A note from Grandpa (FGK-37)

This is the first letter I’ve found to mom from Grandpa. Like me, Grandpa was born left handed, except in his era left handed people were not allowed to be left handed and he got his knuckles rapped regularly to force him to write with his right hand. I have to say, his penmanship is quite spectacular, especially considering he wrote with his non dominant hand.

Grandpa died when I was only seven, and given the short amount of time I had with him I have many happy memories. I realize now as an adult that means that he must have gone out of his way to spend a lot of time with me (and his other grandkids) to make such an impression. My favourite Grandpa memory is of the time we drove up to our cottage (only steps from their house) and Grandpa was standing on the driveway. As soon as I got out of the car he called me over all excited to show me something. I was maybe 5 or 6. On the driveway was a garter snake, and Grandpa looked at me with a huge smile on his face and told me that I should take it inside and show Grandma and her friends because they loved snakes and they’d be very happy to see it. Grandma was having a tea party in the dining room with a few ladies and I danced into the room holding the snake up for all to see. I remember screaming and people running, and then the snake slithering across the kitchen floor while Grandpa laughed and Grandma yelled at him. Turned out the snake didn’t want to leave the kitchen either, and Grandpa had to sweep him out the kitchen door several times before he finally went on his way.

March 10, 1953

Hello Margie

Here is Dad at last with a note. Have been thinking of you a lot, seeing that I can’t see you these days. I was up in the hills yesterday to see if I could find any more cattle but did not find any. Len, Clarence, and Frank was with me. We put our horses in the truck and drove up past the ranger station and rode from there. Sure is a desolate country this time of year. Just snow and not a track of anything.

Anne is gone now so Mom and I have an awful time deciding who is going to get up in the morning and prepare breakfast. So far I think I have been getting the worst of it.

Rees is in the Hospital for a minor operation but is getting out on Thursday. So I had Jimmy Patterson to feed the steers in Grand Valley.

Marshall and I were riding on Saturday and the hound caught another coyote. Buster and Rex helped and between us all we got him killed. Rex chewed on a front leg.

Hope you are doing fine and didn’t catch any more chicken pox.

Am sending you a card to mail to anybody you care to.


I included his letter so you could see his penmanship. I love this letter, I wish I’d known Grandpa for longer.

How to Kill a Skunk and Other Animal Stories (FGK 32)

There are many things I love about this letter. Mom was in a wheelchair and able to be out of bed!! She’d been in hospital almost 2 years by this time. I bet she loved the freedom of being able to move herself around! The young boy they had staying with them would have been the same age as mom, and I don’t know where he was from or who he was, but how kind of Aunt Annie to stop whatever she was doing and play with him in order to make him feel more comfortable. Small acts of kindness go a long ways.

When I was a kid, mom used to read Old Mother West Wind to my sister and I, as I did with my own kids when they were little. Aunt Annie gives a more graphic “from the farmer’s view” version of stories much similar to those. I can imagine Mr. Skunk had quite a time gorging on eggs before he finally met his demise. Out here there’s a man who can’t smell the stink of a skunk and he’s been called by various community members to help deal with a skunk who has made himself at home where he shouldn’t. Unfortunately, this man’s wife CAN smell skunk, so I’d imagine he’s not too popular when he returns home!!

RR No 1, De Winston, Alta,

4th July, 1953

My dear Margie,

I thought I would just sit down tonight and drop you a few lines. I was so pleased to get your nice card and to know that you enjoyed the box of what nots that I sent in.

Your mother had told me about you manipulating the wheelchair around. good for you. I bet you will have lots of fun getting about in that. Can you go visiting the other patients? I guess you would have lots of places to go in that beautiful big building.

We have been having a terrible year of it. We didn’t get very much of our crop in and what we have in is just being hailed.

July 5 – I had a little interruption while writing your letter. We have a young boy, thirteen years old, staying with us now. He seemed rather lost so I suggested a game of rummy. so we had a game and he beat me too.

As I was saying earlier in my letter, we got considerable hail last night. It smashed my poor flowers down most pitifully. However, I am still hoping I’ll be able to take you some Dahlias later on. It’s been so wet and cold that everything down here looks as if it’s a whole month behind schedule. I don’t suppose the snow when it comes will be “behind schedule”.

