The loss of a Fort St. James icon was felt across the community with the passing of Joe Bob Patrick on Feb. 7, 2013.
Joe Bob was known throughout the community as a living connection to the past. He could be seen, up until only recently, walking through downtown nearly every day – hat on, walking stick in hand.
In honour of the man who will be mourned by people across the community, this is a reprinting of a story about the life of Joe Bob from the Pioneers of Stuart Nechako.
The infamous Joe Bob
Joe Bob is a man that everyone knows, but not a lot of people know about.
Joe Bob Patrick was born in 1926 at Thutade Lake which is around the Kemess mine area. His mother came from Kasan, near Hazelton, while his dad came from the Sekani.
“I stayed there (in the Kemess area),” Joe Bob said. “I didn’t go to school. My dad didn’t want me to go to school. I was raised up in the bush. I know how to sign my name, that is all.”
Joe Bob and his family lived in a log cabin when he was a boy with his family.
“Forty below, 60 below, we would camp outside,” Joe Bob said. “We don’t care. (We have done it) all our lives.”
“We made our snowshoes when I was a small kid,” he said. “My mom would make the snowshoes and we would follow our dad when he was trapping and he showed us how to trap. When I was eight or nine years old we would follow my dad and he showed me how to set small little traps. After one year I would go around and started to set my own traps, I had my own money when I was nine and I bought my own clothes. My dad just taught us how to do it. When we were 18 or 19 years old I knew everything about trapping and hunting in the bush.”
“When we go trapping a long time ago we had to break the snow and make a good road and then haul the whole family then we would set the trap one by one, my brother would set a trap and then I would set a trap,” Joe Bob said. “We would make a nice camp, cut lots of wood with an ax. We had no saw, no nothing a long time ago. So early in the morning we started making trail from where we make trap. For a couple of days one guy would go one way, another guy would go the other way and set traps.
“We would start on November 1 for trapping and quit about April, then we started trapping for beaver. All the way through we trapped when I was young.”
After Joe Bob and his family finished trapping, they would go to the store and buy more groceries for the summer.
“We would come back from the store after we sell beaver and go to the cabin and started hunting to make dry meat,” he said.
“We would make a big high cache to put all the meat for winter.”
Then the cycle would be repeated.
“We would fill up that one and start trapping again the same way all the way through the year around Thutade Lake,” he said.
He also did a lot of fishing.
“We would make our own hooks with a nail and cut the ice and tie it. A real good catch (would be a) big Dolly Varden that would swallow the whole hook. We would put about 10 hooks and we would have that many in the morning. We would catch big Dolly Varden. Soon as you lift the hook out we threw them.
“In the spring time we would make a lot of dry meat and we would go to our cache and open it and eat again. We used to catch salmon on Takla Lake too.”
“When we ran out of tea we would use Indian tea out in the bush. We make the tea and it tastes good, and it is good for your insides,” he said.
One of the challenges for the family was high water.
“In the spring time it was hard,” he said. “When we went back to Bear Lake it was hard, high water. When we walk thorough the big river we move little by little and used a stick to cross the water. We have a big pack, and sometimes we made two trips because we had a big family.
We had a long stick for the young guys. My brother and sister would just hang on to the stick and we would go across the river and we made it across. A strong guy would haul that stick and the rest of us would just hang on the stick and we would make it across.
“The only time we would get stuck was high water when we would go across the river. Sometimes we would try to find a big tree that fell over the river and cross the river that way,” he said.
Joe Bob said that the youth today don’t follow the old ways that he knows.
“Young people wouldn’t even go three miles away (from town),”Joe Bob said. “They don’t know what to do, but me, I know everything.
They don’t know how to set traps, how to make the camps. They don’t know how to do anything.”
“It was pretty tough a long time ago,” he said. “These people nowadays don’t do it. They just know how to smoke. Me, I don’t smoke nothing. I used to drink a little when I was young, but not much now.”
Joe Bob said that he lives all by himself up in the Kemess Mine area now. His brother, Charlie Bob, is in the Babine Lake area now.
“It is a big area, right around Thutade Lake, Moose Valley, and Johansson,” he said. “Kemess Mine is inside my trap line.”
Joe Bob also worked in sawmills for many years.
“I used to work really hard around Fort St. James for 24 years in sawmills around here,” he said. “As soon as I finished my job, another guy came to me and gave me a job because I am a fast guy.”
Joe Bob would go trapping on Saturday and Sunday when he wasn’t working in the mills.
“I trapped and worked in the mill at the same time,” Joe Bob said.
Joe Bob has three children.
“I have three boys,” Joe Bob said. “They have big families themselves now. Some live in the Yukon, some of them in Burns Lake. I never seen them for about two years now. They don’t work on the trap line at all, as soon as they went to school they stopped.”
“Now I get sick and I have to stay around town,” Joe Bob said.
What’s wrong, Joe Bob?
“I am 86 years old, do you think you are still going to be strong?” Joe Bob asked laughing, leaning over in his chair.