Peter and Nicki Bonter have old ties to the Cariboo

Peter and Nicki Bonter have only been on their 500-acre ranch since 1995, but part of it has been in Pete's family since 1940

Peter and Nicki Bonter check out their herd of cattle on their ranch. The Bonters have been extremely active in the cattle-producer community and say ranching is in their blood.

Peter and Nicki Bonter check out their herd of cattle on their ranch. The Bonters have been extremely active in the cattle-producer community and say ranching is in their blood.

Peter and Nicki Bonter have only been on their 500-acre ranch since 1995, but part of it has been in Pete’s family since 1940, and before that, his family homesteaded 160 acres behind Sheridan Lake Store.

“In 1939, my dad rode a bike all the way from Mission looking for land. He and his brother and cousin checked out as far as 150 Mile before winter arrived and they returned home. Pete says.

“The following year, they came back and bought the west half of what we now own.”

The farmhouse, itself, on Highway 24 at Sheridan Lake, was built on Doman Road in 1916 by the Murrays, and transported log by log over the hill by Nels Sandberg and reconstructed at its current location in the early ’30s.

Says Pete: “You’ll see on the map that it sits a little kitty-corner to everything else; it’s definitely the oldest part of what we own.”

After downsizing in 2011, the ranch runs some 50 head of Angus Hereford X cattle plus six bulls, and leases an additional 200 acres. Range cattle meandering along Horse Lake Road are invariably the Bonters.

The ranch has a truck, licensed mostly to bring in hay, some of which will be brokered out again.

“Among a lot of things I do, I have taken long-haul trips with the truck, but I’m a rancher and I do what I have to do to keep the ranch going. Sometimes the ratio gets quite mixed, but I’m first and foremost always a rancher.”

Nicki works on the ranch as well as out, and is a staunch supporter and member of the Interlakes Cattlebelles, which promotes local ranchers and agriculture. She can often be found serving the famous beef-on-a-bun” at local events.

Nicki also works hard at the Cattlebelles’ annual fall dinner, which gives thanks for their own bounty and their various supporters.

The Bonters’ blended family has six children (two of Pete’s, three of Nicki’s and one they had together) and 13 grandchildren, with an imminent 14th.

Their 15-year-old grandson, Deyman Radcliffe, lives with them.

“He is learning the basics of ranching, working on the place and building his own herd. His dream is to one day have his own place,” Nicki says.

The couple has a deep appreciation for everything old. Nicki has a bridle that was an early gift to her father, Frank Drayton of Clinton, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 89.

“It’s hanging on the wall in the house now,” Pete said, “and it’s just as supple as the day he received it. It could go out and be put on right now.

“Frank was a great historian, and his grandkids were never able to stump him. He didn’t have a lot of material stuff, but he carefully preserved his cherished belongings. But his real love was definitely horses.”

Interestingly, Frank, aged 84, was wearing full cowboy gear when a Ron Watts photo of him graced the front cover of Beautiful British Columbia magazine’s Fall 2001 issue.

Says Pete: “The front porch is literally filled with antique stuff we found on the place as we cleaned up. And we have this lady, Winnie, who was born in the house when it was on Doman Road, and because of her ties to the house, she gifted many of her antiques to Nicki. One particular piece is a beautiful china cabinet. She was Art Horn’s partner and now lives in a home in Ashcroft.

“Sitting out in the yard is one of the first Titan tractors from the early 1900s. I used to play on that thing; I never remember it running.

“I turned 60 last year, but still remember it. My imagination was very vivid, and a lot of it came out on that tractor.”

Many old farm implements litter the property and Nicki turns them into beautiful flower gardens in the summer. An absolute riot of colour surrounds the main house, breathing new life into the rusty workhorses that remind us of days gone by.