Judith Williams New Book – Cougar Companions

Judith Williams new book Cougar Companions: Bute Inlet Country and the Legendary Schnarrs is the twenty-fourth issue of Raincoast Chronicles. She traces the Schnarr’s family story through a combination of diaries, interviews and rare photographs. 

August Schnarr brought a Kodak camera when he came to this area, around 1910.

“Without the photographs, I would just be telling a story about August, his daughters, the cougars and their neighbours. But I am looking at all the pictures of those people and First Nations sites, the back landscape. He is really the only person carrying a camera that far up.

He got this kodak 3 camera very early on. It still exists in beautiful condition. He was also able to get film, I think by union steamships but maybe other places, and send the stuff out to be developed by Woodwards and Spensers or whatever.”

“It turns out he has quite a good eye for composition. So a lot of the photographs I focused on .. have fairly dynamic lines … and I think they are very interesting things to look at.”

“A lot of people just try to record their lives, but he is trying to show us something about his life and the wilderness and I think those are his strongest photographs- Judith Williams.

In The Podcast:

  • Rowing from Washington state to Northeastern Vancouver Island.
  • August Schnarr: logger, trapper, wilderness guide, inventor
  • How he met Zaida and their move to Bute Inlet.
  • How their three daughters (Pansy, Pearl & Marion) became companions, and surrogate mothers, of two wild cougars.
  • How Pansy took over.
  • Raising two cougars alongside pigs, dogs and neighbours who kept livestock.
  • Ways in which three girls – who farmed, logged, boomed logs and worked on trap lines – expressed their femininity.
  • A 1930s media sensation: the writings of Maud Emery; Quadra Island author Francis Dickie; MacLeans Magazine; the girl’s pen pals.
  • What they did afterward. (Campbell River; Quadra Island; Victoria)

“By the time the cougars were three months old, they were totally imprinted on the girls and (the housekeeper) Mrs Godwin because as soon as they opened their eyes all they saw were these females. They never did like (August) Schnarr himself, they growled at him, but the girls could do anything with them. They truly were their pets. As young cougars they were allowed to run in and out of the house and do whatever they liked.” – Judith Williams.

Book Releases

  • May 4, 2019 – Campbell River Museum
  • May 11, 2019 – Powell River Library
  • May 14, 2019 – Courtenay Public Library
  • Mid May – Quadra Island
  • May 27 or 28 – Bollen Books in Victoria
  • early June – The Maritime Museum in Vancouver
  • End of June, beginning July – Cortes Island Museum & Archives
  • TBA – Nanaimo
  • TBA – the Lower Mainland
  • TBA – in BC Ferries bookstores.

Further Reading

August Schnarr’s air boat (not mentioned in the podcast)

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