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It's the Little Things

Posted by Sharon Labels: ,

It doesn't take much to make me happy. Four new tires on my horse trailer will do it.
A couple of days ago the guys at Fountain Tire installed tires all around on my Sooner and although the bill stung a little, I was on a high for the rest of the day. It's the little things.
For many this might not seem like much of an event but for me, travelling alone with horses I love, it is. Only two other times in all the years I've hauled horses have I bought four new tires for my trailer. I clearly remember both.
In 1974 I was on the rodeo circuit with my good barrel horse, Duchess, and hauling her in a two horse straight-haul Miley (a step up from hauling horses in the back of the truck). As the tires wore out one by one, I replaced them with used ones, always travelling with extras in the back of the truck. But Duchess was winning money every time and finally, on the way home from a race in southern Saskatchewan, I made a decision. I had enough money to replace the tires. So I stopped at Canadian Tire in Moose Jaw and bought new rubber all around.  (I think they cost me $50 each.) I remember to this day how good it felt driving away worry free. Those tires lasted a long time until – you guessed it – I replaced them one by one with used ones with extras in the truck box.
After the Miley, I bought my first living quarters, a used, two-horse straight haul Roadrunner with a bed, stove and icebox in the living quarters, not much compared to the living quarters trailers of today but a real jewel then. I paid $3500 for it and traded a nice little mare for part payment. That trailer would be part of my life for many years. I hauled to horse shows of course, the beach for weekend get-a-ways with the kids, moved my horses to BC with it and pulled it up rough mountain trails to trail ride. I got it stuck and unstuck more times than I care to remember and of course I had flat tires. I replaced them with used ones and became a regular visitor to the "tire man" in Armstrong. He knew what I wanted when he saw me coming and supplied me with used tires for both the truck (a beat up 1978 GMC) and the trailer for several years (extras in the back of the truck).
1992 - The Roadrunner at Larch Hills before it was painted.
Enter a man in my life. The living quarters trailer got a paint job and made even more trips to the mountains as well as everyday use for my business training and showing reining horses. Don made fun of my load of 'extra' tires and even lug nuts (but that's another story...) but I was always struggling to make ends meet and could not afford new tires for the trailer.
1995 South Country Slide In, Cardston AB with my granddaughter
In 1994, with my new partner's blessing, I paid up a horse in the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City. We would be driving the long drive in late November and Don had changed a few tires on that trailer.
"I'm going to buy you tires all around for the trailer," he told me. "I don't want to drive all the way to Oklahoma wondering how many flats we're going to have. Go see your tire man."
And so I did. Tim saw me coming and he knew what I wanted – or thought he did.
"I want four tires for the trailer," I said. "You know the size."
 I could tell he was already thinking about what he had. He started to turn back to his pile of rubber and then realized what I said.
"New ones?" The look on his face was so funny I laughed. I think I enjoyed telling him that just a little too.
He was not quite sure he had heard correctly but I assured him I did want new ones and again, as I had so many years before in Moose Jaw, I drove away with confidence. I would not have to worry about flat tires for a while.
1994 The trailer painted and with new tires in Oklahoma
And so, when I drove away from Sundre with new rubber all around on my trailer, it lifted my spirits just as it did those other two times.

My Sooner with new shoes!
 Sometimes it's the little things.

A Hundred Years Ago

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Canada's 150th has got me back to blogging! For sure it got me wandering back though the years...
In the July 1st post (Oh Canada) I shared an excerpt from my mother's book - the story of my great grandfather and great grandmother (Louis and Rachel Giauque) arriving in Canada 120 years ago. What about 100 years ago? The story continues...

Exactly one hundred years ago, 1917, the eldest son of those pioneers, my grandfather, Leslie Giauque, left the homestead in the elbow of the Saskatchewan River to establish with his family a ranch in the Coteau Hills. Still in the family and now called the Diamond Dot Ranch, it is 100 years old this year! Here, from Mom's book again, is what life was like for grandma and grandpa and their young family in 1917 - a hundred years ago!

         But the beginning of the end had come for the ranch at the elbow of the river. Leslie's younger brothers, Hoy and Hubert, had enlisted for active service in World War I. Both had lost their lives. Before enlisting Hoy had homesteaded a quarter section of land in the Coteau Hills about sixty miles upriver from the elbow. Now the land reverted to the government and my father acquired it along with other lease land in that area. He bought, also, a quarter section of deeded land from a discouraged homesteader adjoining his lease. There he brought his family and there we continued to live for the thirty or so years that Leslie operated a horse ranch in the Coteau Hills.

