The staff of Chemainus Tours horse-drawn carriages could probably start a credible law firm. Hall-Wood-Argue.
But they’re probably better off sticking to the business they know best so that’s where you’ll find Kaliah Hall, Cat Wood and Kelly-Ann Argue on any given day, taking the numerous groups of tourists around town on a tour of the murals.
Argue goes way back to the beginning of the murals in 1983 and has gone full circle in many ways after recently purchasing the business from Jim Bangle. They were once competitors when Bangle operated Chemainus Tours and Argue handled Plows and Petticoats.
“A lot of things have changed and a lot has stayed the same,” conceded Argue.
It’s a long story about all the steps in between, but suffice it to say Argue owned the Tours before, having purchased in 1991, and then sold her equipment to Bangle in 2002.
“I owned it for over 10 years,” Argue pointed out. “All the little kids called me The Horse Lady. Now all these little kids have little kids.”
Argue left town for a while and lived in Richmond, but her heart always remained in Chemainus.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” she quipped. “I love this place.”
Argue has been seen carrying a crutch around recently after breaking her ankle in a pothole in her driveway and finally got her cast off in July. Son Doug helped pick up the slack and educated Argue’s husband Thomas Wahlman in the process.
“My 10-year-old son taught his dad which horse is which,” laughed Argue.
“Now my hubby is addicted to feeding the horses.”
There’s been a bit of a staff changeover since Labour Day, with student Abby going back to school at UVic, but vowing to return next year.
Wood lives in Crofton and Hall was imported from a family farm in Rosemary, Alberta near Brooks.
“I put an ad out to the horse world,” noted Argue. “Now, she can drive a team like nobody’s business. Even though they (the horses) know the route, they still depend on us to stay steady.”
There are five horses in the fleet, alternating at various times. Four of them can go single.
Two are Percheron crosses – Diego, who’s about 15 years old, and Lady, who’s 16. “Lady likes it better with Diego,” noted Argue.
Then there’s Old Barney, a Belgian horse, who’s 18, and two Clydesdale mares – Sadie, 10, and Cady, 8, the younger, robust members of the group.
“They’re just learning and they’re doing fantastic,” noted Argue. “There’s plans in the future for more teams. We want the town seen, recognized.”
It’s all about promoting the town and businesses,” she added.
An aunt and uncle in Valleyview, Alberta are also providing backing for Argue’s venture in a behind-the-scenes role. Her aunt is an international dressage coach.
Argue worked a couple of summers for Bangle after coming back to Chemainus three years ago and “I just missed it so much,” she noted.
She also spent time working in the Visitor Information Centre.
Bangle is still operating bus tours coming into Chemainus and connecting them with the horse-drawn carriages.
“We’re going to still work together that way, bringing people into town and promoting Chemainus,” Argue noted.
“We’ve got a lot of things we’d like to do.”
The tours operate with either a 22-passenger trolley, 15-passenger wagon or carriages to cart people around town. “We have the horsepower,” added Argue.
“Our next event, the latest in Chemainus, Oct. 28, is the Halloween event. We will have the trolley and wagon in town.”
The horses will be getting into the spirit of the event as well.
“They’re going to be dressed up,” noted Argue. “We have a whole theme for Halloween coming up.”
One of the perks of having a business like this is picking up your son at school takes on a whole new dimension.
When Argue did that one day, “all the girls came out screaming,” she laughed.
Nothing like causing a scene. And Argue hopes to keep the horses and the tours on the scene more frequently throughout the off-season in Chemainus as much as the peak tourist season.
“It’s really exciting for me,” she said. “I’m going to be more involved with the Chamber and the town.”