Author Tags: Local History, Women

Diana French was raised on Quadra Island. In 1951 she followed the road west to teach in a one-room school in Chezacut, a community of three ranches twenty miles off the Chilcotin Road. She then married Rob French, the son of Chilcotin pioneers. In 1970 the Frenches settled in Williams Lake and Diana worked as a reporter and later an editor of the Tribune. She is currently on the board of the Open Learning Agency, and is curator of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Women of Brave Mettle: More Stories from the Cariboo Chilcotin


Extraordinary Women Vol. 2: Women of Brave Mettle: More Stories from the Cariboo Chilcotin (Caitlin, 2012) $26.95 978-1-894759-86-1
The Road Runs West: A Century Along the Bella Bella / Chilcotin Highway [Harbour, 1994] $24.95 978-1-55017-141-9
Ranchland: British Columbia's Cattle Country [Harbour, 2001] Photography by Rick Blacklaws. $39.95 978-1-55017-232-4

[BCBW, 2012]

Ranchland: British Columbia's Cattle Country (Harbour $39.95)

Coming from a venerable family tradition of B.C. ranchers stretching back to the 1860s, Nicola Valley's Laurie and Judy Guichon were a bit tentative when they went to a holistic ranch management seminar. "We wondered what we were getting ourselves into," Judy says." It sounded like some kind of cult, but once you realize the implications of what you are doing, you have to do it right. You feel guilty if you don't."

Doing it right involves a grazing plan that allows the soil and grass time to recuperate. It involves maintaining everything from the roots up and considering the cow to be the last link of the chain. Laurie believes that if ranchers keep putting money into the mechanics of ranching, they will end up like B.C.'s fishermen, who invest in bigger boats, better technology and end up with no fish. He believes that if you look after the land, it will look after you: that the goal is not maximum production, it is quality of life and the sustainability of the natural 'capital'-the land, particularly the health of the soil and the watershed.

The pioneering Guichon Ranch is just one of the 24 profiled in Diana French and Rick Blacklaws' Ranchland: British Columbia's Cattle Country (Harbour $39.95). With more than 150 of Blacklaws' photos, an index and a 'cattle country' glossary for the city reader, Ranchland focuses on the best-known ranching areas-the Cariboo, Chilcotin, Thompson, Nicola and Okanagan.

Laurie and Judy Guichon come from a long line of ranchers with brains. In the 1860s, ranch founder Joseph Guichon believed in proper range management and stock breeding. In the early 1900s, Lawrence Guichon, dubbed the Dean of BC ranchers, was known for his work in restoring Nicola's grasslands, which had fallen victim to overgrazing and grasshopper invasion. Lawrence's son Gerard Guichon took a leading role in grass management groups at the local, provincial and national levels, and was inducted into the Order of Canada and the Cattlemen's Hall of Fame in Billings, Montana.

Despite his hall-of-fame lineage, Laurie likes recalling the small lessons he's learned. On nature walks, if Laurie poked at a rock or a log, his grandfather would explain how he was disturbing the home of some living creature. When Ospreys were nesting in a pine tree within the path of his father's self-pivoting irrigation system, he and his father reversed the sprinkler arm by hand every day. The largest cattle operation in Canada is the Douglas Lake Ranch, east of Merritt. Started in 1872, it stretches nearly 100 km from north to south. It has 7,000 mother cows, 350 bulls and 250 horses. Employees include a cow boss, a farm boss, twenty cowboys in spring, twenty farmhands in peak season, one mechanic, two-and-a-half truck drivers, two cooks, two seasonal camp cooks, two egg ladies, one manager, three office staff, one accountant, one purchasing agent/storekeeper, one-and-a-half storekeepers, one teacher, one recreation manager and up to eighteen recreation staff in peak season.

Williams Lake's Diana French has been a reporter and editor of the Williams Lake Tribune. White Rock's Rick Blacklaws is a landscape photographer: his last book The Fraser River won the 1997 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize.1-55017-232-8

[BCBW Spring 2002]