Where Bambi Goes Nothing Grows

In 1969 when I came on my first lighthouse at Pulteney Point it was a three man station. I was the new man on shift so I got the night shift.

photo from Friar Franks website - https://becketmonk.wordpress.com/

One of the first things I noticed when I came on shift were the number of deer on the lawn, even at eleven o’clock at night! They were everywhere. Pulteney Point had quite an extensive station area, and behind was dense forest.

It never failed that the deer came every night around dusk and left at daybreak. They just seemed to appear as if by magic – then one moment they were there and the next not.

I could not really sit and watch them all the time, and as I was on night shift (12 to 8 AM) they were already there when I woke up.

In the morning, as the sun started to rise we had station duties to perform which kept us inside or preoccupied so they came and they went on their own schedule.

Tricia's smile - photo Coldwell collection

I was on Pulteney Point for three (3) years. In the second year, my wife Karen and I searched for and found a Dalmatian pup which we brought back to the lighthouse. Tricia was a riot. She had a most infectious grin! She was also very easy to train. I trained her with hand signals so that in the woods I did not have to speak and scare the animals. This was for hunting later, but also for wildlife observing. A dog can sense an animal more quickly than we humans can.

The woods behind the station - photo Coldwell collection c. 1969

So, as Tricia started to grow, my shifts also changed as we went from a three-man station to a two-man station. Unfortunately that didn’t help me too much as my shift then went from 12 midnight until 12 noon with no overtime. Part of the government’s way of saving money!

One evening, when Tricia was well trained to hand signals I decided to explore back in the woods for the deer. A few hours before sunset Tricia and I stalked back into the woods to a small hill about a quarter mile behind the station.

Tricia about one yr. old - photo Coldwell collection

We parked ourselves below the crest of the hill and off to the side of the abundant deer trails. I dug out my binoculars and waited. And waited. And waited. Tricia not uttering even a whine.

It got dark. It got darker, but not a trace or sound of the deer. Tricia never even sensed them. I waited until two hours after dark and then headed back to the station. Maybe they weren’t coming tonight.

As I emerged from the trees, there was the whole herd, probably about twenty (20) of them eating peacefully on the lawn grass we had so carefully supplied for them. One or two looked up and I almost heard them ask “Where have you been?”

One of the beaches - photo Coldwell collection

Many times I searched for their tracks, looked on the sand on the beaches, watched out the windows, but I never saw them emerge – they just appeared! It was uncanny, but because of the coastal deer’s colour, at dusk it just blended into the surroundings.

On the station we had a great big fluorescent street lamp on a lamp pole – you can see it just before the red fuel tanks in the station photo at the top. It was just like those in the city, which someone in the government had given us to see better in the dark.

It was so bright we lost all night vision, and it was sometimes mistaken by the boats for the main light as it was brighter! With this the deer showed up, but without it, they would not be seen until we stumbled over them. They never moved when I came by, and even Tricia didn’t bother them or they her as she followed me up and down the sidewalks.

Not sorry a bit!

Speaking of sidewalks, I think they thought of them as their toilet. Every morning it was my job to sweep the sidewalks of brown raisins!

The deer were great to see, but one of their most annoying habits was the eating of the flowers in the gardens near the houses. They didn’t like newly-emerging daffodil leaves or tulip leaves, but they did love the flowers. Wow! We have flowers coming in the garden. Next morning nothing! That is where the title comes from. I heard it a long time ago – Where Bambi goes, nothing grows!

Aiding and Abetting* at Pulteney Point c. 1970

* see Wikipedia for a definition

Pulteney Point - photo John Morris

One of our responsibilities as a lighthouse keeper was to assist mariners in distress. This was not a written rule. The written rule was to maintain the light and foghorn.

There was one stipulation in our Rule Book where we could assist a mariner who ran out of gas or diesel by supplying them with enough fuel, free of charge, to get them to the next port of call where they could purchase their own.

One evening Walt Tansky, my boss on Pulteney Point at the time, was interrupted by a knock at the door and saw a young man there who informed him that he had run out of gas and could he get enough to get him to Port Hardy. Walt said he remarked that Port McNeil or Sointula was closer, but the man said he had just come from Alert Bay and was heading north. Continue reading

Not Beachcombing

No, the title does not mean I have gone a wee bit balmy. This article is about finding things but not on the beach. It is also not really about lighthouses, but does take place on, or near a lighthouse where my wife Karen and I were first stationed.