        The first winter away from the old Giauque Ranch at the elbow, however, was spent on Hoy's homestead quarter. There was a dugout barn and a house sheltered from the wind by Maple Butte which towered to the north of them. That first winter at the new ranch must have been a nightmare for the young mother. She was city born, not of pioneer stock. Regardless, no one ought to be expected to bear the isolation which she was to experience.

        Early in December, by team and sleigh, Leslie left for the elbow homestead. He wanted to see that his mother was all right for the winter ahead. Also, supplies were needed for this own household. He planned to be away for ten days at most, but it was a little more than three weeks before he returned. It was the tail end of the year 1917 and a dreadful epidemic of influenza was beginning to take its toll. There was no way to get word to his wife that he had been stricken. She could only wait and worry, alone with three children. What would she do if he never returned? There were neighbours three miles away, an old man and his wife who never left her house. The man came once a day to feed and water the stallion in the barn, a chore that Gertie was afraid to do. Every day that Leslie lay sick he worried and far sooner than he should have done he left his bed and started back to Maple Butte. The sixty miles that would ordinarily have taken two days now took three for he was weakened by the illness.

It was Christmas Eve when my father opened the door of his house and said, "Hello! Did you think I was dead?"

Outside in the sleighbox there was a gift for everyone. I remember only mine – a little wooden trunk. Chewed now by mice and discoloured by time, it is still somewhere in the old bunkhouse at the Maple Butte Ranch.
The following year the family moved to a new and permanent location a little closer to High Point Post Office and to school but still a long way from nowhere. The nearest school was still seven and a half miles away.
Like settlers everywhere, there was a great deal of visiting done during most of the year but the winter months were a lonely time for some of them, especially for the women. Everywhere the male population outnumbered the female. Also, the men were usually more mobile than were the women. Some were excellent riders as were the Giauque girls, but many, like my mother, never learned to ride. Neither did she ever learn to drive a car so her life on the ranch was very restricted. Most important to her was a nice home, something she yearned for all her life and never got until the last few years she lived. A dry roof over his head and three good meals a day sufficed for my father. Other than that, warmth and cleanliness satisfied his requirements in a home. Even so it had been with his mother, Rachel. Gertie and her children picked up dried cowchips to burn in the castiron cookstove and she hated every single minute of it. She polished the stove top to a lustrous sheen using the cloth with which she had wiped the greasy scum from inside her dishpan. But in most ways she refused to copy the ways of the women who lived out their lives in the west. She had come from a more cultured background and could not, or would not, adopt the new ways of the frontier. Consequently she was often lonely.
Gertrude and Leslie Giauque on their wedding day 1912.

Remember that little trunk that grandpa brought home on Christmas Eve for my mother? I still have it. Several years ago I rescued it from the bunkhouse and refinished it.
... and after!
  • A hundred years ago, December 1917, a father bought this trunk for his daughter and it made its way by team and sleigh to a little ranch house in the Coteau Hills and into the hands of a little girl, my mother. Today it has a place of honour in my home.
  • A hundred years ago, in 1917,  the ranch known today as the Diamond Dot Ranch was established by my Grandpa and Grandma. Today that ranch is owned by my brother.
  • A hundred years ago, 1917, Canada was a mere fifty years old! A few days ago, the nation celebrated Canada's 150th! How things have changed in a hundred years!

Oh, Canada

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Today, on the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada, I reflected on my heritage. I knew of course, like most Canadians, many of my ascendants were not born in Canada. But where and when were they born? And when did they or their descendants come to Canada? My great grandfather on my mother's side was actually born in 1867 - in Holland. But the story that appeals to me most is this one, taken from my mother's book "Back to the Coteau Hills". I am so grateful that she took the time to document this history, the details extracted from her father and grandmother. My grandfather, her father, moved to Canada in 1897 on Canada's thirtieth anniversary. Here is that story, an excerpt from Mom's book:

Louis Napoleon Giauque descended from French Acadians who fled persecution in Acadia, not the Maritime provinces of Canada, to relocate in the southern part of the United States. But later, with his parents, he migrated back north, finally settling in the state of Michigan. He married a young Irish-Welsh girl named Rachel Jones and together they started a family. They were both small of bone and short in stature but they were hardy people from strong, courageous stock, sprung from families who knew what adversity was and who knew how to survive in spite of it. Louis, black haired and blue-eyed, was quick and high spirited; Rachel, more quiet and deliberate but with a certain look in her grey eyes that boded no good for those opposed her. She walked with a decided limp, since her right leg was an inch or so shorter than her left. On the way to a dance on her sixteenth birthday a runaway team had upset the sleigh throwing everyone onto the ice-packed snow and pinning Rachel's leg beneath the overturned sleigh.

