Rambles In Sand

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is BULL

This is dry land. Some crop land, a lot of pasture and hay with patches of brush. On prairie soil maps the soil in this area is classified as “dune sand” – not much worry about getting stuck in mud after a rain. Plus it’s rather saline, not suitable for a lot of trees and shrubs.

Buffalo berry, wild sagebrush, some wild rose bushes and chokecherries are the natives here. Silver Buffalo Berry (shepherdia argentea) is a very hardy, slow growing shrub found around sloughs, in coulees, and on light soils across the prairies. Buffalo berries, like chokecherries, are food for birds. The shrub is blessed with natural deterrent: deer won’t eat silver-leafed bushes and cattle seem to leave it alone, too. It can handle this alkali soil so it survives here. Ditto with sagebrush (artemisia tridentata)

As I said, we have a lot of pasture and cattle. There are a few dairies so we see some Holsteins, but mainly black Angus beef cattle. Some farmers have a mottled mix and I’ve seen the odd animal with long horns, indicating some Texas ancestry. Pasture grass is not lush here; beef cattle growers need to have a fair number of acres per animal and supplement with hay in winter & spring. We often see round hay bales being transported on flatbed trailers or sitting in neat rows in fields.

In spring and early summer we’ll see a few bulls in a pasture by themselves, or even one lone bull grazing or lazing. Contented or bored – one never knows. In early July they’ll be called upon to do their duty again, so calves will be born in April. Obviously calves have a much better chance of survival if the worst of winter is past. Calving is a hectic time for local ranchers, who must be near at hand, checking cattle frequently, to be sure no complications develop that will cost them a calf.

Light as it is, in the Dirty Thirties this soil really blew. Wannabe homesteaders picked a 160-acre quarter section at some govt office–usually the Land Titles Office in Winnipeg. Did the homesteader threw a dart at the huge map there? Most of them had no clue what they were getting and no idea how to farm this dry country.

However, they got the land and it was their business to farm it, until people realized – and the govt finally admitted – that some land may be open prairie, easy enough to plow, but NOT suitable for constant cultivation. And for sure not deep plowing. After the 1930s the govt bought back huge chunks of land in this area and designated it as community pasture. So it is to this day. From time to time we see mini cattle drives down our road, moving cows from the community pasture just east of us to pastures just west of us.

Inspired by today’s prompt, I hope my little ramble has given you a little picture of what we see in our area.

mission accomplished
Old Angus sits in the shade
bull dozer


Big Cake for a Big Man!

FlyLady Marla C has focused on dealing with paper clutter as her “Habit” this month, so I’ve been going through old files. This news clipping was among Mom’s paper stash and I incorporated it with mine when we moved her. It’s an article with a photo of the mammoth cake given to P Burns for his 75th BD.

At 7-ft high, the base 8-ft square, this is one hefty birthday cake!

Rancher, businessman and politician, Burns was born in 1856 to Irish immigrants near Oshawa, Upper Canada — now the province of Ontario. He settled in Manitoba, farmed and started buying beef cattle. Later he moved to Calgary where, in 1890, he built his first slaughterhouse and began supplying beef to the city and surrounding area, also to the miners during the Yukon gold rush days. His business became the well known Burns Meat Company.

In 1901 Burns married Eileen Louisa Francis Anna Ellis, the daughter of a Penticton, BC, rancher. Sadly, the couple had a stormy marriage that ended in separation. Their only son, Patrick Thomas Michael, wasn’t robust in health and was found dead in his bed at the age of thirty, an apparent heart attack.

Called Alberta’s “Cattle King,” Burns was one of the “Big Four” ranchers who founded the Calgary Stampede in 1912. He was a special guest at the Stampede on July 6, 1931, and his 75th birthday party was celebrated with this seven-layer cake weighing 3,000 pounds (1587 kg). The banquet was attended by various VIPs: AB Premier Brownlee; the Lt. Governor of MB, and Prime Minister R B Bennett. The cake was cut into 23,000 pieces and given to residents of Calgary.

When Patrick Burns died, the Alberta government had a real windfall, as the taxes on his estate were enough to eliminate the provincial deficit and balance the province’s budget!

In life Burns was a generous man and in his will he left bequests to the Lacombe Home, the Salvation Army, the local Children’s Shelter, widows and orphans of men in the city’s police force and fire department, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, the Collège Saint-François-Xavier in Edmonton, the Navy League of Canada, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Junior Red Cross, the British Empire Service League, the Canadian Legion’s tuberculosis section, the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Highlanders), the Boy Scouts Association in Alberta, and the Southern Alberta Pioneers’ and Old Timers’ Association.