We’re off to Alberta and I cannot wait to explore my birthplace, High River and the Bar U Ranch. I heard many stories growing up about the Bar U Ranch, the place where my dad worked as a ranch hand, but I’ve never been back. Mom recently showed me a newspaper clipping announcing my birth that said, “Bar U Baby.” It’s funny, I remember when I was young my parents had a horse named “I’m a Bar Baby” which ironically wasn’t named after the Bar U ranch at all. It was instead was named after it’s breeding Stud, a well bred horse named Sugar Bars.

Bar U Ranch Baby

Newborn Deb – A Bar U Baby

I'm a Bar Baby

Newborn I’m a Bar Baby – a.k.a Barbie, not named after The Bar U Ranch

The day I was born, my mom and dad were out on the Bar U Ranch feeding cattle. Mom was driving the tractor and dad was throwing the feed off the wagon. It was 50 below zero when my mom went into labor. They had to drive the tractor back to the ranch in the freezing cold. Before they could start up the truck for the hospital they had to pull the truck for a half a mile  because it was so frozen. The date was January 10 1971.

I never realized just how much a part of history the Bar U Ranch was. The Bar U Ranch was Canada’s largest ranch. In its heyday it spanned 160,000 acres and had 30,000 heads of cattle. The likes of Edward the Prince of Whales and The Sundance Kid called the Bar U Ranch home at various times.

Mom and Dad and the Bar U

By the time my parents got there, Allan Baker was the owner who partnered with his neighbour Senator Harry Hayes, who ran the Bar U Farmlands. Baker knew his cattle well and Hayes who was the Minister of Agriculture at the time, appointed Baker to scour the stock farms, of France, Switzerland and Germany. When I read this outloud, Mom and Dad said “Oh yeah, I remember when Baker was in Switzerland.”

Bar U Ranch

Photo Courtesy of: The Bar u Ranch National Historic Site

Mom and Dad lived on the ranch in small house with my brothers and sisters, and they tell me that I slept in the drawers of a big wardrobe dresser. Listening to them talk of those days, I know where my wanderlust came from. Mom and Dad took their horses and kids in tow and drove all across Canada and the United States seeking adventure.

Dad was the only full time employee on the ranch at that time and when I hear them speak, I realize that they really lived in the Wild West. They talked of being out on cattle drives where it was so cold Dad’s nice new boots that my grandma sent to keep him warm shattered in the freeze. (Back to his cowboy boots he went) Everyone had a rifle at their side then and Baker, who has been described as impetuous, was a great shot. When hunting the animals around his ranch, he could shoot the head off a goose at 150 yards away. It was a different time indeed.

Horse and Trainer

Dad Training his Horse, Hickey Socks that they had with them Out West

It’s strange to think that horses are in my blood. Dad competed in rodeos in Alberta and Ontario and mom was equally as good on a horse. Friends used to always call my parents to come and help them with their troublesome horses and dad even judged horse shows for a time. I remember hearing them talk about hanging out with Legendary Canadian singer Ian Tyson. Ian Tyson and dad used to rodeo together and when I look up Tyson’s biography, I see that he learned to play the guitar while in hospital recovering from a rodeo accident. He ended up at the Pincher Creek Ranch in Alberta and mom and dad ended up back in Ontario raising a family and running a successful car business. We didn’t have horses growing up and I never learned how to ride. But I have always hopped on a horse whenever I got the chance and we’re excited to get the chance to take a full day ride during our time in Alberta this week.

Find Your Alberta

When we met the Alberta Tourism board in Toronto this summer, I was eager to tell them my story. Lucky for us, we work with a company like Expedia.com who sees the beauty and adventure that this great province has to offer. Alberta and Expedia have partnered together for 2013 to encourage people to Find their Alberta. We’ll be finding our Alberta indeed and I am looking forward to sharing a part of my childhood with my love Dave. I wish that mom and dad could have come with us. It would have been amazing to have them show us all their old haunts. To follow them out on the trail and hear their stories would have been so. There are some funny and tragic ones from the day. Like the time when Baker told dad to go out to the creek kill the beaver that was disrupting the water flow. Dad couldn’t do it so Baker took control in his own impetuous way.

Dave and I have only been to Alberta once before, where we’ve explored the usual haunts of Banff, Lake Louise, Canmore and Jasper, but this time we’re eager to show off a different side of the province. Stay tuned as we visit the Bar U Ranch, go white water rafting a Pincher Creek, explore Dinosaur Provincial Park, photograph the magnificent Drumheller, bike through Calgary and hike the Waterton Lakes National Park which connects to Glacier National Park in the States.

Follow along live on Twitter and Instagram at the Hashtag #FindYourAlberta all next week and stay tuned for lots of stories on ThePlanetD and on the Expedia Viewfinder Blog. 

You may also like

From our partners
Leave a comment

23 Comments

  1. Brendan 'max' Van Son

    Hey, didn't know you grew up at Bar-U! I used to take tourists through there all the time when I worked at Brewster. I'm heading to Alberta this month too… let me know if you're around!

    1. debndave Post author

      That’s pretty cool Brendan. What a small world. We’ll be in Alberta until the 20th, will definitely keep in touch and see if we can cross paths.

  2. Alouise

    I didn’t know you born in Alberta. I’ve never been to Bar U Ranch, actually I haven’t done much touring in cowboy country, but it does look pretty nice. I have been to Drumheller though, and that area of the province (the badlands) is one of my favourites.

    1. debndave Post author

      Yes, I was born there and even though we left when I was young, I always felt like an Alberta gal. All my life I’ve been quick to point out that I was born in High River. We can’t wait to see more of cowboy country indeed, it looks so beautiful. Can’t wait to see Drumheller and the badlands either. It’s so diverse.

  3. Mica

    Aww how sweet the photo of Baby Deb! Your parents sound awesome. What great memories, I’m sure you’ll be having a wonderful time back there. I treasure all the photos I have of my dad when he was young.

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks Mica, Yes, my parents are pretty awesome. I look forward to revisiting it and maybe we’ll get the chance to do it with them too.

    1. debndave Post author

      Haha, I will have to try that. I know that my dad used to break horses out west. He told us that they were all wild and they had to round them up when it was time to go on a cattle drive. Amazing eh!

  4. Nancy D. Brown

    Great stories! I loved going horseback riding in Alberta – my first time riding through sunshine, rain and finally snow. Oh, Canada!

    Have fun and know that you are always welcome to write a guest post on Writing Horseback about your horseback riding vacations.

    What a trip!

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks Nancy, we’d be happy to write about our horseback riding experience, I’ll be in touch with you when we get back, thanks!

    1. debndave Post author

      Thank you! It’s pretty amazing that my mom kept working right up until the minute she went into labour and at 50 below! They always talk about that freezing day that I was born. Can you imagine getting back to the house and then not having the truck start because it was too cold and having to pull it with a tractor to give it a boost while in labour. A very strong woman!

    1. debndave Post author

      I know eh? So cute. That was our horse Barbie that my parents had when I was very young. Mom and dad we’re quite the cowboys (girls)

    1. debndave Post author

      Aw, thank you. It’s too bad we missed you. That’s the life of travelers though eh, we’re never there when someone comes to visit our hometown. Cheers!

  5. Pingback: Canada | Baeyu

  6. Pingback: A High Mountain Trail Ride, You're Buns Have Come a Long Way Baby!

  7. Pingback: The Natural Wonders of Waterton Lakes National Park

  8. Pingback: Glamping with the Dinosaurs

Comments are closed.