Louis was a violinist, an accomplished ventriloquist, a natural entertainer, also, perhaps a gypsy at heart. He was never really satisfied in Michigan, so after a disastrous fire took their home and all their possessions, he decided to leave that state. In the spring of 1897 he outfitted two wagons and, with Rachel and their six children, some horses, cattle, a pig which was to farrow along the way, two geese and a few chickens, they started north and west to the Canadian border beyond which, they had heard, was good land free for the taking. Behind them lay the charred remains of their first home; before them lay their hope for a brighter dawn.

Louis drove the lead wagon loaded with tools, the pig and the chickens. He had his rifle and his shotgun in handy reach and there was seldom lack of fresh meat for the supper meal. Tied to the tailboard of his wagon was a team of horses, spares in case any of the harnessed ones became footsore or trail-weary. Rachel followed with a covered wagon. Hers was loaded with the necessities of life – bedding, a stove, a few dishes and pots and pans, the barest of food staples and clothing. Four of the six children rode with their mother or, except for the baby, took turns riding up front with their father. Nellie, the oldest of the family and Leslie, a year younger, were on horseback. Their job was to herd the loose horses and cattle along the trail. One cow was led – "Bossy", their milk cow and the only one to lead. She was supposed to serve as leader for the others, most of them not at all anxious to leave the green fields of Michigan. So Bossy plodded placidly behind Rachel's covered wagon, providing a meager supply of milk each morning and night, not really enough for the family of eight but better than none at all.

Leslie (my grandfather) was only twelve years old but already showed signs of becoming a fine horseman. His father mounted him on a little brown mare, pretty to look at but unbroken. The first day on the trail she bucked the boy off repeatedly until, finally, bruised and shaken, Leslie asked for another horse to ride. His father's answer was matter-of-fact.

"Jest keep getting' back up there. She'll geet tired of buckin' after a while."

She Always Knows

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In the last post, I tried to put into words how I felt about moving to my new property in Alberta. The best I could do was to say I just didn't feel like starting over. I had been in B.C. 30 years and was living the dream on my own property - I would miss the mountains, the people.

I may not have been the only one with those feelings.

I knew long before I moved I didn't feel the joy I should have to be re-locating. When someone congratulated me on the sale of my property, I had to hold back tears. As I went about daily chores on my property, it hurt to know I had to leave it. As the time approached though, I was too busy to think  much. There was a job to do, a big job, and that took all of my energy. The animals, of course, (or so I thought) were oblivious to pending changes. Mischa happily hopped into the truck thinking we were going on an adventure and the horses loaded into the trailer thinking clinic, trail ride?? For sure they all thought we would be returning.

On the property in Alberta, Mischa was not happy. She didn't eat for a few days and did not want me to leave her in the house even for a few minutes. Finally, she accepted what she couldn't change.

It took Silk longer. When I turned her and Mistral into the pen under the trees, she spent a lot of time gazing off in the distance, like she was thinking deep thoughts, which I'm pretty sure she was. At eighteen years, she apparently did not take change that well. Although Mistral seemed only a little displaced, Silk was sad.

Since she is so connected with me, I had assumed she would be fine with the new property as long as I was with her. But she was longing for something that I couldn't provide. I didn't get it.

Or did I? Wait a minute. Connected to me. Of course. That was the answer.  She mirrored my mood as she always had - the pensiveness, the lethargy! It was like looking at myself... And is it a coincidence she stood looking west? No, I think not.

It was not the first time or will it be the last that Silk will pick up on feelings I think I have hidden, like another time she tuned in to me in She Breathes on my Heart. As a friend of mine said to me after watching Silk in a Working Cowhorse competition, "What a mare!"

