Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024

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Bonnie Scotland!

LIVING LEGENDS High Riding Sisters

PM# 40070720

FEB/MARCH 2024 • $6.95

CATTLE & LIFE Melanie Wowk

BUSINESS OF ART Crystal Beshara





Artist Crystal Beshara is a powerhouse of talent and business acumen


Sarah Blake, Alberta’s first recorded female painter of the West


Audrey and Susan (nee Hall) and their ranchy lives


Melanie Wowk, DVM, wrangling politicians and cattle


A touch of movie sites & horse adventures


Dale and Dawn Montgomery on good dogs and lambing


The history and mystery of BC’s Nicola Ranch



ON THE COVER: Page 26 Bonnie Scotland! A dream getaway filled with castles, horses, standing stones and Highlanders Photo by Visit Scotland/Kenny Lam



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February/March 2024 Vol. 27, No. 5

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Publisher Rob Tanner Editor Terri Mason Field Editor Craig Coulliard Art Director Shannon Swanson Sales Manager Kristine Wickheim Subscription/Circulation Marie Tanner circ Accounting/Administrator Marie Tanner Columnists Tim Ellis, Niki Flundra, Malcolm MacLean, Hugh McLennan, Billy Melville, Greg Shannon, Bryn Thiessen Contributors CrAsh Cooper, Rob Dinwoodie, Daryl Drew, Tim Lasiuta, Steve Lucas, James Snell, Rob Vogt Tanner Young Publishing Group Box 13, 22106 South Cooking Lake Road Cooking Lake, AB T8E 1J1 Tel: 780-465-3362 | Toll Free: 1-800-943-7336 Website: E-mail: askus

SUBSCRIPTIONS: Call Marie at 1-800-943-7336 Make all cheques payable to Tanner Young Marketing Ltd 1 Year: $29 incl. tax | 2 Years: $46 incl. tax | $Single Copy: $6.95 + tax Canadian Cowboy Country magazine is published six times per year by Tanner Young Publishing Group PUBLICATIONS MAIL AGREEMENT NO. 40070720 ISSN 1701-1132 Please return undeliverable addresses to: Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine c/o Tanner Young Publishing Group Administration Office Box 13, 22106 South Cooking Lake Road Cooking Lake, AB T8E 1J1 FREELANCE POLICY Canadian Cowboy Country welcomes freelance contributions but will not be held responsible for unsolicited text or photographs. Direct all freelance enquiries to: PRIVACY POLICY At Tanner Young Publishing Group, we value your privacy. For our complete privacy policy go to or call us at 1-800-943-7336 Canadian Cowboy Country makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information it publishes, but cannot be held responsible for any consequences arising from errors or omissions.



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Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Bonnie Scotland!



he storied country of Scotland has cattle that resemble a woolly mammoth (Highland) plus is home to the most famous breed of black cattle in the world (Aberdeen Angus); their national musical instrument is the bagpipe, and they boast the world’s highest percentage of redheads. And, if that’s not enough, the official animal of Scotland is the unicorn — an actual unicorn. That should be enough to explain everything about the country and its people. Turn the pages; we’ve happily showcased this braw country. As each issue comes to life, there is a “theme” and a subcurrent theme — and this issue seems to feature those who have followed their heart. Our artist is a prime example. Crystal Beshara paints what she loves, and our Trailblazer, Sarah Blake, followed her heart across an ocean to be the matriarch of a land stewardship dynasty that continues to this day.

Our Living Legends are jewels of the South whose lifelong attraction to horses sees them still competing, all while cashing their pension cheques. Another woman who followed her heart is Melanie Wowk, a veterinarian who loves cattle and can wrangle politicians. Plus, I was so happy to be able to interview one of my favourite couples (who also saved my life), Dale and Dawn Montgomery, on their sheep operation. Our longtime contributor, Daryl Drew, brings us Part 2 and the conclusion of the Nicola Ranch story. We’re heading full tilt into spring, andsoon we'll be welcoming the crocus poking up through the snow. Bless everyone who protects the undisturbed land where they flower — here in Canadian Cowboy Country.

— Terri Mason, Editor

*NOTE FROM MARIE TANNER: When making payment for subscriptions through cheque or money order, please make it payable to TANNER YOUNG MARKETING LTD. As you know, Tanner Young owns the title Canadian Cowboy Country and this update will satisfy the bank requirements. Thank you!


EVERYTHING IN THE WEST IS CONNECTED… I was talking to Rick Wanchuk, and he told me this incredible story…

ON THE BUSY OLD RANCH [Regarding my review of her children’s book. TM] I'm not sure if it was because of it, but around the same time, I received a bunch of rural Alberta orders, so I'm saying that was due to your kind review. Thank you for your kind words! I loved it. Katelyn Toney, Tompkins, Sask

SIGN ME UP Please sign me up for a 2-year subscription. I was raised on a farm and lived 28 years on a ranch near the Sweetgrass Hills, Montana (on the Canadian side). I did a bit of barrel racing and goat tying. I love rodeos. I’m 84 going on 70. Faye Bosch, Warner, Alta

NOT OFTEN ENOUGH... "I get the book from the neighbour down the road, but not often enough. I’ll buy a subscription…" Ed Niemiec, 100 Mile House, B.C.

“I was at a conference up north, and I ended up sitting alongside a friend of Marjie Hyland’s. We got to visiting, and I told her that Kolby wanted to start riding broncs, but he needed chaps,” began Rick Wanchuk. She said, “My husband got our kids some chaps. I’ll give them to you.” “Well,” I told her, “The Mel Hyland bronc riding school Kolby is going to is this week.” She replied, “I’ll get them.” She drove 100km out of the bush, met her husband, and got the chaps. She gives me the chaps at breakfast and says, “My husband says a guy named “Trapper” used to own them.” [Trapper is Dale Trottier, 6X Canadian BB Champion.] When I pulled the chaps out of the bag three days later in Ponoka, 2X World Saddle Bronc Champion Mel Hyland asked, “Where did you get those?” I told him the story, and he laughed, “Well, those were my chaps, and I sold them to Trapper.” Later, Mel gave Kolby the ultimate compliment: he gave my son a pair of spurs. He then handed Kolby another pair. He said, ‘You can use these spurs. I got these when I won the World in ’73, and when you win your World Championship, you can give them back.” In 2021, Kolby Wanchuk made his first appearance at the National Finals Rodeo. Terri Mason/Rick Wanchuk

DROP US A LINE! Over the past 27 years, we have reunited friends, corrected mistakes in history books and shone the spotlight on those whose brand is as permanent as the West. In short, we love hearing from our readers! Email us your letters to: To sign up for our monthly newsletter, email, and please follow us on Facebook and Instagram!! @cowboycountrymag @cowboycountrymagazine



We have been getting the magazine for years. Love it! — Terry Lamotte Gorgeous cover! — Colleen Seto Love it!! So good!! — Bart Klein

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024




Honouring Top Cowboys Two of the best pick up men to ever clear an arena were honoured by Canadian Western Agribition. Brothers Wade (left) and Gary Rempel not only picked up at the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals, but also at the Agribition Ranch Rodeo. On top of those duties, the multi-award-winning pair also judged the ranch rodeo alongside Bill Hall and Devin Robertson. Twelve experienced teams competed, and congratulations to the winners, Ross Davidson, Luke Ellingson, Jimmy Swanson and Shawn Williamson, who were riding for Mankota Stockmen's Weigh Company.





THE CALGARY STAMPEDE proudly unveiled the 2024 Stampede poster artwork, created by 22-year-old Calgarian Lloyd Templeton. The poster offers a unique view of the historic Stampede Parade. Stoney Nakoda Tipi Holder Duane Mark is shown riding in the foreground while a diverse group of parade participants and spectators comprise a landscape along the downtown Calgary parade route. “The Stampede has always been a place where First Nations people of Treaty 7 could speak their languages, share their traditions, and have ceremonies,” says Will Osler, President and chair of the Calgary Stampede Board of Directors. “My memories of the parade from when I was a little boy are vivid,” says Templeton, who is a recent Alberta University of the Arts graduate. “I hope to evoke similar warm memories in others or spark a desire in them to experience that awe for themselves.” As the winning artist, Lloyd receives the $10,000 Dustin Peers Memorial Scholarship, generously funded by the Brandon Flock Foundation.

