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Glossary: Rural Life

Broadcasting: Early farming was a very labour intensive process. Because the early settlers did not possess mechanized machinery they had to hand-sow their crops. Broadcasting was the act of widely scattering or planting the seeds of a crop by hand.

Canadian Pacific Railway: Canada's first transcontinental railway connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific coast. In 1872, the Canadian Pacific Railway was chartered by Parliament in Ottawa as the fulfillment of a promise to British Columbia to construct a Pacific railway within ten years of their joining Canadian Confederation. Although the rail line faced scandals and shortages of money, the last spike was driven in by Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona.By mid-1886, regular trains were running through to the Pacific shores, thereby enabling Vancouver to emerge as the new west coast terminus. In years to follow, the CPR carried settlers and supplies into the west and far west plains, took their products out to market, and prospered both on its land sales and mounting western traffic.

Branding cattle in a corral on a round-up, foothills of Alberta. ca. 1893. List of Northwest Territories cattle brands. 1882.

Cattle Branding: The practice of branding horses and cattle was brought to North America in the 16th century by the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés. Branding initially involved the searing of a cows flesh with a hot iron to produce a scar with an easily recognizable pattern for identification or other purposes. Today branding is more often done with chemicals, tattooing, paint, tagging, or ear-notching. Used primarily as a means of identification and proof of ownership, branding is also performed to keep records on quality. In many places throughout the United States and Canada, registration of brands is required by law, and altering a brand is a criminal offense.

Cowboy riding a horse on a ranch in southern Alberta. ca. 1880s. F.C. Inderwick owned North Fork or Inderwick Ranch from early 1880s to 1888. Wearing chaps with a pistol in a holster on his belt. Holding a whip.

Cowboy: Generally a ranch hand that was skilled in various ranch duties such as bronc busting, roundup, roping, and riding and possessed a great knowledge of horses. Many Canadian cowboys came to the prairies from the United States while others were from the British upper-middle classes. Most were employed on the southern ranches and took part in the annual round-up. The image of the cowboy has been wildly romanticized by Hollywood in the twentieth century as an independent, rough and tough figure bedecked in chaps, with a six-shooter at his side, cowboy boots and, of course, his cowboy hat. Their myth, as much as their reality, has come to symbolize the western life and spirit.

Flail – Flails were handcrafted from poplar or willow sticks laced together with leather ties. Grain was separated from the chaff by holding the longer stick and striking the grain with the shorter end. Flails like this can be seen at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.

Flail: Implement used by early settlers to loosen the grain kernels from the stems the flail has long wooden handles with a shorter piece attached to its end by a leather strap. The thresher raised the handle on high and brought down horizontally the short flail to hit hard the sheaves lying on the threshing floor.

Harrowing land in the area of Amethyst, Alberta, ca. 1926.

Harrow: Animal drawn farming implement used to stir, pulverize, level, and weed the soil. The typical harrow was a triangular frame covering four to six feet of ground with iron or wood teeth set to project 6 to 7 inches. The earliest harrows were supplemented by shovel plows and hoes.

Homestead: A house that is located on land occupied by the owner, surrounded by outbuildings, exempt from seizure and forced sale for debt. Under the Dominion Lands Act, the "permanent dwelling" and all farm buildings surrounding it were considered the homestead.

Homesteader: A person, or group of people that lived and worked on a homestead. Many of the immigrants who travelled to Canada became homesteaders.

NorthWest Cattle Company: From 1881 to 1902, Fred Stimson and the North West Cattle Company practiced open range ranching. As Stimson gradually added buildings, corrals and fences and adapted to changing circumstances the North West Cattle Company soon became the Bar U Ranch, one of the most successful ranches in Alberta's history. From 1902-1925 the Ranch gained international repute as a centre of breeding excellence for cattle and purebread Percheron horses while under the direction of George Lane and his partners. While most of the large ranches of the 1880s went out of business in the early twentieth century, the Bar U has survived to the present day. This long history and the structures from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provide a direct link with the early years of ranching in Alberta.

Northwest Mounted Police: Precursor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (The Mounties), the North West Mounted Police were a paramilitary force, formed in 1873 to help restore and maintain peace in the newly acquired territories of Western Canada. After the Canadian government purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869 the unpoliced territories were quickly infiltrated by American whisky traders who were causing great disruptions by trading cheap liquor in exchange for furs with the native population. The original Force consisted of 300 men who traveled west from Manitoba and set up their first post at Fort Macleod in what is now southern Alberta. Once order had been restored the force went on to patrol the borders, maintain peace in the region, oversee the western extension of the Canadian Pacific Railway and help waves of settlers adjust to their new homeland in the west. By 1920 the Force had become national and their name officially became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Breaking land with walking plough, Carstairs area, Alberta. ca. 1926.

Plough: Perhaps the most important farm implement used by the early settlers was the animal drawn plough. It was used to dig the soil and make it softer and better for the crops to grow. Most ploughs were pulled by teams of horses or oxen and were equipped with a ploughshare for cutting a furrow, a blade or coulter for forming the walls of the furrow and a mould board to shape the furrow.

Remittance Men: During the late 1880s the British government began exiling men who had committed an "indiscretion." Such men were often exiled to Canada where they lived on money sent from their families back home. These "remittance men" were generally of the upper-middle classes and well-educated. Many of them found work on the ranches and became a prominent part of Western Canada's social landscape during the quarter century prior to World War I.

Walrond Cattle Ranch round-up crew, Alberta. ca. 1890s.

Round-Up: Central event in the ranching work cycle. The spring round-up was generally the largest and consisted of several stages, first riders gathered at a central point with each large ranch sending a team of riders. Some riders were hired extra and paid on a daily basis to help with the round-up alongside the year round ranch hands. Once the cattle had been rounded up, cowboys sorted them by owner for branding, earmarks and medical attention. Smaller round-ups were also held in September to collect late calves and remove spring calves from their mothers for weaning. Mature animals were also taken from the range for slaughter in the fall. Roundup customs and techniques were passed from Mexico to the United States to Canada.

Rustler: The terms Rustler and Rustling had several uses on the western ranches. Cowmen referred to cattle and horses that foraged well as rustlers. This meant that some animals could graze on marginal lands. A horse wrangler or camp cook might also be called a rustler, but the most widespread use of the word referred to a cattle thief.

Scythe – Scythes were used to cut grass and harvest hay crops. This artifact is from the Alberta Community Development Historic Sites artifact collection.

Scythe: A manual farm implement used by early settlers. The scythe has a long, curved single-edged blade with a long, bent handle, and was used by early settlers for mowing grass and reaping (cutting) the harvest.

View of a grain fields with stooks of grain standing in the field, 1911.

Stook: Once the crops had been cut down, the grain sheaths were tied in bundles, or stooks, that stood upright in the field so that they could properly dry.

Wagon loaded with grain sheaves for threshing, Cumbrae Ranch, Burdett, Alberta. 1912.

Threshing: Once the crop had been cut and properly dried, farmers then had to separate the grain from the chaff, this was known as threshing. Often farmers would put together entire threshing crews to help with this chore.

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