Hugh Neave.

Hugh Neave.

Soapy Smith and Jack McDougal big time gamblers

As I get older I try to remember some of the old stories that are so important to write about as they are going to get lost.


As I get older I try to remember some of the old stories that are so important to write about as they are going to get lost.

This story is about an old Yukon gambler, Jack McDougal, a man full of wonderful stories. During the many years I operated a taxi service here at the landing I used to meet some great characters. The one that stands out in my mind was Jack McDougal and what an interesting man he was and also a good friend.

Jack and his wife Mae made their home in a cottage between Van Zanten’s and the Brown Road corner. The old house is long gone and a new one in its place. Jack came from the Yukon gold rush and moved about and they decided to make Francois Lake their home. This was in the 50s. I drove him around a lot and he told me many stories of the Yukon, which is very interesting to me. Jack told me he knew Soapy Smith one of the well known gamblers of the Yukon.

Jack made his living gambling and how he could deal a deck of cards I never could tell. He had lost both his middle fingers on one hand so all he had was a first finger and a little finger so they came together like a claw. It was amazing how he could handle a deck of cards. I liked to watch him.

The story was that he was stealing poker chips in a big poker game and someone dropped a big hunting knife on his two middle fingers. I never asked him and he never told me. He was a chain smoker both day and night. Jack always made money but I never could find out how much. He always paid me well. That was the only income they had. One thing I did know the stakes at both the Bucket of Blood and Jack Wilkinson’s on the island were pretty big and some guys lost more than they made.

Jack was always very careful and never had too much to drink, he always kept his mind on the game. A good friend of mine used to play Jack’s table and he said Jack was honest enough for a big time poker player.

A little footnote on Soapy Smith. He was a big time gambler and a slight of hand artist. He would sell you a bar of soap wrapped in a ten or twenty dollar bill as you passed him the money he ended up with your 10 or 20, all you had was the bar of soap and your money was gone. I don’t really know how it worked but somehow you ended up the loser. Jack McDougal’s face was covered with cancer sores and I guess that’s what killed him.

Mae, his wife, had her son move to Burns Lake and started the Burns Lake equipment company. His name was Howard Ellis and his partner was Shorty Gill (Wayne). They were good mechanics and did most of my work. After Jack died Mae started a little tea room in town. The building now is gone a big modern 24 hour business has taken its place.

A little backtrack on my story. I would take Jack into town on Friday noon and pick him up Saturday noon and take him home. One thing I always noticed about Jack I never saw him smile or hear him laugh a real poker face, maybe that went with the game.

The Bay

My apartment here at the Tweedsmuir House over looks the Babine Road so I can watch the traffic. Talk about heavy traffic both day and night.

How well I remember my many taxi trips I made to Pendleton Bay. This was a busy place in the 40s and 50s and no doubt into the future years. There were sawmills doing their job in every corner. Trucks going day and night, a busy place. Lots of business places set up and doing well. They even had their own taxi service. I was very fortunate to get a big share of it too. I always got along very well with all the folks there and they would hire me.

The bay was a great place to visit. Lots of good memories of it all. It’s all history now, lets hope somebody will write it up so these old times will be remembered. All the heavy traffic at the present brings back those years that I also drove the Babine Road. They were still using horses for skidding and the hauling but the big machinery was already moving into the loading and horses were on the way out.

Taxi days

I had some good years in the taxi business, things were booming. The dam was being built for the massive Ootsa Lake flooding. I was kept busy day and some nights. On weekends I would pick up cases of beer and hard liquor by the case. Then sometimes I would haul cases of dynamite out to the dam sight.

I was driving a Ford station wagon, it was a big vehicle and could carry seven passengers. I picked up the dynamite by the case and hauled it out. I had to hire a special ferry as it was considered a dangerous cargo and I guess it was. I got paid double for that. Sometimes I would be loaded down.

A little story

I was leaving town one day and a gentleman from the Southside stopped me for a ride to the ferry so I said jump in. I was already up to speed as the ferry was waiting for me to cross. He turned around and said what’s in those cases and I said dynamite. He grabbed the door handle and started to get out. His last remarks were please stop I forgot I already had a ride but thanks. He started to walk back to town. As he went out the door I told him there are lots more things more dangerous than dynamite but it fell on deaf ears he was gone.

Movie night

Last night at the Tweedsmuir House it was movie night. What a surprise when they showed us a number of old time shows and were they ever good. Brought back lots of memories.

How well I remember our family kids and all would sit around the TV and watch Gunsmoke.

We all enjoyed the shows. As they say time flies and I guess it does. At one time Gunsmoke was one of the most popular westerns on the air and it’s still good.

Best I close now with my usual God loves you and so do I.


Burns Lake Lakes District News