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Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


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THE CANADIANS! THE CANADIANS SHOWED up in Vegas ready to rope and ride — and they made us proud! Tyler Kraft was voted in as a pick up man, and he was in the arena constantly, so he was a showcase of Canadian pick up-manship (is that a word?) Tyler is the third Canadian to pick up at the WNFR; Wayne Vold blazed the trail, and Gary Rempel lengthened it. Zeke Thurston is now breathing the rare air of a four-time World Champion. For the second straight rodeo season, he is also the NFR Average Champion, this time doing so with $456,356. He also broke the record for scoring 863 points on 10 head. That’s right, he never bucked off in 10 rounds of the WNFR. “It’s just proof that hard work and dedication can make your dreams come true,” Thurston said. Zeke won a total of four rounds at the WNFR. HIs highest-marked was his spectacular 91-point ride on Calgary Stampede’s Canadian and World Champion bucking horse mare, X-9 Xplosive Skies. In the last two seasons, Zeke has made a combined $856,272 and became the first saddle bronc rider ever to win consecutive Gold Buckles and WNFR Average crowns at the Finals. Bull rider Jared Parsonage won Round 2, and almost all the Canadians got a cheque in their various disciplines. Congratulations to Shelby Boisjoli-Meged of Langdon (now Texas), who

The Canadians at 2023 WNFR; back, left: Ben Andersen, Layton Green, Jordan Hansen, Stephen Culling; front, left: Orin Larsen, Beau Cooper, Zeke Thurston, Dawson Hay, Jared Parsonage, Jeremy Buhler and pick up man, Tyler Kraft.

earned the 2023 World Breakaway Roping Champion title. Kendal Pierson of Wardlow also made a fine showing. The athletes won a combined total of $773,818 at WNFR 2023 — including the

$10,000 base awarded to WNFR event qualifiers. This is only the third time that the World Finals have champions from three different countries.

Specializing in Rodeo, Ranch & Humourous Fine Artworks!


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INTRODUCING 2024 MRC! WHEN I FIRST began my journey as a rodeo queen, I had no idea what to expect and was exceptionally unprepared for the incredible ride I was about to embark on when I was crowned the 2018 Rimbey Rodeo Queen. I fell in love with the sport, the community surrounding it and the unwavering dedication to the Western lifestyle. When my reign came to an end, I wanted to continue being an advocate for rodeo and its athletes. Being crowned the 2021 Miss Rodeo Sundre gave me a platform to continue this passion, develop new skills and grow as a professional. When I began learning more about my family history, and how deep our roots were at the Ponoka Stampede, I was immediately drawn

to represent my home and my family’s legacy. I am so thankful for all of the support and encouragement I received from the Ponoka Stampede during the year, as well as during the Miss Rodeo Canada pageant. I am so proud to be a part of the Stampede family. The competition was very bittersweet as all of us ladies got to know one another very well throughout the year. I am feeling blessed knowing these friendships will last a lifetime, and excited to see where their future takes them. My very first trip as Miss Rodeo Canada was to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and it was an incredible way to begin my year. I am so thankful for where my boots are, and I’m looking forward to what this year holds for me. — Kaylee Shantz


Las Vegas, Nevada BACK IN 1844, John C. Frémont arrived in the Las Vegas Valley, and his writings helped lure pioneers to the area. Later, mobsters, billionaires, gamblers, and scientists moved in, and it has never been the same. Interestingly, the over-the-top casinos and hotels helped start the postmodern architecture movement. Since 1985, the National Finals Rodeo has been held in Vegas and attracts more than 170,000 fans during the 10-day event, including Derek “Dirty” Moorhead and John “Tunstall” Beierbach, ranchers from the Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, area, who made the trip to cheer on Maple Creek area bull rider Jared Parsonage and the rest of the Canadian competitors.


From left: Lance McLean, Award-winning cowboy Kyle Wanchuk, Kenny McLean Award Sponsor Guy McLean, CPRA President Terry Cooke and 2023 Miss Rodeo Canada Mackenzie Skeels.

CONGRATULATIONS TO KYLE Wanchuk on winning the Kenny McLean Award, arguably the most prestigious prize in Canadian professional rodeo. The Kenny McLean Award is the most difficult championship to qualify for, let alone win. That’s why this significant award is traditionally presented on the last day of the CFR.

In 2023, Kyle Wanchuk was the only professional cowboy in Canada to qualify. Kyle captured the coveted award with his regular season success as a heeler in team roping (with partner Luke Skocdopole) and his success in saddle bronc riding. This is the second year this award has been presented after changing its name from All-Around Cowboy.

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Ranchers Derek “Dirty” Moorhead and John Beierbach





I live in a part of the West where many young and ranchy cowboys hired on with this outfit, and to a man, the stories they tell of the depth of talent on this ranch in starting young horses, reading and handling cattle, managing grasslands and personal interrelations (as in: “getting along with the cook”) are legendary. The authors, Wuest and Gardner, have the credentials to write this. Wuest is ranchraised, and Gardner managed Douglas Lake for 40 years, and their research is masterful. Now the largest ranch in Canada, the authors trace back the lineage of ownership from the beginning and scattered throughout are a few stories from cowboys who rode for this brand. Also included are the ranches acquired along the way, including the oldest ranch in B.C., the Alkali, and many other brands such as the Circle S, Quilchena, Gang and Riske Creek, to name a few. This book covers everything, from flora to wildlife, and would be a nice library addition for anyone who rode these ranges. — TM Douglas Lake Ranch — Empire of Grass | Authors Donna (Yoshitake) Wuest, Joe W. Gardner | Hardcover | 192 pages | Publisher Harbour Publishing |

A windmill harnesses the In addition to occasionwind to convert energy, ally playing the venue moving nonstop. The himself, host Blake Reid Windmill music venue once missed Barney is where the clock stops Bentall’s soundcheck to for a few hours. Audideal with the arrival of ences gather to soak in twin calves. He showed original music and stories up a tad harried, covfrom artists inspired by ered with slime, but just Paul Jefferson and Lisa Brokop life in small towns and in time to introduce performing at the Windmill rural areas. Barney’s set! At the end of a dead-end road in Dog The Windmill aims to promote Pound, Alberta, The Windmill is 120 years grassroots music and Western culture in the making. That’s how long owner Blake in a relaxed setting where artists can Reid’s family has been on the Cremonashare their songs and stories with just area land where it sits. Blake’s grandfather an acoustic guitar. Audiences nestle into bought the Wilf Carter ranch in 1956, which the cozy loft with old church pew seating may have something to do with Reid’s to enjoy warm spirits served from a passion for rural history and music. unique bar shaped from the hull of a Blake and his wife Jodie split hosting vintage Chevy truck, with a lifesize duties in the quaint converted barn perWillie Nelson standing majestically formance venue on show nights. She looks nearby. Tradition dictates that after the after staff and bakes homemade chocolate crowd has dispersed, the visiting artist chip cookies for the intermission, while is invited to take a shot with Willie and Blake handles booking the talent and sign the bar. running the tech. The patrons aren’t the only ones “We both share a love for music and cold who experience a warm feeling: a PBR,” says Reid. portion of each show's proceeds goes Just starting its second year, The Windtowards buying meals for people in need. mill has hosted artists from Lisa Brokop To date, they’ve helped 140 folks who and her husband, Paul Jefferson, to the need a little lift. critically acclaimed duo Over the Moon Find a list of past and future musical and CCMA Hall of Famer Duane Steele. guests at

Greg Shannon 840 CFCW Morning Show Co-Host

Tune in to 840 CFCW and visit their website



A Treasured Piece of History BY HUGH MCLENNAN

folio of his works and a comprehensive biography.” Twenty years later, Elizabeth Drake McDonald read those words. With the help of some historians, she connected with Bob's grandson, Calin Kilburn. They agreed to collaborate, collecting everything they could about Bob Nolan's life and music.

From left: Ken Lattimore, tenor and fiddle; Tommy Nallie, lead guitar, vocals and trail boss; Roy (Dusty) Rogers Jr (retired in 2023), Billie and Hugh; Chuck Irvine stand-up bass and vocals, Paul Elliot, fiddle and vocals, John Fullerton, baritone vocals and rhythm guitar. For more, Also, visit for Elizabeth's research.


n 1950 and long before television, we depended on radio for music and news. “What's that music? It sure is nice,” I asked my mother. She smiled and said, “Those are cowboys singing. Isn't it beautiful music?” That was one of the daily 15-minute programs with the Sons of the Pioneers. “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” “Cool Clear Water,” and many songs of theirs resonated deep in the heart of this city kid, igniting the already inherent desire to somehow embrace the West and everything about cowboys. The origins are well known. Leonard Slye, Tim Spencer and Winnipeg-born Bob Nolan were the founding members in


1934. Amazingly, their group has performed continually since their inception and will celebrate 90 years of non-stop entertainment in 2024. As one member retires or passes on, there has always been a fitting replacement waiting in the wings. Roy Rogers explained the continuity of the group's sound this way: “Anyone who left would be replaced very carefully by someone whose voice has the same quality and timbre so the voice would fit the harmony.” Bob Nolan has always been associated with the group. After his death, his close friend Marty Robbins said, “There should be a way to ensure future generations can share his legacy. I'd like to see a complete

The project was donated to the Southern Folklife Collection, which resides at the University of North Carolina. Elizabeth continued to research, collect and assemble everything from photographs to sheet music and more to honour the memory of Bob Nolan. A few years ago, researching a four-part series on Bob Nolan for the Spirit of the West, we discovered that Elizabeth and her husband lived just east of our ranch in Chase, B.C. I was fascinated with her vast Pioneers collection. In September, the couple downsized, and among her treasures was a set of LPs she acquired from the widow of a true Sons of the Pioneers fan, Mel McPhee. It was the most complete set of Pioneers recordings she knew of. Every LP, 45s and 78s are in a custom-built cabinet. The recordings are pristine, only played once to transfer to cassettes. She wondered if we knew who might want them; she thought it would be a terrible disservice for them to wind up in a landfill. We agreed to take them and find a suitable home, and after looking over the priceless collection, for now, it has a place of honour at the home of the Spirit of the West. c

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


“...among her treasures was a set of LPs...”


