happiness

A Brief History of the Ranch Part I (FGK 86)

My Uncle gave a talk at the Jumping Pound Hall on July 14, 2016 to a group of people. I can’t remember who they were, or what the function was about, but somehow I was there and not only did I gorge myself on the family famous garlic cheese dip, but I sat with my kids and cousins at a front row table while he gave a brief history of the ranch. About 30 seconds into his talk I realized this was one of those recollections I was unlikely to hear again and recorded it on my phone. I’ve had a few suggestions that I should be turning this into a book, and I’ve decided to take some time and lay everything out and do just that!! I’m not sure how to put it together yet, but I do think it would be a lovely way to remember who we are and where we come from.

When I was a teen I spent a summer working at Mackay’s, and I spent many lunchtimes sitting at the Lodge with Grandma while she told me stories of the “olden days”. In my teen arrogance I thought I would always remember those stories, but I quickly forgot them. I swore that if the opportunity came up again that I would make sure I recorded them.

As my uncle’s story begins, I believe he is talking about my great-grandfather Richard and his brother John.

..and the reason why they both wanted to homestead here is because it was close to the railway, close to fresh water, close to firewood. They went through miles of prairie, and don’t kid yourself, in those days prairie was prairie because it was continuously burned off by Indians travelling through it, and there were miles and miles and miles of nothing, not even a stick of wood to burn. So everybody burned buffalo chips, you know all about that don’t you? That’s why they did it. Even the old round up wagons in the early days burned buffalo chips – there was no wood except for along the odd little creek.

Anyway, getting off the story a bit but.. the fact that this country was homesteaded is sort of why our family ended up here and I’ll go back a notch further again, the original settlement in this area was at Morleyville, with the McDougalls and the mission there. And there’s another old family that lives to the west of us, their name’s Sibbald, and they came in in the 1870s and he was the first white teacher in Morley, and we’ve had a great relationship with the Stony Indians for a long, long time – due to the fact that way back in Ireland sometime in the late 1870s – our family was a family of Protestants in Cork, the County of Cork in Southern Ireland, and that seemed to be kind of an event.

They were quite religious, my great great grandfather was a pastor there. He raised 7 sons and they travelled out, one of them went over to Africa and they never saw him again. He went with the missionary work with the Dr there.. Dr. Livingstone. Another one went to Australia, but anyway they were poor, worked real hard, and they decided they were going to take the youngest son and educate him, so everyone worked real hard to get this young guy an education. And talk about kind of picking the black sheep, I don’t know… sent him to school and he ended up back home, with a little bad reputation behind that, and anyway, stayed home.

My grandfather, I didn’t hear him say this, but my dad always told the story, they were over digging peat bog there my great uncle John, which is who I’m talking about, he stuck the shovel in the ground and my grandfather said you could hear the shovel vibrating and he said “I’m going to Canada”. So the family settled on that and they bought him a boat ticket to take him to Montreal and that’s all he had was a boat ticked and no money.

He ended up in Montreal and they didn’t hear from him for two years. Until, they heard from him in Brandon, Manitoba and he got a got a job with a farmer there and learned to drive mules, they never had mules to drive in Ireland, I don’t know what they were using – donkeys probably, But, he was a mule skinner and he became friends with a band of Cree Indians who were camped in that area and were in the area, and he also worked for the Canadian army as a mule skinner. And he learned to speak a little Cree Indian so the army hired him, he was an adventurous young guy no doubt about it, they hired him to travel west with this little band of Cree Indians.

He spent his first winter in Fort Qu’Appelle and his job was as an informant for the army and the RCMP <I believe at this time they were the North West Mounted Police>, which hadn’t been formed at that time, I guess they were, with regard to the Riel Rebellion. So he travelled West and ended up at Calgary. And his first job was as a freighter from Calgary for the East to bring supplies to Fort Denton in Montana, to Fort Whoop-up in Lethbridge, and then on up to Calgary and his job was to distribute some of this stuff out to the Tsuu T’ina over here, we used to call them Sarcee, and also Morley. And the old Morley trail, kind of wagon ruts, that he carved across this part of the country.

