Bar U Ranch, Part Four:
Gee Bong Polo Club
Not only was the Bar U Ranch famous for its cattle and Percheron horses, it also had a polo club.
According to historian Simon Evans, it was a group of old army officers who brought polo with them when they settled in Pincher Creek.
And from there, it was a short hop until polo was being played all the way along the foothills. And the Bar U Ranch was certainly not left out, and they leveled a nice piece of pasture, just up above the river there, and went to practicing.
Some of the American cowboys, like Herb Miller, found this really rather extraordinary, that, having worked hard on horseback all day, you should then in the evening start trying to chase a little white ball with a long hammer, which was pretty hard for him - he was a very good rider, but he didn't find polo terribly easy.
The cowboys at the Bar U played polo with their cow ponies after a long, hard day riding the range.
This reminded a visiting Australian author of a poem written about a rag-tag polo team in Queensland.
It was somewhere up in the country,
In a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution
Called the Gee Bong Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives
From the rugged mountain side
And the horse was never saddled,
That the Gee Bongs couldn't ride.
But their style of playing polo
Was irregular and rash,
They had mighty little science,
But a mighty lot of dash.
And they played on mountain ponies
That were muscular and strong.
Though their coats were quite unpolished,
And their manes and tails were long.
And so, the cowboy polo team at the Bar U came to be known at the Gee Bong Polo Club.
But you can imagine when the Gee Bongs went down to play in California, what the Californians thought of these hairy little Cayuses from Alberta. And they thought they were going to have a walkover, until these very highly mobile and maneuverable little horses would hit the ball between their legs, and not be at all reluctant to barge them off the ball in a rather rough and uncouth fashion. And I think the Gee Bongs did very well for themselves.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.