“The book is voices of the past,” stated co-author Rika Ruebsaat. Ruebsaat and her partner Jon Bartlett sit in their home surrounded by books including the latest one of their own creation. Dead Horse on the Tulameen is not about a real dead horse, but rather about working to pay off debt (the dead horse) and other real life experiences.
“The songs and poems are about real life,” Bartlett added, about actual lives not fantasy lives. It’s about loading logs and other occupations that were a part of our history.” Bartlett and Ruebsaat’s latest creation has been years in the making. “The book is a compilation of history,”stated Bartlett. “We went through all the archival newspapers through until the 1950’s and found all sorts of poems and songs that were a part of Princeton’s past. After WWII, there was a noticeable dropping off of poetry and verses in print, so we collected what we could…organized what we felt were the best 150 pieces and published them in a book.”
This book is not these authors first time dipping into the archives of local heritage, but rather an ongoing passion for the duo. A grant from the Forestry Corporation enabled them to compile a CD with 27 poems and songs from history and they knew they weren’t done yet. Some of their inspiration came from Phil Thomas who was “interested in the social background of songs,” said Bartlett.
“We’ve been singing songs of B.C. for many years,” Ruebsaat continued, “and we will continue to do so. It is part of who we are. Searching through archives in the archives at our local museum was like panning for gold and finding big nuggets.”
Bartlett and Ruebsaat have been using the proceeds from their CD as a fundraiser for their other passion. The Princeton Traditional Music Festival has been going and growing in Princeton every August for the past four years and shows little sign of stopping. Bartlett and Ruebsaat are the masterminds behind the event and can be seen darting around all weekend helping out where ever needed between songs and workshops of their own. It is unique, entertaining and fun. The music festival has become a much anticipated event. Another bunch of the duos latest CDs have been given to the Princeton and District Museum Society to help them fundraise too. “It is our way of saying thank-you,” added Ruebsaat, “ for letting us go through the archives.”
Not a pair to sit idly by and watch the world pass them by, Ruebsaat and Bartlett have hit the ground running with Dead Horse on the Tulameen. They held an intimate book launch in Princeton at the Princeton Museum and have some more promotion of the book on the horizon. They are headed to Hooked on Books for a book signing and then, down to the Lower Mainland. After that, they will be doing a presentation and signing in Oliver for the Okanagan Historical Society, off to Mosaic Books in Kelowna, then to the Okanagan Express and CBC.
The co-authors were on Sheryl McKay’s CBC show North by Northwest on Sunday morning Nov. 6 to talk about their creation right down to the heritage photos and history that led to the publication. Their lives as musicians and history buffs have combined into a book well worth the peruse.
Dead Horse on the Tulameen is organized into chapters. There is a chapter about war, one about the depression, the introduction of cars and each chapter has a historical overview written by Ruebsaat and Bartlett. “We found four different versions of the same song about the dead horse,” stated Ruebsaat. Local writer Dawn Johnson’s father Art Shenton wrote a book in 1904 entitled Similkameen Tales about life in the valley that inspired some of their work.
Besides being a great Christmas present, Dead Horse on the Tulameen is a book about Princeton that “brings the past into your living room,” Ruebsaat said. “Wherever we’ve been there are these rich archives,” added Bartlett. “Historians haven’t done much on small towns and this is really where the rubber hits the road. Here is ground zero.”
Dead Horse on the Tulameen is available at Thomasina’s, Cloverdale Paint, the Visitor’s Centre, Sunflower Gallery, Shoppers Drug Mart, the News Leader, the Winking Pedlar and online @ jonandrika.org
Cost is $25.