the marijuana plants were allowed to grow tall because they were set three feet below ground and surrounded by thick four foot tall bush all around the diggings. Nobody was around, but within a week we read about the fellow who was charged with operating the grow-op.
Keeley and Gary Carter at Candlestick Park – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
It’s a deja-vu moment! – Keeley with his son Marcus, 5, wearing the Expo jersey and Tim Raines (star of 1980 San Fran Game) – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
On the way home we stopped at Kelso and Castle Rock in Washington, two towns that were still inches deep in volcano dust from the Mount St. Helen’s blast. When we got to the Port Angeles Coho Ferry line-up I told the ticket seller that the little boys were both under six. “I am six,” Kit said. “Almost, Guy. Almost,” I replied. The ticket seller smiled. We drove on. Kit cried. “We’re almost broke,” I told him. “But you lied, Dad. I am six.”
We rejoined square dancing and went to a campout with several Greater Victoria dancers at Cameron Lake where we met Dick Davidge from Sooke who agreed to rent us his house for $250.00 a month. When we saw the house, I offered to pay him $1,000.00 a month rent that would go toward the purchase price of the house. He agreed to sell me the house for $75,000, and six months later we owned it.
We lived a quiet life in Sooke. I shot a few deer which we butchered and packaged ourselves. While my Sooke School District Ofice was in Langford, as Work Experience Coordinator I served all of the secondary schools in the district, so that included Edward Milne Secondary in Sooke. I served that school generally in mid-afternoon so that I would be near home at the end of the working day.
We sold the Sooke home for a good profit and bought an eleven acre hobby farm in Cobble Hill. Kit would tell you this was his favourite home of all. My first novel was written at and about this property and the surrounding area. Kit and Keeley were never in the house when we moved to the farm, except at night to go to bed. If they weren’t roaming around the bogs, the man-made pond, the tree fort, riding the little motorcycle around the pasture or playing sports there, then we’d give a holler to see where they were,or we’d look for their big dog, Shadow. His tail was like a flag waving around in the tall grasses, and where he was, they were.
Shadow and little Charlie on the back steps at Cobble Hill farm – Photo courtes of Ken Warren (ISN)
KIT MEETS A MOUNTAIN LION
One day eight-year-old Kit came running into our farmhouse kitchen and said a cougar had growled and hissed at him while he was feeding the chickens. I grabbed my .303, but couldn’t find the clip, which I hide from the kids, so I grabbed one shell and put it in the chamber. Rushing out to the chicken shed, I saw the cougar beside the chicken wire and the chickens screeching in fear. The startled animal noticed me and began to run. As the cougar leaped across a nearby creek, I fired a shot which knocked him over. He got up and clambered up a tree by an excavation where I was having a new house built. Suddenly, he went limp. His chin was on a branch and his two forepaws clung to another branch, but the rest of his body, hind legs, tail and all simply hung down limp. He was dead.
I went into the house and called Kathy, Kit, and Keeley to come to see the dead cougar. They all came out and had a look at it, and then I had to decide what to do with it.
“I saw it blink up there, Dad.,” Kit said to me.
“I don’t think so, Kit. You’re still afraid of what it might have done to you.”
The RCMP said I was within my rights to shoot the animal under the circumstances that had occurred, so I went out to the tree and tried to pull the cougar down by the tail, since it was hanging the lowest. I tried climbing the tree, but there were so many small bushes entangled with it that the closest I could come to grabbing onto that tail was still about six inches away.
So I went to my garage to get a rake to pull him down. This time Shadow came with me. He sniffed and sniffed around that tree. He knew something was somewhere around. I looked up at the cougar and gasped. It’s head and eyes were following Shadow’s every movement. It was alive, and appeared full of life. I called Shadow and hurried back to the house to get the gun. First however I called the RCMP again and told them that the cougar was wounded, but alive. Could they come out with a tranquilizer dart and try to save it. They said he was very dangerous when wounded, so destroy him.
Once again I took just one shell. It was going to be an easy shot. Kit asked if he could come and watch. I said “Okay.” We went out to the tree to finish the job, but the cougar was gone. Shadow was jumping around telling us that he knew where it went, so we followed him.