And so this post is for Silk, my little warrior and my heart. She never lets me down, even when I do. Although she is truly a talented mare athletically, it is her intelligence, grit and telepathic abilities I love. She picks up more from one meeting with a person than a psychiatrist could in ten! And she ALWAYS knows what I am thinking. Every horse person should have one like her.
Silk (left) with Mistral looking happier today.

Hug your horse and have a great day!

A Mighty Move

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A month has passed since my move to Alberta. What a month it has been!

It all started a year or more ago. As most of you know, I was living on 93 acres in the Chilcotin area of British Columbia and loving it. I had bought the property in 2006 and proceeded in the ensuing years to develop it. Although a beautiful setting, it was not horse-friendly at all when I purchased it. I immediately had all the perimeter fencing done and water bowls and hydrants installed. Next on the list was a barn, which I designed myself. I called these projects "The Big Three".

I never stopped improving my property - a log gate (peeled the logs myself), pens for the horses, a bigger arena (cut rose bushes and pulled roots for a year), a river stone fire pit, perennials, a vegetable garden. I created endless work but I loved what I created. I bred, raised and trained horses and coached students in the peaceful setting. I did not think I would ever leave.

As the years passed, however, (and with some pressure from others), I began to think I should re-locate to a not-so-remote place. I advertised the property and in October 2016, it sold.

I didn't even know where I would or should go! Initially I thought the Okanagan would be a good choice but a property hunting trip there underlined what I knew already - I could not afford to move the horses and I there.

Next I started checking out Alberta since two of my children are in Calgary. That quest led me to purchasing a 4 acre property between Sundre and Olds.

Now comes the hard part. I was moving because I felt it was what I had to do, not what I wanted to do. I had put real roots down on my little paradise. It was mine, what I had made it to be, and it was hard to leave. I could not lose an overwhelming feeling of there being no place for me if I left but, as I have done all my life, I put one foot in front of the other (and my mind) into preparing for the move. I had done this before - first from Saskatchewan to Armstrong BC, then from Armstrong to Hanceville - both times by myself.

I knew it would be a daunting job and it was. Fortunately, I had a few months to pack up but as the days passed, tension mounted. So many details besides packing - cancel utilities, sign up for utilities, organizing the move. And accommodating the new owners of my property, who moved a lot of belongings in before I was out. I started lists - one for me and one for the new owners with as many contact numbers and notes that I could think of. I even used up the stain on the deck to give it a new look and painted shelves and walls in the basement with leftover paint. Never let it be said that I left a mess!

The Road Not Taken

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And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
~Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken

Sometimes it's impossible to know what will evoke emotion, especially in yourself. It all started with a phone call from my son.

Shayne called from Tisdale, Saskatchewan, where he was on a work assignment. Only a few kilometers from where he grew up and went to school over 30 years ago, he had embarked on a nostalgic journey of Bjorkdale School and the two properties where he had resided with the family. One of those was an acreage we had owned and lived on for 10 years.  

 "Did you take photos?" I asked. He told me did and would send them to me.

 I had not been back to the Crooked River property since 1988. I knew no one was living there and the mobile home was gone. I assumed the yard, barn and fences were in disrepair. I was not sure I wanted to see the old place rundown and empty, but Shayne told me it was "pretty cool" to go back and memories he had long forgotten had surfaced. I waited for the photos, interested and curious but in no way prepared for the jolt they would give me.

 My husband and I bought the Crooked River acreage – bare land – in 1977. We moved there in July with our three children, a few cattle, a bunch of horses and six Samoyed dogs. We had pastures for the stock but quickly built a dog pen and a hip-roofed, two sided shelter for the two stallions. If I remember correctly, one had to stay tied to the trailer for a few nights. Since hydro and water were not yet to the property, we hauled water and cooked on a Coleman stove. Arrangements were made to put in a well, get the hydro in and build a barn. We didn't think there would be any problem getting everything up and running before fall until... an accident in the "rescue race" at Nipawin Fair sidelined my husband with broken ribs and internal surgery. He was on crutches and useless. I said later that we probably got things done faster with him laid up because friends and neighbours pitched in, putting up fences, roofing the barn and helping us in any way they could.

