|Jean Caux, Cataline.|
Famed mule-train packer of British Columbia
"Image A-02038 courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives"
Before I went on my holiday, I managed to get the first draft of the Cataline manuscript done and off to the beta readers. For those of you who aren't familiar with Cataline, he's also known by his real name: Jean Caux. Monsieur Caux, for he was from France, came to British Columbia in the late 1850s for the Fraser Gold Rush.
Before long he realized that he could make more money running a mule pack train, so he took up that occupation. He was very good indeed at his job, and kept at it until he was well into his late 70s.
He became a folk legend of sorts in British Columbia for a number of reasons. First, he was an old timer and knew all the tales from the past, and knew all the famous people like British Columbia Governor James Douglas, and Judge Begbie, and Simon Gunanoot, and pretty much everyone. Second, he was absolutely unique. He had a strong Bernaise accent, and used colourful language peppered with profanity. He was particular in his dress and habits, and as years went on he became known for his idiosyncrasies. Third, he got the job done. New packers sprung up all the time and not all were reliable. Some went on 'sprees' and got drunk and never came back. Others didn't know how to handle animals (Cataline was famed for his knowledge of horses and mules). And some of the packers lost goods or were terminally late. Fourth, he was physically tough and seemed almost indestructible. He slept outside, no matter the season or the weather. He woke up at 2 am, and worked all day every day spring, summer or fall. Sometimes he rode a horse, but many times the packers walked. Fifth, he was well-loved by families, friends and foes. Everyone respected Cataline (except perhaps the Hudson's Bay Company, but we'll get into that a little later).
Anyway, right now the manuscript is way too long. So I'm depending on the beta readers to tell me what to cut and keep. Once I get their feedback, I'll work some more on the manuscript and get it to the editor's early in the new year. Then, once she's waved her magic wand over it, I can send it off to the publisher. A long, slow process, but one that is the best for me. I want the book to due Cataline justice. He deserves it.