Johnny Boychuk

Written by Canmore Museum

I was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, on June 16, 1905. I have one sister who is now ninety-two years old and living in Kamloops.

My mother, a nice lady, died when I was four years old. My father took us to stay often with aunts and uncles. We lived in an orphanage for about a year. Then we became foster children of Katie and Mike Fouhse of Chelton district, south of Spalding, Saskatchewan.

In 1986, I heard Katie was living in Naicam, Saskatchewan. I phoned her and made the contact. I had heard that my sister had married Katie’s brother but we had all lost touch somehow. My various jobs: cowboy, rodeos, outfitting, guiding all over the country, and overseas during the war, were all part of the reason. 

In 1988, we had the reunion up here at my home, sixty years later. Katie’s sons and daughter, my sister who had married Pete Konrad, plus my nieces and nephews all came. Now I finally have a close family.

Going back to when I was young on Saskatchewan farms with the cattle and horses, there were always horses in my life. Now, it seems, this was supposed to be. I had this urge, like it is said, “Go west, young man, go west”. In the early 1920’s, I came to Calgary. I did return to Saskatchewan, but the west was in my blood, so to speak. I ended up in Banff, doing mason work on the Banff Springs Hotel. It was bitterly cold, especially in 1926. I worked with the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.), eventually getting into outfitting and guiding big hunting trips for outfits like Earl Storm at the Assiniboine. The lodge and cabins were there by that time. I did the same type of work with Pat Brewster and Claude Brewster.

I joined the Canadian Army during the Second World War and went to England, Dieppe, returning to Jasper in 1944. I was a truck driver. In Jasper, the Canadian army helped the Salvation Army with food supplies from Jasper Park Lodge. About this time, I realized I would like my own farm, or ranch. I searched out many places, including Fort Steele. In 1947-48, I took pack trains of horses up the Spray and did diamond drilling for a reservoir for Calgary Power.

In 1949-50, I was a cowboy, herding and dealing with hundreds of head of cattle at Douglas Lake. Perhaps only talking to those cows made me return to Alberta’s mountain area and the horses. I bought out the outfits in the Parks and those included outfitting, guiding into Emerald Lake, Lake O’Hara, Wapiti, Yoho and the Banff area, etc., plus big game areas. Many times movies were made but they never would let us have copies.

In 1955, I had my log home close to the graveyard, in full view of the Hoodoos, with no electricity or running water. I loved it but progress changed things, along with the new highway. I therefore had to move. I took up living up where the stables were and still are today. Yes, there are many changes here, too.

In 1975, I stopped doing the outfitting, guiding, big game trips, sticking to the saddle horses. Eventually, we had wagon and sleigh rides, along with carriage rentals and boarding horses. As our herd grew, in winter we trucked many of the horses to farms and ranches on the prairies.  We still kept many here, so that meant hauling feed from farmers and ranchers. This also meant we were always busy here with the horses. I had government leases, so there was always lots of range for our animals to roam and for the trail rides. People came from all over the world to be able to ride up into these valleys under these mountain Peaks.

It was a good move for me to settle in Canmore. People were nice and friendly and they still are. Amongst our tourist attractions are the rabbits. My friend, Ray McBride, another outfitter, gave me one rabbit, “What is one little rabbit?” I did not know how to tell – boy, girl – I think Ray probably knew but those rabbits we all still enjoy.

I still live in my trailer on the hill with a full view of the mountains that I love to see. I can watch the ranch still in action and the progress with the new owners, “Cross Zee”. I am happy to have Community Health people who help, plus BowCare. They make it possible for me to stay in my own home. Irene Randle asked me how I got my horse “Piper”; her mother was a “wildie”. At one time, planes were used to round up the wildies, getting them to leave their hide-a-ways. This poor little colt could not keep up and got separated from the mother in all their panic. The pilot called rangers to come up and see if they could find the colt. This they did and Mickey Gilmore at Ya Tinda nursed it along for a year or so. He took the colt to Banff where I saw her and bought her. She lived with me for about thirty-six years. Luckily I had good help with the business, making lifelong friends.

Personal note from Irene Randle:

“Johnny’s Riding Stables were a big part of so many lives in Canmore. My children practically lived up there. Johnny understands horses. Today we hear of the Horse Whisperer stories, and others. Well, I believe Johnny has that as did my dad with the hundreds we had at one time. Selling our last two here, Johnny was the one; he cared for the animals. T.L.C. Sandy, much to our surprise, did not take to being a dude horse; Breezie, the rascal did, though only superb riders were put on him. Johnny said “Sandy is sad, not happy” – he needs some little girl like Tracie for him. Johnny found that little girl. I saw Sandy in his new home and he had joy in his eyes; he was happy – thanks to Johnny. Sandy died, peacefully and happy, of a heart attack one winter.

Thank you Johnny, I am so glad.”

Johnny Boychuk

In Canmore Seniors at the Summit, ed. Canmore Seniors Association, 2000, p. 23-25.

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