Our poor old duck has laid all spring and sat twice. Each time she sat the old skunk came along and helped himself to the eggs. I don’t know whether she’ll try again as it’s getting rather late. She had fifteen eggs in the first nest. I didn’t find the second nest but the skunk did as she is up and about again. However this morning Uncle Ed had Mr. Skunk in a trap. We had a lot of fun over him. Uncle Ed said he could kill him without him leaving any smell. I didn’t believe it possible. He said he would put a wire on a long pole and slip it over his head and choke him. Well everything went fine until the wire broke. However he finished off the sunk by drowning him and he didn’t smell very much either so I guess we had to admit that he knew the best way to kill off a skunk. Tippy took good care not to get too close as he had tangled one time earlier in the year. He surely did look disgusted. He came and sat by me and left Uncle Ed to hunt the skunks by himself. I didn’t appreciate him sitting by me very much either.

We have two pea-hens sitting this year. I was surely glad the skunk didn’t find their nests. They come every day to the door to be fed bread. They make quite a clatter too just to make sure i know they are all there. I have three that we raised last year and they surely are all in the dog house. They went to the garden one day and ate up the cabbage and cauliflower. It’s the first time they ever did anything like that. I think they found time on their hands and just decided to get into mischief and they did. I was really muttering to myself and out loud too when I saw what they had done.

Clarence has been sick again last week but he is better today. He is running around all over the place now. He followed his Dad down the road the other day. I saw him disappearing around the corner and had to chase after him. Tippy was with him but he wasn’t trying to bring him home at all, but just going away with him.

Well Margie, my dear, I guess I had better stop my chatter and close for this time. You’ll be hearing from me again soon.

Love from us all

Aunt Annie


Coronation, creek crossings, and branding (FGK-30)

Mrs. Barkley is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. I really wish I’d known her, and not just because of her wonderful handwriting (she and Lawrence have among the prettiest and easiest to read). She tells stories so well, and just sounds like she’d be a really nice person to be around.

I have questions about this letter, and a few thoughts. First off, I never really considered the fact that mom was in there without TV. I mean, it makes sense, and it explains why she knew the number of dots on the tiles of her ceiling. How did my uncle get out of exams? This is a trick I would have liked to have known. Why did she take off (and from where) and leave Grandma and Winnie behind? And I want to hear more about the creek crossing episodes. I hope for her family she wrote some of her history- like I said, I love reading her stories.

30 days of letters and I’m not even 1/4 of the way through the letters. I am loving every minute of this, the best part of my day is reaching my hand in the bin and seeing what letter I’ll pull out for the day. I’m so thankful these letters found their way to me.

June 22, 1953

Dear Margie,

Now, I’m not really so optimistic as I was the first of the month. Quite resigned to the fact, it can rain anytime! Not happy about it and the cold air isn’t a bit funny.

Did you listen to all of the Coronation on the radio? Certainly a number of solemn oaths for one individual to make, don’t you think? I wonder if she maybe felt a little depressed? It must have been an unforgettable sight to see. It will be wonderful when you can have television in there. I really think one would be wise to wait now until they sell the coloured sets.

We hope to go to Percy Copithorne’s tomorrow to brand. I suppose that makes you feel like birking the blankets from here to there. Bernard was telling us when they were riding the wagon across the creek today the riders were up close and of course the horses were splashing water on them so Louis picked up a pail off the wagon, reached down and filled it with water and threw it back on the riders.

She writes birking, and that’s not a word – it’s running at the edges of my brain, but won’t let me access it. Probably what happened to her too lol. Anyway, the meaning is clear. Mom would have wanted to be home branding instead of in the hospital.

Up at Bragg Creek, Bruce’s (?) horse fell in the creek so he got properly soaked, Clarence C’s horse fell but Clarence missed getting wet.

The bridge from Midnapore is to be moved this winter to the Elbow up south of Barnes or thereabouts so if this Monsoon season is not on again next year we’ll be having a picnic. We done that one other year and it happened to be a lovely day. Irene and Kay were along that time. I suppose your Mother told you I just drove off without her and Winnie last Thursday.