You have no idea what mixed emotions I had walking through dense forest like that looking for a wounded cougar when everywhere you look there are dark areas where he could be lurking. Remember, I have only one shell and an eight-year-old boy tagging along. The first shock we got was little puffs of hair that followed along a trail. A little clump here and a little clump there. Then another ten yards on. Finally we found whose hair it was. Almost fully eaten, except for his head, was Kit’s pet cat, Marble. Kit cried at the find and was now more determined to find the killer. Not so me. If that cougar is so hungry that he’s feeding on housecats, then we’re getting out of this semi-dark forest before he starts feeding on little boys. Poor Marble had run for his life and got swatted every ten yards or so in the chase.
I had asked the RCMP to send the provincial man with the cougar and bear hounds, but he was busy chasing a bear in Lake Cowichan. This time when I called, he was available to come. After a two hour chase, the cougar stayed on the ground and fought the hounds. While it injured two of them, the hounds finally killed the cougar. It was brought to our farm and the authorities cut one claw off it and gave it to Kit. A couple of years later, Denise had the claw set in gold with a beautiful gold chain. Kit, now 39, still wears it. Ken, 75, is glad that he couldn’t reach the tail to pull the cougar out of the tree.
The Cougar story in the newspaper – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
THE DEATH OF MR. KALLSTROM BRINGS ON THE BIRTH OF ‘KNEEL’.
One evening, not long after the cougar incident, an elderly man came to my door to report a missing, elderly friend, Frederick Kallstrom. The two old men had been hunting in the many miles of unoccupied forests, meadows and mountains that bordered my property. He had searched for his friend until it started to get dark, so he worried about finding his own way out if it got totally dark. I had been in that huge property that seemed to go on forever. It had a couple of dirt roads wending their way through it, as well as the clear and fast-moving Koksilah River. I had no idea who owned the property, but the old gate was open at the end of Silvermine Road and, in its dilapidated condition, it didn’t look like it had been closed for the past forty years. The worried hunting partner asked to use our phone to call the missing man’s two sons and told the younger Kallstroms that they could join him at my address on Silvermine Road.
“Tell them to bring flashlights,” I said. I had decided to go with them, and Kit asked if he could go too. I thought it would be good for him, so I agreed, so long as he stuck by me. When the two Kallstrom boys arrived at about 9 pm, we set out to look for their missing father. We searched high and low until 5 am and found no sign of the missing man. I told Kit how pleased I was with him being able to spend the whole night searching so well, and he wouldn’t be going to school until the afternoon. We gave up at that point and turned the matter over to the professionals, the provincial search and rescue team. A couple of busloads of experienced searchers came with marking ribbons, and I guess the ribbons signal what areas have been covered. What different colours of ribbons mean, I don’t know. Anyway, they found Mr. Kallstrom, dead from a heart attack on the second day of searching. He was down by the river.
Years later my brother-in-law John Adank, a former realtor, introduced me to his best friend, Rick, a current realtor. I thought I recognized Rick’s last name, but since my brother Phil was also a realtor, I thought I must have heard the name Kallstrom in one of Phil’s conversations. Then it struck me “Kallstrom!”, that was the name of the man we searched for in the hills and valleys near my home. “Rick, did your father do a lot of hunting?” “Yes,” he said. “Is he alive?” “No,” he responded. “Did he die hunting?” “How did you know?” he asked. “Because you and I spent all night looking for him. I owned the farm that you came to with your brother the first night he was missing.” “Glory be,” Rick said. “John introduced us, and yet, I probably met you before he did.” And he was absolutely right!
Soon after our search for Mr. Kallstrom, I let Kit take his motor cycle into that area and he loved it. He could go for miles and no vehicles or people were around. I, too, fell in love with the area, and at night I would lie on Kit or Keeley’s bed and tell them stories with that area and our farm as the setting. The nightly stories were more like chapters where you had to wait until the next night to continue on with the next chapter. The story started like this: Kit, with his new camera, a bag lunch and Shadow walked to a beautiful meadow a couple of miles past the end of Silvermine Road on a sunny Spring day to take pictures of the deer in the meadow. He didn’t know that a large grizzly, named Angry One by native Indians who had driven him out of their area, was now on Goldie Mountain, near the meadow where Kit was headed. But then he also didn’t know that Thunderhead, an eight-foot tall Bigfoot, and his 6-foot tall son, also lived in the area.
This is Thunderhead, Kneel’s father – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)