And as a result of that, he became the first Indian Agent, the first white Indian Agent for Morley, and he spent the early years of the Riel Rebellion in Morley, had lots of friends there and they looked after him, but it was quite a dangerous thing. There are quite a few stories about what happened you know, unsettlement, and anyway he survived that. In his travels back and forth across here, he sent letters back to the family and attracted the interest of my grandfather who arrived here in 1885. By that time the railway was here so he didn’t have to walk all the way across those prairies. And he set up a homestead over here, my great uncle set up a homestead over here, and they homesteaded together. My grandfather bought the property just to the west – where those buildings are – you saw the CL barn – and so they were right next door to each other. My great uncle down the hill, and my grandfather was on top of the hill and they were stockmen, and they loved livestock. My grandfather tried raising some sheep and he finally ended up getting up page-wire fence to keep the sheep in and the coyotes out, but the coyotes still got in so he quit raising sheep I guess.

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happiness

Curling is one of the best games going (FGK 85)

I was going to title this “Skinny cows and fat cows too” but I figured that would be taken wrong if one just read the title. Sometimes the gas plant near us lets off the most horrific smells, but nothing like what my uncle is describing here – it sounds pretty grotesque.

Mount Royal College

Thursday, Jan 29 1953

Dear Margie

How are you doing? I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner, but I just didn’t get around to it. I am going to curl tonight. My curling team is fourth best on the league. I sure like curling! I think it is one of the best games going besides baseball or hockey. I’m getting so I can throw the rocks about right by any sweeping is kind of slow.

There hasn’t been much going on around home I don’t think. Dad and Ken went over to Grand Valley to help Reese build the frame of the barn. You know that they’re building a new barn over there don’t you?

We started to feed all the cattle last Saturday. We cut the cows and heifers into two bunches, the skinny ones in one, and the fat ones in the other. We took the skinny ones to 21 to fed them sieves. I think dad’s figuring on taking the other bunch to Springbank in a little while. Buckles or whatever you’re going to call him is sure putting on weight. Last weekend I was going to get him in and work a little of the fat off of him but I didn’t get around to it. I’m going to try and find time this weened or I’m liable to have to halter break him all over again. Him and the other three colts are out with the bulls doing nothing but eat and sleep and get in the road.

They tore the goose pen down and got quite a lot of lumber from it. Boy the oil well has sure been cutting up lately. Early Saturday morning they turned it on full blast without setting it on fire. The gas fumes caught in the wind which swept them down on me and Red who was riding through some cows and _____ stuff by the machine shed. There was some liquid gas with it and when it hit your face and eyes it would sting like the dickens. It pretty near choked you when you breathed. The cattle sure did some running around in circles.

They’ve got a new well site staked out in 24. You know where the ditch is where we dug out the den of coyotes when old Alex was along, it’s about a hundred yards west or so. It’s kind of going to be a bother but I guess we will get used to it. That are moving this same rig over.

I sure have been teasing Anne lately. Jeff N. has taken quite a shine for her but she hates him. Last Friday night at the dance he danced nearly every dance with her.

Last Sunday I came in with Ken and Delores and we went to Blanch and Fred’s and played cards till ten o’clock. When I got to the College I was locked out. I sure was scared for a while. Finally Mr. Schultz let me in. This week we had to change rooms. Wayne and I are in Bernard and Jim’s old room now and they are up on the third floor. I’ve had the whole afternoon off today because Mr Schultz was sick and couldn’t teach health. I always get off at two o’clock Thursday though.

