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Posted: April 3, 2022

Cartwright rescues a vanishing history in an engaging manner

Book Review

By Derryll White

Cartwright, Colin (2007).  Empty On the Swan.

This may be the most unique and enjoyable history book written on East Kootenay features.  Having worked the area all of his life Colin Cartwright is well-suited to the task of recording the history of the road. The book offers personal insight into bush life, its thrills and its dangers.  Like most people working the back country, the author always has his eyes open and, to the reader’s advantage, writes about what he sees.

Cartwright is straightforward about the ethics and care required to travel roads such as the Whiteswan Road. The maps of the road are also really helpful, to the reader and the driver.  Drive it sober and drive it carefully, as drunk users of the Lussier Hot Springs end up being just another sad incident that truck drivers and loggers have to spend time and energy on.

For anyone who likes recreating in the backcountry of East Kootenay, or who has family working in the bush, this is the perfect book for you. For everyone else this is a wonderful treat and caution. Colin Cartwright has done everyone a wonderful favour, rescuing a vanishing history and telling it in a very engaging manner.


Excerpts from the book:

NAMING – The corner at the 13 kilometer in Lindbeck’s Corner, named because a trucker named Art Lindbeck rolled a logging truck here.  Once a corner has gained its name and it has become used by the truckers it will always be known as such, regardless of what else may occur at that location.

BEAR – Descending the road one summer day, I surprised a sow black bear and a tiny cub.  The sow immediately sent the cub up a tree about 10 yards from the road and then stood by the base of the tree watching me.  I stopped when I was about even with the tree containing the cub to see what Mama was going to do.  She simply stood there and watched me with obvious concern but at the same time she showed no inclination to leave her post below her baby.  I complemented her on her attitude and drove off so as not to stress them too much.  Around the next corner about 100 yards distant, there was a tent with two young couples lounging in the sun and generally enjoying the outdoors.  I stopped and informed them of their proximity to the wildlife I had just seen and advised them to be careful and keep their camp clean.  The two guys stated that they were not in the least concerned but as I drove away I could see that the two girls were starting to load things in their vehicle.

ROUGH TRAVEL – Serious accidents on the Whiteswan Road are thankfully not a frequent occurrence, but at the same time not uncommon.  In most cases the loggers and truckers are the people involved in rescue operations and they help without hesitation.  Many are trained in some level of first aid and as a rule they are equipped and dressed to handle whatever fate throws their way

THE ROAD – I helped at another accident at the same place a short time later where a loaded truck had hit a fisherman.  The truck had not heard that there was anyone coming and had cut the corner and the poor fisherman had nowhere to go.  Luckily neither one was going very fast but nevertheless the pick-up was totaled.  A person has to expect to meet someone around every corner and drive accordingly.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at

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