DOC WEST: Property Theft Protection

ILLUSTRATION BY Dave Elston

In all the years I’ve been living out West, I’ve never encountered or heard about property theft as much as in recent times. More than several of my country neighbours have experienced thefts of varying degrees – from fuel to equipment, some have even lost their prized horses. Audacious thieves are committing their crimes in the middle of the night, while country-folk sleep soundly in their beds, and not much seems to get done about it. Maybe there’s something to be said about the Old West and it’s way of dealing with thievery. Are our current property theft laws substandard? What’s a rural property owner to do? 

The Old West had its own unique brand of justice cooked up just right for the frontier. Back in those days the law didn’t require a cowpoke riding solo on the high plains to holler for help before drawing down with his Colt on midnight rustlers fixing for his best horse. The lonely pioneer widow could still swing a double-barrel Coach gun from the veranda with authority on a peeping scoundrel and wouldn’t be charged with careless use of a firearm. However, those days are long gone and today we live in a more civilized and gentile age where it seems you must treat robbers, murderers, bandits, and thieves with courtesy and serve them tea as they load up your wares and ride off into the sunset. So what can you do and what can’t you do? As a starting point, know that legalese is not ole’ Doc’s forte – so don’t go quoting me to the judge if you accidentally get a bit twitchy and start blasting away at some wayward visitors.

First off, Doc is a firm believer in the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thieves always look for the easiest target, and will often “case” properties for a good haul and a quick easy getaway. You don’t need rows of razor wire or a moat to make your property an uninviting target, but there are preventative measures you can take. Thieves don’t want to be seen, they work most comfortably under the cover of darkness and anonymity. A bright, well-lit farmyard or acreage might just be the only thing he needs to see to move on to another target. Security cameras and alarms also enhance the deterrence effect – so long as the culprit knows that they are there – so if you have them, make sure they are visible and the intruder is alerted as to their existence. Gates are a terrific source of deterrence, crime statistics will attest that gated residences have significantly lower incidents of break-ins than ungated properties. A grumbly old yard hound will make a racket and if he’s mean enough might take a chunk or two out of a bandit’s backside. Remember that your acreage doesn’t have to be Fort Knox, it just needs to appear to be more impenetrable than your neighbours’.

However, I know as a wannabe John Wayne you’re really not interested in all the panzy stuff that the police tell you to do, and hell, you’ve not moved way out to scenic acres just to hide in your closet and dial 911. You want to know (not withstanding all reasonable precautions of course), if a determined rustler breaches the sanctity of your property and is in the process of loading up your best roping horse, can you draw down? Well, the answer is, it depends.

In 2012, the Conservative government passed Bill c-26 (also known as the Lucky Moose Bill after Chinatown store owner David Chen – who was charged with assault after he chased down, tied up and detained a shoplifter at the Lucky Moose Food Mart), which streamlined Canada’s antiquated and convoluted “defence of property” provisions. Overall, a successful claim of defence of property in the law requires three things:

  • A reasonable perception of a specified type of threat to property in one’s “peaceable possession”;
  • A defensive purpose associated with the accused’s actions; and,
  • The accused’s actions must be reasonable in the circumstances.

In acreage cowpuncher terms, that translates to:

  • That ropin’ horse you believe is belongn’ to you needs to be legally belongn’ to you;
  • What you do must be for the purpose of saving your roping horse from theft; and,
  • The force you use to save your roping horse from theft must be reasonable in the circumstances.

Each case will turn on its individual facts. For example, farmer Brian Knight of Lacombe, pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing bodily harm after giving chase to, running down and shooting ATV thief Harold Groening in the hiney with a shotgun. Whereas Saskatoonian Hugh Lindholm was never charged at all for firing two warning shots with his hunting rifle at a stranger who had hurled a brick through his front window, and was standing on his deck demanding his car keys.

The rule of thumb is there is no rule of thumb. Each situation is different and so is each prosecutor and each judge. There are no hard and fast rules, but a good dose of common sense will tell you what force is reasonable and legal, and what force is going to land you a free stay at the crowbar hotel.

Doc West is grateful for the consultation provided by Dunn and Associates for the legal clarification offered in this article. 

Western Home – Chilco Ranch

Janet Miller’s dream home in British Columbia’s interior illustrates why so many pioneers were drawn into the lure of the mighty Chilcotin area. 

By Deanna Kristensen

Miller's home is decorated by a diverse collection of modern and traditional styles of western artwork.

Miller’s home is decorated by a diverse collection of modern and traditional styles of western artwork.

Nestled on the property of the historical Chilco Ranch at Hanceville, British Columbia, Miller’s log home would tantalize the heart of any western romantic. Since the 1880’s, the Chilcotin has been home to the historic Chilco Ranch. Miller Ranches Ltd. (Miller’s parents Dean and Lorraine Miller) have owned and operated the ranch since 1992. The family goal was to purchase a ranch that had amazing water, grass and timber, where you could run a large scale cattle operation, right out its back door.

The kitchen table and kitchen cupboards are of Mother Hubbard's design built by Country Wood Workers (www.countrywoodworkers.com), in Powell River B.C. Miller's corner pantry was built from recylced elements from the ranch, including leaded windows from the old farm house.

The kitchen table and kitchen cupboards are of Mother Hubbard’s design built by Country Wood Workers (www.countrywoodworkers.com), in Powell River B.C. Miller’s corner pantry was built from recylced elements from the ranch, including leaded windows from the old farm house.

Repurposing the essence of the ranch was Miller’s approach to creating this magnificent 4500 square foot (including basement) log home assembled by High Mountain Log Homes of Clinton, B.C. Having 130 years of history to build upon, Miller incorporated all available elements of the Chilco, to bring character to this new gem of the Chilcotin.