Are you doing school work yet? Do you find your school work any easier since you have done so much reading?

Wasn’t Marshall a smart one to get home without writing exams?

I hear my men coming in so guess they have the tractor all bedded down for the nite.

Best Wishes

the Barkleys


A Hospital Friend and a Family Friend (FGK-27)

I have never, ever heard my mom referred to as either Mag or Maggie. Only rarely did I hear people call her Margaret, and it was usually people who didn’t know her well. This first letter seems to be from a friend mom made while she was in the hospital. The second must be a family friend- I’m not sure who (anyone?) there was no last name on the card.

Theres was a very brief time in my childhood when Dad decided it would be a good thing for me to take Cod Liver Oil. All I remember is hiding at under the kitchen table as far away from him as I could get and crying because I didn’t want to take it. I can still taste the disgusting memory of it in the back of my throat.

Markerville, Alberta

Sept 16/54

Gug a dud

Dear Mag

Well here I am at last. I thought it as time to drop you old bags a line. Gosh do I ever miss you. Honestly. I wished I could have shown you the lovely cushion Miss Reid gave me. I’ll draw a picture of it.

Her drawing
So many of mom’s letters have been sealed with a kiss so to speak. This one has the kisses on the back of the letter, but lots of envelopes are covered in big red kiss marks.

Here is all the colours of the rainbow on the ribbon, there’s three rows of white ribbon.

She called me into her office and gave it to me.

Do you know something? I have to take cod liver oil.

Well here it is another nite, Sept. 17. I’m listening to the fight. I’ve got $2.00 bet that Rocky will win.

It has looked like it was going to snow all day. Sure hope it doesn’t.

Bay Calgary sure did well on Monday nite. I guess Miss Olsen will be back on Monday. I sent for a grey wool dress. Kind of cute.

How’s school? I find many things different form the hospital. I keep thinking about what you guys are doing. How is fish eyes?

We are going to have roasted duck tomorrow nite. I wish you could be here.

Well Maggie, I guess I will sign off for now. Say hi to everyone for me. Tell Olsen I’ll be written to her.

Good Night sweetheart, it’s time to go

Love Helen

Ps How’s ______’s back?

Say hi to your family from me.

974 Alfred Ave


April 8/54

Dear Margie

Well here I am again, I am driving days now so am able to sit down tonight and drop you a line.

I received a letter from your mom and dad, sure pleased to hear from them. Our weather is sure staying cold, it’s been below zero the last few days. there was quite a blizzard last night.

I saw Len yesterday, he pulled up beside me while we were driving down the street, and said he was on the way home, he had been to Kenora Ontario.

How is your leg, the one you had fractured? Sure hope it’s ok again, and that you are able to finish with your Physio. do you still have water therapy? I guess it keeps you busy with school work, and all your exercises and Physio.

Ken is in Calgary now, he would like to come in and visit you, but I was telling him that he would not be able to get in. He will try and see Marshall while he is there. He plans to come home at Easter, he gets 5 days leave them. He has a car which he intends to take back to Calgary with him.

Say hello to all for me.

Bye for now

As ever, Stan


Remember That and be Happy Always (FGK-26)

This letter from Grandma made me so emotional, especially the part where she described how she had made it all the way into the hospital only to be too late for visiting times. Instead of complaining or whining about injustice, she reminds mom that she is their guest and show appreciation for being there. Considering it seems we are just starting to acknowledge the mind/body connection, it seems Grandma was decades ahead here on the ranch by reminding mom that a glad heart purifies the body. I really needed to hear that. I always had a special love for Grandma, but these letters make me love her even more, she really was a remarkable woman.

March 14, 1953

Saturday afternoon 4:15 PM

Dearest Margie:

Just have to write you and let the work go hang. Sheila and Marshall are out helping Dad de-horn and I scrubbed and waxed the kitchen floor alone. We washed clothes this morning. Trudy Usher gave Sheila a lovely bouquet of spring flowers for her birthday and Sheila wanted to leave them in with you last night but I said let’s bring them home for the weekend to enjoy them too and then take them into you on Sunday. they look so nice on the kitchen table, the whole kitchen looks so nice and shining clean now.

