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Bar U Ranch: Cowboy Life

At the top of the ladder at the Bar U Ranch south of Calgary were the seven or eight riders who rode the range with the cattle.

The men were paid a dollar a day, but they were also provided with room and board. And according to historian Simon Evans, that meant riders got to sleep in bunks above the warm kitchen.

Each fall at harvest time, they would fill their canvas bedrolls, as it were, with new straw, and then they would lay that down in this attic in the bunkhouse, and that would be their bed for the next year or so.

Old Raymond Clifford, one of the foremen down there during the thirties, and into the forties, used to talk about the bed bugs, and how they built up during the year, and then you’d get the fumigation people down from Calgary to put an end to them.

Among the many men who worked at the Bar U Ranch over its 90-year history, was a cowboy named Charlie Miller.

And one of the places where he carved his name in history was making the first automobile ride to the Bar U.

Somehow he got, I think it was probably at a dealer, he managed to persuade them that he was going to maybe purchase this vehicle. So he roared out to the Bar U, which is on those rough, rough dirt roads, which were really suitable just for riding a horse. Wagons could make it, but Charlie Miller charged out in this vehicle, all the way from High River. It took him about an hour and a half, but it took you the best part of four hours on a horse, so he was the first to make this big change, and point the way of the future.

But a cowboy could never give up his horse when it came to moving cattle, as Oliver Christensen remembers from his days working the Bar U Ranch, in the mid-1940s.

But he just remembers, particularly the drives from the Bar U Ranch, up into the summer pastures, across the Highwood River, going down across the Green Ford, they call it, pushing them up on the other side, through the OH Ranch, and up into the mountains, which is now Kananaskis Country. The high forests there, which, under the forests, and particularly under the aspen woodland, you get a lot of open grass, and it’s excellent. They’d send the mothers and the young calves up there, after they were strong enough, in the summer.

As well, working side-by-side with the cowboys and ranch hands were Stoney Indians, who often helped out at branding time on the Bar U.

On the Heritage Trail,

I’m Cheryl Croucher.

Editor's Note:

In 1879, legendary Black cowboy John Ware drove 2,400 cattle north for the North West Cattle Company. Later, this cattle company would later become known as the Bar U Ranch.

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