ODE TO SONNY
October 24, 1935 – September 9, 2005
Eldon Wylie Bennett Jr. (also known as Sonny Bennett), was born in Rocky Rapids, Alta. on October 24, 1935. Sonny was the second of 5 children born to Eldon and Clara Bennett. When Sonny was a youngster, the Bennetts moved from Rocky Rapids to Edson, Alta. and then to Shelley, B.C. At the age of 13, when the family moved from Shelley to Quesnel, Sonny made the journey on the family horse Smokey, riding the entire way himself with only his dog by his side. This was just the first of many adventures in Sonny’s life.
Once settled in Quesnel, the Bennetts purchased land at Quesnel View and Sonny, along with sister Lucille and brothers Gerald, Lloyd and John attended Helen Dixon School. School did not impress this young man too much. He found himself in a pickle or two. Getting sent outside the classroom meant time outdoors and that was where Sonny was most at ease. Together with his family, Sonny helped to build the Bennett’s home site at Quesnel View and had already become quite a hunter and fisherman following in his father’s footsteps. A few years later, the Bennetts purchased land around Milburn Lake and alongside his family, Sonny spent scores of hours working the land and exploring the beautiful surroundings up Milburn Mountain and around Milburn Lake. He discovered the best berry patches and fishing holes and hardly ever returned empty handed.
At the age of 16, Sonny left school and went to work at the Weldwood Plywood Plant off bearing the Green Chain. A year later, Sonny, with brothers Gerald and Lloyd, headed east to Drayton Valley where Sonny worked in the Oil Patch driving gravel truck. Quesnel called his name again and Sonny returned, this time working in the logging industry. He was a hard working but quiet young man. He could also fix almost anything and these skills made him a valued asset to many. The next chapter of his life was set out at Pantage Lake at the Blackwater where he worked for Pete Frappier on his ranch. There, Sonny engaged in logging, milling wood, and he also proudly ran and repaired the Dragline which was used to drain the swamps so Pete could turn them into productive hay meadows. He often would share his stories of his time spent out at Pete’s and the challenges they faced and the solutions they found. Sonny had leaned the art of adaptation and could adapt just about anything to any situation.
Looking for another adventure, Sonny moved further west to the Upper Blackwater River crossing in the Nazko Valley where he partnered with his brother Lloyd to run the Melfait Ranch. There, Sonny would ride the range on Poplar Mountain, put up hay, build and fix fence and as a tour guide packed the many visitors up Poplar Mountain to TeePee lake where they would then raft down the Blackwater River back to the ranch. When Lloyd moved to Alberta, Sonny remained at Melait’s and along with his dogs, stayed behind and ran the ranch. He could be seen driving his hot rodded little green VW Bug along any of the Nazko roads or trails and his ability for adaptation led to the tractors with the plywood and canvas cabs that only Sonny loved to drive. He always enjoyed a visit with his neighbours and a good cup of coffee with lots of cream and sugar in it. Sonny needed more adventure in his life, so he took on the position as winter caretaker at Red Fern Rapids located on the headwaters of the Kenney Dam. The only way in to the lodge was by way of bush plane. He kept the fires burning through the winter and the solitude found him exploring the surroundings where he gathered Indian Arrowheads, ice fished and trapped. The long winter nights left time for him to ‘Shoot Skip’ on the CB Radio. Sonny chatted with many a folk and went on to receive hundreds of post cards from all over the world…many from ladies. Moving back to Quesnel, he settled in with his sister Lucille and family and worked on their family farm at Milburn Lake when shortly after, he moved to the Higdon Ranch where he was the resident caretaker. It was here, that Sonny began his horse herd with only 3 Tennessee Walking horses. Sonny’s horse family grew and grew. When Barry Higdon sold his ranch, Sonny moved his horse family to Milburn Lake and moved into his house at Quesnel View beside his brother John and family. He spent lots of time working with his horses, and working around the ranch, but Uncle Sonny always had time to share a special moment with his nieces and nephews. He had a kind and gentle way the kids in his family not to mention a pretty good sense of humour. Wheeling and dealing and horse trading were his latest passions. Sonny’s horse family grew to about 60 or so. He knew those horses individually and they knew him. Seeking out new pastures, Sonny had moved his horse family over to Beaven’s and then on to Stan Hames’ place. He was always looking to make a deal.
He had a run-in with a stallion in April 2003 and the stallion won. But Sonny got back on his feet. In 2004, he had a run-in with a ditch and the ditch won. But Sonny got back on his feet. Most recently, he experienced a Spinal Cord injury while working with a horse and so Sonny decided to move on to greener pastures. He died quietly on September 9, 2005 in Quesnel at the age of 69 years.
With all our love, Douglas, Sheila, Cody, Caitlin and Cole