Bonanza on Marshall Creek

HAINES JUNCTION Ellie Parmentier is a self-acclaimed mystery man and cowboy without a ranch. But he considers his spacious cabin and one-acre…


Ellie Parmentier is a self-acclaimed mystery man and cowboy without a ranch.

But he considers his spacious cabin and one-acre parcel on the bank of Marshall Creek is spread.

And he’s a story in cowboy boots — or moccasins if he’s indoors.

Though set in spruce, not pine, his place resembles a downsized version of the famous 19th-century Ponderosa ranch of television’s Bonanza — except there are no animals, not even a dog.

And, as on the Ponderosa, there are no women either.

Parmentier’s wood-slatted house, with its sloped roof, veranda, woodpile and small outbuildings, reflects the frontier West.

It seems Parmentier himself could step right back there.

In stature and style, he does make one think of Lorne Green (Bonanza’s Pa Cartwright), especially when wearing his cowboy hat.

Even his deep voice, the tilt of his head and his grin are similar to Greene’s.

(Parmentier’s musical laugh, though, is more like Elvis Presley’s — the real Elvis).

Inside Parmentier’s open-beam cabin, antlers decorate the upper part of the paneled walls; similarly in the Ponderosa ranch house.

One pair of sheep horns has been fashioned to resemble those of the Texas longhorn.

The many country-style windows in Parmentier’s large and sunny front room suggest ranch life. Burgundy curtains and covered sofas suggest warm comfort.

An intriguing collection of lanterns, Navaho blankets, pocket watches, hats and even an Indian headdress add to the western motif.

It’s a scene of well-kept clutter right out of the old West.

A large black wood stove in Parmentier’s country kitchen heats the house.

Utensils, shelves, pots and pans dot one wall. Except for the ‘50s style toaster sitting on the counter, one’s mind could drift back to Hop Sing’s kitchen on the Ponderosa.

And a wooden plaque reads, “In Heaven ain’t no beer, gotta drink it here.”

Parmentier throws in a story about having too many friends when he started making home brew.

“They came from all over. They could smell it from Whitehorse,” he says. “I finally had to quit making it. I couldn’t keep up.”

Parmentier speaks with a quick cadence and traces of a south-of-the border dialect — country style. He attributes that to his mother who was from Louisiana.

“We moved there for a couple of years, but moved back to Alberta in the ‘40s,” he says. “Too many snakes for me down there — couldn’t stand that.

“I’d rather play with the bears,” he says with a laugh.

The tall, well-built Parmentier says he became countrified, strong, and bush savvy during his childhood in Alberta.

He spent long hours doing difficult chores on two home places in the bush, near Sunset Hills and then Leslieville.

He grew up hunting rabbits and chickens.

“That’s all we had to eat,” he says. “Another place all we had was a vegetable garden.”

He says he hated the grueling chores, and he had troubles with his difficult father. So at 13 he left home and did the ranch circuit and bush camps.

Until then, he attended a 16-student school for six years. He laughs now about his school’s pretentious name.

“Imagine,” he says, “Washington Heights — in the middle of the Alberta bush.”

“After I left school I cowboy-ed for awhile,” says Parmentier. “Then worked in lumber camps. Later I became a heavy equipment operator and had my own Cat.”

Parmentier was married and divorced in Alberta, then came to the Yukon in 1968. He worked for the department of Highways, first at 48 Mile, then at Dezadeash.

He retired from highway work in 1979 with lung damage from dust and calcium.

“That’s when I bought this property and built my house,” he says.

“And my lungs are still getting better. I’m healing myself.”

Parmentier leans against the corner post of his open veranda, pushes back his cowboy hat, points out the hill behind the rail fence circling his property.

“I realized this corner was totally sheltered by that hill from the north wind,” he says. “So I bought the acre and built the house.”

He agrees he could call the place, Marshall Creek Heights.

Parmentier didn’t buy his property on an impulse. 

He recalls how he watched Yukon’s weather patterns for several years.

“And this corner here, Haines Junction, it has the nicer weather. So this is where I wanted to be,” he says.

“In fact, I believe this is where I’m supposed to be.”

While talking with Parmentier one can quickly recognize an active man with an active imagination. He keeps himself occupied by hunting, fishing, and prospecting the creeks.

And he spends considerable time musing on his beliefs of the spirit and planet worlds, ideas hedging on the mystic and the paranormal.

“I have all sorts of ideas and beliefs to keep me company,” he says. “I’m alone but not lonely.”

However, like Hoss in the Bonanza series, he does go to town for company and supplies. Unlike Hoss, though (with his horse and wagon), Parmentier drives the 16 kilometres in his Dodge diesel three-quarter tonne.

Most days he spends a couple of hours at Glacier View Restaurant in Haines Junction — for soup and sociability.

“All my neighbours are there, “ says Parmentier. “And it’s a good place. I get a good feeling there. Good people. Good soup.”

“And it saves me cooking.”

He looks across the yard from his veranda.

“Other than that, this is all I have,” he says.

He considers it his Bonanza.

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