Joseph Alfred (Alf) Dionne

Page 399 Big Hill Country 2009

I was born August 23, 1924, in Pincher Creek, Alberta to Joseph Frederick Dionne and Marguerite Dionne (Cyr). My father, Joseph Frederick was born February 15, 1896, in the Flathead area of North Dakota. He passed away on November 22, 1973, in Vancouver, British Columbia. My mother, Marguerite Dionne, was born June 1, 1900, in Pincher Creek, Alberta. She passed away in May 1976 in Parksville, British Columbia. My parents were married in Pincher Creek, Alberta on October 23, 1921. Their eldest son, Tedual (Ted) was born August 2, 1922, in Pincher Creek and passed away February 24, 1999 in Nanaimo, British Columbia. My sister, Louise, was born November 25, 1926, in Quesnel, British Columbia. My youngest sibling, Henry, was born April 17, 1929, in Lundbreck, Alberta and passed away on January 17, 1996 at his residence in Cochrane, Alberta. 

My grandparents on my Dad’s side were Joseph (Joe) Reme Dionne, born February 14, 1866 in St. Norbert, Manitoba and Rosalie St. Armant, born August 8, 1868 at St. Boniface, Manitoba. Joe and Rosalie were married June 1883 at the Turtle Mountain area of North Dakota, U.S.A. Granddad passed away in the winter of 1935 in Cowley, Alberta. I remember how cold it was when I helped Dad dig the grave. Grandma passed away in the summer of 1935 at Cowley, Alberta. 

The first school I attended was Heath Creek, Porcupine Hills. I had to ride a horse to school. My first teacher was Winifred Porter. I learned to ride quite young therefore I rode and drove horses all my life, whenever I got the chance. I worked on Granddad’s sawmill and ranches in the area for a while. 

In 1942 I joined the Canadian Army at Sidney, British Columbia. I was in the army for a short time and then went back to Heath Creek. I got a job at Burns Ranches at the Waldren. The foreman was Alf Cody. After I left Burns, I went to work at the A7, one of the Cross Ranches. Casey Casselman was the foreman. My Dad and Casey were together in WWI, members of the Spokane Rifles of the U.S. Army. Casey was the foreman at the Bar C Ranch north of Cochrane for a while. 

While at the A7, I put my application into the Alberta Forest Service. I was accepted and was stationed at Jumping Pound in the spring of 1943. I have lived in the Cochrane area ever since. 

I left the forestry in the late fall, as an opportunity arose to work for Frank Copithorne at the XC Ranch, also located in Jumping Pound. I fed the cattle on the ranch with horses and hayrack all that winter. In the spring, I calved out the cows and did the rest of the work around the farm on a Model D John Deere tractor. 

In 1945, I went to work for Chet Baldwin on a hay crew. We hayed for Clem Gardner, Sibbalds and Jack Buckley. I also helped Chet and Velma Baldwin move their two children to Horse Creek, Alberta in the fall of 1945. We moved about forty head of cows and calves across the Ghost Dam. One calf was crowded through the railing, but luckily it was on the top side which allowed Chet to rope him and saved him from plunging into the Old Ghost. With no housing on Baldwin’s new property in Horse Creek, I had to live in a tent all winter along with Chet and Velma, their two children, and Chet’s Dad, Frank. It was a very cold winter. In the early spring, Chet bought the old Horse Creek School house from across the road and we moved it over with horses and fixed it up to be their home. We had to cross a creek with the horses pulling the school; it was quite an undertaking. We then cleaned out the old well on the land and put a new cribbing in it. This provided Baldwin’s with an excellent water source. 

At this time, Slim Fenton started practicing with his horses to use on a chuckwagon. Slim asked Chet and I to help him. We were outriders for Slim for several years, participating in the Calgary Stampede, and different rodeos throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

Most years, I would hay in the summer with Chet. But, in July 1951, the crops in our area were hailed out. As a result, Chet and I got a job at Shell. At that time. they had just started building the gas plant on the Jumping Pound. Next, I went to the oil rigs and worked for the Lofton Brothers. We drilled gas wells for Shell in the Cochrane and Jumping Pound area. 

On September 9, 1953, I married Slim’s eldest daughter Frances Fenton. We were married in Calgary at Knox United Church. Reverend Rex Brown was the Minister. Some twenty five years before, Reverend Brown had married Frances’ parents. We subsequently had two girls Mabel Lynn and Gayle, then a boy Gladstone, and finally our last daughter, Joy.

For a few years, I worked for Chet in the summers, and on the rigs in the winter. After that, I went to Griffin’s where I helped build roads with Caterpillars in the summer and made seismic graph lines in the winter. Afterward, I was employed by the MD of Rocky View for two years operating heavy equipment. We also built roads. The Shell plant was still under construction, so I went back to work for Leonard “Shorty” Kinch. After a year, I was hired permanently at the Shell plant. I continued to work there for 23 years. My last position at the plant was safety man.  


I used to take my holidays with Chet Baldwin and Clarence and Wilfred Sibbald. We would go elk hunting in the Elbow River area. We had many fruitful and cold trips with our packhorses and tents. 

I retired from Shell in 1980 and went to work for Alberta Parks in Bragg Creek for eight years. I fondly remember maintaining and driving vehicles and buses for the Alberta Transportation Department in Canmore during the 1988 Winter Olympics. I retired from Alberta Parks in 1990 and took an adventure up north to be a Big Game Guide for different outfitters. I guided in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, and Alberta. I would hunt in the fall, and then go on covered wagon trips or packhorses in the summertime. I took many trips to the mountains with Mac MacKenzie. I was also Pack Sergeant with the Sam Steele Scouts during this time. With the Scouts, I took many treks to Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Montana. I led a very active life driving and riding horses. 

In April 2004, I was on a trip to the Hot Springs in Fairmont, British Columbia. I went to visit a friend, George McLean. We went for a ride in his Democrat wagon. He was driving a newly broke team of horses. The tongue on the wagon broke and the horses spooked and ran away. I was thrown from the wagon hitting the hard rutty ground. George ran a mile and a half to get me help. Stars Air Ambulance picked me up at the hospital 

in Invermere, British Columbia, and flew me to Foothills Hospital in Calgary. My wife Frances followed by car expecting the worst. My family tells me that I am lucky to be alive after such a severe accident. My accident was on Friday, April 29th and the doctors did not think I would make it through the weekend. I guess they haven’t met many tough old cowboys! After seven and a half months, in which I had three operations and a long stay in rehab, I was ready to come home. I came home to find out that a staph infection I contracted at the hospital had moved into my bones and that required that I have my entire hip bone removed. After the operation, I got to go home. I was left without a hip replacement for the doctors feared the infection would return and I would lose my whole leg. It has been quite a challenge for me, but I am able to get around on arm crutches and a walker. I am also able to drive my van, which allows me to visit my friends at the local coffee shop. In spite of my disability, I try to maintain a very active life by visiting my friends and repairing harnesses and hunting equipment in my leather shop. 

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