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Legend Awards

2006 Legend Albert Cooper

2006-cooper

The East Kootenay has long been home to an abundance of wildlife. Native people, trappers, packers and early explorers utilized this resource for sustenance. Eventually guide/outfitters offered their services to outdoors people for mountain climbing and hunting. One such highly respected individual is local Valley resident Albert Cooper, whose outfit enabled hundreds of people to enjoy the backcountry with a safe, exciting experience. His concern for the big game animals and his long time affiliation with the Eastern chpter of the Foundation for North American Wild Seep was instrumental in initiating conservation studies and programs to benefit all wildlife. This summerizes just part of the reason Albert Cooper is the second recipient of the Grand Slam Club/Ovis Legend Award. Albert was born in the small town of Mobley, British Columbia, on November 13, 1924. He was an outdoorsman from the very start, spending most of his time trapping squirrels, muskrats, mink, and anything else he could find. At the age of 16, Al was already on his way to a career as a guide. In a recent interview, Albert told Frank Blaha: “A guide we knew for years and years by the name of Walter Nixon was an outfitter here. He needed somebody to wrangle horses and I was 16 years old, and wasn’t going to school. I just jumped at the chance.” Albert joined Walter Nixon’s outfit in the Simpson River area as a wrangler and three years later he earned his first Assistant Guide license. As a guide, he made $2 per day, but back then a hunt only ran about $30 per day. Albert has continuously held a guide license for more than 60 years now, and he is just as sharp as ever. He still remembers that the first hunter he took out was a BC resident named John Lechey, who took two goats on that trip. Albert guided for Walter until 1952, when Walter passed away. Soon thereafter, Albert bought the Simpson River guide area and outfit from Walter’s widow. Albert said in the Frank Blaha interview that there wasn’t much left by the time he bought the outfit, as no one was taking care of it. Theft had diminished the equipment to almost nothing, and even some of the horses were missing. With his expertise, Albert got the area running and built a profitable outfitting business, which he ran until 1996, when he sold it to Bob Robertson. During those years, Albert turned out some fine guides, such as Dave Goodwin, who went on to start Northwest Big Game Outfitters. He guided some noteworthy people to their rams over the years, such as Prince Alex, the Governor General of Canada, and rodeo star Buster Taggert. As a testament to his ability with animals, Albert’s horses were so well trained that they were used in movies such as the 1971 Tab Hunter film Hacksaw. You might even recognize Albert in the movie, playing a shopkeeper. Now, even after his retirement there was no keeping Albert off the mountain, as his wife Bunny could tell you. A few years back, at age 79, he made an eight-hour horseback ride into his former area in minus ten degree weather just to be the camp cook. When George and Cheryl Snyder of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, learned that Albert was to be honored with this award Cheryl offered this short anecdote: “In 1992, Albert was to be the guide/outfitter for our husband/wife hunt. It was a dream hunt for us, because we had heard so much about him Prior to the hunt, George said to me, ‘You’ll be staying in a nice little cabin this time, not a tent.’ I said, ‘Great, can I bring my blow dryer?’ George said, ‘Not that great – consider leaving it at home.’ “Anyway, with Albert’s guidance, I took a magnificent record book ram. My hunt was over, but it was the beginning of a lasting friendship. Albert, the chocolate cake we baked together – which took us all day – will never be forgotten, nor will you. As friendship goes, you are the icing on our cake. We are so glad to have met you, and are especially glad that we are included in your very long list of friends.” Albert has done so much more than just serve as an excellent guide for the better part of 65 years. He has been a member of all the major conservation organizations, some of them from their inception. He was even president of the Southern Guide Outfitters Association, and remains active in that organization today. Albert Cooper has been, and still is, an absolutely invaluable wild sheep conservationist. Now that he is retired, Albert spends most of his time on his 80 acres in Invermere, British Columbia with his wife Bunny, fishing when he can and attending Southern Guide Outfitters and Rod & Gun Club meetings. One couldn’t ask for much more than that.