I'll dream the river is guiding you home,
As long as the coyotes remember your song,
You'll never be gone.
— All the Old Cowboys by Joy Gray Mazzola
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Old-timers once called him Shorty or Junior, but Stephen Archachan is known to most as Hyde, a cowboy who commands respect in the Nicola Valley and beyond.
Hyde and his younger brother Walter were cleaning up hay twine in a corral at the Upper Nicola Indian Reserve at Nicola Lake when The Daily News pulled up.
A member of the Syilx (Okanagan) Nation, Hyde will be ushered into the B.C. Cowboy of Fame tonight in the category of working cowboy, an honour he's earned on trails and in arenas over a period spanning more than 60 years.
Born in 1934 in a willow bush at Quilchena Creek, Hyde has been "cowboyin'" since 1950. It's not surprising that a young boy growing up surrounded by ranches in the valley at Quilchena — which means where flat land meets water — would take to horses like a duck to water.
He continues to work as a cowboy and remains active in calf roping in the rodeo arena. When he's working in the saddle, his three loyal cow dogs will be at his side, understanding only the native Okanagan language.
"Once in a while I go to Quilchena to work," he said casually, sounding like a man much younger than his 78 years. "I used to do all the ranch work."
Riding and roping run in the family. His father, Johnny, worked for the Guichon Ranch most of his life. When Hyde was a boy, he roped horses and calves at the arena, so he had the basic skills when he started his working life. There seems to be a tenacious streak in the family as well.
"My old grandfather broke his last horse when he was 88 years old. He got on that horse, come down here, camped that night, then he went to town."
Hyde first worked as a cowboy at the Guichon Ranch. When he wasn't working, he broke horses for $10 a head. He grew to be one of the fastest calf ropers in the area.
"We didn't have no trucks and trailers," he recalled, taking a break from chores. "You'd just ride from way back, pushing cattle and steers."
In the late '50s, he went to work for Mike Ferguson, the longtime cow boss at nearby Douglas Lake Ranch, the largest working cattle ranch in the country.
"Cowboys from Washington State, cowboys from Alberta and some from up north, from Williams Lake and Prince George. They all came to the Douglas Lake Ranch to cowboy, just to find out how they worked."
He was keen to learn the lay of the land — "I'm going to learn all the country," he told them — and set about doing just that. An oldtimer named Slim Campbell, recognizing Hyde's skills, mentored him as a cowboy.
"I kept watching. That's how I kind of learned …. My Dad told me, he said, 'You listen to what they do. When you read the cattle, it's just like turning a page over, reading a book.' "
The days were long and the rides sometimes longer on a spread more than 200,000 hectares in size. He recalled the day they counted 16,000 head.
Each season brought its own share of jobs. If he wasn't turning out the herds, he was branding cattle, horse-breaking, haying or cutting and brushing trails in all kinds of weather. He recalled one day in particular when the crew rose at midnight, rode out to Douglas Lake cow camp and then onto White Lake. Next they checked on the steers, another long ride. For the ride back, they'd leave at 1 a.m. and arrive at Quilchena in late afternoon.
"You rest up. You start at four o'clock in the morning in spring. You lie down, you're so tired you go right to sleep. Then you give them a rest and you go another few miles."
He moved on to John Lauder's ranch, Blue Ridge Ranch in Lillooet, and worked for a spell in Westsyde and on the Bonaparte Plateau before signing on at the Nicola Ranch from 1993 to 2010.
Hyde was at Nicola Ranch in 2005 when a horse he was riding flipped over backwards and landed on him. Though doctors said he'd never walk or ride again, he was back in the saddle two years later, working and team roping.
Memorabilia from his rodeo exploits lines the walls of his home, including all kinds of buckles, the ones he didn't give away to family members. He's won two saddles, including one just a few years back at the Kamloops Pro Rodeo.
The oldtimers sometimes called him Shorty, because of his stature, but he acquired a new nickname after a casual observation at a dance.
"I seen this girl there I was going to ask to dance. I said, 'She's got a nice lookin' hide,' " he chuckled. "So he called me Hyde. Right to this day, I'm Hyde."
So is the road on which he lives, named in his honour by the band. Any day now, he'll be headed down that road to work.
"It's a lot of work. Lots say it's an easy job, but it isn't. You start early in the morning and you've got a long ride.
"I was thinking one day I should get somebody to write me a story about all my cowboy life," he said.
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FESTIVAL FOUNDER INDUCTED INTO HALL OF FAME
Kamloops Cowboy Festival opens Friday night with a tip of the hat to the cowboy who founded Canada’s largest celebration of western heritage more than 17 years ago.
Mike Puhallo will be posthumously inducted into the B.C. Cowboy Hall of Fame in the category of artistic achievements, of which he had many.
Puhallo, who passed away from cancer two years ago, was not only the driving force behind the festival’s success, he was a founder of its parent organization, the B.C. Cowboy Heritage Society, and the hall of fame itself.
As the country’s most published cowboy poet, he wore his passion for western heritage on his sleeve and worked tirelessly to promote Kamloops as a focal point for western culture.
“Look at our history. Look at our landscape,” he wrote in a letter to the editor 14 years ago. “We are the West!”
Born in Kamloops, Puhallo went to work as a cowboy at Douglas Lake Ranch in the 1960s after graduating from high school. He went on to become a partner in Twilight Ranch in the Chilcotin. He returned to Westsyde, where he raised a family and rode for ranchers in the hills above his home. In the late ’90s, he quit his job to focus on his artwork — painting, writing songs and performing his folk-style poetry.
Along with Puhallo and Nicola Valley cowboy Steve Archachan, six other names will be added to the hall of fame archives listed at bcchs.com.
Two other working cowboys — the late John Dodd (1915-1995) and Larry Ramstad, who manages the Gang Ranch — will be inducted along with Archachan.
The Pooley Ranch, founded in 1908 but with roots in the Nicola Valley going back the early 1870s, will be named this year’s Century Ranch. The category honours many of B.C.’s most venerable family ranches.
The Pozzobon family, descendants of the late Sammy Pozzobon, born in Kamloops in 1927, will be recognized for their rodeo achievements. Sammy entered his first rodeo in 1942 and went on to become a lifetime gold-card member of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association.
He passed on his love of fast horses and rodeo to his children and grandchildren. Professional bull and rodeo rider Ty Pozzobon upholds tradition. He was named Canadian rodeo rookie of the year in 2010. The family continues to reside at their ranch on the Pemberton Range.
Archie Williams, a Cache Creek native who still competes in rodeo at age 68, will be recognized for his achievements in the arena. He is a five-time B.C. team roping champion.
Clinton-area rancher Frank Teer (1916-1999) will be posthumously inducted in the category of ranching pioneer.