Tamarack Stories...

August 31, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Stories From Long Ago About The Tamaracks of Seeley Lake
Compiled by Jack Demmons. Part IV.

Left to right: Bud and his mother Maud Turner; Valle, Ken Demmons and their son Sandy at The Tamaracks new saddle shed in the 1940's. Photo courtesy Tom Demmons.

A Tamaracks pack string heading out for Pyramid Pass in the 1940's.

Stories From The Tamaracks: 'I Remember When...'

This is part 4 of a series of articles about The Tamaracks Lodge which were prepared by Tom Demmons, son of Ken and Valle Turner Demmons, who were long-time residents of the Lodge and helped manage it through the years. Part 4 contains stories told to Tom by his older brother Ken "Sandy" Demmons. They have been edited by Jack Demmons.

The following is Sandy (Ken Jr.) Demmons' account of the early hunting trips he was on in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. He was six years old when he made his debut as "flunky" on those trips with his dad, Ken Sr.

The horses, yeah we had from 22 to 40 of them. There was Smokey, Fagin, Baldy, Prince and Sylvia. Scarbelly was my first horse. She-Biscuit was my sister Ann's. Beauty was Pel's (Henry and Maud Turner's youngest son). We almost drowned Beauty before we realized she couldn't swim - never could. Later, there was Blaze, Gunpowder, Small Enough, and Big Enough. Smokey was a fantastic race horse, a little gray. He could run like hell.

About one-third of the horses were pack horses. One third were strictly saddle horses and the other third could be use either way. There were three that were so damned smart that anybody could put dudes on 'em and they'd ride 'em and the horses would plug along - they'd never buck anybody off. Those three were not only used by the dudes who couldn't ride very well, but were also used in the fall as pack horses in the pack string. They were fantastic. The Tamaracks horses would haul goods and dudes into the base camp during hunting season at the "Little Slide," which was on Jenny Creek. First, they would start at Stump Prairie and go over Pyramid Pass, a distance of 22 miles. (Pyramid Pass is 7 1/2 air miles northeast of Seeley Lake and Jenny Creek is five miles from the pass by trail to the point where it runs into Young's Creek.)

The hunting parties would come into camp and most of the time the men would lay around the camp and get drunk. Dad was really a hard worker and loved hunting. He'd take off and get his elk, and then a couple or three days'd go by and he'd get tired of sittin' around camp drinkin', and he'd say to me, "Let's go huntin'," so he'd grab me and whoever else he could convince to get the hell out of camp, and he'd end up shooting a lot of those people's elk - guttin' 'em out, halvin' and quartering' 'em. That was a hell of a lot of work!

First of all, it takes an awful lot of willpower not to shoot an elk, but dad'd see an elk that might be clear across an almost impassable draw, and he didn't have a whole lot of willpower under those circumstances, and he'd say, "Shoot the goddamned thing," and somebody'd shoot it - or maybe dad'd shoot it - and then he'd say to himself, "Oh my God, what have I done? Now I've got to go over there, gut the thing out, put it on the horse and bring the thing back."

And when I was eight or nine years old, there were times when he would forget that I was even there. He'd be a mile ahead of me, and I'm either goin' to be eaten by a grizzly bear or get lost, but I'm scramblin' through the brush just to keep up with him, and I'd get up there and he'd be cutting up an elk. Then he'd say, "Go back and get the horses," and I'd ask, "Which way Daddy?" And he'd say, "Go back," like I was a dummy. "Go back down that draw, across the creek and you know that little meadow down there, that's where the horses are..." And I was only eight or nine. "Ya Daddy." And I'd go back and it'd take me a couple of hours to bring Gunpowder and Smokey up. By the time I'd get back, he'd have 'em all gutted out, halved and quartered. We'd throw 'em on the back of one horse and ride the second back to camp.

(Stories about The Tamaracks will be continued in future editions of the Pathfinder.)

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