I haven’t done any cooking today, made Sheila a birthday cake yesterday and we ate it at supper last night.

Wish I could have seen you last night, did Helen tell you I was so near, just at the office, but rules are rules, we don’t own the place, you are their guest and we must remember and show our appreciation to them for having you there.

Sheila and Marsh went to the dance last night, Dad and I were too tired. They said it was a very nice one. Slim was there with _______ – isn’t he a rascal?

Old Smokey is really feeling cute these days, guess I’m feeding him too well, he just seems to know everything you say to him.

Sheila just came in looking frozen. She said the men weren’t going to stop for tea so I packed up a snack and some hot coffee and sent her over wth it to them.

I phoned Aunt Ruth but she was up town – her and Aileen as usual, but Gordie answered. He is all excited he is going to the boy-scouts chuckwagon race or something.

Hope you see a nice show this afternoon. We saw Clarence Buckley at the garage yesterday, the Olds school were chosen to see the judging of the fat calf show or something.

Guess the bull sale is next week, Dad says he isn’t going to buy any bulls – but we’ll see.

Marsh says Mrs. Barkley has a really good dishwasher, isn’t that nice?

Have you done any letter writing? I wish you’d write to us. Sure wish those old chicken-pox would clear up.

Sheila says all the Normans were at the dance, and Gladys strained her stomach curling but she was there anyway. Springbank is sure curling crazy.

8:30 pm

Well here I am again Marg – Bill went to town so there was only us four for supper and we are all sitting quietly around the dining room now. Sheila is hard at work on her homework, wish Marsh would do that.

Hope you are getting along good with your school work. I just phoned in and they said you are well. This phone is almost impossible though.

We had a very lovely Star meeting on Thursday night. There were people from all over the province there.

I’m sending you in a corsage of imitation heather we wore, Dorothea Andison (?) made one for each of us, they’re made out of wire and needs. Betsy Bloom the Worthy Grand Matron is Scotch so we were wearing them to please her – we hope. You can give it to Mary McKinon if you like – she’s Scotch too.

The gophers are out now – around here anyway, wonder if they get Rabies too.

Dad was riding up in the hills last week and he saw the skeleton of a moose and also som huge wolf tracks.

They are going to de-horn our calves on Monday and the Lazy J cattle too – so suppose Winnie will be bringing up a fancy tea for them eh?

How are those old legs of yours coming along lately Margie? Hope you are finding the exercises easier and that you can move them a little more every day and the back too. Do you still go down for the tank etc at around 2pm? I am praying almost constantly to help you but more so around then if it’s possible at all. we must have patience though, it takes almost 18 months to heal those nerves they say, but I am sure you will be walking before that, even though they may not be entirely healed. It is certain that a glad heart speeds up circulation and sweeps impure matter from the bloodstream and health appears. Remember that and be happy always.

I couldn’t get that record of the Lord’s Prayer for Sheila at all so I got her the medium sized suit case to match her others and a nice card and Marsh signed it from you and him. Dad and I gave her a suede jacket so with the twin sweater set she got plenty eh?

Aunt Gertie phoned and wants us to go up for dinner tomorrow, so seeing we can’t get in to see you, I guess we’ll go.

Well, I must close now and sure hope I can see you on Wednesday.

Lots and lots of love dear

From mom xxxxxxxxx


Driver’s License, Concussions, and Fire (FGK-22)

I’ve always loved hearing my uncle tell stories – he has a way of telling them that makes me picture the events in my head quite clearly like I was a fly on the wall.

A couple of weeks ago we had a fire just west of us, and the ranch brought out their fire brigade to help bring the flames back under control. The ability of the people who live out here to fight fires has always impressed and humbled me. I remember Grandma telling of the time when a huge fire came from Jumping Pound Mountain area (is this right?) and was headed their way. She was pregnant with my uncle and my aunt would have been a toddler. She escaped with the car while others stayed behind to fight the fire. I think that one did end up going all the way to Bowness.