Well I hope you’re feeling alright

Goodbye

Love, Marshall

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In Grandma’s Words part 16 (FGK 78)

And finally we have the story of how Grandma’s kitchen came to be in her own words. I absolutely love this description. I have to say I smile every time I look at the photo of Grandma in front of the fireplace as she’s accompanied by the best dog of all time, my old friend Kayla. I don’t know how Kayla managed to get into Grandma’s memory book but I love that she’s there. I miss that dog.

I have so many memories of lying on that old red leather couch, surrounded by the overpowering smell of geraniums and reading old Archie comics. It was one of my all time favourite places to hang out when I was a kid. Although the geranium smell made me swear I would never ever have those flowers in my house, I religiously plant them in the flowerbed in the verandah just off the kitchen because that’s what was always there and anything else seems wrong. They just fit.

We decided then to tear off and build a new kitchen, level with the rest of the house. And build up the earth to be level with the back door and widen all our doors so that a wheelchair could get around easily.

At this age in my life I had enough experience to really know what I wanted in a kitchen, and I got it. Small kitchens were the style then but to me and our way of life the kitchen always seemed to be the heart of the home. I compare a good kitchen in a home to a good woman. And in my way of thinking a good woman is the most important person in the world. Like a good woman, a kitchen should be efficient and beautiful and always have a pleasant fragrance surrounding it. What is more alluring than the aroma of fresh baked bread, hot pies, and a roast in the oven?

One wall of my new kitchen is of knotted pine and has a fireplace with built in china cupboards on each side. The cooking area has knotted pine cupboards. Natural wood adds warmth to a room. The south west corner is all windows which look out on a panoramic view of the Jumping Pound valley up to the wide range of Rockies. This area is an indoor garden of flowers because we seem to have 9 months of winter in this country. It also holds our old red leather covered chesterfield. My range is a beautiful old fashioned one Percy bought me many years ago and I wouldn’t have it for any modern one even an Ultra Ray. There was one small window, about 3ft by 2 ft off the south wall which I didn’t like so I designed a stained glass one which portrayed our wildflowers and friendly wild birds and of course our source of existence – a cow and calf on pasture. This adds colour and conversation to the room.

I spend time every day looking at this stained glass window, it has always brought me a feeling of peace. I was told that Grandpa informed Grandma that the window was missing a bluebird and so he drew one in the top left hand corner. You can kind of see how the artwork of the bluebird is different from the rest of the window and that’s why.

My kitchen table seats twelve comfortably but of course often more. Adjoining is a very efficient mud room and extra bathroom. I worked hard for that kitchen.

The summer we built it I cooked for 18 men all summer in just a make shift kitchen. At the same time I gave Margie her physiotherapy which consisted of 38 exercises with resistance and each one 15 times. This I did twice a day. Margie also caught the mumps that summer.

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happiness

Sorry I Haven’t Written, I’ve Been Too Busy Wrestling (FGK-51)

Honestly, these letters make me realize how pathetic my social life is, and not because of Covid. He says he hasn’t had enough exciting to write about, and then describes more activity than I’ve seen in like 3 years haha. I am much relieved though 70 years later to not be the one ratting out my uncle for climbing out the window, instead it was the other kids (it’s always the other kids). Seriously, these Mount Royal days sound like a lot of fun.

Writing Marsh in these letters feels a little bit like the time, years ago, when my son touched my cousin’s husband’s moustache. We were all frozen with fascination and horror, but knew that it was something that shouldn’t happen and never, ever would again.

My uncle would have been almost 16 when he wrote this letter (mom would have been 12.5) and it seems his love of airplanes had already started. I absolutely love that he was going to take his airplane engine into the hospital to show her. I would imagine that would have given everyone there something to talk about!!

Mount Royal College

May 12, 1953

Dear Margie

I’m sure sorry that I didn’t write much sooner but I just don’t seem to be able to think up enough things to tell you that would be worth while to put in a letter. Last night before I got the last card you sent me I started to write a letter but just before that I had a wrestling match with Bernard. We were so evenly matched that the fight went on for a long time until both of us were too tired to fight anymore. I started to write you but fell asleep for the whole study period so I had to do my homework this morning after breakfast.