Majestic views are certainly what sold early settlers on this area. As described by Richard P. Hobson, in his legendary novel, Grass Beyond the Mountains, the Chilcotin area is truly the “Last Great Cattle Frontier on the North American Continent.” The vast spectacle of this unspoiled landscape is right-off Miller’s front porch.

“I had to be able to stand out on my desk and see the Chilcotin River . . . the Davey Allen hayfield and the big rock face overlooking the river that turns gold purple and orange when the setting sun hits it,” smiled Miller.

A cup of coffee, a million dollar view of the Chilcotin River, is now part of Miller’s daily routine.

Ranching elements encompass the interior and exterior of Miller's home.

Ranching elements encompass the interior and exterior of Miller’s home.

Not only does Miller’s home have an amazing panoramic view of the Chilocotin Valley, it is also conveniently nestled adjacent to the Chilco’s ranch site. An addition to this property is a quaint 700 square-foot log cabin (built out of excess materials from the building project), which now facilitates renters and ranch visitors.

Hanceville is 97 kilometers west of Williams Lake on the Chilcotin-Bella Coola Highway and it is a small, isolated town. With contractors in short supply in the area, Miller and her family took on the project themselves.

“The easy part was picking the log package. It took three-and-a-half days to set up the house and the log cabin. We did the majority of the work ourselves. There weren’t any contractors who wanted to come out here.”

No cowboy home would be complete without a traditional claw-foot tub.

No cowboy home would be complete without a traditional claw-foot tub.

The building of this home became a true pioneering-style project.

Miller’s gallery styled kitchen is her favorite area and ultimately the heart of her home. Granite countertops and custom Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards kitchen cabinetry (built by Coutry Woodworkers of Powell River B.C.) – combines high-end design with many western decor items in this area of the home. The focal point of the kitchen is the dramatic view towards the home ranch, which can be seen from the windows above a traditionally styled farmhouse sink. The open arrow brand of the Chilco is branded into the tin cabinet doors below this area, punctuating the ranching nature offered up in the style of the decor. The home’s open floor plan allows the dynamic kitchen area to flow over in the living and dining areas, for entertaining during family gatherings and holidays. Miller’s kitchen is designed for those who not only enjoy cooking, but for those who love the character of life on this ranch.

Large windows in the 1,300 square foot loft frame the views of the Chilcotin landscape.

Large windows in the 1,300 square foot loft frame the views of the Chilcotin landscape.

Five years after Miller and her family began the building process, this log home now emits a new dimension to the Chilco Ranch estate. One that seems timeless and a natural progression to the legacy of the ranch.

“It’s home,” smiled Miller.

ChilcoRanchchair ChilcoRanchlogbed ChilcoRanchoven

4 Weeks ’till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

It’s only a few days until the beginning of December, and at the log house, the preoccupation with Christmas decorating has come into full swing. Here’s how it goes: tubs of ornaments, glass balls, antiques and rustic stuff is hauled out of storage – we ponder it all and then take to the outdoors to cut the boughs, dig up the pinecones, wrestle pots, pails from their frozen beds and retrieve the well rusted horseshoes from the fences they’ve been resting on all summer and fall. Then we mix it all together to create our own version of country Christmas. Along the way, we create a few ornaments and greenery arrangements to give to friends. Because of their western touches, these often turn out to be some of my most loved gifts.

This year I’ve been gathering inspiration all year at the Western Christmas board at the magazine’s Pinterest page. Here’s a bit of inspiration for you.

4weeksbootarrangementIn the boot genre, try filling an old pair with greenery and a few ornaments . . .

4weeksccbootAttach a boot to a door or wall, fill it with decorations and greenery.

4weeksbootlightsOr, drape a string of lights, in and around a pair and set on a ledge. . .

4weekswreathWreaths provide a perfect attachable canvas for horseshoes, old tack and in this case, baler twine.

4weekshorseshoetreeHorseshoes find a great repurpose around here in wreaths, mantles and centrepieces, but here’s an idea we haven’t thought of yet, a horseshoe tree!

4weekshorseshoeornamentHorseshoe ornaments are easy to put together with a bit of glue and greenery.

4weeksbigornamentTake it one step further and create a bit ornament!

4weeksbwornamentEven I’m handy enough to bend old barb wire and turn it into a beautiful keepsake to attach to gifts or hang on the tree.

4weekslanternlightYou might need someone handy with electrical work to complete this project, stuff a string of lights into an old lantern and wire it up to warm up a front entrance or mud room.

4weekspoletreeA simple arrangement for a front gate or driveway.

4weeksrakeornamentRepurposing an old garden rake with pretty glass bulbs.

4weeksbarrelChristmas in a barrel with a Texas star touch.

4weekscalfpailOr, in an old pail – this one reminds me of the calf feeding pails we employed regularly at our farm.

4weekssimplearrangmenetOld containers hold so much character, and with a few candles and greenery make a beautiful and rustic centrepiece. For more ideas in this vein, have a look at this autumn centrepiece. 

4weekssmalltreearrangementSet a number of small containers together and stuff them with greenery from your shelter belt.

4weekswesternvignetteCreate an entire simple and soft coloured vignette with the simplest of items. Add lights.

4weekslariatwreathFinally, a lariat door wreath great for a barn or shop door.

For more western decorating ideas, visit the Western Christmas board at the Western Horse Review Pinterest Page. (You’ll also find the links for the sources for the photos I’ve employed here.)

4weekscavaliaAND – we’re giving away two tickets to Cavalia’s new production, Odysseo, soon to open in Vancouver, B.C.! All you have to do to be entered in the draw is comment below on what your favourite application of western, as depicted in the pictures above, is, or just mention one of your own.

To receive a double entry into the contest, just head over to the Western Horse Review Facebook Page, and enter there as well.