Life of a Hero

by Bree Ann Trumbley

Through one’s life there are many battles to be won, and triumphs to be made, whether it is between one and himself or one and his doings, we all have to end up fighting. Some of us quiver and scream in fear, whereas others back away and try to hide, but there is only ever a select few that march into life’s battlefield ready to fight. One of these brave souls just happened to be my great-grandfather, Smokey Trumbley. For his will to carry on, and the undying love in his eyes, he was dubbed a hero.

Charles (Smokey) Robert Trumbley Sr. was born on December 30th, 1922 in Fildlater, Saskatchewan, located 19 miles southwest from Buffalo Pound Lake, on the line between Regina and Saskatoon. Smokey would grow up to be the oldest of nine children. Smokey’s mother and father owned a small house in Saskatchewan and several trap lines. Hunting, fishing and game meat were introduced to him right from an early age. His first memories of being informed that he was a half-breed were at the age of eight years old. When my great-grandfather spoke to me about his childhood I asked him if his peers ever discriminated against him, his wide smile faded and he looked down at his shirt and became silent.

No shock came to Smokey, because his mother and his father had told him from an early age what he was and where he came from. Métis culture, as he was informed never existed, only half-breeds. Smokey was never picked on at school for his culture, however would have been if it were not for his size, and for this names were minimized. Smokey and his family lived off the land, and ate traditional Métis foods which included, pemmican, bannock, wild rice and his grandfather’s homemade headcheese. His family used everything off the animals that they hunted; there was no need to waste perfectly good meat and food. Although his family was not in the best financial state, there was always food on the table. Growing up Smokey lived in a small house, with eight other siblings, four boys and four girls. Their house contained two large rooms; one was for Mom and Dad, and the other for the children. Only a curtain that Mother had set up separated the boys from the girls. One of Smokey’s favorite childhood memories was walking to and from school. Although the 3 1/2 mile walk was exhausting, the walk in it’s self was great. The trees and the forest all around him, being outdoors was good anytime, even if you were just walking. It was not very bad though, because there was no school in the winter, it was pleasant as it was only in the summertime.

Somehow luck changed and his family made a little more money. Smokey’s Dad was able to make a cart out of some wood and buy a horse, the kids were allowed to take it to and from school, Smokey always drove because he was the oldest. In grade six Smokey was taken out of school in order to help his Dad at home. During the winter, him and his grandfather would walk along their trapline once a day and collect the animals; this was another one of Smokey’s favorite childhood memories. Used not only for food, the trapline created money for the family, from 10 cents a wild rabbit up to $1.00 for weasels, the trap line was a good way to keep clothes on their backs, and a roof over their heads.

At age 16 in the year of 1939, Smokey joined the army, as did his brothers in the years to come. Even though Smokey was only 16 and underage, he was well over the size of any 18 year old and was accepted by the soldiers. During his time in the Army, Smokey played hockey to pass the time where he was a goalie. His team was known as the Vernon Legionaries and they took the Coy Cup in the year of 1945. Smokey was put into the National Hockey Hall of Fame, and still is there to this day. As he slowly made his way up in the military, Smokey reached the position of Sergeant Major. He was a hard and honest worker and retired shortly after he won the Coy Cup with his hockey team from his military career. After his military career Smokey went on to be a farmer, trapper, and a father. He still lived off the land, and was hunting more often because his family was growing fast.

Smokey volunteered for the RCMP for 7 ½ years, still trapping to support his family and eventually applied for a full-time job with the RCMP. However Smokey’s dreams were crushed, he was not accepted because he was considered a half-breed, this led to his retirement from the RCMP. During his time trapping the local newspaper approached him and was wondering if he would like to do an article on hunting and fishing, it was this opportunity which led to his TV show, Outdoors Unlimited and his radio station, Smoke in the Country.

His radio station aired on the station Radio CJIB and then CKAL. On his radio station and his TV shows he gave hunting and fishing advice, he knew everything from deer to ducks. Although none of his own children were ever on his show, one of his grandchildren was. My father Dean Trumbley was my great-grandfather’s hunting partner and protégée by the time he was two-weeks old. Sadly eighteen years later his radio station and TV network were put to a stop and overtaken by different investors, after his network was finished he retired.

Behind closed doors and in their home Smokey raised his children with a strong understanding about what it was to be Métis. As a result of this upbringing his children are all up to date with their culture and one of them is even the President for the Vernon Métis Association.

I asked my great grandfather what he had to say to the Métis youth of today and he told me to say, that you should never be ashamed of your culture and you should keep to the land. Smokey Trumbley still lives off the land and goes on the occasional hunting trip with his family. He enjoys many of the same traditional foods that he did when he was a child and is very proud of his Métis culture.

Yes there are a lot of battles to be won, and a lot of victory’s to be made, and sure there are a lot of people who don’t want to face the fights and would rather try to hide. And yes there are people who are afraid and they should be, because life‘s battlefield is not the place you would like to be standing, but when you have no place to hide, and no shoulder to cry on because they all are against you, what do you do? You fight, and you fight with passion. Some of us may be scared, and yes not all of us will make it to the other side, and even if you do you’re not a hero, just another person that got through life. Nevertheless, my great grandfather is a hero, not only in my eyes but also many others. Somehow through all the cruel and challenging things that life threw at him, he came out standing tall, and still is today. Not all of us can be a hero, not all of us can fight, but my great grandfather did, he truly lived the life of a warrior.

Bree Ann Trumbley
Dedicated To My Great-Grandfather, Smokey Trumbley