There are only a couple of letters that were written on a typewriter, and this is one of them. Given my dependence on autocorrect, I was quite impressed by how few words got scratched out. (Seriously, I just retyped that sentence three times – if I was on a typewriter there’d be no paper left)

Mount Royal College

Calgary, Alberta

April 9, 1953

Dear Margie:

Well I guess that it is about time I wrote you a letter isn’t it? I had one all wrote out last week but I forgot to post it. What do you think of my typing? I am bringing this letter up with THUNDERHEAD and GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING. I am sorry that I did not get them up to you last week.

I am sure scared about the Easter exams coming up next week. My math is something terrific. Sure has been bad weather lately hasn’t it? This will be bad for the little calves that come at night won’t it? I sure miss being out there every night to ride through the cows and claves.

What did the Easter Bunny bring you? I didn’t get a dog goned thing. I guess I must be on the outs with him.

Reese and Betty have quit and George and Mary are going over there in their place.

We have a better chance of getting a ball team this year because Ken and I have been lining out some players that we think would play. There still isn’t much chance of getting a team up though. I think they are going to play inter-house baseball here this year instead of touch rugby. The other years the boys played rugby while the girls played softball but I think they are going to play baseball for boys this year. I sure hope so because baseball’s as good a game as was ever played.

Today Fred Kelly and I were fooling around in his room, I was pretending I was dead and he picked me up in the fireman’s hold and tried to pack me out o f the room when he fell over to one side knocking my head against a light switch which broke both my head and the light switch, but it was my lucky day that it hit my head because I might have gotten hurt if it hurt me any other place. Well, my head’s kind of got a sore lump on it now but I guess I’ll live.

Last Friday, while we were deworming, mom came out to the yards to tell us that there was a fire over near the tweed hayfield. We haven’t used any of the hay over there and Dad was kind of worried about the hay, so we rushed over to Brushy Ridge to find the fire. When we got there the Brushy Ridge guys had it out. The fire started behind Curly Rown’s garage and luckily there was an east wind which blew it against the road and put itself out. Just as the fire went out the wind changed to the west. Dad said that if the wind had changed when the fire was going it would have gone clear down to Bowness.

Buckles is in his glory now because I kicked him and the other colts out to 21 to finish up the sheaves left in the crop field. I guess he figures he’s out in the wilds again. He sure is going to be a big hunk of horse flesh in a few years.

I got my driver’s license yesterday with mom and when we went to go downtown she asked me if I wanted to drive but I said no because I didn’t feel like it. Ever since I was ten I have dreamed of the day when I would get a driver’s license and when I finally get it I don’t want to drive. I think that mum pretty near fell over with surprise.

Well, that’s all I have to tell you now.

Dearest Love



Haying and Strawberries (FGK-21)

Thanks to some of you, I now know who the Barkleys are. I sure wish I’d known Mrs. Barkley, her letters sound so thoughtful and loving. And I know that I keep commenting on the handwriting, but hers is really quite fantastic. I can’t explain why exactly, but I really liked this letter, it made me feel warm and happy inside like a good cup of tea. Oh, and while I am thinking about tea – notice where she says they broke a saucer. Honestly, it never occurred to me when they’d bring food to the men in the field that they’d have tea cups with saucers. I don’t know what I’d imagined, but I just never thought of cups with saucers. So much work, but it does make tea taste better!

Although this letter is about daily life in Jumping Pound, the letter itself was mailed from Phoenix Arizona – it cost 6 cents to mail a letter from Arizona to Alberta in 1954 apparently.

So, where was Auntie Sheila off to that was giving her butterflies? Interesting to see that there was yet another polio outbreak in the area at this time – mom had been in the hospital just a few days short of 3 years by now. Kind of puts things in perspective for me with our current situation.

Sunday August 30 (1954)

Dear Margie

We haven’t heard any report of you lately and surly hope you are moving around now.

Sorry, I have been so slow in writing lately. Hope everyone else hasn’t neglected you so.

We are still at this hay job but hope to be finished in a few days. Our garden is producing a little now so it makes my job a little easier. Mr. Barkley’s brother from Longview came and helped us and we have had quite a good boy to drive the tractor or the bailer. Carmen and I had to get pulled thru a creek at the Kaster place one day and I got stuck in a creek in Mr. Wallace’s field yesterday. Just broke one saucer hitting the bumps in all our trips that really was not too bad the way we had to go at times. I guess they will come to the house for the few dinners left.