Jay Contway At the Calgary Stampede BY BILLY MELVILLE

The iconic “Gas Company” trophy bronze awarded to the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Champion is entitled Luck Be A Lady. The masterpiece measures 12” high, 41” long and 22” deep. In 2024, this bronze will be awarded for the last time.



owboys Ty Murray, Robin Burwash, Troy Dunn, Charmayne James, Darren Bazin, Morgan Grant, and Layne MacGillivray will forever share a special bond. They are all Calgary Stampede trophy winners, and each of the trophies they won was sculpted by legendary Western artist Jay Contway. What sets the Calgary Stampede apart is that their event winners receive more than a trophy. They receive a very valuable, highly collectable piece of Western art created by some of the most talented artists throughout North America. An art competition is held once every five years to determine which pieces will ultimately receive the distinction as a Calgary Stampede trophy, and the competition is incredible. As Catherine Laycraft from the Calgary Stampede explained, “At the latest

competition held in 2017, there were 27 artists exhibiting 198 pieces of sculpture for consideration in 24 categories.” For an artist to have their work selected is as much of an accomplishment as the competitors who will ultimately win them. What made Jay Contway special was his remarkable talent, his attention to detail, his use of colour, and being a former rodeo athlete himself, he knew what action competitors liked to see in a still image. Nobody could bring a piece of metal to life like Jay Contway. Jay was awarded nearly 30 trophy commissions between 1988 and 2024. He and Charles (Charlie) Beil (who sculpted the first bronzes for the Stampede starting in 1938) are the only artists to have their work selected for every major event held in the arena as well for all of

the top bucking stock and some minor events as well. If you include the sculptures he created for the Calgary Stampede’s “Quick Draw” competition, where proceeds were used to fund their Western Art Scholarship program, Jay Contway generated an incredible 244 castings for the board. 2024 will see the launch of Jay Contway: The Artist, The Cowboy, His Legacy. Written by his wife, Lynn, she reveals the artist and cowboy that Jay Contway was. More than just a biography, it includes stunning photographs of every piece of art he created for the Calgary Stampede. Jay Contway passed away in 2019. When the winner of the 2024 Cowboys Rangeland Derby — both chuckwagon driver and outriders — receive their trophies, it will mark the end of a remarkable era. c



Chasing Cows, Kids & Dreams BY NIKI FLUNDRA

Niki (riding King) and her husband, 3X Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion Dustin Flundra (riding Rooster)


t’s the time on the ranch when we can reflect on the year. Being a rancher has many positive aspects, but it does come with its challenges! I have developed the deepest respect for ranchers. Their passion is to care for the grasslands, water, and not just their animals but all of God’s creatures that thrive because of their stewardship. It is not only honourable but also necessary to provide sustainable food. Land that could not be farmed can still provide sustenance because of the willingness of a rough-riding cowboy (or cowgirl). When I met my husband, we each had our rodeo lifestyles in common. Him a saddle bronc rider and me a rodeo trick rider. I did not grow up on a ranch although my dad had some cows when I was little. My dad got out of the cattle business to pursue a career in the fireworks and pyrotechnics business but


that love of animals he introduced me to never left me. I followed in my dad’s footsteps into the world of pyrotechnics at live events and in the film industry and continued with my trick riding, so when

“I’m here to say there is more than I ever imagined to this ranching gig.” I moved to the ranch, the learning curve was steep. I knew all about fireworks shows, bullet hits, blowing houses up on movies, and suicide drags off the back of a fast-running horse — but not too much about ranching.

I made a promise to myself when Dustin and I got married that I would learn all the facets of ranching and be proficient at most of the jobs. (I would say all the jobs, but in reality, me servicing or fixing the tractor or any piece of machinery for that matter is just not happening — I’m really best at causing them to break down.) Thirteen years later, I am most definitely still a work in progress. I have to write notes on my phone on how to properly fix fence, and I may or may not have dented a thing or two with the tractor (we won’t drag all that back up and get into details, but the good news is, Dustin was gone rodeoing and I was very pregnant at the time so I didn’t get much of a scolding as long as the cows got fed!) I still marvel at all the things a rancher must be capable of! I swear there isn’t a thing in the world my husband couldn’t figure out how to do, and no matter what, he gets the job done — just like every other incredible rancher out there. It’s not just cowboying and fencing, but the bookwork, the mechanics, the vet work, dang near needing to be a mathematician to figure out the grazing rotations based on grass lengths, not to mention calculating feed supplies for the year. I’m here to say there is more than I ever imagined to this ranching gig, and there has been more than one occasion when throwing in the towel crossed my mind. The –30C days when nothing goes right, or a job is proving long and difficult. But my dad always said I was “double-bred stubborn,” and it’s proving valuable. I hope that by sharing these stories, they won’t just be told, but they will truly be heard by people who haven’t had the chance to know the benefits the ranching community brings to the table through their hard work, grit and determination. c

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024



The sun is setting beyond the hills as from the roof the water spills inside it’s warm from the windy chills it’s evening time I first uttered the words above one Easter more than 35 years ago. A group of friends had gathered at my cabin to spend a few days riding and enjoying quiet reflection and appreciation of creation and time with the Creator. The day before, we’d had a wet spring snow and then a chinook blew in resulting in a rapid melt, and the thoughts for this poem. I’m writing these words in early December. It’s been a warm, dry fall and early winter. With a light snow cover, my cattle are still grazing and may do so until Christmas. I’ve made a deal with a neighbouring outfit to winter my cows for a few months. I’ll bring them back to the Helmer for calving and summer/fall grazing and make decisions regarding next winter then. Most winters, I’ve found a way to procure and feed my own livestock. But with my equipment and energy wearing out, I’ll give this a try. This may also give me more time to live out the next verses in the poem: I’m setting back, my suppers done No place to go, don’t have to run Sit back and watch the setting sun It’s evening time


The problem is, there are evenings when I’m busy away from home, so to make up for it, I rest during the day. In my defence, I was given this advice when I was young by our hired man. “Always have an afternoon nap in the morning in case there’s no time in the afternoon.” (Good advice, but if you follow it too close, you’ll qualify for a Senate appointment, but I digress.)

The truth is, for the last few years, I’ve been living that advice to the point that from the time I started this column to completion, it’s been a week. Partly a lack of inspiration, definitely a lack of perspiration, but I don’t think it’s bad advice. Maybe better advice is found in the final verses of the poem. So, as I watch the stars above I think of all I love And I thank the Creator of The evening time. For all that I can be And for walking along with me And for helping me to see the evening time. Evening time’s that special time of day Sure am glad that special time can stay. We were designed to both work and rest. If we look back to the beginning, God created and then rested. On each day of creation, “there was evening, and there was morning.” (Genesis 1). In Genesis 2, we learn that on the 7th day, God rested and further on in the chapter, we have the story of the creation of man and his purpose (15). In Chapter 3, we learn even after they stepped away from God’s design, he still met them in the “cool of the day” (time of rest) (8). If we step back into life today and look for a pasture to graze these thoughts, we’re coming into spring and all the busyness that can entail. The decisions you made earlier will dictate some of what comes next, but you still need to take time to rest. Look at the sun’s setting, and the stars appearing, and listen for the voice of the One who made them. c

It was back in 2005 when rancher, poet and preacher Bryn Thiessen (1960–2024) of Helmer Creek Ranch near Sundre began as our Reflections columnist. He has been a mainstay of the magazine for nearly two decades. We are planning a memorial for this unforgettable cowboy in the next issue. We offer our sincere condolences to all who knew and loved him. This was Bryn’s final column for us.


Doug Mills

Glenn Stewart

Pat Parelli


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Westerner Park, Red Deer, AB




Age Old Battle 40x48, oil on canvas, (inspired by original photo by Sandy Sharkey)



PORTRAIT Full Tilt 30x36, oil on canvas

Presence 22x22, watercolour (muskox in the snow)

Cowgirl Up 20x20, oil on canvas



he artwork of Crystal Beshara (“sounds like mascara,” she laughed) has graced some major art shows in the U.S. and the finest art magazines in print, but rarely ‘out West.’ Crystal is seeking galleries that showcase the Canadian Western art scene. “The key is to find one willing to take on an Ontario artist and, so far, haven't found the right match,” she said. She’s not complaining, though, as the U.S. market is eager — and lucrative. Three of her works have been juried into The Spirit of the West 43rd Annual Show & Sale in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. “I’ve had more success with my artwork in the U.S., but I’d love to have my range of work get out there in Western Canada — because this is what I love to paint.” Her style comes from knowing her subject well; her background is richly rural — she’s from a tight-knit farming community in Ontario, and if feelings could be visualized, you instantly see that she admires her “models” — the horses and riders, teamsters, landscapes and botanicals. Not surprisingly, her landscapes and farm scenes resonate

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024



Christmas Morning with Newborn 40x30, oil on canvas

with Eastern collectors, as they are scenes they can connect with more readily. Regardless of geography, art is personal, and while certain scenes reflect a collector's current address and lifestyle, most also have pieces that reflect their heritage. “I first ask, ‘Does it tell a story?” Crystal explained. “Does it connect with the heart? The visual stuff comes afterwards.”

