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The Wild Bunch Too

Updated on July 15, 2020
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Rand Zacharias is a published freelance writer, author, poet, artist, photographer, and all around jack of many literary trades.

The Lake Demon on the Coat of Arms

Kelowna's Coat of Arms bears a bear...and the lake monster called, Ogopogo
Kelowna's Coat of Arms bears a bear...and the lake monster called, Ogopogo

The Wild Bunch Too

The unforgettable McDougalls…the stories continue.

Johnny McDougall, the patriarch of the Okanagan McDougalls, would cross the narrows of Lake Okanagan with a little pig or a chicken in his canoe during haying season. He would tie a rope from his team of horses to his canoe and as they neared the centre of the Okanagan Lake’s narrows he would drop the pig or chicken into the water. On one occasion, however, he forgot the small offering for the dreaded Ogopogo, and his strong two-horse team was pulled under the water. John was forced to cut the rope and save himself. The team of horses was never seen again. So went the fireside tale that John Baptiste McDougall told to many an early settler.

Susan Allison, an Englishwoman settler, records in her memoirs the fondness she had for McDougall tales. “These stories had a strange charm for me. I could have sat up all night and listened to them…”

The numerous McDougall sons were as adventurous as their father, and the raconteur nature of John Baptiste was passed on to his sons.

David, the third son, built the two-story cabin at Scotty Creek in the Ellison area. It was moved to Pandosy’s Mission in Kelowna in 1971 and can still be viewed today. The older members of his family spoke French, English, and Okanagan. French and Okanagan would be used when discussions were to be kept as “mysterious secrets” from the younger family members. David like his father was an avid hunter, guide, trapper, and miner. He was also a wonderful storyteller.

He would recite oral traditions of Coyote to his children and grandchildren that necessitated Terese, his wife, to keep her ears alert. Many of the graphic legend stories of Coyote were often filled with “disgusting and near sacrilegious” details. Terese was a very religious woman and tried to keep David’s stories gentle. David and Terese would travel by car as far as Quebec for religious days of celebration with their oldest son, Oliver, as chauffeur. They enjoyed music and dancing, and opened each celebration with the Scottish flag dance.

Joseph Norbett was the fourth son, and died at the age of four. He was buried at the Immaculate Conception Cemetery, Okanagan Mission on August 27, 1864. His marker was lost along with Father Pandosy’s as they were laid to rest in the same cemetery, only to be discovered by archaeologists a decade ago.

Henry, the next son, married Mary Vernon, daughter of Forbes Vernon, the founder of the city. The couple didn’t stay together long, but Henry like his father had many a skilful trait. Henry would inform those with questions of gold in the Okanagan tongue, “Yeah, you lift up the moss and it’s just yellow.”

Henry had a gift for finding gold and would show interested folk how the gold shone through the glacial ice in the mountains near Revelstoke. Henry was a wandering man like his father, and a grandniece, Christine Baines records her memories of Henry.

Uncle Henry, Mom’s uncle, was a very good violin player. And in his weekly trips to pick up his mail, he always stopped to have a home-cooked meal that Mom made, and after he ate he always took the violin and would play for an hour before he left on his horse.”

Amab died on Valentine’s Day in 1961. He was 92 and his gentle and patient nature may be the formula for longevity. One tale that occurred in 1900 is recorded in the Vernon News and displays Amab’s longsuffering nature.

“Constable Rose of Kelowna punctured the leg of A. McDougall last week. He was in search of a man named Smithson, wanted for horse stealing and meeting McDougall on the trail at night, mistook him for the man he was after. He ordered McDougall who was on horseback to stop but the man kept on when the constable warned him that he would shoot. McDougall paid no attention and the officer fired a shot over his head to intimidate him. This did not stop him, however, and the constable then fired again at the horse’s legs, the bullet striking McDougall in the knee. Not a serious wound.”

The brother born after Amab was Lesime. He had great carpentry skills and built homes for Ethel Jack, long-time chief, Pierre Louis, and Willie Marchand near Vernon. Lesime also loved to dance, and as a wanderer, he became a news carrier with tales of the Okanagan Valley. When asked where he got the news he would reply, “I heard it in the bushes.”

Urban was the youngest of the McDougall sons and married a Vernon woman named Madeline Jack. Shirley Louis’ We Heard it in the Bushes describes Urban’s granddaughters as… “The beautiful people.” She goes on to describe the exquisite facial features of Urban’s granddaughters being much like Madeline’s. Their beauty seems to have caused many a lingering admirer to stop and swoon and offer a hand. Apparently, this didn’t sit well with Madeline at times. She is recorded as being able to challenge a cougar to a battle and come out the winner, but gentle and caring when dealing with her family.

On Wednesday of last week, Shirley Louis, a fifth-generation McDougall, came to dinner here on Duck Lake where she lived as a child. She pointed out the place where she almost drowned…and the place where a favoured brother did drown. She was seventeen when her brother drowned while duck hunting. As John, the patriarch, died of drowning, I asked if perhaps the McDougalls live under the fire sign. She laughed. It seems the only thing that extinguishes the McDougall “fire” is water.

Shirley is still recording memoirs for her people. She sat down with us to eat Chinese, drink French wine, and speak peacefully on her Native land.

We told a number of stories to each other and laughed; it seemed a fitting memorial to the “wild bunch.” She signed the recently purchased copy of her latest book published by Theytus Books Ltd. It’s title is Q’sapi and is pronounced with a deep throated “KA…soppy.” It means “long time ago.” On the first page she autographed…What a wonderful day…time to re-acquaint with a long friend and make a new one. It will always have a positive effect in my life.
Friend for a lifetime.
Shirley Louis


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