Beyond the Chilcotin: On the Home Ranch with Pan Phillips
November 4, 2013
Review By John Thistle
Beyond the Chilcotin is a collection of stories about ranch life in a remote part of west-central British Columbia. Written by Diana Philips, whose father Pan Philips first came to the Chilcotin plateau in the 1930s with Rich Hobson (author of Grass beyond the Mountains and several other popular books about pioneer life in British Columbia), it begins with the building of a “home ranch” and ends some forty years later with one final cattle drive that was filmed by the CBC. In between these important family events are numerous and often nostalgic stories about the rise and fall of a family ranch. Beyond the Chilcotin is not intended for an academic audience, nor does it engage with academic writing. It does, however, allude to several important topics in BC ranching history. The most important of these, I think, is the way that ranching worked to resettle and remake an important regional environment. Other important topics alluded to in this book include: the critical role of indigenous and female labour on family ranches, the changing relationship between First Nations and several levels of settler government, the impact of irrigation and other kinds of technological change on agricultural production, the rise of corporate ranching, and the decline of the family farm. These are important stories to tell because they bear in basic ways on BC history and geography. But to explore them would be to move well beyond Philips’ interesting and often entertaining reflections about life on the range.