Horsepower 30x36, oil on canvas

Practice Makes Perfect 40x60, oil on canvas

“I'm an entrepreneur as much as an artist ...” An impressive mix of art and entrepreneurship, Crystal’s diverse portfolio includes her art, a children’s book (“When I Visit the Farm”) and her own line of custom art brushes. She also hosts retreats and “how-to” YouTube videos. “I’m an entrepreneur as much as an artist,” she said, “and there’s always fun spinoffs like my children’s book. But I strive to document this area and its inherent beauty." To view her work or follow Crystal, visit c



Sarah Mary Blake Lynch-Staunton Her Paintbrush Captured History BY TIM LASIUTA

Sarah Mary Blakes’ contribution to Pincher Creek (Little Spitzee) from the 1890s was unmistakable.

Sarah Lynch-Staunton


She married Alfred Hardwick LynchStaunton in 1890 and became an integral part of the history of the fledgling settlement with deep NWMP ties, in addition to being recognized as Alberta’s first female painter. She was born February 14, 1864, in Galway, Ireland and was an astute observer of her surroundings. While attending a convent school at St-Leonards-on-Sea in Sussex, England, Sarah took art classes and exhibited great promise along with her regular studies. She also lived in other homes in England and Nice, France, with her widowed mother and sisters while her brother Frank went to school. In 1887, Frank immigrated to Pincher Creek, settling in the North Fork District, where he acquired ranching property east of the North Fork of the Oldman River. Her future husband, Alfred, was a respected NWMP veteran who joined the Force in 1877 in Fort McLeod. A year later, he was reassigned to establish a remount station (horse breeding ranch) at Pincher Creek along with eight other officers. After his retirement in 1880, he started the first Pincher Creek Ranch (later the Baker Ranch) with James Bruneau and Isaac May. He also ranched with his brother Richard Lynch-Staunton at Kyleberg until his retirement in 1926. In Range Men, by L.V. Kelly, it is written that his holdings included more than 8,000 head of cattle in the late 1880s. After retirement, Alfred joined the Pincher Creek Home Guard #3 Troop in 1885 (Riel Rebellion). He was a founding member of the Masonic Lodge in Fort Macleod #3 (pre-1890) and was a long-time member of the Pincher Creek Polo Club. Sarah arrived in Pincher Creek in 1888 to keep house for her brother Frank. She

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


The print, Deer Horn Ranch, hangs in the homes of each relative. The original hangs in the Glenbow.

married Hardwick on June 3, 1890, at the ranch. Father Lacombe had agreed to marry them, but a flood kept him from officiating, so a local priest performed the ceremony. Daughter Dolly wrote in an interview in 1967, “Despite a busy life, Sarah still managed to read, trail ride and paint the Pincher Creek area passionately.” The couple had nine children, three of whom died young. Farley Wruth, director of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek, noted that her art brought a little of the ‘Old World’ into pioneer Pincher Creek.

“She has two paintings at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Deer Horn Ranch and Lundbeck Falls”, said granddaughter Elizabeth McKenzie. “A relative, Blake Lynch-Staunton, made copies of the watercolours and gifted them to family members a few years ago. A granddaughter still has an original painted door from their first home in her basement.” “Dick Hardy, the widower of one of Sarah’s granddaughters, has an original sketch in his house of the cabin,” said Hugh Lynch-Staunton.

Alfred was instrumental in building the first hospital in Pincher Creek in the early 1900s. During WWI, Sarah also served as the President of the Pincher Creek branch of the Canadian Red Cross, for which she won many accolades for her efforts. Post-retirement, Sarah and Alfred were active in Pincher Creek affairs. Alfred was on town council and kept up with ranching in the area and kept riding as long as he could. The Blake legacy, tied to the LynchStaunton’s, extends to this day. The original ranch, the Deer Horn, is still in the family and operated by Jim Lynch-Staunton, great-greatnephew of Alfred and Sarah Lynch-Staunton. Alfred’s brother George was a senator in the Federal government in the early 1900s. Their nephew, Frank Lynch-Staunton, became Lieutenant Governor of Alberta in 1979. Their great-grandnephew Tom works with Nature Conservatory Alberta to help ranchers protect and preserve their ranch lands. Alfred passed away in 1932, and Sarah died in 1933 after a fall. She is buried in Pincher Creek. While Sarah did not pursue a professional career in art in the late 1800s, her talent with a brush captured pioneer Pincher Creek for future generations and has been included in Glenbow Museum Pioneer Women Art exhibits. c

The original, Lundbreck Falls, hangs in the Glenbow Museum





Audrey and Susan with their prizes and awards

they moved to Pincher Creek, they started entering that parade. High school brought another opportunity. In 1957, Audrey was asked to be a rodeo queen contestant and won.

Her duties consisted mainly of performing at the grand entry and waving to the crowd. From Taber, she went to Medicine Hat for a year where she graduated from high school in 1958. That summer she got a job

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024



t is an unforgettable image — two women of a certain age racing their horses towards the finish line. For Audrey Westrop and Susan Griffin, riding horses is truly a sister act. Born 13 years apart but united by a lifelong love of horses, they come by it honestly. Their dad was Reid Hall, a bronc rider, horseman and, in his younger days, a jockey. Audrey was born in 1939 when the Halls were farming at Taber, Alta. She was just four years old when her life changed forever. Her father bought her a Shetland pony named Penny. As she got bigger, so did the horse she rode, moving up to Trinket, who was part Arabian and part Welsh pony. Audrey rode Trinket while looking after cattle for her dad. “Trinket dumped me off every day,” Audrey said. “I was constantly looking for a low spot or a rock…so I could get back on the horse.” Yet, that gave her experience she would draw on later. When Audrey got to high school, there was a new sport just starting up that their hired man told her about — it was called barrel racing. “I’d done a lot of riding to that point with cattle (and) was looking for something different,” she said. So in the middle of the night, Audrey, who was about 14, set up some barrels in a pasture near the house. With the moon shining brightly, she began her foray into barrel racing. But competitive barrel racing came later. Her dad inspired her first actual competition. Reid Hall always entered the family in the Taber Rodeo parade. They did some riding and were judged in different classes. Prizes were a dollar and a ribbon, and Audrey won her share. Later in 1963 when




Left: Audrey competing at Western Montana College Rodeo in 1966 Right: Susan competing at Lundbreck in 1971

at the Medicine Hat Exhibition and discovered they too had a rodeo queen contest. A year after winning at Taber, she won again in Medicine Hat. Eventually, Audrey found herself at Utah State University, where a cousin let her take a barrel racing horse to Utah. Riding on Tasty Tidbit, Audrey won the Rocky Mountain Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo for the 1965–1966 season. “I’d never barrel raced,” she said. “But I know how to ride, and I had a good horse (so) I was able to be successful at it.” She then married Bob Westrop, who had been the president of the college rodeo club, and they moved to a ranch on the Castle River in southern Alberta. Audrey started to compete in horse shows and continued to learn more about riding when she came upon trainer Monte Foreman. “It just put a fine touch on what I’d been doing,” she said. “It just made them more precise.” Audrey also got involved in the Canadian Equestrian Federation. She earned her Level 1 and 2 so she could put on clinics, then became a director and later president of the Western Riding division. At the age of 84, Audrey is still going strong. She still rides, often with her children and grandchildren. Together, 13 in total, they have ridden as a group in the Pincher Creek Parade. She is also blessed

with an 80X160 foot indoor arena Bob built for her and continues to train horses. A highlight of her season is the annual Golden Age Heritage Horse Show in Claresholm, Alta. “I can still ride and compete successfully at that show,” she said. “It’s been really fun, and I get to do it with Susan, my sister. She finally got old enough.” Susan attributes their love of horses to their father. “He taught us to be horse people,” Susan said. “We always looked to our dad. He was the horseman, the guy who could ride anything.” Growing up around Pincher Station and Cowley, her horse was her best friend. “That’s who I talked to, who I cried to,” she said.

