Chilco Choate reflects on life in the bush – Williams Lake Tribune
He was born Edward Choate, but everyone knows him as Chilco.
The Cariboo-Chilcotin cowboy received this nickname one winter in the 1950s, when he was a young buck working at a big game hunting camp in Gaspard Lake, a remote area behind the Gang Ranch. The name has stuck as a stubborn blur for the past 60+ years, to the point where it now bills itself as “Ted or Chilco”.
“There was a pool hall in Clinton. The owner, Bob Campbell, was also the barber, ”recalls Choate, 86. “He started calling me the Chilcotin kid.”
Raised in South Surrey, Choate has always had a thirst for adventure. At 17, he wanted to fight in the Korean War, but his parents refused to give permission. “None of them put me on, so I ended up in the bush,” he said.
Choate started out in Alexis Creek before joining his parents Clinton in 1955 and going to work for the Shorty Watson Guide Outfitter in Gaspard Lake. Since Watson was an American, the guide’s license was in Choate’s name, which he did not realize until a few years later when he would take over the camp and lead it for the next several decades, later joined by his wife Carol.
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“I kind of got it by accident. I didn’t own the camp, but I did have the permit, ”Choate said. “I had a hard time getting clients because I was a 23 year old. They were afraid their guide would not be there when they returned. Everything worked.
Life in the bush was filled with excitement, from Choate’s 30-year conflict with the Gang Ranch – where he worked for a time – to his passion for preserving the land. He wrote countless letters to the BC government to stop its plans to eliminate grizzly bears – “they were going to kill every single one of them” – and stop overgrazing by sheep and cattle. His efforts resulted in much of the Gang Ranch grazing land being returned for public use.
Choate recounted these exploits in his book, Hostile neighbors, which tells a story about the characters he met – we tried to shoot him – and his love-hate relationship with the Gang Ranch.
“The ranchers in the region hated this book when it came out,” he said. “We wore protection on our hips – on both sides. It gained attention across Canada. They thought it would be the last shootout in the Wild West. We disappointed everyone. No one was hit, no one was hurt.
“I probably had a reputation for being a bit of a nutcase.”
Choate stayed in Gaspard Lake, which still has no electricity or running water, until last year when he moved to Clinton after falling and hitting his head.
“I have had an interesting life compared to a lot of people,” he said, adding that living in the bush gave him freedom. “No one was telling me what to do.”
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