Living a quiet life never seemed to be in the cards for Kelly Ricketts.
A B.C. boy, Ricketts has led a colourful life of boxing, ranching, mining, logging and running several small businesses. He’s picked up more than a few stories in his time and he’s chosen to record them in his debut novel One Inch From Disaster: True Tales From the Wilds of British Columbia. Several of the stories took place during his time living in 100 Mile House.
“I quite enjoy writing. I’m more of an analog guy and I like to see things down on paper,” Ricketts, 66, said. “The book goes throughout my life including my experiences as a dynamite driller, road building, working as a bouncer and just the things I’ve experienced.”
Ricketts, who had operated the Big Horn Boxing Club in 100 Mile House, got the idea for a book when he was living in Burns Lake and started reflecting on his mortality.
When his nine children were small, they would climb onto his bed, turn off the lights and transform the bed into a pirate ship or a plane and go on adventures. After making up a variety of fun tales they would ask him to tell them stories from his life. The book is based on those stories as well as others that shaped him into who he is.
“I thought maybe I’ll just write all these stories for my kids. It will be a journal that when I passed on, my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could read.”
Ricketts first started to write the stories down in 2017, ultimately collecting 45 for the book. While many are hilarious or exciting, like the time he changed a tire near a grizzly bear, others are darker, delving into his troubled childhood. Raised in Campbell River, Ricketts left home at the age of 14 after defending his mother from his abusive stepfather.
“I enjoyed writing a lot of the stories down because it brought back such fond memories but some brought back some terrible memories. I had to stop writing five or six times because I’d break down in tears remembering the events of those days,” Ricketts said. “There were a couple of stories I stopped writing all together and I was going to throw them away.
“As I sat and thought about it, I said ‘no the kids need to know everything about my life. If I’m going to leave some sort of record of who I was it needs to be a complete record.’”
Fighting was a big part of Ricketts’ life- he estimates he was involved in close to a hundred street fights over the years, some involving weapons. His experiences led him to the boxing ring.
When his son Kelly Jr. was 11 he wanted to take some lessons at the Eagles Boxing Club in Campbell River. The coaches, George Shiels and Charles John, later encouraged Ricketts to give boxing a try.
“I started training and I really connected with the guys there. After a couple of months training, there seemed pretty impressed with the skills I already had and that I was a powerful puncher,” Ricketts said. “The sport just grew on me more and more.”
Ricketts started his amateur boxing career at age 28, earning the nickname Zeus. He fell in love with the adrenaline rush of a fight, the training that went into preparing for a bout, and the camaraderie between himself and his opponents.
One of the stories he shares in his book is about his rematch against heavyweight champion John Flewin, which happened shortly after he moved to 100 Mile House and opened Big Horn Boxing Club in 1988. Until their fight, Flewin had been undefeated and wanted a rematch, even though Ricketts, then 34, had planned to hang up his amateur gloves.
When the BC Golden Gloves invited him to fight against Flewin at the Vancouver Agrodome in February 1989, however, Ricketts agreed to the rematch. Three weeks before the fight, in a twist of fate, his friend accidentally broke his hand with a sledgehammer while they were building a log home.
Rather than concede the fight, Ricketts iced his hand and went to Vancouver for the weigh-in and medical. When the doctor asked if he really wanted to fight, Ricketts looked him in the eye and said “that’s why I’m here, this is my last fight.”
“When I had the fight I wrapped that hand so tight you couldn’t have squeezed air in there,” Ricketts said. “I lost in the decision but I fought as good as I could with a broken hand. We got a standing ovation after our fight, so it was exciting.”
Ricketts initially self-published his book with 50 copies for friends and family. However, he said Douglas & McIntyre got wind of it and encouraged Harbour Publishing to publish it. The book is set to be released March 5 and can be pre-ordered through Chapters and Amazon.
Ricketts is excited to see what reception the book gets, especially among his old friends in 100 Mile House.
”I love 100 Mile, I have tons of friends that live there so it’s always one of our favourite places to be and go.”