Back to my Roots at the Bar U Ranch in Alberta Canada

We’re off to Alberta for an epic road trip 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.

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

Back to my Roots at 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.

Bar U Ranch Baby
Newborn Deb – Bar U Baby

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

dad with horses

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 out loud, Mom and Dad said: “Oh yeah, I remember when Baker was in Switzerland.”

Bar U Ranch |our house
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.

Working on the Bar U Ranch

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.

Kyrgyzstan trekking horses

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 the 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. 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.

Now That would have been an adventure.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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19 thoughts on “Back to my Roots at the Bar U Ranch in Alberta Canada”

  1. Famous baby you were eh? 🙂 Too bad I’m not in Calgary at the moment. Otherwise I would have joined for the bike ride 🙂

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    • 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!

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    • 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)

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    • 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!

      Reply
  2. 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!

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    • 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!

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    • 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!

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  3. 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.

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    • 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.

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  4. 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.

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    • 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.

      Reply
  5. 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!

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    • 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.

      Reply