The Story of Dan Canyon and The Plainsmen
A few years back, my riders and I were moving a small herd of steers from our summer range in the Methow valley in central Washington state to our winter range in the canyons of the rugged channeled scablands east of our headquaters in Douglas, Washington. We would normally follow the old and unmarked Coulee City-Bridgeport stage road south, but that year we trailed along a more easterly route to check out a large cave Shorty had found which he claimed held ancient indian artifacts. We planned to look it over and notify the anthropology department at CWSU in Ellensburg when we got home. The cave is located high above Banks Lake on the west side of the Grand Coulee. As we grouped our cattle below the cave we noticed a dilapidated log cabin hidden in the willows. We decided this might be a good place to bed down for the night as dark and ominous rain clouds were pushing in fast from the north. We went in cautiously with six-guns in hand to roust out any rattlesnakes who
may have taken up residence inside. As we carefully explored the interior we came upon an antique grammaphone and a brace of battered saddlebags. In side the saddlebags were several thick acetate record disks. Written below the faded EDISON labels was the name, "Dan Canyon and The Plainsmen 1901". Now the name Dan Canyon was not unknown to us, as he was somewhat of a legend in these parts. I remember my Grandpa speaking of Dan and his crew on several occassions. I t seems they were highly sought after by ranchers in the Big Bend of the Columbia range because of their knowledge of horses and beef stock. He went on to add that this was not the only reason they were so highly respected and admired. You see, Dan and his plainsmen were all accomplished musicians who could raise the roof higher at a barn dance than anyone else. Local legend has it they left the Wilson Creek Ranch east of Soap Lake, headed for a Christmas dance in Omak, where they at been asked to perform. They never arrived. It was thought perhaps they were killed by outlaws, which is unlikely considering their prowess with shooting irons, but more likely they had fallen victim to bad weather. West, Shorty and I speculated that maybe they had taken refuge in this cabin to wait out a storm. The winter of 1901-02 is remembered as a particularly bad one. They may have become trapped here and after running out of food, attempted to walk out. At any rate, they were never heard from again. After we had tended to our horses and checked on the cattle, West got busy cookong supper. Shorty and I cleaned and wiped the grime off the antiquated machine and wound it up. To our surprise it worked beautifully. We leaned back against our saddles before a large roaring fire and drank our coffee listening to the scratchy voices and guitars of another time. My riders and I were so taken by the sounds we were hearing, we decided to bring back the music of Dan Canyon and The Plainsmen for the modern world to enjoy. .........I am Dan Canyon now.