Then her sister returned to Canada, bought the ranch next to theirs, and Susan spent much of her time with Audrey. “She taught me how to work, organize, be honest,” she said. Unlike her sister, Susan never barrel raced. Instead, they went to horse shows together, and Audrey took Susan to her first horse clinic. “We learned horsemanship together,” she said. Now, Susan has reached the point where she too can ride in the Golden Age Heritage Horse Show, where she can compete against Audrey in some events and team up with her in others. “It was exciting when we finally got to go together,” she said. One event they compete in is the Command class. All the riders are gathered in the arena; a command is issued, and if a rider makes a mistake — they are out. Often, Audrey and Susan are the last two in the class. “Sometimes I beat her, and sometimes she beats me,” Susan said. The judge once awarded a tie because neither Audrey nor Susan made a mistake. Every year, there is a banquet and dance at the horse show. However, once dinner is done, Susan and Audrey are back at the barn, laying out the pattern for the next day. “We enjoy riding together,” Susan said. “I rode horses my whole life. I don’t know what my life would be without horses, and most of my memories are with Audrey.” One memory is captured in a photo showing the two horsewomen racing towards the finish line. It truly is a sister act. c

Left: The sisters racing home in pairs barrel racing. Right: Turning the barrels in pairs barrel racing is not as easy as they make it look!





wise man once said, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, butcher a hog, design a building, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, cook a tasty meal, and fight efficiently.” Melanie Wowk, a veterinarian and former chairperson of Alberta Beef Producers, can probably do all of the above. She can C-section a cow by night and wrangle politicians by day. Wowk and her family operate a cattle and horse ranch east of Edmonton, Alta. She’s an unlikely hero of Canadian agriculture, tough and strengthened by long nights on call while carrying the burden of an industry in crisis. She’s a long way from Montreal where she spent her early years. “My dad, Walter, always wanted to move out West,” says Wowk, who now works for a pharmaceutical company after retiring from practice in 2015. “He loves country music and loves the Western lifestyle. So, he moved our family out West to Calgary when I was eight.” Wowk decided to become a vet when she was three years old. After high school, she completed a science degree at the University of Alberta and was accepted into the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon. With no exposure to farming, she developed a love for cattle during her first week.


“Cows are really where it’s at for me.” “I remember standing beside the dairy cows at vet school and being kind of enthralled by them,” says Wowk. “Looking at them and thinking — wow — they are really big. And this is embarrassing to say, but I had to ask one of my roommates what a heifer was,” she laughed. “I really had no clue, but they really intrigued me,” Wowk spent her summer holidays working in mixed animal practices. Her first summer was spent working with Dr. Greg

Davis outside Wetaskiwin, Alta. She gained on-farm experience with Davis’s father, learning how to move around cattle — what to do, what not to do, and what to look for in terms of animal health. In her early 20s, Wowk met her soon-to-be husband, Miles, after completing her third year of vet school. By then, she decided to focus on mixed animal practice. The couple were married the following summer and now have two grown children who work on the farm and a grandchild. “I was never very crazy about horses. I’m sorry to all the cowboys out there,” she says, adding her children are the fifth generation to grow up on Miles’ family land. “We raise 100 head of horses here at home — I married a horseman — but I still really don’t get horses. Cows are really where it’s at for me.” Wowk remembers being on call during calving season when she was a new vet. It wasn’t uncommon to perform 400-to-500 C-sections in three or four months, she explains. After her first child was born, she opened a successful mobile cow-calf practice, hitting the highways, byways, and back roads to help animals in need. “You are lucky if you have a cow in a chute,” she says of performing C-sections at all hours. “Things are a lot better now than they used to be. I did them tied to fences. I did them just tied up. But typically, most people have a maternity pen now. You always do them on their left side — you freeze them so they don’t feel it. So, I don’t want anybody out there to

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


think that we are cutting into animals — they are frozen. You pull the calf out the side, and then you sew them up. Cattle are amazing animals. Most of them go on to get pregnant again.” In the end, becoming an experienced vet meant overcoming the fear of surgical calls, says Wowk. She also had to overcome unwanted comments from ranchers when she was arm-deep in the belly of a pregnant cow. “They’d say, ‘Do you really know what you are doing?’” she says. “Sometimes I’d answer the phone when I was at my first practice, and they’d say to me, ‘Not the girl, we don’t want you. We want one of the guys.’ I’d say, ‘It’s me or nothing.’ I think the hardest thing was just that lack of confidence, wanting to curl up in a ball and die sometimes. These are such big animals, and it doesn’t matter if you’re five years out or twenty years out, there’s always that stress.” From ornery ranchers to ill-tempered animals with medical complications, vets often don’t know what to expect when attending calls, says Wowk, adding she found her confidence with the help of Miles. “I remember coming home one night after something horrific happened,” she says. “I think I was crying when I got home, and my husband said to me, ‘You know what? You have the training. You have the knowledge. These guys are phoning you to go out there and do a job because they can’t do it themselves, and you just need to go out and do it.’ That was probably the best pep talk I’ve received.” Years later, Wowk was a powerhouse of Canadian agriculture, working her corporate job while advocating through Alberta

ABOVE: Luckily, this one came out the back, 2022 BELOW: Helping out feeding our herd, 2021 OPPOSITE PAGE: My husband Miles, my pillar of support throughout my career and raising our family, 2022

Beef Producers. She spoke to the House of Commons Standing Policy Committee on Industry and Technology, discussing ranchers’ roles in greening the prairie economy. She still helps with calving season on the family farm. “I have a bit of a window into how these urban politicians view us,” she says. “Being a veterinarian, seeing a lot of the animal welfare side of it, the disease side

of it — I think that’s helpful as well. My career set me up for the position that I held as chair of Alberta Beef Producers. But it was also a huge learning curve.” The ranching business can feel male-dominated at times, says Wowk, adding it can be intimidating to stand up at various meetings and speak to rooms filled with men in cowboy hats. “The one thing I’ve learned about it is they’re not sitting on the other end judging,” she says. “It’s always been a very inviting place for me. I found it even more inviting than when I would go to veterinary conferences.” As far as Canada’s beef industry is concerned, many ranchers have reached their breaking point, says Wowk. Profits are not keeping pace with expenses. Debt loads are high. Young people are leaving for more lucrative careers. “I don’t think there is an understanding out there of what it takes to feed the world’s population,” she says. “Animal protein is extremely important. It is a much more nutrient-dense protein than plant protein and much more digestible. There is a place in our environment for large grazing species.” When creating environmental policies, the government needs to recognize groups like Alberta Beef Producers because farmers and ranchers have great stories to tell, says Wowk. They want to supply safe, nutritious, environmentally responsible food. “We’ve been doing that for a lot of years now,” she says. “We aren’t getting recognized for it. And I just think there’s such a break between urban and rural people. They are pushing things on us that are not going to make growing food sustainable.” c





cotland is the homeland for many Western Canadian families. From the historic surnames beginning with "Mc" or "Mac" to the ancient clan tartans proudly worn at every Robbie Burns Dinner, their Celtic roots run deep. From music to art to fabulous people, this country is on many “must-see” lists, and here are a few visual reasons why. Brush up on your family tree and head to the Homeland. For more,


Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024



“Powerful and sensitive images of the Northern Plains Cree” June - September: 11am - 5pm Daily October - May: 12pm - 4pm Wed - Sun The Allen Sapp Gallery #1 Railway Ave E. North Battleford, SK 306-445-1760

The first time, it’s a vacation. After that, it’s Coming Home

Dunfermline Abbey

BURIAL GROUND OF KINGS Once the capital and now Scotland’s newest city, the ancient city of Dunfermline grew around the country’s historic landmark, Dunfermline Abbey. The Abbey, dating back to the 12th century, is the burial place of King Robert the Bruce and other monarchs.


2606 Kirkland Ranch Road, Ashcroft, British Columbia

Robert the Bruce statue at Stirling Castle

ROBERT THE BRUCE This statue of Robert the Bruce (1274–1329) is located at Stirling Castle. He was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. He led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. The life of this national hero was Hollywoodized by actor Chris Pine in Outlaw King on Netflix.

The first publication about Jay Contway, Sculptor of The Calgary Stampede Trophies Available through

Lynn Contway

403-994-1950 27


CALLANISH STANDING STONES It was Diana Gabaldon’s runaway best-selling series, Outlander, that saw a huge uptick in Scotland’s tourism. The time travel in the series started at the fictional standing stones of Craigh na Dun, but you can visit the real thing — the 5,000-year-old Callanish Standing Stones, or Calanais as they're known in Scottish Gaelic, located on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland's Outer Hebrides archipelago. The Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis

EDINBURGH CASTLE MILITARY TATTOO Edinburgh Castle stands on Castle Rock, which has been occupied by humans since the Iron Age (800 BC). There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of Malcolm III in the 11th century. In its 1,100-year history, Edinburgh Castle can rightfully claim it’s “the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world.” Nowadays, it’s besieged by tourists. The most famous event is the annual Tattoo, attracting the top military bands in the world, including the RCMP band. It is also a popular filming location and claims Avengers, Infinity War, Outlander, Season 3 and The Outlaw King, starring Chris Pine among its stars. The fireworks finale at The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Helix, Home of the Kelpies


Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


THE KELPIES The Kelpies are 30-metre-high (98 ft) horsehead sculptures depicting Kelpies, also known as mythical Water Horses, located between Falkirk and Grangemouth. Completed in 2013, the mammoth sculptures were designed by Andy Scott. The name Kelpies was chosen to reflect the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of ten horses. The Kelpies also represent the Clydesdale, the draft horse of Scotland. Legend says a Kelpie inhabits every deep pool of water in the mystical land. The legend was also transformed into a movie, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.


