Dad spinning a yarn at our wedding a few years back
Darn I never wanted to write this blog. About noon on April 5th, just as I was going through Nanton, Alberta, near the end of our long trek from Arizona I got a phone call from the folks at the Foothills Hospital letting me know that my Dad had collapsed in his room there and although they were doing all they could for him, it might be a good idea for me to come on over if I could. Having a full load of horses and dogs in the trailer behind me complicated the issue so as quickly as I could I headed for Dogpound North and kicked everyone out into the yard and jumped in the other truck and headed back to Calgary.
By the time I got to the hospital my family had gathered to be with Dad and soon after he slipped out of the room and left us to contemplate life without him for the first time ever.
Dad was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta and worked there his entire life. His father died when he was about 11 and my grandmother, Dad and his brother Walter were left to fend for themselves in the middle of the depression. Times were not easy but I do believe Dad looked back on those years fondly.
His high school years were spent working afternoons as a machinist in the Munitions Plant at Ogden Shops as World War II raged on around the world. After the war ended and Ogden Shops started transitioning back to a Railroad yard he accepted a job as a labourer working for Imperial Oil in Norman Wells.
Up till that time he had planned on attending university to become a doctor, but the oil patch worked it’s magic on him and he started off on a pretty exciting 60 year career in the business. Those early summers were spent on geological field crews throughout Northern Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories as well as around Vancouver Island. He returned for a time to the University of Alberta where he met and sang his way into the heart of my mother. They were married in 1950 and spent their honeymoon roaming around southern Alberta scouting seismic crews. As time went on he eventually joined the ranks of the Landmen working in Canada and has been a member of their organisation since about 1952, as well as serving on many committees and teaching many courses he was able to exercise his voice and love of music by opening almost every meeting for the next 40-50 odd years by singing the national anthem. His love of singing and bird hunting are two of the things I remember most of him as a young boy.
As kids we used to tramp our way up and down the irrigation canals of eastern Alberta and the last sight that a lot of roosters saw was that shotgun muzzle of his tracking across the sky. We always had a great gun dog or two with us, starting out with Jet and Rod, and then Pat, but the best of them all was a Brittany Spaniel named Duke, old Duke seemed to know that we only hunted roosters so he didn’t waste his energy finding the hens. If Duke was on point and Dad was behind him a pheasant was headed for the pot.
Over the years Dad had a chance to see a lot of the world but some of his best trips probably came later in life, when my brothers took him to check off a couple of things on his bucket list.
He and Kelly spent six glorious weeks traveling the length of Africa beginning in Cape Town and continuing north to wind up in Cairo.
And then another trip of a lifetime with brother Brent to Ecuador and the Galapagos' Islands. I think Dad really just wanted to check up on Darwin’s theories and make sure he had interpreted the data correctly.
Here they are and that small line between them is the equator.
Dad, Mom and I had a journey around the United Kingdom checking up on our roots way back in 2000, and then Brenda and I and Dad took a drive up the Cassiar Highway and then on to Alaska in 2007 and Dad and I went on a fishing trip to Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands a couple of years back.
Below is Dad sharing some time with his old horse Dolly and my nephew Ryan, a few years back. Ryan is 26 now so it may be more than a few years.
And here is Brenda and I along with Dad enjoying a little sightseeing while cruising through Deception Pass in the San Juan Islands of Washington State on brother Brent’s boat “Ain’t Life Grand”.
Dad lost his own father early in life and many times told me that my Grandfather Macnab became like a father to him over their 50 odd year relationship. My grandpa was a man of few words but I know he shared a lot of stories with Dad that no else had ever heard and Dad made sure those stories got handed down to the next generation.
One of his last requests was to head over to Western Canada High School and take some pictures of some of the awards that Grandpa had amassed while he was a student there back in the the early part of the 19th century, that is a request that I will fulfill soon and should be the topic here sometime in the future. Below they are wandering along with Grandpa sharing some of that oral history.
Before Brenda and I started traveling to avoid winter we used to celebrate Alberta’s Family Day holiday and my Dad’s birthday each year with a big bonfire and sleigh ride here at Dogpound North. Although it was in mid-February we were always blessed with warm days and usually had over 100 of our friends and neighbours over to help up burn up whatever old building was slated for demolition. The picture below is of Dad on his 80th birthday with a cake that Brenda had made.
The picture below is of the Cochrane Road Brown’s and although we had all, except Kelly on the left, moved away from our original home that is kind of where it all came together. The bunch is a little smaller now with Kelly having left in 2009, Brent just last year and now Dad. I do miss them all but I am hoping it is a while until we are back together again.
Till then I am sure my brothers and father will tell a few stories and relive a few great memories amongst themselves, probably around a big campfire in the sky, till we meet again.