Last night the other two boys in the suite with Wayne and I crawled out of the window and got in their car and went across the bridge to get some milk-shakes. When I woke up there was a milkshake waiting for me. They’re darn lucky they didn’t get caught. The window to the suite is very easy to get in and out of as they sure make use of it. I haven’t used it yet but I think I will soon, just for the fun of it.

Last Saturday I was plowing with the new John Deere and boy is it slick. To trip the new plow, instead of pulling on a rope you just push the hydraulic lever ahead which pumps oil into a cylinder on the plow and trips it. I suppose that you do not understand all that lingo but it works on that principal. There is only room for one person to ride on it because it is a big high tractor like this:

We just started to plow on Saturday. Bill and Ken are going at it full force now I guess. It’s still pretty wet out there though.

Well, we sure got a big slug of calves now. Must be 250. I’ve got 27 I think and should have three more coming.

Last Saturday I got Red in to ride and he hasn’t been rode for quite a spell so when I climbed on I had to pull leather for a while because every time I went to grab the horn it wasn’t there. Well I sure rode him when I got everything straightened out. He never piled me though, but I guess that ain’t my fault.

I’m truing to sell these Stampede Queen tickets, butI guess I aren’t a very good salesman. That is the most hopeless job there ever was. I’ve had them a month and only sold two of them.

Did I tell you that I bought a little airplane engine? It’s a real internal combustion engine that is like a car motor. It burns high octane gasoline. I am mounting it in a boat which is a model cruiser. It should go about 15 miles per hour. I will bring it in to show you on Sunday. I started it up this afternoon and it sure roared. Tonight in study period I was fooling around with it and I accidentally started it. I sure was scared and I couldn’t shut it off. I grabbed the flywheel to stall it and the thing only turns over about 10,000 times every minute so I slightly burned my thumb but I finally got it stopped! I was sure scared the study teacher would hear because it makes an awful roar.

See you Sunday xxx

Marsh

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The Boys

I shared some time today with two of my favourite boys.

After dropping the monsters off at school, I walked into the field and had some cuddle time with Derek. I have no idea why I feel this bond with this guy – being that I’m more than a little afraid of the bovine species – but man I love him. I think it’s because he was born into such tough circumstances, and not only survived but flourished despite the odds being against him that makes me admire him so much. Anyway, he’s awesome..

 

I had supper and did some errands with my human boy this evening. As I dropped him off at his grandma’s for the night he turned and ran back to the car and yelled “I love you mom”,  and then went inside. The bond I have with that kid is crazy strong, and it was born out of some pretty tough circumstances. I will never, ever take for granted the relationship I have with my kids. I feel so fortunate that they want to bring me so closely into their hearts.

My boys – happiness moments. Bliss. Love.

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Derek and laughter

Derek the orphan calf moved out to the field a few weeks ago. While I have not missed the little presents he left in my yard (however they provided endless that’s bullshit jokes), I miss seeing his little face peering in my window looking for me to come give him cuddles.

I decided this afternoon it was time to go give dear Derek a visit so we headed out to the field. It apparently was nap time as he, Blindey, and the two cows they’ve been put with were all lying down. The other three got up and stared at me with caution (but didn’t move away) and Derek just perked his eyes up and stayed where he was. I went and sat beside him and we cuddled and cuddled for a good long time.

It’s important to note here that I am not a cow person. A horse, dog, cat, etc etc person yes – I’ve never really wanted to bond to a bovine. But Derek… oh Derek…. he captured my heart.

It was so sweet how he leaned right into my arms and really wanted those hugs so badly. Amazing how all us animals just want to be loved. Happiness moment right there.

As a bonus, when we got home Jacob played for me a couple of videos that had him laughing all day. We may have discovered the cure for depression – snorting, hiccuping, laughter.

