MH: What were some of your more memorable events as a Warden? 1610:

CS: I guess it wasn’t necessarily events but places I worked like the Arctic although working the Calgary Stampede was always fun, it was something totally different, riding in the stampede parade. It was fun, hot as hell, in the wool tunic with the sun beating down on you and the pavement.

Cyndi getting ready to ride in the Calgary Stampede Parade

MH: Can you tell me about any rescue/wildlife stories that stick out in your memory? 1702:

CS: I wasn’t involved in a lot of rescues because I wasn’t a climber and had no real interest in pursuing being a climber so I didn’t do a lot of rescues. I do remember in Lake Louise one night being called out at midnight for someone who was stranded on Fairview Peak. Some local had called it in and said “I think it’s what you call a Fairview screamer.” People go up the backside and think it’s a shortcut down the front and they get cliffed out. So we had to hike up in the dark, but I remember, it was about 2:30 in the AM and the next morning a friend was supposed to be coming out to do a horse trip up the Saskatchewan River with me on days off. So I phoned Dispatch and asked if they would phone this number and let her know to come later. There was a long pause on the other end of the phone and the dispatcher said, “You do know what time it is don’t you?” I said,” Yes, but I think she’d rather know now so she could go back to sleep”.

Wildlife wise, when I was in Kluane there was a grizzly bear project starting and we were going out with Bruce Sundbo doing the aerial darting so we are flying along and he darts a bear and the bear kind of stands up and the pilot said, “Holy f—, I’ve never had that happen before!” and he was afraid the bear could grab the skids, but I don’t think he was low enough for that, but it got everyone’s adrenalin pumping. And then that same day, we were all finished, and it was kind of a muddy spot. The pilot wouldn’t let us get back into the helicopter with our muddy boots so we sat with our boots hanging on the skids and he flew us over to this gravel bar on the river and had us clean our boots before we got in. Probably not standard operating procedure for sure.

And a couple of times on horseback having close encounters with grizzlies. I stayed one night at Stoney Creek and did a day ride up to Cuthead and back to drop off some supplies so I just had the saddle horse. We’re going along and we were walking and suddenly my horse does this 180 and heads back the other way. Thankfully I stayed on and got her wheeled around and she was prancing and stuff, and all of a sudden there was this big “Woof” and a big grizzly bear head sticks out of the bushes about 15-20 feet away. That was why the horse had been so skittish. The bear just went off so we could get by. Another time I was up at Indianhead Cabin. Every once in a while I liked to ride the pack horse, just to give her something different. So I’d ridden outside the park to check out an outfitter camp, (the packhorse doesn’t like to be away from the saddle horse because they’re used to being tailed along) and on the way back, the pack horse was keen to get back and we started going to Indianhead cabin and there are two bears between us and the gate between Indianhead and the Cabin. The horse was kind of prancing along like “I have to go there, but there are bears”, so I finally got her to go to a different gate. The horses were always alerting you to stuff that was out there, porcupines, rocks that had been turned over while we were out and on the way back the horse would stop and think, “Something is different here”.

MH: How did the Warden Service change over the years? 2148:

CS: The job in Kluane, I benefited from affirmative action. Duane West went up to Kluane and he called me up a number of months later and he said, “There is this program that I can apply for to get women into non-traditional jobs and so it would be an additional person”. So he called and asked if I was interested and I said yes. Bob Haney was my boss and I was supposed to be going to Lake Louise to work but Bob had worked in Kluane and knew it was a great experience so he gave me a leave of absence and let me go to Kluane so I could benefit then. The rumour was that I was getting a full-time job as a result of this but no. There was animosity from some of the guys for these affirmative action type of things. That was the only time I had that. And of course the big thing when the Warden Service was split with Law Enforcement in 2000, when I was in Aulavik, I never went back to a Resource Conservation position in Banff, because I got a full time position as a biologist in Waterton. So my Masters did pay off.

There were always the usual reorganizations and then in 2012 when the big changes came, I retired and that was partly because of the cuts. My job was secure but I had been kind of thinking of retiring early because my husband is older than I am and we wanted to get out and do things so I took the opportunity to do an alternation with a guy whose job was being cut in Grasslands National Park. So he got my job and the benefit for me was that they were deferring the penalty for retiring early so I could start taking my pension before I turned 60. I was 56 when I retired and I could start taking my pension right away without penalty. He got a job and he is still there.

MH: What about the Warden Service was important to you? 2535:

CS: I was already working for National Parks as a Naturalist before I got on with the Warden Service, and I’d always been interested in educating people on National Parks and the outdoors and science. One of the reasons I switched to the Warden Service was to spend more time outdoors because in the Naturalist job, I ended up doing interpretive planning so you weren’t out as much. Helping protect wildlife and wild places but also at the same time you’re talking to people and helping to educate them about the outdoors. The chance to work with horses in backcountry positions, seeing wildlife up close.

MH: Are there any legends or stories associated with the Warden Service that you can share? Is there anyone from the Service that stands out in your mind? 2645:

CS: There were always a bunch of stories from the old timers that used to hang around Lake Louise. Stuff that people would have got fired for starting in the 1990s, and Dale Loewen always had a bunch of those to pass along. Dale Loewen certainly was a legend. I worked for him, we got along well. His wife would not let him spend a night in a cabin with a woman warden. She just would not so I never saw him in the backcountry. My first backcountry job in the Tonquin Valley, my supervisor, whom I hadn’t seen all summer (nobody came into Tonquin), and he basically wrote on my evaluation, “you must have done a good job because the outfitter didn’t complain”.

Tim Auger was a legend, not that I was a climber, but some of the climber types could be a little snotty but Tim never was, nor was Marc Ledwidge. In Jasper there was Willi Pfisterer and Alfie Burstrom were both legends and Bill Dolan who I worked for in Waterton. He should be interviewed. He was in Riding Mountain and then started Aulavik National Park and was the first Chief Park Warden there and then Waterton for 17-20 years. He kind of got forced out with the Law Enforcement change and he continues to be a real ethical person and wasn’t willing to accept things without questioning, so he felt it was better for him to retire. He went to Alberta Parks for a couple of years. Lots of people left quite bitter during that period but I was fine and had made my choice to leave.

MH: Is there anything about the Warden Service, as you knew it, that you would like future generations to know? 3035:
CS: Maybe a lot of people didn’t realize that, especially more in the 80s and 90s, the conflict between sections within Parks Canada, like the Warden Service who really believed in Ecological Integrity and then coming up against things like increasing visitation to the parks and pro-Development and that kind of thing. So I think a lot of people didn’t recognize that there was that conflict. Whether there still is as much now, probably. But back then maybe it was easier to speak out about that, people would push back more than now, I’m not sure. I remember one time there was a meeting at the Warden Office and the Superintendent had come over to talk to us about; it was when Sunshine and Lake Louise were all taking over the avalanche control program from Parks Canada and Tim was sitting there and he says “we couldn’t negotiate our way out of a wet paper bag if we tried to”. From a lot of people’s perspective, it didn’t go well and there was the opportunity, or people felt stronger about speaking out about things. I don’t know if the job security was any different back then, maybe. I think that is something that was different then and I think people had longer time to get to know an area and had more personal investment in their job and the park than people who have to bounce around between jobs.