When I saw the photo below it brought back many memories of our first lighthouse at Pulteney Point, Malcolm Island.

 Pulteney Point lighthouse is located between Port McNeil and Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (see map below). It is still manned.

In 1901 Finnish settlers made Malcolm Island their home – see a short version of the story here.

Pulteney Point

When we arrived at the lighthouse in 1969 there were still traces of the settlements visible in the woods between the lighthouse and the town of Sointula. Old buildings, parts of wharves, chimneys, rusting appliances and farm implements. One needed a boat to explore most of them as there were no usable trails through the woods – at least none that were usable now.

But out behind the lighthouse there was a trail leading into the woods along the beach on the northwest side leading to a small creek that flowed into the ocean where the lightkeepers used to pump water to the station for drinking water. Part way along the trail were a couple of old buildings we were told housed the early settlers.

Having explored many ruins and old townsites on Vancouver Island before moving onto the lights we thought we were pretty expert at finding old souvenirs, bottles, etc.

Armed with shovel, trowel and a few sacks we headed out one day to explore the ruins. We knew we were probably not the first ones to explore the site, but hoped that our expertise would prevail and we would find what they had not.

First, we had been told many years earlier, look for a garbage dump. By now that would have been overgrown, so we looked for any hump that was off to the side of the property and away from the main house.

our find, like the bottle on the left

We did find and excavate a couple of likely spots, but found nothing that resembled what we were looking for. We searched through both buildings – one a house, and the other outbuilding, probably a sauna – hey, it was a Finnish homestead, so why not?

After hours of searching we found one small Vaseline bottle which had turned purple in the sun. Heading home proudly with our find, we showed it off to the other family at the lighthouse.

View Larger Map (Pulteney Point lighthouse at the marker)

We completely forgot about the episode until about a year later when a boat with strangers arrived at the station. The two men and two women explained that they had been exploring the old Finnish homesteads for souvenirs and asked if it would be okay to look around out back as they had been told there was a homestead there as well.

Walter Tansky, the senior keeper, said there was no problem as all the property behind the lighthouse was Crown Land. I was wondering how long they would be there before they discovered that there was nothing significant there.

After a couple of hours they had not returned. I got curious and wandered back there to see what was taking so much of their time. Upon arriving at the site I saw that the floorboards had been torn up, and there was a pile of old bottles sitting off to one side.

How? Where? What . . .? I was speechless. Where did all these bottles come from?

So after getting over my shock, I asked some questions. It turns out they had found what they thought was the kitchen by probing. Probing involves the use of a spring steel probe about 1/4″ in diameter and about 4 feet long. It usually has a metal or wood T-handle. This is pushed into the earth to locate buried objects like metal and glass.

Under the floor in the kitchen they found most of the bottles. They assumed that a wood shelf had collapsed onto the rotten floor and carried its load of bottle with it. Some were broken, but most were in very good condition because they had not been moved since the early 1900s.

So this was not beachcombing, and I could not call it landcombing, but we sure did learn a lot about bottle scavenging.

Fishing in the Fog – Pulteney Point c. 1970s

The following story came to mind when a friend of mine from Victoria made a comment on this website.

The water on the Inside Passage called Queen Charlotte Strait is know for its enveloping fogs which cover all land and sea, sometimes for days at a a time.

Pulteney Point (top middle) and Kluxewe river (bottom middle)

In the early 1970s I was stationed at Pulteney Point Lighthouse – my first appointment to the lightstation service. What a delightful place it was, and the keepers, Walt and Joyce Tansky were the best  to have for a person starting on the lights.

One summer’s day my friend Rich was visiting for a few days salmon fishing. I had a fifteen (16) foot (5 meter) canoe. I was very familiar with it, but Rich still had to learn. Continue reading

In Memorium – Walter Tansky (XXXX – XXXX)

                                                                                          Walter (Walt) Tansky ( – ) was my first principal lighthouse keeper at Pulteney Point and I couldn’t have had better. When we first started as assistant lighthouse keepers we had no idea whom we would be “bunking” with. Walt was my idol as to what I wanted to be when I became a principal keeper. Walt also ran a HAM rig with the call sign VE7APR – John Coldwell (with many fond memories of Walt, his wife Joyce and the family)


To include your memories in Walt’s memorial please click this link.