The Jacobite steam train passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct

THE TRAIN TO HOGWARTS One of the famous scenes from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter saga is when Harry takes the train to Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is an authentic location — it’s the Glenfinnan Viaduct, completed in 1901 in Inverness-shire in the Scottish Highlands. As you cross the River Finnan, you travel along the viaduct located 100 feet above the water.

BRAVEHEART At the National Wallace Monument on Abbey Craig overlooking the city of Stirling, visitors can learn about Sir William Wallace, Scotland’s national hero, and the stories and tales of how he led the Scottish army to victory at The Battle of Stirling Bridge. Mel Gibson brought the legend to life in his movie, “Braveheart.”


The Wallace Monument on Abbey Craig

A group of horse riders explore the Cheviot Hills

RIDING ADVENTURES There are many places where visitors can ride horses or for the experienced teamsters to take a drive, but how much fun would it be to gallop a Clydesdale on the beach in sight of a castle? Or take a tour ride in a traditional Common Riding, an equestrian tradition when riders ride along its borders to commemorate the practice from the 13th and 15th centuries when there were frequent raids on the Anglo-Scottish border.

HORSE RACING Another great place to get a horse “fix” is at the track. The first races in Musselburgh took place in 1777, and Canadians will notice that the horses race on grass and run clockwise, not counterclockwise. The Musselburgh Racecourse is located near Musselburgh, East Lothian, and it is the second biggest racecourse in Scotland (the first being Ayr). c

Flat racing at Musselburgh Racecourse


GETAWAYS Western Experiences

Western Experiences

EXPERIENCE HORSEPOWER! Nothing compares to the unbelievably smooth ride of a horse-drawn sleigh on snow — and you don’t have to wait for next Christmas to experience it. It’s a fun family activity, and talented teamsters work with their horses daily to


ensure everyone enjoys this classic winter experience. It’s hard for kids (and many adults) to wrap their heads around the fact that sleighs were the way that everyone travelled in winter, and “back in the olden days,” travelling by sleigh was so common

that in 1906, Alberta’s first attorney general, J.J. Boyle, made sleigh bells mandatory so pedestrians and other drivers could hear them coming! Also, a little-known fact that I like to share is that sleigh bells are closely linked to teamster pride.

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Sleigh rides and campfires in the pristine Bulkley Valley near Telkwa, BC with B&T Rides

Sleigh rides at Lake Louise with Brewster Adventures

Of course, wagons were the “transport trucks” of their day, and freight was hauled all year round on wagons or sleighs, and year-round, the teamster had bells on his horses. However, if a wagon needed assistance from another teamster, it was common to hand over the bells in thanks. It was a matter of some shame to arrive at your destination without your bells, so much so that some teamsters would refuse help rather than lose their bells. This was the origin of the saying, “I’ll be there with bells on.” While many enjoy knowing that there are a few thousand pounds of living, breathing horsepower in front, watching the teams work in tandem is fascinating.


WHERE TO FIND THEM In British Columbia, two of the main purveyors of horse-drawn wagon, carriage or sleigh rides are guest ranches, of which there are plenty, and of course, ski hill resorts. The ranches all tend to own their own teams, while the ski resorts tend to contract well-regarded teamsters and their horses for the job. The most popular time of year for sleigh rides is during the Christmas season, but sleigh rides are just as fun, and often not as crowded, during the shoulder seasons. Of course, many major hotels, especially in the mountains, also contract teamsters and their quiet teams to provide their guests with a lovely trip,


GETAWAYS Western Experiences

“Hayrides with a group of friends or family are a blast…”

experiencing the ride surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The prairies have an abundance of ranch country — wide open spaces for big views, and sometimes, an operator can offer a nighttime Northern Lights tour when the aurora borealis is especially active or even a sleigh ride under a meteor shower. But those, of course, all depend on the weather. Almost all of these same activities can be experienced in summer — when it’s warmer, and everything is on wheels. Hayrides with a group of friends or family are a blast, and when combined with a picnic or wiener roast at the end of the trip, make for a memorable time. Guest ranches often combine a wagon ride and dine with the meal back at the ranch. Major cities in most provinces also offer elegant carriage tours, some during special events (such as Calgary Stampede) and other cities (Victoria) as a throwback to its British heritage. Then there are the weddings.


Wagon rides at Dakota Dunes Resort

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Historic Reesor Ranch, near Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park — West Block Wilderness Area

Imagine arriving at the historic church in a perfectly appointed vis-à-vis carriage — the photo ops will be amazing. The best part of any of these rides, wagon, sleigh or carriage, is knowing that you are keeping alive a heritage of driving horses that is thousands of years old because we all know all it takes is one generation without teamster teachers — and it would be lost to the ages. c



Top row (L-R): Exhibition, Whyte Museum, Western Art Week, Great Falls, MT, Banff, Country Music Alberta Awards Middle row (L-R): Horse Expo, Red Deer, Country Music Alberta Awards, Aggie Days, Calgary Bottom row (L-R): Country Music Alberta Awards, Western Art Week, Great Falls, MT, Whyte Museum








Artful Getaways BY TERRI MASON



here’s more to winter in the West than feeding cows and bingewatching Lonesome Dove again! Pack up the kids, head out, and have some fun! Here are a few Western events to pique your interest!

400 13th Street North, Great Falls, Montana 2024 Auction Event March 14–16, 2024 Three days in Great Falls surrounded by and celebrating the best of Western art, hosted by the museum that honours the greatest Western artist of all time, Charlie Russell. Events include an Art Preview Party, their famous Art in Action™, the First Strike Friday Night that focuses on the works of contemporary artists, and the crown jewel event, the Russell Live Auction. For more, visit


Whyte Museum, Banff 111 Bear Street Open Jan 26 — runs until April 2024

Arto Djerdjerian: Ya Ha Tinda — The Ranch Photographer Arto Djerdjerian showcases an intimate view of everyday life at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, where horses are wintered and trained for use by Parks Canada staff in our national mountain parks: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho.

“THE RUSSELL” VIRTUAL GALLERY TOUR The Russell also offers a fabulous “Virtual Gallery Tour” — and I highly recommend you visit this site! virtual-museum/

13TH ANNUAL COUNTRY MUSIC ALBERTA AWARDS Edmonton Convention Centre 9797 Jasper Avenue March 9–10, 2024


Great Falls, Montana March 14–17, 2024

Two days packed with country music and events, including songwriting sessions. Be sure to attend this jampacked weekend of talent showcasing the heart and soul of Alberta's vibrant music scene.

Great Falls becomes the Western Art Capital of the World! Visit their site for a complete list of events. Visit western-art-week



Nutrien Western Event Centre & Agriculture Building Calgary Stampede Grounds 1410 Olympic Way SE, Calgary April 13–14 Aggie Days is a fantastic opportunity for children to get up close and personal with farm animals. Saturday features the thrilling Clock, Stock, and Barrel stock dog competition and Sunday features


Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark Great Falls, Montana March 14-17, 2024 From top: Art In Action; Country Music Alberta Awards; Clock, Stock & Barrel, Aggie Days

the Extreme Cowboy Race as horse and rider navigate a thrilling obstacle course. year-round-events/aggie-days

The Legends West Art Show is a show within a show, joining in with the Western Living and Design Exhibition, the Best of the West Art Show, and the Celebration of Native Plains Artists. This venue spotlights exquisite artwork from five top shows in a spacious setting. c





or most of the folks in our world, spring means new life, the joy of long-limbed foals filled with promise, and the anticipation of attending the largest equine trade show in Canada — Horse Expo. Held in the spacious Westerner Park in Red Deer, Horse Expo has expanded its borders to encompass not only horse training and shopping but the full spectrum of Western lifestyle living and all that goes along with it. Their signature event, the Trainers Showdown, features legendary horsemen Doug Mills, Pat Parelli and Glenn Stewart, and there isn’t a horse lover alive who can’t learn from these three powerhouses in the training world. Additionally, Horse Expo offers a full slate of talented trainers doing presentations addressing some of the more pressing needs: getting a horse to load in a trailer is a popular theme, or tips on showing or training for various English


or Western riding disciplines. Equine and equine-ish clubs will also be in attendance, including draft horse and driving clubs to mules and donkey clubs (hence “equine-ish.”) Then there’s the fashion show, the art show and the shopping! Whether your preferred style of “equine interaction” is breeding and raising horses, riding or driving, or you just love the camaraderie of the horse world, there is something here for you. Exhibitor coordinator Jack Gordon is pumped for the 2024 show. “We are so excited; we are anticipating a full house, and exceeding what we had for exhibitors last year,” he said. “The show itself is becoming even more popular, and we’re even getting calls from exhibitors outside of the traditional “equine world” inquiring about participating in our show.” Be sure to attend! Horse Expo runs Apr 26–28, 2024, at Westerner Park in Red Deer, Alta. For more, visit c

Left: Jill Barron, Working Equitation From top: Champion Dustin Sippola, Fashion Show, Alberta Friesian Horse demonstration

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Stran Dunham FAMILY TRADITION BY TIM ELLIS weekend from Manitoba.” Now, he’s literally following the same path. “I have lots of clients around home that I have to get back for during the week,” explains Dunham, who is a farrier. “Most times, I’ll leave for rodeos on Thursday and




Stran Dunham competing at the 2023 Maple Leaf Circuit Finals

hen your mom is a CFR barrel racer, and your dad and uncle are professional tie-down ropers, it’s a good bet you’ll end up on the rodeo trail. But, for Stran Dunham, it took longer than expected. “I was really into hockey,” divulges Dunham, who was a goaltender in his minor hockey days in the Souris, Man, area. “If I wasn’t roping, I’d be playing hockey.” “I quit hockey in about grade 10. I was ready to put all my focus into roping. I could’ve played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, but I said no. My coach at the time didn’t think I should have quit. He called me a couple of years later, asking me to fill in for the Deloraine-Hartney Colts high school team. I finished out the season, and that was my last hurrah for hockey.”

