Monical family a Cariboo cornerstone

Wendell Monical became immersed in ranching and horses at an early age, and they have remained the hub of his life ever since.

Horses and cows have been Wendell Monical's life

Horses and cows have been Wendell Monical's life

In 1962, Wendell Monical relocated to the South Cariboo with his entire family from the high country desert in Oregon.

This clan of northern-migrating Monicals, including his parents, Bob and Leatha, his wife, Lois, his married brothers, Bob (Louise) and Leonard (Barbara), and all their children.

The whole family moved to the 105 Mile Ranch on Highway 97 at Back Valley Road and lived together in an old red house, which now stands proudly as a main heritage attraction at the 108 Historical Site.

The old circa-1900 barn, built by pioneers Benji and Lester McNeil, is a familiar site along the highway and Wendell still uses it.

Back then, the ranch consisted of 30,000 deeded acres purchased from Fred Davis, a Californian, and the Monicals settled there with the 1,100 cows, 50 bulls and about 30 head of horses they had brought along.

“In ’63, we put 700 head of cattle right down the highway pavement and drove them to the [Mile] 111. Three cars passed us, and we knew ’em all.”

Wendell had arrived in the Cariboo with his children, Rita, 3, and Ed, who was ‘a yearlin’,” he says, with Marvin born later that year.

Bob and Louise’s children were Wayne, Kenny, Cindy and Joe; Leonard and Barbara never had any.

Wendell says Bob was skilled with a bulldozer and did all the ranch’s Cat work, but sadly, he died when he fell through a roof when he was shovelling the snow off.

“He was a good man; we missed him bad.”

At the Monical home site in those days, Wendell says it was “all bulls and horses and little kids.

“A very important part of our life is horses; we had to have them. The horses and bulls I can remember the names of; the kids, I don’t have a clue.”

There were few people nearby back then, with the weather sometimes -60 F, and the Monicals drew water from lakes and streams.

Wendell notes life was “fairly easy,” however, compared to the “hard country” they left behind.

The rough living certainly didn’t stop Lois from working as a registered nurse in 100 Mile House, or Leatha from cooking the grub for the outfit and sewing the children’s clothes.

The great neighbours and hired help were the only thing that made the ranch “float,” he explains, including Lord Martin Cecil, who owned the ranch next door and would help them on the ranch.

The few hired hands they had were all good men, Wendell notes, one of whom was Neil Morrison, who now ranches at 112 Mile.

“I roped a bear and asked Neil to get my rope back, and he was going to do it.”

Neil changed his mind at the last minute, Wendell notes, but he still got his lasso back.

“That darned bear, he just sat on his butt and took it off.”

He adds Neil got him back later, by leaning on a barn door, chuckling, with Wendell trapped inside with a “real mean” cow.

They always had a lot of visitors in those days, he says, adding they were often RCMP officers who would stop by for coffee and homemade doughnuts, or to ride horses with the Monicals.

One was a regular around the ranch, and played a stunt on Wendell one day when he was using a nearby phone booth talking to a cow buyer.

“All of a sudden: all of this screechin’ and the tires slidin’ and the sireen blowin’, and that cop comin’ drivin’ just as fast as he could go, and he threw on the brakes and slid that bumper right against the door.

“I had my back to the car, and I thought I was going to die. I just prett’ near passed out. He laughed so hard he couldn’t get out of the car.”

The old-time rancher recalls the staff sergeant back then complained he would have to move his flag out to the ranch because Wendell had all his crew.

It was nice, he adds, and lots of fun because everyone had time to stop and talk back then.

In 1969, part of this immense ranch holding was sold to Henry and Arthur Block who developed the land into the 108 Mile Ranch subdivision.

Bob and Leatha were getting on in years by then and moved to town, Wendell explains, while his brother Leonard had his own place on the ranch, crafting bronze sculptures and raising horses.

Len still sculpts and his works can be found in distinguished collections around the world, including Prince Philip’s.

A few years later, Wendell owned the main 105 Ranch spread with the Royal Bank as his partner, and he notes the bank manager would come out and ride with him.

Ed, Marvin and Rita all worked with their parents on the ranch.

“Rita, being the oldest, she got stuck with most of the work, but she was a good cowgirl.”

Wendell says he had a horse that didn’t like children, so he held it down by the ears and told a very young Rita to “get on and go.”

At nine years old, Rita rode in a 90-mile long endurance ride intended for adults and took second prize, winning a saddle and other gear.

She later went on to become both Little Britches Rodeo Princess and Rodeo Queen, Wendell adds proudly.

Ed and Marvin loved to ride the rodeos and went to the high school nationals, where the brothers tied for 11th place out of 150 contestants.

The boys were rodeoing at Mt. St. Helens with Len when the volcano blew, Wendell says, adding he regrets he wasn’t there, and that he didn’t spend more leisure time with his children when they were growing up.

“I didn’t go; I was busy, I thought. You think you’ll live forever, but guess what, you get old.”

Wendell’s other accomplishments are numerous, but among them are bringing the first Charolais bulls into Canada, he notes, and saving three lost children in the nick of time when no one else could (and authorities had told him to stay home).

An influential member of the cattle industry, Wendell was inducted into BC Cowboy Hall of Fame.

He left the 105 Mile Ranch behind for a period of time some years ago, but soon gravitated back the old ranch with 13,000 acres that he now leases. However, he adds he won’t stay there much longer due to health issues.

Aside from ranch activities, Wendell enjoys reading western novels and writes a little cowboy poetry in his spare time.

The Monical family and virtually all of their offspring still reside in the South Cariboo today.