Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lillian Alling: The Real Lillian (part 3)

Excerpted with permission from:

Wild West Women: Travellers, Adventurers and Rebels
Written by Rosemary Neering
Published by Whitecap Books Ltd.

Part 3

Amazed at the story he heard, in awe of her tenacity in reaching this far, he was nonetheless quickly convinced that she would die if she continued her journey north into the rapidly approaching winter weather. He telegraphed the provincial police officer in Hazelton, some sixty miles (ninety-five kilometres) south, and asked for advice. George Wyman, a young police constable, set out immediately for Blackstock's Cabin 2. There, he found a woman about five foot five (165 centimetres) and "thin as a wisp," wearing running shoes and carrying a knapsack that contained sandwiches, tea, a comb, and a few other personal effects.

Guy Lawrence, a forty-year veteran of life on the Telegraph Trail, later described this section of the trail in winter: "Sudden heavy falls of snow would bring the line down in several places, over perhaps a seventy-mile stretch. Between Hazelton and Telegraph Creek, some sections were subjected to phenomenal precipitation during the long winter months. Crews at stations at fairly high altitudes made a habit of erecting long poles beside their small refuge cabins to help find them. Many of the mountain passes were subject to snowslides, which snapped poles and buried the wire under sixty feet of snow for the remainder of the winter." Yet, underequipped as she was, as ignorant as she could be of the hazards that faced her, Alling told Wyman she was absolutely determined to continue north.

Wyman would not let her go to what he thought was certain death. He decided to take her with him to Hazelton. Surprisingly, she put up no fight, turning back dumbly to accompany him. Once back in Hazelton, she told Wyman the bare bones of her story, and declared that she would, somehow, continue. Said Wyman many years later, "She was the most determined person I'd ever met." He conferred with his superior officer, Sgt. W.]. Service, who also warned Alling of the severe winter conditions ahead and told her she would in all probability freeze to death. She was not dissuaded. The men knew that the moment that she was released, she would be back on the Telegraph Trail.

Linesman Charlie Janze and his fellow telegraph workers knew what they were talking about when they warned Lillian Alling of the dangers that could be expected by anyone walking the Telegraph Trail. Here, Janze is shown near the Nass-Skeena divide, on the trail in winter. (LANCE BURDON, PHOTOGRAPHER; BCA D-07630)