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Remembering Wooden Shoe Dick

JUNE 20, 2011

I just returned home from a cruise. My late wife s sister, Joyce, was reaching her 80th birthday and invited her family and other relatives to join her on a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska and return. Twelve of us spent seven days and nights with 1,700 others enjoying good food and pleasant sailing. The water was calm, the food was excellent, and as a family we had lots of things to talk about.

Everything at home seemed to go well while I was away. There has been lots of rain. Lloyd has almost finished seeding and he has most of the calves branded. Many of the cows and calves have been trailed or hauled to the summer pasture. The countryside around here has never looked better. A great hay crop is in the making and grain crops are late but are coming out of the ground very well.

JULY 3, 2011

Today, I went over to the Big Muddy ranch where Ryan and some of his neighbours branded my calves. Lloyd, Nyla and Chay also went along. My calves looked very good and the cattle are all in good condition. I can never remember when this countryside ever looked any better. Some of the crops are late but I expect that as the sun warms up the crops will straighten out. Hay crops are excellent and will be ready for cutting and baling.

JULY 8 TO 10, 2011

This is the weekend for the Wood Mountain Rodeo. For the Little Britches Rodeo, 15-year-old kids and younger were here from many areas of Saskatchewan. They had many competitions with their saddle horses. Ryan and Carla had three of their kids take part and one got a first prize. Tomorrow, the big rodeo will get underway and the contestants are coming from all over the West. The new swimming pool is open and it is very well constructed.

With haying now underway, it is hard for ranchers and farmers to take time out. Nevertheless, a good crowd was out. This Wood Mountain Rodeo claims to be the oldest continuously running rodeo in Saskatchewan. The first time I attended was in 1926 when I was six years of age. It was good then and it still is.

A few days ago, I went with Nyla and Lloyd over to their west place, 18 miles south of Mankota. They had just bought three quarters of land that fit in well with their other land.

As we stopped on this new land, I remembered back to 1933, which was the first time I had been on it. We were in the midst of the Dirty 30s. At that time, this land was owned by Richard Oscom, a new settler from Holland. His nickname was Wooden Shoe Dick. He had about 600 sheep and he had hired an elderly man, Burt Neal, from Rockglen to shear them. Burt hired me to help. I was only 13 but strong for my size. My Dad had sheep and I was just learning the shearing business.

Mr. Neal s son Vernon, drove us into this valley. Wooden Shoe Dick was out with the sheep. He told us to drive another mile and we would come to his place. We were expected and he said the old woman would cook us some dinner. He would herd the sheep down to the shearing shed and we would start shearing the next morning.

Mr. Neal was an old experienced shearer and by now was close to 70 years of age. He would shear 60 or 65 sheep each day. I was just beginning and I would shear 25 or 30. We could see that we would be a week or more at this job. Anyway, we started and worked all day and then went back to the farmyard for supper and a sleep.

Things were going okay. Dick would pen the sheep and tie the wool and put it into a big sack. About 30 fleeces were in each sack of 300 pounds. On the third or fourth day, Mr. Neal was sick and could not work, so I went on working alone. I was starting to catch on to this shearing.

The day I was alone, I had in the back of my mind that I was going to try to shear 40 sheep. I worked until sundown and my wrist and back were both sore but I made it. I climbed in the wagon and rode the mile to the farm house where the old woman had made a good supper. It was dark and the lamp was lit. I was hungry and hurting in many places.

That night, Wooden Shoe Dick had a visitor, a homesteader from near the Montana border.

That night at the supper table this Russian homesteader wanted to know what kind of a deal we had for shearing. I told him, We get paid by the head, so much for each one. His next question was how much per head. I answered 10 cents for each. He asked how many I had sheared that day. Forty head for the first time ever. I could see him thinking 40 sheep at 10 cents each made $4.

A young guy like you made $4 today. I have not had $4 cash over the past year.

I am sure he was telling the truth. He told me that his monthly relief cheque was $7. This man had a family and he left that fall and moved to the Battleford area.

I helped Wooden Shoe Dick shear every year until I went into the army in 1942.


And, I have someGrass and Grain books left if anyone would like one. This book is a collection of columns I have written for Cattleman s Corner over the years. Cost is $15 delivered. Just send me a note to: Boyd Anderson, Glentworth Sask., S0H 1V0.

BoydAndersonisamostlyretiredrancher fromGlentworth,Sask.andhasbeena columnistforGrainewsformanyyears

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