Washout at Bully Bridge

Don’t believe the advertising

Jack Jenkins swigged the last of his coffee, put down his outdoor magazine (I won’t say which one) and patted his faithful retriever, Jupiter. Aptly named because of his unpredictable extraterrestrial interpretation of his dog job, bringing back anything that flapped or flopped around within 100-metre radius of his master. This included fish, especially over four pounds.


Illustration by Keith Milne and Gord Coulthart.
Illustration by Keith Milne and Gord Coulthart.

“Let’s take a walk, boy.”

They walked along the dirt road toward the woodlot, taking stock of the pasture fence as they went. Streams gurgled under the last of the melting snow. The yellow stubble of the alfalfa field was giving way to the greenness of spring. The river would open soon.


A crate had arrived at the Greyhound a week before; the legendary freight depot had become recent history, gone like a rotary telephone. But at least Jack’s secret weapon had arrived. The brand on the wooden box said, “Burt’s Yurts, built to withstand all manner of terrain and weather conditions.” Apparently with the exception of one manner.

Day one of the opening on the Cariboo River arrived. Jack was determined to head into the mountains of the east Cariboo near Bowron Lakes to fish bull trout. There may even be a glacial stream or two sporting those pretty little graylings.


Jack loaded up Freddie, the rolling Detroit lawn ornament, but this time, instead of the rusted-out camper, he heaved the Burt’s crate up on the flat deck. He and Jupiter piled in and drove to pick up his good friend and neighbour, Esther Wilcox.

“We’re going to the mountains camping in this? Where’s the camper?”

“Don’t need it. I got a surprise.”

Esther shook her head. “Have a cup of coffee, I’ll grab a few things.”

Jack sat on the couch and noticed Esther’s high school grad album. Ten minutes later, her rod and gear and a cooler were by the door. With her pack in hand, she looked at Jack, who was engrossed in the album.

“Esther, you were a fine-lookin’ girl. If I’d have been there, I would have been chasing you, that’s for sure.”

“Funny, I don’t remember you from high school.”

“Yeah, makes me kinda sad. Wish I’d made it, you know.”

“You could always go to upgrading.”

“Seems like my whole life, I’ve been downgrading.”

“Made you the man you are today, Jack. Let’s get ’em.”

The white peaks of the Niagara Mountains offered the only map they needed. They picked their way through the maze of cut blocks, aiming for the sawtooth range where the headwaters of the Cariboo River tumbled down the slopes.

“They look more like molars than saw teeth,” Esther said.

Finally, the road veered north and, in an hour or so, they arrived at Bully Bridge, nicknamed for the eight-pound bull trout found in the vicinity of the runs and pools nearby.

The river was low, with a lot of snow melt yet to come. Most backroad bridges have an access road down to the footings and that’s where Jack, with Freddie in bull low, crawled down to the gravel bar. He unloaded Burt’s Yurt, sort of. When they dove down the access road, the crate had slid off the flat deck, bounced a couple of endos down the trail, passing them, and crashing on the beach, ah, partially opened.

Used to dealing with all kinds of wrecks on the farm, Jack had the yurt out in no time while Esther made a fire out of the crate. They had to move the pickup to make room on the gravel bar, so Jack, and maybe he had a premonition or something, put Freddie back up on the road above high water.

Burt’s Yurt was magnificent. It was heavy duty and deluxe and it came with a woodstove. Esther couldn’t stop laughing.

“Why is it round?”

At last, they finished setting up the yurt and loading the tent with gear. There was only one package left unopened.

“Hardwood floors,” said Jack. “I’ll use ’em in the house.”

Just before dark, Esther heard thrashing around and smacking in the water below Bully Bridge.

“Jack, listen to those fish feeding.”

“Yeah, listen to those bullwhackers carryin’ on. Let’s get some sleep and go after them in the morning.”

Esther wasn’t sure about sharing the yurt with Jack. It was plenty big enough and comfy, but what about all that other stuff that aging outdoor adventurers do in a tent?

It didn’t take long. Jack snored like a moose and when Esther looked, the light was on, his eyes were open and he seemed to be reading. How can anyone read and snore at the same time? She grabbed her sleeping bag and scrambled up the trail to the pickup. She slept as best as she could with snoring rising up to the bridge from the yurt on one side and slashing and crashing in river on the other.

She woke early, alone. The racket below the bridge had been beavers. Overnight, they had built a new dam and the river was backing up fast, flooding into the bush upstream as far as she could see. The gravel bar yurt site was underwater, growing deeper by the minute and threatening to float the whole can of worms downstream into the bridge timbers.

“Jack, are you in there? Jack, wake up and get outta there before it’s too late.”

Jack belly flopped off the bunk. There was loud cursing and splashing while he put his boots on under water.

“Jack, get outta there.”

“Esther! Esther, where are you?

“I’m up on the bridge. Beavers dammed up the creek.”

“Great, I better rescue some of this gear.”

Meanwhile, a pickup load of fishermen stopped on the bridge. Three of the liars from the fly shop Jack hangs around jump out.

“Esther, what are you doing out here? What’s up?”

“Jack’s down there in his yurt. Beavers got him.”

They hedged over to the side of the bridge, took a look and broke out laughing.

“Hey, Jenkins. Does that unit come with a twin hull? Next time you go trolling, try using a boat.”

Having the best seats in the house to watch a classic confrontation of rancher versus large rodents, the jeering went on for quite a while. Finally, the fellas helped Jack and Esther perform a wet rescue on Jack’s waterlogged yurt and winch it onto the flat deck. With tails between their legs, they started for home.

After 50 kilometres of muttering to himself, Jack said, “I thought these things were good under any conditions, especially water.”

“Well, that’s only when the water hits top down, not bottom up.”

“Burt is going to hear about this, Esther. Take a memo, will you.”

“What’s a memo?”