Jim and Lee Oseychuk call their five acre piece of property south of town a life-long project, and with the amount of work they have put into it, it would be hard to blame them if it took twice that long to complete.
The Oseychuk’s didn’t get together until 1987. Before that they had very different backgrounds. Jim grew up in Donald and has always lived in the area.
His father had encouraged him to get into the logging business and follow in his footsteps, but, as Jim recalls, a frightening incident quickly put an end to that idea.
“[My father] dislodged a big boulder with his D7 Cat, which hit a huge dead snag which toppled and crashed directly behind me and ripped my shirt right off of my back. It knocked me forward about 10 feet,” he said. Not surprisingly, that was the beginning of the end of his career as a logger.
Eventually the family relocated to Golden and his mom opened up a shop and deli called The Log Deli, at the location that is now the Wolf’s Den.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful place. People were really comfortable there,” Jim said.
The construction of the log building also gave Jim and his brother Rob, a good idea of what their father was capable of when it came to construction.
Sadly, Jim’s mom died of cancer just a few years after her shop opened. With no one to run his mother’s shop, he decided to open up a neighbourhood pub at the same location, which was made possible with a change of the liquor laws around that time. Since he didn’t have a lot of money for tables, booths and bartops, all of that had to be made by hand. According to Jim, woodworking was just something that came naturally to him, and the hand-crafted furnishings gave the pub a lot of character.
The Mad Trapper opened on Nov. 15, 1975 and it soon became one of the most unique establishments in town. That’s when he met Lee, who worked at the pub, although the couple wouldn’t begin dating until much later.
Lee grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to what she calls a very conservative and strict family. After high school, and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life, Lee and a friend decided to take a road trip to Alaska, a place they had both dreamed of visiting. Their cross-continent trip took them through Golden, where they happened to stop for gas and a bite to eat.
“We could have just kept on going straight…turning off the highway into Golden was the best turn I’ve ever made,” she said.
Lee and her friend decided to stay in Golden for the winter and make an eventual push for Alaska in the spring. That trip never materialized, because Lee had found her new home.
Lee worked for the B.C. Forest Service for 25 years, with most of her time spent in the field of reforestation.
“It was a wonderful, somewhat physically gruelling job, and I loved it,” she said.
In 1976, Jim bought five acres of land south of Golden and began building his home the next year.
“It was a really nice property, and it was quiet. It was my refuge [from] the pub, which was full on busy as soon as you stepped in the door. Eventually, after five years of running the pub, when I had a hard time leaving my home, I knew it was time to sell,” he said.
After the bar was sold, Jim then did some work as both a carpenter and forestry surveyor, before eventually teaming up with a good friend to do dangerous tree removal and work as local arborists.
“Everything seemed to involve either wood or trees,” he said.
After witnessing his friend’s portable saw mill in action, Jim decided he had to have one of his own. Now he’s on his third mill and does custom wood orders and speciality pieces, beams, and cedar siding, among other products. “Anything that is unique that you can’t quite buy at the store,” he said. His business, Osprey Custom Wood Products, is now his full time job. With his portable mill, Jim was involved in the construction of the pedestrian bridge in town, a job he calls extremely rewarding.
After Lee moved in with Jim and the couple started a family together, Jim’s bachelor cabin underwent some drastic changes. They added an extension to give themselves, and their two children, some more room. As Lee loved gardening so much, Jim built her a unique garden shed to store her tools, along with a small attached room for reading and relaxation. Their son, Anders, is an accomplished wood turner, and has his own shop on the family’s property where he can practice his craft. Their daughter, Leanne, lives in Invermere, and alongside her husband have recently established the valley’s first micro brewery, Arrowhead Brewing Company. Now, Jim is working on building a timber frame woodworking shop that will have a guesthouse for visitors on the second floor.
“Having a sawmill, I have too many projects on the go. As soon as I cut a nice piece of wood, I say ‘Oh, I know where that’s going,” he said.
With a property full of possibilities, the Oseychuks don’t appear to be close to finishing work on their home, and for a couple that seems to love home improvement projects, they’re just fine with that.