For a person who spent most of his adult life working within the provincial bureaucracy, former Wells Gray Park ranger Herb Green displays a surprising amount of irreverent humor.
“Can you imagine someone like Herb working for BC Parks today?” asked local resident Hazel Wadlegger after Green gave an amusing account of his time as Wells Gray Park ranger 60 years ago.
He gave his talk during a storytelling evening in Upper Clearwater Hall on Friday evening, March 21.
The evening was part of a two-day “Cabin Fever” event staged by the hall’s social committee. It was followed by an afternoon tea at the hall on Saturday afternoon.
Green recalled that when he first arrived in the Upper Clearwater in the spring of 1953, he remembered Hazel (then a young Hazel Ludtke) and her brother and sister running out to their fence to wave at him.
“I tell you, I liked them when I saw them and I still like them,” Green said.
Wadlegger clarified that they didn’t run out to wave at him because they were being friendly. She and her siblings wanted to see if he would get stuck in the mud-hole in front of their property, she said.
Green had the audience of close to 50 people at the storytelling evening laughing as he told them the story of how he and biologist Ralph Ritcey went north to Burns Lake to collect a year-old Jerry the Moose. The animal had been raised from a calf by a farmer there and Ritcey felt it would help with his scientific studies.
Unfortunately, the farmer, Charlie Simpson, hadn’t been informed in time and had released the moose into the wild.
The three split up into “teams of one” to look for the animal.
Green, who said he was afraid of moose, was the first to spot Jerry.
“I saw a moose rubbing its nose on a telephone pole. I got close and could see a tag in its ear. I said to myself, ‘There he is. That’s Jerry the Moose,’” he said.
He turned and started walking away but the moose began following him. He walked a little faster and the moose kept up. Soon he was running, with the moose trotting along behind.
“I jumped a fence and leapt into a tree, but it bent down to the ground,” Green said.
He grabbed a big stick and beat the animal with it.
Jerry looked surprised and then walked away sulkily like a rejected child.
The park ranger ran and told the farmer, Simpson, who got a mangle (a kind of large turnip) to lure the moose.
They got the moose into the barn, and then loaded it into a box on the back of their truck.
“And that’s how Jerry the Moose came to Wells Gray Park,” Green said.
Born in Enderby, Green started work for BC Forest Service in 1950. He was park ranger for Wells Gray Park from 1953 to 1965 and lived in the cabins next to Hemp Creek, a few hundred meters south of Helmcken Falls Lodge. He later was a regional director, overseeing parks in the north such as Spatzizi and Liard Hot Springs.
Green retired from the civil service in 1987 but then worked as a hunting guide, only retiring from that occupation four years ago.
He and his wife, Eleanor, presently live in Smithers.
A Grizzly Tale
Another story told during the evening at Upper Clearwater Hall was one written by Bill Ludtke and read by Sharon Neufeld.
Bills’ father, Fred Ludtke, had homesteaded the property near where Clearwater Springs is now.
“We had more bears than a rancher cares for,” Bill wrote.
The encounter occurred in 1954 when Bill was just seven years old.
Their father spent the day out on the range while the children played in the garden.
Before dark, their mother came and fetched the children home.
About five minutes later their father came home, walked down the same trail, and encountered a grizzly bear at close range.
The bear charged, Fred Ludtke shot it, and it ran away, wounded.
The father followed it but, being unable to see under a particular spruce, turned back and went home.
The following morning he and Bill went back to look for the animal.
They looked under the spruce and found that, in fact, the bear had been bedding down there. There were even the remains of an animal it had eaten.
If Bill’s father had taken another step forward the night before, he almost certainly would have been killed or seriously mauled.
About a 100 feet further on they found the bear. It tried to stand but Bill’s father quickly shot it a second time, killing it.