It was mid winter of 1970-71 and the low arc scribed by the sun in the Southern horizon, had been completed a short time ago. The temperature was dropping as the twilight deepened, causing the snow to crunch with high pitched squeaks, the sound of which could carry for a mile. This could be a real concern when hunting, moose would lift their heads and stare directly at you, even though there was not a possibility their poor eyesight would allow them to spot you. Moose were a common sight mid winter, and in fact a few of them were hanging around the willows that surrounded our house, a fact not lost on the loyal dog that was growling with a deep warning growl as I chopped wood. The school bus from Chetwynd had dropped us off about an hour before, and after walking home we boys had been hard at attending to the chores we did daily at the ranch. We usually shared feeding the fifty head of cows Dad had, and it was my chore to split the wood, and help with hauling water from the well. I also filled the lamps with kerosene and white gas (depending on the lamp). The well was about 8 feet deep to the water surface with about 3 feet of water depth. Hauling water involved taking the large wooden pole left there for that purpose and using it to break the ice that had formed the night before and during the day, despite the wooden cover we had built over the hole. Once the ice was broken I could drop a bucket on a rope down the hole, and with a bit of judicious jiggling and yanking, cause water to enter the bucket. Once full it was pulled from the surface and hauled into the house. It took quite a bit of water to take care of a family of seven, but not as much as it would if we lived “in town”. Baths were sponge baths, laundry was done by hand if needed, otherwise it would wait till we went to town and the laundromat. There were no flush toilets, and you did not use more than necessary to wash the dishes, because of course, once the water was used, you had to haul it back out and pour it on the landscape. Looking back, it would seem the way we lived at the time seemed harsh, yet then it just was what it was. Dad never finished that house he had started years before, an ‘A’ frame style. There was very little insulation in the attic that was open at both ends to the wind and snow. The walls were the same, and of course the floor was boards held off the ground by the slowly rotting logs that formed the foundation. The windows were single pane glass, the windows that enjoyed the magnificent view across the valley to the range of mountains to the South, often blew out when the Chinook winds hit in the mid winter. It was common practise in the North to ‘bank’ snow around ones house once winter set in, to offer some insulation and protection from the wind, but our ‘A’ frame had the added bonus of snow sliding down the roof and building up on the lower portion that offered some added insulation. Non-the-less, it still took a steady supply of wood to heat the house. In the deepest dark of winter with all fires roaring, water left on the floor would often freeze. Mom used to sweep and mop the floor simultaneously by shovelling snow onto the floor and then sweeping it up. The snow crystals would pick up any dirt and leave a hint of moisture to help with cleaning. I made it my task to have enough wood split and hauled into the house so that Mom would not run short till I was home again. I always wanted to have a day and half of wood on hand so that if something happened to me, there would be at least that much on hand. Splitting wood was not just chopping the round segments into large blocks, there were different sizes needed for different needs. First of all there was the kindling, small pieces of wood, perhaps a half to one inch in diameter that was used for starting the fire(s). These were only used occasionally to coax the coals in the wood cook stove to life, as most times the fires were not allowed to go out. Next would be several armloads of wood approximately two to three inches in diameter. These burned quickly providing a burst of heat that could be easily controlled, and were needed for cooking the daily bread etc. Finally, there were larger blocks of wood, four inches to 10 that would be used both in the wood cook stove and the wood heater. Chores often involved a bit of banter and it must be said that the various chores were shared by we five brothers depending on age, ability and strength. I would split the wood, we would all haul it into the house. We shared hauling the water, and feeding the cows, and carrying out the slop. Unless the temperature was really in the tank, then the oldest siblings would shoulder the bulk of the load. So it was that I found myself splitting the last of the wood as the last light of day caught the sparkles of ice crystals hanging in the air. I buried the axe in the chopping block and bent down to load the smaller pieces I had cut for the cooking fire into my bent arm. Ol’ Blondie, our trusty dog had been growling a deep