Despite the late start on the roping scene, Dunham has made up for lost time, climbing quickly through the high school and college ranks and onto the pro rodeo trail. “Right around grade nine, I started roping in the Manitoba Rodeo Cowboys Association,” reveals the 21-year-old, who bought his pro card after winning both the Morris Stampede and the Moose Mountain Rodeo in Kennedy, Sask, on the same weekend in 2022. “I got to travel with mom and dad in the MRC and to some CCA rodeos.” In fact, Dunham did get an early start travelling with his parents, Sheena and Kevin, on the rodeo trail. “I think I was two or three when my mom made the CFR,” recalls Dunham. “They were going back and forth every

come back Monday.” “I try to get my shoeing jobs caught up from Monday to Wednesday and then head out again. I’m thankful I’ve got some places I can stay in Alberta during the busy times. There are some days, I can feel I’ve done too many shoeing jobs. But I have to do that work if I want to do the other things.” The “other things” include attempting to qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which almost became a reality last season. “It was tough being that close, but everything happens for a reason,” suggests Dunham, who missed qualifying for his first CFR by less than $300 last fall. He’s already got a big jump on accomplishing the goal for 2024. “It went better than even I imagined,” says Dunham of his championship weekend at the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals in Regina in early December, where he won over $6,800 towards the 2024 CPRA standings. “I guess missing the CFR added a little extra fire in me to really get after it this season.” c



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Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024



"If cowboys were optometrists."




Don’t throw away your used rasps and horseshoes. You can build your own levelling rasp! Here is a rasp with which you can easily make a perfectly flat surface on a hoof for nailing on a shoe. You still have to know how to shoe a horse with proper medial-lateral balance, proper sole depth, proper foot angle, and appropriate toe length. Why bother making yourself a ‘levelling rasp’? I am a journeyman blacksmith and farrier, and when I was shoeing horses full-time, I did not have trouble with getting a perfectly flat foot and didn’t run into trouble with dipping the quarters. However, things are a little different these days. I suppose I’ve probably retired from the profession, but I still like to do my own horses when I need them shod. I now seem to have trouble getting that very last level to the foot, and I find a slight rock to the foot when I check it with the shoe. Anyone who has shod horses knows that it can be a bugger to get those little waves out and knows how easy it can be to dip the quarters. Now, if you hot-shoe a horse, this gets rid of any little imperfections and gives you a perfectly flat foot. But you also have to fire up a forge, have propane on hand, and be prepared to take a bit more time. And that is why I built the levelling rasp. When I’ve finished the trim and the fitup of the shoe and am just about ready to nail it on, I’ll give it four or five strokes with the levelling rasp to make a perfectly flat surface upon which to nail the shoe. The rasp stays in contact with the whole foot the entire time. You can just put a little more pressure on either the toe or either side of the heel if necessary to maintain hoof balance.

HOW IT’S BUILT: • Take two old rasps, cut the tangs off, and then cut the rasps to join in a V pattern


Close ups of Malcolm's levelling rasp

• Weld them together, making sure they stay perfectly flat and even • For the back handle, weld a piece of a horseshoe to the wide end of the ‘V’ • For the front handle, weld one of the tangs onto the narrow end of the ‘V’ • Thread a plastic rasp handle onto the front tang for comfort and safety

The ‘V’ design also allows the rasp to stay in full contact with the entire foot while not hitting the frog. For me, this is a real time-saver. If you have no rock in your shoe when you nail it on, then you have way better odds of that shoe staying where you put it and not working itself off over time. c

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Montgomery Ranch Shepherds, Dogs & Lambing STORY AND PHOTOS BY TERRI MASON

—Interview with Dale & Dawn Montgomery “We’ve been raising sheep since the ‘80s. I got a handful of sheep when I got working [border collie] dogs. Then I got a few more, and a few more, and then we had 200,” said Dale.



When it comes to multi-award-winning stock dog trainer Dale Montgomery and his wife, Dawn, the sheep business is a 24/7 job, and one of the busiest times is, of course, lambing. “Our ewes give birth usually mid-April into May. Where they give birth depends on the weather; most lamb in our large shed. We also have the lambing field, which is fine if the ewe gives birth to one lamb, but the main problem with sheep is when they’re lambing twins or triplets, the firstborn lamb can often wander into the flock and get separated from their mothers and end up as orphans. We watch very carefully. We’ll bring in the ewe and her lambs and lock them up in a small pen for a day or two until they’ve bonded,” said Dale. “If you have lots of space and your sheep are really spread out that's not as much of a problem. But when you have them in a more confined area, then they're more likely to get mixed up,” said Dawn. “But it's


TOP: Spring 2022 lambing pen, used for twins so they can mother up well and fit into the flock INSET: Ewe with her twins on the ground, and another lamb behind her stealing a snack

AT A GLANCE NAME: Montgomery Ranch OWNERS: Dale & Dawn Montgomery ESTABLISHED: 1985 NEAREST TOWN: Maple Creek, SK ELEVATION: 2,607 feet/795 mm PRECIPITATION: 11 inches/280 mm (“Not enough”) SIZE: Now downsizing to retire FLOCK: Corriedale (commercial wool & meat breed sheep) SIZE: 200 ewes

the multiple lamb births you want because it's more profitable.” But, like everything in life, there’s good and bad — and sometimes, confusion. Cattle producers are well aware of the strain of pulling calves, and with sheep, there’s an added wrinkle. “If she’s having trouble, you can just lay her down and pull the lamb right there, but it’s rare that we have to pull a lamb,” said Dale. “Sometimes you'll get a big single lamb. The biggest struggle we have is when they’re having triplets, and the lambs are all mixed up in the womb. You’ll get a leg of one and a leg of another, so you have to be very careful.” But once they’re out, just like calves and foals, the nectar of life for lambs is colostrum. “You’ve got to make sure the lamb gets colostrum very soon, within a few hours. If they don’t, they’ll die — usually within a week,” said Dale.

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Once the twins/triplet lambs have been assured colostrum, are in good condition, and have bonded with their mothers, then they are turned into the separate flock that has already lambed. There, the lambs and ewes are still in fairly close quarters, so no one gets separated or orphaned. To turn the new mothers into the already lambed flock, the Montgomery’s simply open gates, and use theborder collies sparingly. “Mothers can be quite protective of their newborns,” understated Dawn.


Washable spray paint is used to mark lambs and ewes for easier pairing

Historically, Montgomery’s pastures were always in good shape, and soon, they were asked if the sheep could help with a friend’s noxious weed problem. “And that’s when we got into custom grazing,” explained Dale. The first place Montgomery’s custom grazed for weed control was a neighbour’s outfit to reduce the overgrowth of burdock.