Have been expecting some more good strawberries but as yet they haven’t arrived. The raspberries I believe were better than ever. I just had to go to Cochrane for them. Irene and Clarence met the at the school to get theirs.

Have there been many new patients coming in? Surely too bad there are so many cases again this year. The man and wife we know are in isolation yet but are evidently showing good improvement already.

My niece and her husband were here for a few days a week ago and expect some friends from Vancouver for a few days this week so hope this haying is finished before they arrive

Guess Sheila will be having butterflies today. Sure hope she likes her choice. We’ll all miss seeing her at the weekends. She really looked well and nice when we saw her a couple of weeks ago.

Hope to get some barely swathed this week. Plenty of green grain around yet. My men are talking bailing some hailed crop at the Kaster place.

Be a good girl Margie and hope I hear another “forward” report on you soon.

Best Wishes,

The Barkleys


Stampede Parade and Alberta Roses (FGK-15)

Today’s letter is from the Barkleys. There are several of their letters in this box, all are written so kindly and are quite delightful to read, but I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I don’t know who they are. I know someone reading this knows, so please tell me!

Anyway, we are once again in the midst of Stampede week 1953, always a fun and busy time in the area. I’ve mentioned this before, but the quality of handwriting in these letters is quite phenomenal.

July 10, 1953

Dear Margie

Have you been comfortable this past week? Hope it hasn’t been too hot for you. The country certainly looks lovely even tho’ the crops aren’t as high as usual.

Suppose you have listened to the radio and know all the stampede doings. We just listen to the Chuckwagon races. Look as tho’ no one from here is going to attend and not too upset over it either. We had a man from Montreal here last night and he said he had travelled around quite a bit and had never seen so much for his money before and thought it was quite genuine.

There are some beautiful roses along this west side road now. I took lunch back to the ?? Place today to my men. Edna gathered me some blossoms the other day so I have quite a rose bowl. They certainly look better this way.

Bernard was leading his father around today, one tractor ahead of another. They didn’t get stuck so feel quite pleased with themselves.

Haven’t seen anyone from your house for some time now. Suppose they are busy.

Best Wishes,

The Barkleys

July 16


Clarence was in Monday evening on his way home from the city and said he had seen you at the Parade. Sure glad to hear you had seen it. I guess you would be plenty excited. Nice to hear you are looking so well. He tells me your latest report is walking. Keep the good work up. Surely they will let you come home then and go in for treatments.

I remember mom telling me how the hospital took some of the kids to the stampede while she was there. In fact, this story was shared with me when I was a little kid and was begging for money from my mom to play games on the midway. She told me how the only time in her life that she’d ever won a game (and then she won all the games) was when she was there as a patient. Mom believed the games were un-winnable and that the sick kids had won because the people running the games felt so badly for them. Oddly enough, instead of this making me feel upset about not being allowed to play games, or about how the games were fixed (I think we all kind of knew they were), I was so happy that the sick kids had been given the chance to win and be excited about their prizes.

Don and Roy were exhausted with the heat when they stopped. They got up on a chair and just sat.

Buckley and Barkley juniors had a day fishing Sunday. they done well too. Had quite a day I guess.

Better get busy here, Margie and I’m really glad to hear such good news of you.

Best wishes again

The Barkleys


Two of my favourite people 

Tonight we celebrated the 40th wedding anniversary of two of my favourite people / my aunt and uncle who have always been like extra parents to me. 

How lucky am I to be part of this tribe, in this time, in this place? I’m so grateful for the love and the laughter, the faith and the fun. It’s pretty spectacular. It’s happiness 


Pretty feet 

My boy got his hooves trimmed today. Despite the fact that he’s been a turd for a while he’s been awesome the last couple of days. He stood nicely for the farrier while he gave him a pedicure. 

The flies were terrible so the guy who is apprenticing with him ended up being Drishti’s personal fly swatter. He was constantly brushing flies away squishing the Mosquitos that were biting him 

I laughed at my high maintenance horse. He means so much to me, he helps me heal, brings me joy, and constantly entertains me. What happiness.