persistent growl for a few minutes, a growl I had ignored, not even bothering to lift my head thinking it would just be the moose I mentioned earlier, hanging out nearby. My arms full of wood I stood up, and noted that Blondie’s growl had changed pitch and hackles up, she took a stiff legged step to my right, gazing intently in that direction. What ever had her attention was a) not a moose, b) close enough to cause concern. I glanced over the direction she was looking and immediately saw a cougar crouching at the bottom of a large willow, just the other side of the dry stream course that held our well. It was about 40 feet away, and it was obvious it had been stalking me. I could see the tracks left in the snow, and as I looked at the cougar and our eyes locked, it dropped to its belly and flicking it’s fluffy tail, laid back it’s ears, bared it fangs and hissed at me! I was some distance from the house, maybe 50 feet and I knew better than to run for it. I carefully put the load of wood down and slowly stepped back, then another step and another. My senses heightened I could hear the crunch/sqeeeak of every step in the packed snow between the wood block and the house, I could hear Blondie growling down deep in her chest and see the hair on her neck rising, off in the distance I could hear the trees splitting with cold from root to bough with the sound of a rifle shot. I tried to call Blondie to me, but she stayed facing the cougar, growling and covering my escape. She slowly backed to the house as well, but the cougar began leaping through the deep snow towards us, just as I stepped onto the porch. This where things sped up… Barging through the door of the house, I exclaimed to Mom’s startled look “There’s a cougar out there!” and I yanked the old .303 British Jungle Carbine off the wall. It was always loaded and I rammed a shell into the chamber as I went back through the door, Mom hot on my heels to see which way I would head, (she was sure I had seen a coyote in the field or some such thing). I passed through the door of the house and spun to my right to the entrance of the small porch. Blondie jumped onto the porch growling. The cougar had advanced to within about 25 feet of the house and seeing me came leaping straight in leaping through the deep unpacked powder snow in high arching bounds. Mom jumped back into the house, slamming the door. I tried to get a ‘bead’ on the cougar, but the high bounds were putting me off, finally I gave up trying to get sights on the cat and at the last moment with the cougar no more than six feet away, I simply pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. I missed it completely. But the cat, slammed by the muzzle blast, turned aside and bounded off, with me in hot pursuit. I reloaded and shot again with the cougar about 30 yards out. A two and half inch poplar tree snapped clean off and fell over, the cat kept going. The deep snow was starting to slow it down, and I shot again at about fifty yards, and this time the cougar bunched up, head down. It kicked a few times, tail in the air and then lay still. Holy crap! I sure was not expecting to have an African experience while completing my humdrum chores after school! But there it was, I had killed an almost man-eater! Thanks to my dog Blondie, I was here to tell the tale. I don’t think the cat was after the dog as has been suggested since. It ignored the dogs initial growling, and it reacted immediately by charging the moment I stepped onto the porch. Had I not shot when I did, the story would have been much different. Picking up piece of baling twine, I waded out through the unbroken snow to cat and gingerly poked it with the end of my .303. It did not move. Tying the twine around the neck of the cat, I proceeded to drag it back through the snow to the house, where once I was close enough, I could see my mother and four brothers lined up peering through the kitchen window. I was quite proud of myself and my cat and could not wait to talk about the experience, so I was surprised to find that when I tried to open the door to the kitchen it was bolted shut from the inside! Mom did some real quick math and came to the conclusion she had one son outside, and a mountain lion, and four sons inside. Yep she threw me to the lion. It was a decision I totally understood but to her chagrin I used to bring it up once in awhile… It was most likely the only time that dead bolt was ever used. The next day was Saturday and Dad loaded the cougar and I into the truck to take it to town to show to the local owner of the village paper. He not only didn’t believe my story, he thought it best to call the RCMP in case some propriety had been broken. We managed to convince the RCMP that there was no case here, and the story in the paper read something like: “Ricky shot this cougar after he disturbed it’s activities…” And so I was to learn that one’s greatest or defining moments are often only appreciated by those that were there, and are otherwise lost to obscurity.