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Dale, Dawn, young Tim (border collie in training) and guard dog, Ivy



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“The sheep opened up a lot of areas they didn’t have access to because of overgrowth and bush. They cut the burdock, but they also ate a lot of it. At a certain stage, burdock is very palatable, and they got so they really liked it,” said Dawn. Another benefit of reducing burdock was fewer vet bills. “It opened the areas up where cattle were nervous to eat. He used to cull a lot of cows every year because of bad eyes. The year that we started there ended the bad eyes caused by the burrs. It didn't get rid of the burdock entirely; wildlife spreads it too, but it made a big difference to him for a few years,” she continued. Then the Scourge of the West, Leafy Spurge, became a menace — and Montgomery’s custom grazed to reduce that noxious weed too. “Custom grazing controlled the Leafy Spurge, but it didn’t wipe it out. You have to keep at it — same as burdock,” she said. Montgomery’s would literally move onto a pasture with 1,000 head of sheep (ewes and lambs) of theirs and other producers, their mobile camp, four good border collie dogs, a savvy horse, and a few guard dogs who literally live with the flock 24/7. [They use Pyrenees/Maremma-cross.] “You're out there herding the sheep from horseback (or quad) all day, every day from daylight to dark, whether it's raining or 105 degrees in the shade,” Dale explained. At night, the sheep are penned in a temporary enclosure made with an electric fence. The next day, the shepherds situate the sheep in a heavily affected area and keep them together to eat the noxious weeds. “There is the saying that “nothing survives passing through a sheep,” so seeds don’t germinate.” With the hundreds of thousands of acres that the Montgomery flock has grazed, neither Burdock nor Leafy Spurge has ever been brought home to the Montgomery Ranch. “For all the years we custom grazed, we never brought burdock or leafy spurge seeds home,” said Dale. “These days, we have a love for our sheep and our dogs, but with the price of hay, we’ve decided to retire. We’ll miss them. Sad but true, but that’s what worked for us.” c

Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024





Major Charles Sydney was the most flamboyant owner of the Nicola Ranch, and he brought many smaller holdings together to form the basis for the current operation. Born in South Africa and a veteran of the British Army during the Boer War, the Major, as he preferred to be called, became wealthy through diamond and gold mines. He wrote several books on mining and served in the British Parliament. He married Agnes Peel, the daughter of an English Baronet. The Major was 56 when he arrived in the valley in 1919, and he had a vast financial empire that stretched from Africa to Argentina. He purchased several ranches and consolidated them into what he called the Nicola Valley Stock Farms. He made the old Lakeview Ranch his headquarters and drove between there and Nicola in a large Cadillac. He bought the town of Nicola from the Canadian Pacific Railway and turned the courthouse into his residence.



Roundup at Nicola Ranch, date n.d.

Major’s wrath, and ranchers would load their own cattle into the rail cars. Every rancher agreed to the conditions, cowboys temporarily became cowpunchers at shipping time, and Nicola remained the valley’s hub. The Nicola Ranch has passed through several owners since then, and during the

1960s, it was purchased by the Parker brothers from Texas, who were significant shareholders in Texaco oil. They also had investments in several other ranches, particularly in Texas. Their manager at the time, C. Turnbull was interested in bringing Quarter Horses to the Nicola to replace the Percheron and Thoroughbred crosses that had been the mainstay of ranches in the valley since the early days. He brought in Hollywood and Dial Joe-bred horses as they had more cow sense, as cutting horses were becoming more sought after for work and competition. Today, the ranch raises Quarter Horses that go back to Colonel Freckles in their breeding lines. For a time, the ranch was owned by a Calgary firm. Mr. John Liu is the present owner, and Nicola continues to be known for the high quality of its beef production. In 2022 the Nicola Ranch was named Angus Breeder of the Year by the B.C. Angus Association.


The Major’s original plan was to divide the land into smaller holdings and allow British families to settle there. He was a strong advocate of keeping close ties to Britain and served as secretary for the British Emigration Department. His plans for a farming community in the Nicola Valley never materialized. Instead, he built the Nicola Hotel, which served travellers for several years. Sydney was not afraid of confrontation to reach his goals, and he battled with the CPR on several occasions. In 1923 the CPR served notice that they were shutting down the Nicola Station, and the Major was outraged. He organized public meetings to protest and kept the station open for another year using his political influence. In 1924 the CPR again tried to close the station; the Major gathered his political forces and negotiated a deal. The CPR agreed to keep the freight service open on two conditions; that they could close the passenger service without incurring the

Nicola Ranch cowboys


Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024



Nicola Ranch cowboys and some of the award-winning cattle herd. The Nicola was awarded 2022 Commercial Angus Breeder of the Year by the BC Angus Association.

The history of the Nicola Ranch has had many twists and turns, but the greatest mystery still concerns what happened to Ben Tyner. Ben was last seen Saturday, January 26, 2019, on a tractor at the bullpens on the Nicola Ranch. There was a rumour that the Nicola Ranch had some stray cattle on Swakum Ridge northwest of Merritt, and Ben supposedly went out to look for them. On January 28th, Ben’s horse Gunny was found wandering around Winnie Flats. However, there were no tracks in the snow — nothing to backtrack to see how the horse could have gotten there. It was as if the horse had dropped out of the sky. Still saddled, Gunny was missing one rein, later found to have been untied, not broken. This was odd because Ben was a stickler for safety and was known for checking his equipment. As a leather craftsman, he certainly knew how to tie

Ben Tyner

his reins to the bit so they would not have come undone. It is also strange that his cell phone (which he always carried) was later found in Merritt. There are many unanswered questions. Why would he go out alone without his dog Sue to look for strays? Why would he

not tell anyone he was leaving to search for Nicola ranch cattle? It was later determined that there were no stray cattle in that area after all. A massive multi-day search involving air, land and water units was launched, but no sign of Ben has been found to this day, and his murder remains unsolved. People don’t just disappear, and Ben Tyner did not just vanish. He was murdered, and his body was hidden somewhere. Who did it, why and how? It is a matter for the police to solve. But those of us who feel an affinity for the type of person Ben was and respect his way of making it in the world are left with questions — especially since the apparent circumstance of his disappearance doesn’t match his characteristic behaviour. Wherever you are in the world, Ben Tyner, I hope you can be brought home soon for justice for you and closure for your family. c




Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024


Luscious Spring Lamb! Lamb is a rich source of high-quality protein, and an outstanding source of many vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Plus, it's delish! COURTESY ALBERTA LAMB


•2A lberta Lamb racks – Frenched or trimmed • ¼ cup Dijon mustard • ¼ cup horseradish • Salt & pepper • 2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs • Olive oil • Fresh herbs, chopped


1. H eat frying pan with a little oil, sear seasoned lamb racks on all sides. 2. R emove from the pan and slather loin area of rack with a mixture of Dijon and horseradish. 3. D ip the racks into a mixture of the herbs and breadcrumbs. 4. P lace them on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚ until rare or medium rare, 120˚on a meat thermometer. 5. A llow to rest in a warm place for 10 – 20 minutes. 6. S lice between the ribs, 3 or 4 pieces per serving. Serves 4.


• 1 Alberta Lamb sirloin • 2 shallots • 3 cloves garlic • 1 Tbsp fresh chilli paste • 1 bunch cilantro leaves • Zest and segments of 2 oranges, 1 grapefruit and 1 lemon • 2 Tbsp liquid honey • ½ cup olive oil • ¼ cup wine vinegar • Salt & black pepper to taste


1. P lace all marinade ingredients into a food processor and blend on high until smooth. 2. Marinate the sirloin for 4 hours. 3. W ipe off excess marinade and grill until medium rare.

DID YOU KNOW? ▶ Sheep breeders use a variety of means to protect their flocks from predators. These include electric fences and guardian animals such as dogs, donkeys and llamas. ▶ There have been sheep in Western Canada for approximately 200 years. ▶ The main sheep producing areas in Canada are Ontario and Alberta. ▶T here are approximately 1 million sheep in Canada on about 11,000 farms. ▶ Alberta has over 2000 sheep farms.


• 150ml/.25 pint olive oil (about ½ cup) • grated rind of 2 lemons • 4 tablespoons lemon juice • 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar • 1 teaspoon ground ginger • 1 teaspoon grated fresh root ginger • 2 teaspoons ginger wine • salt & freshly ground black pepper • 4 large lamb loin or chump chops


• watercress sprigs • lemon wedges


1. M ix the oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, sugar, ground ginger, root ginger, ginger wine and seasoning to taste in a small bowl. 2. Place the lamb chops in a shallow dish. 3. P our over the marinade and leave for 2-3 hours, turning the chops frequently in the marinade mixture. 4. P lace on a grill pan and cook under a moderate grill for 15 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time and basting regularly with the marinade. 5. G arnish with watercress and lemon wedges. Serves 4.



A Cowboy's Valentine BY STEVE LUCAS

Ladies, Don’t be disappointed if your cowboy valentine Shows up late, for your date Without a rose, a card or wine ‘It’ll probably be a miracle that he is there at all ‘Cause a cowboy’s day’s all work, no play And honest, he can’t call When there is no cell phone service where he finds that missing cow. Back in the brush, And he’s in a rush And she needs help right now She has just one leg showin’, and he knows he has a date But he hopes maybe, He can pull that baby And not be too awfully late He ropes the cow, and pulls the calf, then sees his time is close. No time to shop, no time to stop To wash up and change his clothes Now he’s standing at your door with calf slop on his chaps His worn thin shirt, covered with dirt And he’s holding a paper scrap On which he’s penned a poem, scribbled with a pencil stubble Some simple prose, that he thinks he knows Might get him out of trouble So don’t be aggravated, it’s just a cowboy’s way To tell you true, of his love for you On Valentine’s Day


“A Cowboy’s Valentine” by Steve Lucas was excerpted from his blog. Steve is a rancher and poet from Virginia.


Canadian Cowboy Country February/March 2024



The good folks at Canadian Cowboy Country magazine are putting together another photo contest! This time, the contest is all about your Ranch Life – where you live and how you live. For full contest details, rules, regulations and prizing go to PHOTO BY TERRI MASON

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