Many men and women have left their mark in the Cariboo, becoming legends in their own right for the contributions they’ve made.
Some of those contributions were tangible and others were simply, but no less important, the lending of their character to spice up an ordinary day and turn it into something infinitely memorable.
Such a man was Wendell Laver Inman, better known as Red Inman to his many old friends. He passed away on Sept. 13, 2011 at the age of 86 in Cudworth, Sask., but left a lasting legacy when he departed from this area in 1997.
Inman came to Lone Butte in the late 1940s, shortly after he had been discharged from service in the Second World War. It’s believed he spent at least some of his service time in England and little more is known.
According to longtime friend Ralph Sandberg, however, Inman made some lasting, but little spoken of relations there.
In an arrangement related to his service, the wiry young man with a head of brilliant red hair acquired a quarter section of land one kilometre or so from the centre of town, on a road that later came to bear his name.
According to one of his closest friends Chris Horn, Charlie Widlend had first homesteaded the parcel of land, but he didn’t complete the required improvements, so it went back to the Crown.
Inman built a small house and barn there and raised beef cattle and pigs, and he also kept a dairy herd and sold milk. He later bought the adjacent property and divided it into smaller lots, and started what would become a new subdivision of Lone Butte.
He can be thanked for the important part he played in getting the power lines installed along his namesake Inman Road.
Horn and his wife, Helen, came to know Inman well after first meeting him in Lone Butte, which was then the hub of the area. He worked for Chris for a while, helping him blast stumps with dynamite and develop what is now a sprawling hay and cattle ranch near Horse Lake.
He was also employed by Sandberg for a time at his Irish Lake sawmill and at another in Forest Grove, and held a contract for loading boxcars for a sawmill owned by the Jens Brothers on Exeter Hill. Later, he worked at the Ministry of Forests office in 100 Mile House.
“He was never one to stick to one job,” says Helen. “It wasn’t interesting enough for Red. He never spoke much about the past either because he was always too busy living in the present.”
Helen says she never knew him to drink alcohol, but he smoked like a chimney and always had a cup of coffee in his hand.
One day, while helping her son, Gus, deliver a calf, Inman collapsed and she’s sure Gus revived him by sticking a cigarette in his mouth.
Inman had a special knack for making friends and one of them was new Swiss immigrant, Monika Wyssen, from Clinton.
They’d met earlier through Chris and ran into each other again by chance on Wyssen’s wedding day in 1990, just hours before she and her fiancé, Rudy, were to exchange vows at a civil ceremony at the 100 Mile House village office.
With a bit of time to kill before the ceremony, Monika and Rudy pulled up a seat at the local bar, Exeter Arms, and began to tell Inman, who was then the pub’s bartender, about their big event coming up that day.
“He asked us who our witnesses are, but we didn’t know anything about needing witnesses,” says Wyssen.
Inman offered to stand up for the couple so, trustfully, Monika asked him to find their second witness as well.
“He walked straight over to the stripper who was working in the bar and asked her to do it. She introduced herself to us very nicely and came along with us and was our other witness.”
So, with a bartender and a stripper by their side, the couple was wed and Inman got the satisfaction of setting up a most unusual situation. It was the kind of thing the good-humoured man was well known for.
He joined them for the rest of their wedding day festivities and has always been referred to as their best man.
“It was never boring being around Red,” says Wyssen.
“He was really a fun guy, upbeat and full of humour. He’d try to tell me dirty jokes but it wasn’t much fun for him because of my troubles with the English language. I couldn’t understand very well and he’d have to go back and explain them slowly, all over again.”
In his later years, Inman became a strong supporter of local hospitals, making annual donations of $500 to both the local hospital and Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
Inman always dreamed and talked about owning a white horse, and according to Helen, just before he passed away at the Cudworth Nursing Home, he had a visit from a lady friend who knew about his wish.
She told him to go to sleep and dream of riding that white horse and to not stop for anything. Helen says she thinks he did just that.
Lone Butte remained a place of fond memories for Inman, and when he died, half of his ashes were scattered there, as he wished. The other half rests in Saskatchewan.