BOUDREAU, Jack (1933- )

Author Tags: Forestry, Outdoors

Born on Bebruary 4, 1933 in the small community of Penny in the central B.C., located between the McGregor and Upper Fraser Rivers, Jack Boudreau, of French/Austrian descent, received the Jeanne Clark Memorial Local History Award in 1999. He spent more than fifty years studying grizzly bears in their mountain habitat during my spare time, resulting in his book Grizzly Bear Mountain. He also spent many years fighting wildfires for the Ministry of Forests and eventually was employed full-time with them until his retirement in 1993. He also spent eleven years acting as postmaster and an additional ten years as a licensed scaler. Other part time jobs have included sawmill work, cruising timber and guiding.

Wild and Free (Caitlin $24.95) concerns the life and times of the cranky, legendary mountain man Skook Davidson, as recalled by his protégé Frank Cooke. Arriving in the Kechika Valley in 1939, Skook was known for throwing the cork into the creek whenever he opened a bottle of whiskey, thereby ensuring it would all be consumed at once. Wild and Free has humour, famous people (the Prince of Iran), tragedy and “lots of fighting.”

Sternwheelers and Canyon Cats: Whitewater Freighting on the Upper Fraser (Caitlin 2006) recalls the men who made their living running the rapids of the Grand Canyon of the Fraser River that reputedly swallowed more than 200 rafters between 1862 and 1921. A total of twelve steamers worked the upper Fraser during that period bringing freight and supplies to northern B.C. before the onset of the Grand Trunk Railway. [For additional information, see below.]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Whitewater Devils: Adventure on Wild Waters
Wilderness Dreams & Frontier Cultural Complex


King of the Mountain (Caitlin 2014) 978-1-927575-42-0
Whitewater Devils: Adventure on Wild Waters (Caitlin Press, 2010) 978-1-894759-46-5 : $22.95.
Trappers and Trailblazers. (Caitlin Press, 2009)
Sternwheelers & Canyon Cats. (Caitlin Press, 2006)
Wild & Free. (Caitlin Press, 2004)
Wilderness Dreams. (Caitlin Press, 2003)
Mountains, Campfires & Memories. (Caitlin Press, 2002)
Grizzly Bear Mountain. (Caitlin Press, 2000)
Crazy Man's Creek. (Caitlin Press, 1998)

[BCBW 2010] "Outdoors" "Forestry"

Wilderness Dreams

Tentatively called Wilderness Dreams, Boudreau’s fourth title due this fall will be about Hap and Clara Bowden who homesteaded and guided in the area east of Quesnel. It encompasses a rectangular area between Quesnel, Barkerville, Likely and Alexandria. “Hap has many memories from his logging days on the coast,” Boudreau recalls. “Such as the time he got into a fight at a dance. As they fell to the ground together, this gentleman must have believed he was Mike Tyson because he sank his teeth into Hap’s cheek. They wrestled around a bit until Hap got free, only to have the fellow bite him again in a different spot. Desperately Hap searched for a way out, and suddenly his hand touched what turned out to be a full bottle of beer in the man’s pocket. With all his strength Hap struck the man across the head with the bottle, then felt him relax. Unconscious, he was taken to the hospital where he recovered. Hap re-entered the hall where his boss said, ‘The son of a bitch bit you. He got what was coming to him.’ And the incident was never mentioned again.”


Grizzly Bear Mountain (Caitlin $18.95)

“Why,” a young woman from Cape Breton wondered the other day in our bookstore, “are there so many local history books in B.C.?” She was looking at shelves of books like This Was Our Valley, Crooked River Rats, Atlin’s Gold, Unfriendly Neighbours, A Western Doctor’s Odyssey, Trail to the Interior and so on, books that recount the lives of by and large ordinary folk homesteading, trapping, prospecting in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The obvious part of the answer is that in our day time has lost its moorings. What seemed commonplace and unremarkable a few decades ago—work in sawmills, moose in the garden, salmon in the rivers, a landscape not yet logged over, a scattered community of tough men who knew the bush and women who could equally play the piano and shoot a bear—has mostly vanished. But many of the people from those times are still around, and not even especially old. They are eager to tell their stories, to rescue what is still so real in memory from the amnesia of the present.