 This was home, mortgage and all, and it was ours.  I did not foresee any changes in the near future. One year later, my husband and I separated.
The separation rocked my world, but, by mutual agreement, I stayed on the property with the children, assumed the mortgage and began life as a single mother. Of course I needed income and so I opened my doors for business – horse training! I took any horse I was asked to and I rode. At least spring to fall I rode; in the winter I raised Samoyed puppies. As well, I stood a stallion and raised some foals. In between the horse work, I got my kids off to school and ran them to various activities, planted, tended, and harvested a large garden and landscaped the yard – with the help of my children. We planted rows of trees and kept them hoed, seeded a big lawn, fenced the lawn with a wagon wheel fence that was my pride and joy, planted shrubs, fruit trees, perennials and lots of annuals. Even now, so many years and several homes later, I believe my Crooked River yard was the nicest of them all.

Fast forward to 1987. Shayne and Cindy had graduated and Lana was starting grade 11 in the fall. My mother and father had both passed away. Other than friends, there was not anything holding me to Saskatchewan and it was becoming increasingly difficult to make a living with only the summer months to ride. I had always loved B.C. and had a friend there. Should I stay with the familiar or embark on a new trail? Another road beckoned. In October 1987, Lana and I moved to Armstrong B.C. with two Samoyeds and six horses.

 Shayne's photos were on my email the next morning. As I looked through them, nostalgia changed to something else. After years of never looking back, I found myself lost in the past. I did love that property and was proud of what I had done with it. Unbidded, the memories flooded back – parties, barbecues, hours riding in the arena, picking bushel baskets of peas, a bouquet of cut flowers… At that moment I wished I had not left, had chosen the other path. Yes, it is run down but good vibes are still there. The mobile home is gone but the porch still stands housing the water tank in the basement beneath it and the sump pump I had to keep running because the water level was so high. So is the tree that shaded the deck (can't remember what kind it was) and the beautiful weeping birch that stood at the corner of the home.
2016 - Only the porch that was attached to the mobile home is here now.
1983 - porch and deck are behind tree at left
Separating the lawn from the vegetable garden was a long lilac hedge. Multiple photos were taken with the hedge as a background! The lilac hedge is still there – untrimmed for many years now but I'm quite sure faithfully blooming every spring.

Lilac hedge in 2016 - Photo above was taken to the extreme right with hedge behind
2016 - Lilac hedge from garden side. Porch is behind hedge.
Lana, Cindy and Shayne June 1982 in front of the lilac hedge.
Shayne's photos show the barn still stands, in poor shape but standing. The granary, shed, hip roofed shelter and round pen are not there but the pens are, with a few minor changes. I used to mow the entire barn area so it always looked neat and tidy.

2016 - The barn as it is now.

1983 - The barn, granary, and hip-roofed horse shelter.

More of Shayne's photos of the barn in 2016.
The front of the barn facing the house. I went in and out of this door with training horses every day.
Side of barn next to trees.
2016 - Back of barn.
My beautiful pens have taken a beating over the years but they're still there.
2016 - view of the pens from the what would have been the deck in front of the house.

1987 - View of pens from the back lawn looking east.
1987 - Shadow in one of the pens.
"Your arena is grown over," Shayne said. I expected that.
2016 - My arena was the other side of power pole (photo looking west).
1983 - Working a horse in the arena (across from the barn)
1983 - The power pole in the 2016 photo is seen here but looking east. Our "beef" is tethered in the background.
And so the Crooked River property is the "road not taken" when I considered two paths in 1987. I live in the present so never thought much about my old home place after I left. But now, almost thirty years later, looking at the photos, I feel more than a little twinge of regret. Maybe I should have stayed on this property... What would my life be like if I had stayed? Would there have been another path to tempt me? And most of all, why do I feel such a draw back now?

For two days I have been thinking about the effect these photos had on me. It's difficult to name the emotion that washed over me as I flipped through them. A friend said, "It's heartbreaking to see all the landscaping gone." Heartbreaking - yes - but they brought back warm feelings too. My children and I lived, loved and worked here. My business started here. Some tough times but so many happy occasions. A peaceful, pretty place to live. And it still is...

2016 - A wide view of the property taken from the road in.

2016 - Shayne standing on the road (now a trail) to the property. Behind him at the corner, he boarded the school bus every school day morning with his siblings. It doesn't take any effort at all for me to 'see' the bus there as I did so many mornings.
It may be a few days until I settle back into the present, a few days until I don't have a overwhelming urge to stand in the yard as Shayne did. But I chose another path long ago and, in the words of Robert Frost: 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
~Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken