Pleasant Memories

By Anna Robertson pg 689 Big Hill Country 1977

My dad, James Robertson, crossed the Atlantic several times in charge of groups of immigrants to Western Canada. Later he took up ranching. In 1898 he purchased a ranch west of Airdrie from Andy (Shorty) Smith and later, from 1901 to 1906, added many fine grazing sections. This ranch was always called the “Smith place.” Dad also grazed sheep and horses on his Bow View Ranch, west of Cochrane. 

Dad passed away on March 21, 1917, after a brief illness. Mom carried on with the difficult task of running the ranches. Mom was Vice- President of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Old-Timer’s Association at the time of her death in a tragic bus accident at High River in 1933. 

Unfortunately, I remember very little of my father. He died when I was quite small, having contracted pneumonia after attending an auction sale. I do remember a few precious things about him that keep his memory close to my heart. Once, my parents left the four of us youngsters for a few days in the care of close neighbors, the Harringtons, while they went by team and democrat to Cochrane to attend a funeral. I was absolutely heartbroken at the separation and spent almost all the time under the stairs, crying my eyes out. I’ll never forget the joyous reunion that occurred on their return. I ran pellmell down the road on my fat little legs to meet them. 

I remember Daddy returning in the cutter from a trip to Crossfield in the winter. Excite- ment knew no bounds when he came into the warm kitchen where we sat around the friendly old coal stove. The older girls landed in his arms while all I could do was hug his knees and feel the lovely softness of his huge coonskin coat, then look up and see the frost on his eyebrows and the icicles on his moustache. 

One day I was allowed to go with him in the buggy while he looked over the cattle and dropped off blocks of salt. I was delighted and felt so important sitting up there beside him on the seat, as we children were usually relegated to the floor of the buggy at the feet of the driver. I asked him if the cattle belonged to him. 

“No,” he said, “They belong to us.’ 

Music was always present in our home. My father had a beautiful singing voice. Each member of the family contributed something, playing a musical instrument, singing or dancing. 

I was forever asking Daddy when I would be allowed to ride a horse all by myself. One day he measured me on the side of the barn and then put a distinct mark several inches higher up. 

“When you’re as tall as that mark, then you may have your own pony.” How I stretched and waited for the day. 

Scotty and Doug McDonald and Angus Perry were cousins of mine who worked for us. Ernie Archibald was our first foreman and Jock Herron often looked after our south ranch until my brother Angus moved there. Deaf Scotty looked after the sheep at Bow View. 

Mother started a library at Abernethy School and was often on the school board. She was an avid reader. She expected us to know as much about the classics and world events as she. She had a deep appreciation of the theatre, and we were fortunate in being taken to all the best shows that came to Calgary. 

From time to time we had a Chinese cook; Charlie was my favorite. He was rather difficult to understand, but he cooked sumptuous meals. One day my sister and I noticed him packing a huge box of food. We asked him why he was doing this and he replied, “Oh, I send this to Beljim.” The Belgians were starving at that time and all were encouraged to send them food parcels. We thought it wonderful of Charlie  until we learned later that it was for Jim Ballentyne at the Smith place. Charlie was using the Chinese custom of reversing names! 

I loved the early morning roundups on the ranch at branding time, the Crossfield Sports Day on July 1st, and the Dog Pound Picnic. Mom usually accompanied us to the dances at Crossfield. With moonlight sleigh rides, and skating parties and hockey on our lake in McPherson Coulee, the winters slipped by with fun for all. These are some of my memories of “Home on the Range.”

Deep Dive

Leave a comment

want more details?

Fill in your details and we'll be in touch