Chapter 26

It would really take some tall imaginings to keep track of your wandering husband!

Rockies 1944

Jim Hatter at Indian Pass, Jasper

Jim Hatter at Indian Pass, Jasper

1944. Photograph by Cowan. Image Cowan_PP_252 courtesy of University of Victoria Special Collections.
Mountain goat and kid

Mountain goat and kid

Oreamnos americanus, Jasper, 1945. Photograph by Cowan. Image Cowan_PH_073 courtesy of University of Victoria Special Collections
Marten  Jasper, 1945

Marten Jasper, 1945

Martes Americana ,Photograph by Cowan. Image Cowan_PH_087 courtesy of University of Victoria Special Collections.
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Sometime during the height of the warbler migration in 1944, Cowan and Jim Hatter packed up their camping gear and collecting kits and headed for Jasper. They arrived May 2 and Cowan replicated his reconnaissance survey from the previous year, even less happy with what he saw:

Range conditions have deteriorated even since last year. Jack Hargreaves + Nelles [Warden Alex Nelles] both remark on the absence of wild flowers on the valley floor. They are quite right. Except for scattered Anemone patens, some gillardia and aster there is nothing. They speak of the profusion of wildflowers 20 years ago.78

The park had reached a critical stage of overgrazing by the combination of horses and incoming elk and moose. Then weeks of driving snow and rain hit the two. May 23 Cowan wrote from Willow Creek:

After 36 hours snow + 14 hours rain the country was a mess this morning. Rain stopped in mid morning + remained off until after dinner, then sleet began again. This morning the pond near the cabin was swarming with birds. Among them I noted Robins, Thrush, Water thrush, Pipit, Rosy Finch, Lincoln Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Kildeer [Killdeer], Redwing, Redstart, Myrtle Warbler, Yellowthroat. They seemed to be getting insects from the snow-covered surface.79

It turned out to be one of the worst summers for weather in decades. Instead of accompanying a seasoned guide like Jimmy Simpson, Cowan was in turn teacher and adviser to a younger Jim. The only letter that still exists between Ian and Joyce Cowan during this decade contains some of the story of that summer. His comment to Joyce was it would “really take some tall imaginings to keep track of your wandering husband!”80 The long letter started on July 4, 1944, which he posted upon arriving back in Jasper at the end of the summer, offers an intimate view of his fieldwork, their relationship and their family life:


78 Ian McTaggart Cowan, “Field Notes 1944–1945 Rocky Mtns.,” May 4, 1944, Cowan_FN_024.

79 Cowan, “Field Notes 1944–1945 Rocky Mtns.,” May 23, 1944.

80 Cowan to Joyce Cowan, July 4–29, 1944, Cowan_PN_094.

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