The e-mail appeared in my inbox with a half-dozen others - but this one stood out. It had a glow about it. The title read "The Mystery Barn in the Yukon". I knew, instantly, what the e-mail was about.
Nearly four years ago I went on a confluence hunt. On the way back from the extended hike I had stumbled across an old homestead. There was no house, but there was a barn. The Mystery Barn. Every time I drove by the north end of Atlin Lake I thought about it.
I saved the e-mail for last. I wanted to savour it.
When I finally clicked, I read the first few lines:
I was viewing your photos of the old homestead posted on your Blog site. My name is Timothy Hume. I am the builder of that place.
I continued to read and after a few e-mails back and forth, I got to learn more about Timothy Raven Hume.
Here's his story.
I started riding horses when I was around 8; lived next to a Native reserve and most of my boyhood friends were Indian kids so we rode together, hunted together, and all that kind of stuff. I kind of had a way with animals and me and horses really clicked.I knew there was something unusual - and special - about that place and it haunted me. Now, I'm glad I've had a chance to know a little more about a man whose path I crossed and who, one lucky day, crossed mine. I hope that, one day, we'll be able to meet and walk along the same path together to the old homstead.
Its a huge long story of course.
But needless to say I started on the path of horses, hunting, and being in tune with nature
I saw so many lies and so much corruption towards nature. I never liked my society and all that: Hated school, politics, the laws and deceit.
I left home when I was 14 went to work on dairy farms and cattle ranches in Alberta.
I got interested in art and at age 17, stole my elder brother's ID and high-school papers, and faked my way into art school. I actually graduated with honours.
I bought my first stallion when I was 19 and started breeding horses. I met a hunting guide from the Yukon who was down south buying horses for outfitters up north. He bought some of my stock and told many wonderful stories of freedom, hunting and adventure. How could one who already loved those things not be drawn north?
North is Canada. North is freedom. North is a place to be strong and independent.
Does this ring a bell for you?
So the story goes. I made some cash logging, bought some trucks, hired a couple of drivers because I didn't drive and still don't. I packed up all the horses and other stock, ploughs, mowers, rakes, harnesses, and every thing I believed I would need to survive. I lived in a tepee and scouted far and wide for a suitable place.
That was the best, I felt, was there.
I have attached a photo of me with my hunting pony which was taken on the site you explored. I'm 24 in the picture and I'm now 62.
There is a creek, Michael, just a few yards south of the garden gate. You saw the berries. You saw the fantastic meadows. You saw the beauty of Minto (Mountain) and that fantastic lake so full of fish.
There was a two story cabin there once, Michael. It would have been east of the garden spot where the sweat lodge frame is. I heard that some hunters were in there and set the place afire.
Too bad. It was a great little place. It had a cellar beneath and a stove furnace that would take 5 foot logs. I don't know if there are any photos of it.
Everything was done by hand or with horse power only.
I lived at that place for almost ten years. I had seventeen head of horses, some beef cattle, and a Jersy milk cow; raised ducks, geese, chickens, and pigeons; and had a team of 14 sled dogs. I wrangled horses for hunt camps, was a carver and artist, and did commercial fishing in Atlin Lake.
My heart is still there. My daughter Anna Nahanie was born there - and her first meal of solid food was canned bear meat.
I hunted. Fished. Farmed. I was I believed free.
The reason for leaving I guess are human ones. My wife felt isolated and feared that our kids would grow up crazy without civilization. So LOVE and Compromise.
That's how it all works.
The wife eventually returned to the city life she needed and I'm too old to return the life I left. But hey, all-in-all it was worth it. My kids turned out great, love nature, and fight to protect it.
I now live on Saltspring Island, BC where I still raise horses and Tibetan Yak. And yes, I still have a patch of rhubarb. I've still got a few ponies to play with but there ain't no place to ride down here no more.
I am so glad you found some mystery - something perhaps spiritual - in what I did in the Yukon. It was a life changing experience. I will never be a normal person after that wilderness experience.
I hope you understand that.
I am radical, passionate, and believe in the earth. Well, whatever. Everyone is going their own way, however most of those ways are wrong. The Yukon wilderness taught me that in very short order.
I have always wanted to return. Animal husbandry, as wonderful as it is, can be a problem. No one seems to know how to care for or be responsible for animals anymore today. It's very hard to find people today that can actually do the job while you are away.
Perhaps one day I will be able. Would love to go for a hike with you. Could take you to your confluence point in pretty short order. I think from what I have seem on the maps you suggested I have ridden over that point many times. From the barn up the cut line and at the confluence point, turn north. It takes you to the top of Red Butte. Fantastic country. Moose, caribou, ptarmigan, grouse, puffball mushrooms: You could live up there for months on end.
I used to make two trips a day up there in hunting season. One in to make the kill and out again before dark.
Yes, you are right about the big boulders and the ups and downs and bogs. Couple of good Yukon ponies can do you forty miles a day.
For now, I'll reflect on Timothy Hume's experience and think about what was important to him when he wrote this poem - when was making his own trails in the Yukon.
My GodMy WifeMy HorseMy rifle and my hunting dogI laugh Ha HaAnd say what more do I need