Personal Histories: Jack Carten – Tales from the wild

Jack Carten, the longest-running active member of the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club, shares his stories.

Jack Carten in his old Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club jacket and hat

Jack Carten is the longest-running active member of the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club. He’s volunteered countless hours with the club. He shared some of his hunting and fishing stories with us.

Jack Carten was a teenager when he first went fishing. He had his spot — a lake near the railroad tracks about 10 kilometres west of town.

He would ride his bike along the tracks with his fishing rod. There was a big rainbow trout in the lake everyone could see, but no one could catch. “You had to sneak out there and go on this great big log,” he told me. “He would watch for us. A great big bugger — a clunker, I guess you’d call him.”

Carten, 88, is believed to be the longest active member of the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club. He joined in 1944, was it’s youngest president in his mid-20s, and headed up the fish committee for years. He still says grace at the club’s annual banquet, which takes place this Saturday, Feb. 27.

His home, next door to the Legion, is filled with pictures from his hunting and fishing trips, and there’s stories to go with many of them. There’s one photo of him from north of town. petting a friendly bear cub. The cub belonged to a trapper who lived up the Big Bend. “The mother bear must have been killed so he fed them and grew them up,” said Carten. “We went up and took lots of pictures of the bear up there.”

There’s a picture of he and some friends with their halibut catches from a trip to the coast.  “They’re huge,” he says. “You get one and you crank for bloody hours, you know.”

On a fence outside his home is one of his prize catches — the goat horns from a rugged hunting excursion in 1955, when he and his friends went out in search of a pair of mountain goats that were sighted east of town. Back then, there was no Trans-Canada Highway, so they hitched a ride on a freight train (“You can’t do that anymore,” he says), and hopped off at Twin Butte.

They could see the goats in their binoculars, high up the mountain side. They hiked for four hours, making sure to stay far enough away so the goats couldn’t smell them. Finally, they got in sight and his partner managed to shoot them both — the mother and her kid. The goats went tumbling down a slide path, so Carten went chasing after them.

They finally got the goats, gutted them and cleaned them out. They went to wait for a train back to town, but the first was a passenger train. The next was a speeder car, so they hopped on. “We caught up with the passenger train, right behind the observation car,” he recalls. They followed it back to town, with the tourists gawking at them.

“That was my toughest trip ever,” he recalls

Carten’s other most memorable hunting trip came in November 1964, when he and Lloyd Bennison went moose hunting above the Goldstream River north of town. They got their moose high up the hillside, but it was proving such an effort to get it back down over all the downed trees that Carten went back to town to get his boat. They loaded the moose in it and sent it down the hill. “The boat went over like nothing with the moose in it,” he said.

When they got down to the highway, the road crews were laughing at them. The adventure wasn’t over. They still had to get back to town. “I shot down the Columbia River and the Hell’s Rapids and all that in a 12-foot boat,” he said. “We had to go at full speed with the current. It was dangerous. I never told my wife all that.”

Carten’s passion for fishing and hunting led to decades of volunteer work with the Rod & Gun Club. He helped establish the Bridge Creek and Moses Creek spawning channels, and cleaned out other creeks to allow the fish to get back upstream.

He was also involved in the local ski scene — he showed me a photo of the old ski jump on Mount Revelstoke, which he would help pack down during the days of the Tournament of Champions.

Carten spent more than 40 years working for the railway, and he regularly tells his story at the Revelstoke Railway Museum. He stared as a callboy, going door to door to let people know they were up for a train. Sometimes he would find them at the seedier establishments in town. Occasionally he would take a bribe to skip someone on the list.

He eventually moved up to be a checker in the yard, then a conductor. He has been retired for 25 years.

Florence, his wife of almost 60 years, passed away in 2012 and he lives at home. He sold his boat five years ago and now enjoys heading next door to the Legion (he knows the exact number of steps it takes), where he sits and regales what he jokingly refers to as his harem of women. He enjoys lobster, which he has shipped, pre-packaged, from the Maritimes, and wine.

“I had a colourful career alright,” he says.


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