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History: Williams Lake Sale

Reprinted from the November 1950
 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Williams Lake Sale
By Richard Andre

The old west — the real west — came to the life as hundreds of Cariboo ranchers, their cowboys, buyers and Calf Club youngsters came to Williams Lake to celebrate the 13th annual sale sponsored by the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association during the week of October 7th to October 13th.

All-time records for the region in both feeder calf prices and prices for registered bulls were made during the week, while commercial cattle were up during the sale, according to R. G. Waite, Association secretary.

The Williams Lake cattle sale is one of the few old time sales still going on. Cattle are driven hundreds of miles over the rugged Chilcotin trail and drives up to 300 miles are not uncommon. Breeding stock is brought to the sale by the leading British Columbia breeders.

Feeder calves were in excellent demand, far exceeding the supply. Thirteen head owned by Lee Avery Pigeon were bought by L. Turcott. In all there were only a little over 200 head offered.

Altogether there were 1,810 head of cattle sold during the sale, a drop from the 3,368 which went through the ring last year. Ranchers reported better feed conditions and were holding on to their stock.

L. to r.: Martha Twan, Pat Webster, Nora Twan and Tom Windt of the Narcosll Calf Club, which placed first at the 13th Annual Cariboo Feeder & Fat Cattle Sale. Williams Lake, B.C. Martha’s calf was the Grand Champion fat animal, Pat Webster won the Reserve Championship and first for showmanship, Tom Windt won first in judging.
photo: Supplied

A load of show steers, consisting of ten head owned by Dan L. Lee of Hanceville sold for $25.58 per cwt. to L. Henderson, packing house buyer, while the rest of the prices varied between 22 and 25 cents.

Bright and early Saturday, Oct. 7th the first of the livestock began to arrive. Penning and weighing started under the direction of Ray Pigeon, rancher and sales manager, and by late Tuesday all the cattle were in the barns and the pens awaiting the start of judging.

Judging of both the commercial and the breeding cattle started Wednesday morning. Martha Twan won the Grand Champion steer honours and the Dave Spencer challenge trophy. Reserve Champion honours were won by Pat Webster, last year’s winner, who also was awarded the showmanship prize.

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V.E. Ellison, Oyama, B.C. was awarded Grand Champion bull honours for Kaiwood Beau Donald. Mr. and Mrs. Leonard C. Johnson, RR2 Heffley Creek, B.C., garnered (the) Reserve Champion ribbon with their Victory Domina 10th.

During the commercial and club steer sales Thursday buyers reversed the judges. The reserve champion steer owned by Pat Webster brought 45 cents per pound, while the champion sold for only 30 cents.

Friday at the bull sale, the reserve champion outnosed the grand champion. Ben Jaffee and John Wood, owners and operators of the Chilco ranch, bought the reserve champion for $1,725, while the grand champion was purchased by the Alkali Lake ranch for $1,700.

All the selling and the judging was done in the new $5,000 sales ring which was just completed.

Ross Phillips, well-known British Columbia cattleman, judged the commercial and individual fat classes. J. Bulman judged the breeding classes.

Hon. Harry Bowman, minister of agriculture, attended the sale and pointed out what can be done and has been done by ranchers cooperating with their associations.

Shortly after the sale was completed special stock trains of the Pacific Great Eastern Railroad pulled alongside the yards. As soon as the inspection was done, cowboys started the loading and in less than two hours the first trains pulled out, southward bound.

Only someone who knows the Cariboo and the Chilcotin realizes what accomplishments the sale means. Ranchers operate in 50-below-zero weather during the winter when roads are often blocked by snow. In the spring the worst enemy is mud.

Right now, led by their Association, under Lord Martin Cecil, owner-operator of the famous Hundred Mile Ranch, who is the president, they are improving the breed of other ranch cattle. That’s why the bull sale is held and helps to bring in new breeding blood.

Sales week in Williams Lake is a unique experience. Restaurants and hotels are crowded. The PGE brings in two or three sleepers to help with the room situation but still people sleep everywhere and often spend hours in a restaurant awaiting daylight.

Thursday night, after the commercial cattle sale, a banquet is held and Friday night, after the bull sale, the week winds up with the Klondike Night. Saturday, all the ranchers are homeward bound for a winter of hard work, with no play.

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