Pretty Big Ranch

Our family started accumulating more cattle. In the winter of 1958 we moved 150 cows 12 miles to another part of the farm for winter feeding. We card boarded up a very old house to stay in. We each took turns spending two or three weeks at a time at the camp. I was a little excited at the prospect of going back in time and living in an old house with no power or TV,and just a wood stove. And feeding the cattle with just a team of horses. I had not driven a team of horses in years. It would be a change from our mechanized and modern convenient way of life that we were used to. I remember loading up supplies and groceries, enough for a month, and threw in books and musical instruments. What I wasn’t all going to do in that cozy old house. The last one and a half miles in was usually blown in, and we sometimes had to ski in or walk in on the hard snow banks. Feeding the cows only took a few hours a day. The rest of the day I usually spent practicing the accordion and fiddle. I listened to live radio programs by a few different country music bands. My favorite was the Rodgers Brothers band over an Edmonton station. Looking back now, I think my airwaves fiddle instructor was the very best. Anyone that has tried to copy other fiddle player’s style and then trying to copy Franki Rodgers double string style can fully appreciate what I am saying. One day a Cree native couple came walking in. They have been walking through deep snow for a few miles. Like me they were living in a very old house and feeding cattle for someone. My food supply was running low and I was intending on going home soon. I will never forget the feeling of that day. It was as if we had gone back 50 years in time. They took off clothes and warmed themselves up at the wood heater. I shared my almost gone food with them. Many native women of this time were shy and felt inferior. However, the three of us had a lively and enjoyable visit. We discussed firewood, how to plug cracks and fix broken windows in our old houses and how to keep frozen meat in a snow bank so animals don’t get it. Then I took them out with my team and sleigh to the open road one and a half miles away. A thought-provoking day indeed.