A new but classic example of the local history genre is Grizzly Bear Mountain (Caitlin $18.95) by Jack Boudreau. It comes on the heels of Boudreau’s bestseller Crazy Man’s Creek, his personalized history of the little-known interior town of Penny and its surrounding area along the Fraser River east of Prince George. Grizzly Bear Mountain is a veritable forest of anecdotes about growing up in the bush, about encounters with grizzly bears, about fighting forest fires, about the isolation of winter along a narrow ribbon of river and railway. These are stories told around the wood stove, and they all begin (at least implicitly): “I remember this one time when...” The reader knows the stories are all true, knows they all happened not far away, and knows that they all have something telling to reveal about the habits of animals, about the processes of nature, or about the strengths and weaknesses of human character. What makes such books problematic is that, despite their sincerity and effort to be accurate, they are still stories, and all stories tend toward the crafted, the fabulous, the unavoidably literary. The impulse to create legends is just as real as the impulse to record the truth. In fact, the two become hard to distinguish as time goes by.

An interesting case in point, when it comes to rescuing truth from amnesia, is the history of the exploration of the Nahanni River in the 1930s. A number of trappers and prospectors travelled the remote river, and news of their exploits found its way into books like R.M. Patterson’s Dangerous River, into newspaper reports and into the pages of the RCMP Quarterly of the day. [Local history buffs might want to know that a mountain in the Highwood Range of southwest Alberta has just been named after R.M. Patterson and this fall publisher David Finch of Rocky Mountain Books in Calgary will release a new biography, R.M. Patterson: A Life of Great Adventure. The naming of Patterson Peak will be celebrated with a gathering on August 19, 2000. Raymond M. Patterson’s books include a history of Kamloops as well as Trail to the Interior, his account of a journey through the Stikine-Dease watershed in the 1960s, and Finlay’s River, an anthology of Finlay River lore and experience, published in 1972.] Hand in hand with these mostly reliable journalistic reports on the Nahanni were legends of a fabulous lost gold mine, of a tropical valley heated by hotsprings and of missing men whose headless bodies turned up years later. 0-920576-81-8

[George Sipos / BCBW 2000]

Sternwheelers and Canyon Cats: Whitewater Freighting on the Upper Fraser

Ex-timber cruiser, scaler, forester, postmaster, guide and no-nonsense raconteur Jack Boudreau has matured into one of the leading historians for the heartland of the province. In his sixth book, Sternwheelers and Canyon Cats: Whitewater Freighting on the Upper Fraser (Caitlin $18.95), Jack Boudreau recalls the men who made a living running the rapids of the Grand Canyon of the Fraser River. Twelve steamers plied that dangerous section of river between 1862 and 1921—when more than 200 rafters lost their lives—bringing freight and supplies to northern B.C. prior to the onset of the Grand Trunk Railway. “The main reason I got involved in writing,” he says, “was because many of the pioneer-type people were passing on and taking an incredible legacy with them. This has spurred me to action.”

BC BOOKWORD: In the 1930s, the interior was once described as “a land of hard-drinking and hard-working men of many nationalities, many of whom laughed at the perils of the road.” Is that still part of the Cariboo-Chilcotin mystique?
JACK BOUDREAU: I feel the macho era has ended. It has no place in modern society.
Years ago, if two people decided to go outside and settle things, the law usually looked the other way. This no longer applies.
BCBW: Do you have any specific geographic definition for where “the Interior” is?
BOUDREAU: I suppose my definition of the Interior would include an approximate piece of real estate stretching from Quesnel to Fort Ware, and from McBride to Smithers.
At the same time, I have heard other people define it as being within 150 km. of Prince George.
BCBW: Do you sometimes view the Interior as its own mini-nation or province, within an artificial construct called British Columbia?
BOUDREAU: No! Instead I define
the Interior along latitudinal much more than along longitudinal lines. I simply write about the area I am most familiar with. It’s not more complicated than that.
BCBW: When you were growing up in Penny, what were your literary influences?
BOUDREAU: From childhood I always had a voracious appetite for read-
ing. The adventures of such people as Lewis and Clark filled my world with wonder. I was never into pure fiction, possibly because I lived so close to the reality of nature.
BCBW: What are some of the better archives for doing research on the B.C. interior within the region itself?
BOUDREAU: If I must single out one source, I have to salute the local public library for being my greatest assistant. I do not believe I could have been so successful without their endless and much-appreciated help.

Canyon Cats 1-894759-20-6

[BCBW 2007]