Thanks to Peter Percival for the following information and interesting, colourful story:
That’s Steve Veerman on the tractor with Mount Lorne in the background.
Steve and Margret Veerman’s hardscrabble farm was located on the Carcross Road across from the abandoned Robinson Road House, which is now a Yukon Historic Site.
During cold and wet weather, Steve’s small herd of cattle often took shelter in the old Road House outbuildings.
Steve started raising pigs in log pens sometime in the late ‘40s. He probably also got into cattle about the same time.
They had lots of trouble with bears – black, brown and grizzlies. In fact, Margret told my neighbour, Grant Lortie, that Steve had shot 50-plus over the years. In an interview with Grant in 1984 she said, “Constant vigilance and good marksmanship kept us in business.” That was only part of it; her office job at Territorial Supply (as I recall the International Harvester dealership) would have provided most of the hard cash. Note the IH logo on Steve’s cap.
Feed for the pigs was mainly food leftovers from the US (later Canadian) Army and Air Force mess halls, with some scraps from local Whitehorse restaurants thrown in. All cooked as a mash in a “cannibal-sized missionary” pig-scalding pot the aroma of which must have been a great bear attractant.
Steve told me that when the mess halls closed in the mid ‘60s he got out of pigs because at the price they were fetching he could not afford to feed them.
By the time I got to know Steve in the early ‘70s, his cattle were all open-range fed and so inbred that they were shrunken in size. In the fall of 1974 or ‘75, at the time Steve was finally “shutting her down” (slaughtering his herd), I made the big mistake of buying a full (well, small) half steer. I did the butchering myself. The fat was yellow and the meat tasted like willow bark. I sure wished I had got a moose that year!
While Steve raised pigs and cows, Margret raised a “rank herd” of stray cats. Their house was really a small four-room tarpaper shack. And there were cats everywhere. Every horizontal space, from above eye level to the floor, had a cat perched or lying on it. One afternoon at tea, I counted 37 of the most motley array one could imagine – from one old, scarred tomcat to new-born kittens and everything in between.
When Tommy Stinson was drilling a well for Steve, at a time when Steve was considering buying a well-used second-hand IH bulldozer, Tommy told him he didn’t need more junk equipment, but he certainly could use a good cat skinner. Steve never caught the joke, but Margret did – and no more tea for Tommy.
Bill Sinclair is one of the Yukon’s best-kept artistic secrets. His portraits of Yukon First Nation elders and our Colourful Five Per Cent pioneers are wonderfully stunning!
The 1994 painting by William (Bill) C. Sinclair will be auctioned Friday evening, October 21, at Lorne Mountain Community Centre at a fundraiser dinner and concert for the Mt. Lorne Volunteer Fire Department.
Anyone with information about this subject, please write Jim Robb: The Colourful Five Per Cent Scrapbook – Can You Identify? c/o the Yukon News, 211 Wood Street, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 2E4, or email through the News website, www.yukon-news.com.