No idea what he’s saying but omg is it funny

a man yodelling with chickens – what more do you need?

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The last night

It’s the last night before the beginning of summer vacation. The last night I have to chase the kids to bed early(ish) so that they can get up and have a fighting chance of getting through the day. The last night I have to think about what I’m going to pack in lunches the next day (hallelujah).

It’s also the last time I have a kid in grade 5 and grade 9. How did the time go by so quickly?

I was thinking earlier today about how this really is their time. These are the years that hopefully they will look back on with fond memories. The years when their values and morals get shaped and formed, when their friendship bonds are made, when their sense of the security of home and family is established. I hope with all the crap of the last few years that they are able to say that some of it was goodWe all have our own baggage to carry no matter what our life story is – I hope they remember the good times, the people who love them, and come out it with the understanding that there is a tribe of people who love them and support them no matter what.

I had a beautiful happiness moment walking tonight with Jenna. She babbled the entire time about how much she enjoyed her field trip today, how excited she is about having friends over tomorrow, and how happy she is that summer is almost here. On the way back we passed a cow and her baby trotting off the other way on much the same kind of evening walk.

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Exactly how it’s supposed to be 

Every once in a while there are those days that remind me that life is exactly how it’s supposed to be.  I thank God every day we are home – and a million times more on days like today. 

It’s hot, we had a family branding, I planted the heirloom purple potatoes, we are at the creek. There is very little I need in life beyond these simple pleasures to make me happy. I’m sitting here with Jacob, blowing bubbles and watching the girls swim in the water. Life is exactly how it’s supposed to be. A happiness day. 

Totally got him. I won!!

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It’s May

It’s May already. On the 28th it will be a year since Dad died. I can’t believe it’s been so long already. So much has happened in this year, yet in other ways it feels like a lifetime. Sometimes now I can even talk about dad without immediately bursting into tears. Other times I’m still crying for no reason at all. I don’t think I’ll ever be used to him not being here 

My sister and family were down for the weekend and we had some fun full family time. Spring time at the ranch means calves, outside fun, and reuniting with neighbours after a long winter. 

Today was filled with seeing the newborn calf, blowing bubbles, running in the fields and doing puzzles. 


Last night we went up to the community hall for a family dance. I two stepped with my uncle (I really need to learn how to do that properly) and line danced like it was 1992. 

Being here with the tribe. That’s what it’s all about. 

My happiness moment: Jacob came in and asked me to make Mac and cheese for lunch. I told him to fill up a pot with water and go prepare to be an adult and look after things. He went into the kitchen and called me from the house phone. When I answered he said come make my Mac and cheese please. When I asked are you really calling me from the kitchen to come make your food? He responded with yes. You said go prepare for being an adult. When I’m am adult and I don’t know how to do things I plan on calling you to come do them for me. 

A happiness moment because it was funny, but also because he’s healing enough that he’s found his funny again. 

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Oh Mickey…

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time this afternoon and watched a newborn calf make its way into the world. For me a birth is always such a reminder of the joy and miracles that new beginnings bring. They are a thing to celebrate. 
This afternoon the kids and I had to go to town for a doctors appointment. On the way there was a homeless man standing with a sign asking for help. I got Jacob to reach into my wallet and pull out $5 for us to give to him. He was so touched and seemed  so happy to receive our gift. Because kindness is contagious the next few cars behind us also rolled down windows and gave him something as well. It was a good reminder that when you can’t take it anymore, it’s time to give   The world can always use more kindness. Now more than ever I felt that  there but for the grace of God go I. I am so grateful for my tribe who have helped us out. We are also in a time of new beginnings and there is a lot to rejoice in. 

  
On the way home Jenna cranked up Mickey by Toni Basil and we smiled and sang songs the whole drive. It is a wonderful happiness moment to realize that we are happy just because we are alive and together.

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