Book Review: Mountain Man: The Life of a Guide Outfitter

Author: Hiram Cody Tegart with Andrew Bruce Richards
Published by Caitlin Press, BC, 2019

Book Review: Mountain ManMountain Man is the story of legendary guide outfitter, Cody Tegart, set in the mountains of southeast British Columbia in the late 20th Century. Tegart died in 2018, aged 68, before the book was finished; and it fell to friend and one-time neighbour, Andy Richards to complete this compilation and editing of stories by Tegart and others. Richards resists the temptation to over-edit the writers’ colloquialisms in order to better bring the reader a sense of realism of a fast-disappearing mountain culture. The work is not unlike that of the late Jack Boudreau, whose books on interior and northern BC pioneers were, for several years, among Caitlin Press’ most popular outputs. Given reader appetite for a firsthand, idiomatic style of history telling, this book may also do well.

The real life stories give a good sense of what horse packing and big game hunting in the mountains was, and to some extent still is like. If you backpack in off-the-beaten-track places, you might still run into the occasional horse riders or pack trains as I did several times last year. Even if you are not a fan of guided big game hunting, it’s worth recalling that many of our mountain trails (certainly in the Rockies) had their origin as horse trails, and that this is a rich and essential part of our provincial history and rural economy.

As is oft the case with biography, the book began slowly for me, with what seemed like a rather scattered approach to the protagonists’ early years. However, I resisted the temptation to put it aside, and by the mid-point my interest level picked up as we got into stories by other guides and clients. These third-party accounts set the stage for the return of Tegart’s voice in the later chapters as he pulls no punches in his authentic and incisive narratives.

Tegart, we also learn, was one of a group of people who fought for protection of an area that culminated in the establishment of the Height of the Rockies Provincial Park in 1995. The book ends on a political note, protesting what the authors see as mistaken wildlife management practices of successive provincial governments, and challenging some present-day perceptions about predator/prey relationships and grizzly bear hunting.

I thought the book would have benefited from a stronger beginning; but despite my early misgivings I warmed up to it as I got further along, and by the final page I felt that it was a down-to-earth story that was fairly told and worth reading and knowing about.

Mountain Man: The Life of a Guide Outfitter by Hiram Cody Tegart with Andrew Bruce Richards;
Caitlin Press, 2019; ISBN: 9781773860060; Paperback; 240 pages, B&W photo throughout: $24.95.

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