By Kelly Sinoski
Dick Dickson’s love affair with the South Cariboo started in 1953.
He was skidding logs with a horse, for a sawmill at Ruth Lake.
The whole area at the time was full of small, portable mills. The Minato family had a wee sawmill halfway between Forest Grove and Ruth Lake. Slim and Rudy Jens had the Canim Lake Sawmills, eventually building a planer mill at Exeter. There was also a planer mill at Buffalo Creek.
Dick Minato, 87, says Forest Grove was the hub in those days. The general store had burned down shortly before his family arrived in 1951 but Bob Parkins owned the Forest Grove Trading Post about a mile up the road. There were also stores at Buffalo Creek and Canim Lake.
The community was still a gather place for the locals, he says, and Bob Parkins used to run movies on Saturday night.
In the spring of ‘53, Dickson headed that spring to Chilco Lake, so he could pay off his property at Buffalo Creek. He drove truck after that, and over the years found himself moving to Bradley Creek and then Canim Lake. After a stint at the coast running a feedlot, he returned to the Cariboo in 1977, setting up at the end of Hawkins Lake.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he says.
Times have changed over the years. Dickson now has power and electricity and no longer needs a generator to watch TV. The sawmills are long gone, along with the Hawkins lake community hall half a mile down the road.
“Everybody around here used to go there for a dance,” he says.
Although the road cuts through his property, Dickson, 93, says nobody stops much anymore. The area is drawing newcomers, people from the city, who might wave once in a while but they tend to keep to themselves.
“We had a lot of neighbours come by. It was kind of nice, you knew everybody who went by,” he says. “Now you don’t know anybody. Most of our neighbours we used to know are gone.”
Still, it’s home.
“I love it here, always have.”