Reflections of Ponoka: These Ponoka boys were farmers, hunters and cowboys

This delightful story was written by long-time district gentleman Jerry Fink for the Sept. 28, 1955 edition of the Ponoka Herald,

In this 1955 photo Brian Butterfield

By Jerry Fink and Mike Rainone

This delightful story was written by long-time district gentleman Jerry Fink for the Sept. 28, 1955 edition of the Ponoka Herald, and features some of our always ambitious district lads, as they strived to combine hard work and a busy family life with some great fun and sport.

Since it was too wet to harvest, Bud and Brian Butterfield, George Fink, and I decided to try our luck at some goat and sheep hunting last week. We left the Ponoka district on Friday, Sept. 16 and drove to Windy Point, located 24 miles southwest of Nordegg, arriving at 3 a.m. Saturday, and slept a few precious hours. As soon as the dawn broke we drove the six miles to the Cline River, where we cooked breakfast and each made a pack, consisting of a bed roll, food for two days, extra clothes and cooking and camping utensils. Heavily laden, we soon found it necessary to ford a waist-deep icy cold river before we could even begin the treacherous trail into the hunting country. After climbing six rugged miles we stopped to make a camp at noon where we ate our dinner.

Later we climbed the nearest peak and scanned the surrounding hills carefully with our binoculars. Brian finally spotted a goat far below him, and losing no time he fired and it was a good shot. While Brian scrambled down to skin that one, Bud and I saw two more climbing a distant mountain, which we set out after but to reach the spot proved to be a hazardous five-hour trek. On the way down we caught a fleeting glimpse of a big black bear, debating as to whether we should shoot him and scare our quarry or pass him up.

We decided to continue on the trail of our goats. It would be a tough but steady three-hour climb before we finally found them feeding along a narrow ledge on a sheer precipitous cliff about 350 yards away. We each shot twice before we actually got the range, and on Bud’s third shot one goat would hurtle out into space and fall into a canyon a good 600 or 700 feet below. My next shot took down my trophy goat.

Our good luck has now presented us with a serious problem as to how we were going to get our game out of that deep and rocky canyon. After a great deal of precarious scrambling we descended to the bottom, where we skinned the goats and secured the heads with horns, which measured 8.5 and nine inches respectively. (The world record Rocky Mountain goat head at that time was 11.75 inches). We followed the canyon out and reached open country near dark, then trudged back toward camp following a creek, and were very thankful that Brian and Uncle George had arrived there before dark, and fired a shot to direct us in about 11 p.m.

Wonder upon wonders, Uncle George had been fortunate enough to get a shot at still another goat after he and Brian had glassed a large vicinity and picked out three animals. George left Brian and walked all afternoon before he eventually came upon a goat standing on a cliff overlooking a creek some distance below. It would be quite a thrill for him to finally get his prize goat after so many years of big game hunting.

We spent all day Sunday packing out our equipment and getting back to the car, then left for home on Monday, stopping at Morningside to show Bud Harris our heads. Bud has hunted goats for a good many years and had told us where to go to seek out the elusive game.

It is interesting to note that for these ardent hunters from Ponoka and districts, a license in those days for deer, elk, and moose was $5 a season. Like countless other hardy pioneers of that era from around Ponoka and districts, these young men and their wives and families vigorously pursued their dreams, worked hard on their farms, ranches, and chosen businesses and professions, while never being afraid to enjoy many other activities and adventures at both the local and provincial level.

Jerry and George Fink established their homes, farms, and families in the Hazel Hill district, with Jerry Fink also dedicating many years of service to the long-standing Ponoka Fish and Game Association, including the formation of the pristine Lake Pofianga nature preserve just northwest of town. Brian and Bud Butterfield, and brother Tom forged a partnership in a joint 2,000-head feedlot and family farm operation that has successfully carried on for many decades and generations.

In those early years all three of those rambunctious boys also had rodeoing in their veins from a very young age, which along with the ongoing businesses success has always been proudly carried on by their sons and daughters and grandchildren. Along the way, Bud would win the Canadian Steer Wrestling Championship in 1956-58-59-60-62 and 1963, while Brian captured the same title in 1953-55-61 and 1965, as well as the All Round Championship in 1958 for top combined points in both the steer wrestling and bareback events.

And that same exciting tradition and desire to compete will always carry on.