“Did the warden service change a lot over your career?”

(27:58) Yeah it changed a lot. More office time for everybody and then of course after I left, I think it really, really changed you know. When they wanted to be law enforcement people and they kind of messed the whole thing up badly. (In 2000, Banff park warden, Douglas Martin filed a federal Labor Code Complaint arguing that, without a side arm, he was being placed in situations of potential danger without the necessary protective equipment. (Remington, Robert. “Men for the Mountains.” Discovering Alberta – A Calgary Herald Magazine Series.) After seven years of discussions and appeals, the National Occupational Health and Safety Policy Committee recommended that Parks Canada give wardens side arms. However, in 2008, wardens were relieved of their law-enforcement duties, with the exception of 100 armed-enforcement officers who were hired to enforce federal conservation laws in Canada’s 41 parks and park reserves. (Agrell, Siri. “Park Wardens Our of Uniform: From Stetsons to Ball Caps” Globe and Mail. June 7, 2008.)

I thought it was one of the best jobs in the world, it was so diversified. Like your dad was a strong skier and a mountaineer and you could find a place to funnel your talents, like me with the backcountry stuff and your dad with the avalanche patrol work. But we can stand around and say, “Oh, it is totally ruined. It is not as good as it was.” If a person was 20 years old and they were there today, they would be having a ball. You know, you’ve got to remember that part. It’s mainly because you get older and get kind of bitter and hateful at times. I was no better. I am sure the young guys are having a fun time today.

“What about the warden service was important to you? Was it the idea of protecting and preserving national parks?”

(28:28) Yeah, that part was important. And what I saw was that too many people beyond the level of the warden service like in Calgary or Ottawa, there were very few there who really cared about the park you know. They just had a job. They didn’t really understand the country or try to save the country and scenery and stuff. There were a few that were really good out of Calgary, but beyond that there was not that many that knew what the parks were really about. Of course a park in eastern Canada is quite a bit different than the mountain parks. In eastern Canada those parks were really used by the people a lot more and they were almost like a citified park some of them, compared to what we had out here. Then the whole lifestyle that was really important. That was great…You are lucky to be able to do something that you really enjoy in life, to have a job that you can really enjoy.

“Is there anything about the warden service as you knew it that you would want the future generations of wardens to know?”

(31:17) I don’t know if what I would say would make much difference. There are not that many wardens left. They are all conservation specialists or something there now, and the ones that are wardens are law enforcement people. To that group I would say, “Don’t be hard-nosed law enforcers. Try and be more of an educational law enforcement group and get along with the people well because to just run around and look like a police officer, that really I don’t think is a warden’s job.” While some of it is necessary, law enforcement is necessary to some extent, but hard law enforcement is not required there.

“Was poaching a big issue over your career?”

(32:14) Minor. We put hours and hours into patrolling the backcountry during hunting season and the highways at night and we really didn’t lay that many charges. I don’t think it was such a real big issue as some people would like to make it out to be. But we did a lot of preventative work and maybe that prevented poaching from occurring. The outfitters that worked on the park boundary in the fall, especially sheep hunters, they were opportunists. Big rams always made a lot of money, big sheep and probably more snuck out than we knew about I’m sure. But they were kind of watching each other too, a lot of them. They kind of policed themselves a bit more at the end I think than we realized.

“What do you think made the warden service such a unique organization?”

(33:34) I think in the mountain parks here, the diversity of the job. There were so many different jobs that it really took a wide variety of skills. There were a lot of guys with some really serious outdoor skills, whether it was fire fighting or avalanche control, mountain rescue work, or working with horses alone in the backcountry. I think that really made it unique. And I think as outdoorsmen go, there were some of the best people in the world there who could do everything. Like you could all climb a little, ski a little, some people had water skills, boating skills and I think that really made it unique. They were real outdoorsmen a lot of those guys, genuine outdoorsmen. And I saw it on a few schools, people from other places like the military or something would come and join our group and they couldn’t hold a candle to the warden service, They really couldn’t. That’s not just bragging, it is just straight observance. These guys were supposed to be hotshots from some group in the military and they’d come out here and they would power out and to the wardens that was just another day, walking across some glacier somewhere. And later on there were some there that had university skills and they were still outdoorsmen…Like your dad, he had university training and the White boys. While they might not have been my favorite people, they had a lot of good skills you know, outdoorsmen plus the university degrees. So they kind of had it all sewed up you know.

“I remember my dad coming home from doing some interviews and being very impressed with the skills of some of the new wardens, because like you said they had the outdoor stuff, as well as, the formal education.”

They really had it going on yes. Not all of them, but quite a few of them. Then the last few years I was there some of them did not have the outdoor skills, There was more there without them than there should have been.

Dale Loewen and Don Mickle. Jane MacAuley photo collection.

Do you have any lasting memories as a warden, like a favorite place or horse…”?

(36:26) There were a few horses I thought the world of.
I wouldn’t say I had one that was better than the other because I had three or four great ones. Then as far as the country goes, I liked the most Lonesome Corner, it was on the Clearwater at Indianhead Creek and that country over there. I really liked it over there. When you went over there you didn’t see many people and there was lots of wildlife and it was nice open country. I would say that was my favorite country there, yep.

“Do you ever miss being a warden?”

(37:06) No, not a bit! Really, honestly thank god I am gone. I had enough government to fill myself up you know. That is the part I didn’t miss at all. We moved to the bush, west of Sundre. I lost my wife there last year, but I am kind of back in the bush here and there are wild horses, and moose, and a few bears and I live a good life here.

“Do you still have horses?”

Oh yeah, I have half a dozen yet. (I had a real bad year with my health so my riding days are close to being done. I am 75 after all and I might have to quit one of these days. I still get on but I don’t ride far.

“Has your health improved? It sounded really serious.”

It was really serious. I had ulcers and I didn’t eat for five weeks or six weeks. I didn’t eat hardly anything at all. I lost about 30 pounds, most of it was belly, but I lost a little too much muscle. Then I had a serious A-Fid (Atrial Fibrillation) attack. You know what that is? A racing heart, your heart gets out of rhythm and I ended up in hospital for the first part of May for a week. But they’ve got it under control now, so I am doing all right, but I was really weak for quite a while.

“I am sorry to hear about Patty, was it last year she passed away?”

(38:51) Yeah, it’s been a year ago now, it was July. Yeah, it is kind of lonesome here without her that is for sure. We were partners…definitely.

“You’ve given me some great stories and you have answered all my questions…is there anything that you would like to add?”

(39:31) Oh not really at this moment. We could go on with stories forever, but they would just be stories. There are some people I wish, (like) Jay Morton was one that if he’d tuned himself up, he could have wrote great stories. He knew all the characters and he could always tell a good story. It’s a shame he hadn’t looked after himself a little better. That is one thing that I would have liked to have seen.