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The Ups And Downs Of Sale Day

SEPTEMBER 30

My daughter, Marion, is here from Calgary and today we drove to the Big Muddy Ranch and helped Ryan and his family round up the yearling steers for the sale which takes place at Mankota on Friday. We have been selling cattle at the Mankota sale since the 1960’s. It is a cattle sale owned and operated by the ranchers and has been quite successful over the years. Today, Ryan had a horse saddled for me and along with Ryan, his wife Carla, their four children and two neighbours, I helped them round up and corral the steers, which will be trucked to Mankota tomorrow for the sale. The roundup was easy and I got along fine on the saddle horse I rode. A little excitement happened, however, when my horse jumped a running creek when I had instead expected the horse to walk through the water. The kids laughed when this happened. It caught me by surprise, but I stayed on.

The yearling steers looked good to me after I got up close so I could see them. Tomorrow they will be trucked to Mankota for the sale. With Marion driving me today, I took advantage of the trip and paid my taxes at Mankota and Big Beaver. Thanks to the provincial government picking up part of the school taxes, the landowner’s part is much smaller. Farm organizations and especially the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities have been fighting for this reduction for along time. Thanks to them and others, the landowner’s share of school taxes will be more equitable now.

Marion and I also picked up some freshly frozen beef from an abattoir near Big Beaver. My deep freezes are nearly empty so it is about time I put some good fresh beef in them. I will also send some back to my kids in Calgary. There is nothing better than good grass fattened beef. This last remark will be disputed by the people who use grain to fatten cattle. My reply would be that if beef is finished right, it is all very good.

While I was away to the Big Muddy Ranch helping Ryan, my son Lloyd with his wife Nyla, his son Chay, and some others were trailing their yearling steers from summer pastures and were heading towards Mankota. They moved them 10 miles today and tomorrow they will trail them overland eight more miles to the stockyards at Mankota.

OCTOBER 1

Today, my steers will be coming by truck 124 miles over Highway 18 from the Big Muddy Ranch. Lloyd and his crew will bring his in by horseback. Our steers are now all sorted and ready for the sale tomorrow. We have done all that we can for the yearlings and it is now up to the buyers who will make the final decision on what price we will get. At this time, the price and weight is not known. We have been listening to the market reports and the prices reported do not sound very good. After five years of very little profit, we are looking for something better. Tomorrow we will find out.

OCTOBER 3

The sale is over. The prices were lower than last year and there were a lot of disappointed cattlemen after the sale. However, cattle people are either quite strong individuals or are used to being disappointed. They are already looking forward to better times next year.

The price paid for my steers was seven cents a pound less than last year. The good side was that my weights were up. In the end, with the added weight, I got more money per head this year. I believe the cool summer and the good grass is what increased the weight on my steers. The weight of my steers this year was 874 pounds each and the price I received was 96 cents per pound. Over 2,800 head of yearlings were sold at this sale on Friday. To help offset the price of the steers, we have a very good crop of cereal grains. Oats, wheat, and rye crops were all good and Lloyd managed to get up quite a lot of hay as well. So, we are well prepared for the winter. Having said that, we still have baling, stacking and combining to do but I know we will get the crop off one way or another. Every year there is more swath grazing taking place. or he would go to Chicago and later Winnipeg with dry cows and three-year-old grass fattened steers. He never had any grain to sell. So, every fall after he sold the cattle he would have to budget himself and his family for a year at a time. As a young boy on my father’s ranch on Rock Creek, we were 40 miles from the nearest town which was Lafleche. As a boy, then, I might get to town once each year. I had brothers older and sisters younger and so we played together and I never felt the time going slowly.

I always looked forward to the fall of the year. This is when Dad would sell cattle and Mama would then make out an order to Eatons in Winnipeg for winter clothing. My brothers, sisters and I would spend hours looking through the Eatons catalogue and wonder what Mama would get for us this year. The catalogue was big and colorful and I would dream about new shirts, new caps, overalls, and winter underwear to keep warm. How we did dream about all the nice clothes. Mama would send out the order after finding out from Dad how much money she could have to clothe her children. At that time, her family would have been four boys and two girls. Mama would figure out what she could get for each and everyone of us. Almost all of our clothes came from the catalogue orders. Finally the big parcels would come in the mail and then the excitement of opening up the parcels would begin. Well, do I remember the excitement and anticipation when Mama would give me my share of the parcels! Usually, I would get fleece-lined underwear (always in one piece), long black stockings; perhaps some felt shoes and overshoes. I would get maybe one shirt but often I had hand-me-downs from an older brother and there would be mitts, either fleece lined or sometimes leather with a woolen inside. Sometimes, I would get a new cap. In our family, we were mostly two years apart, and so we wore a lot of hand-me-downs.

Mama would make a lot of the girls’ clothing. The older boys were big enough to ride and work outdoors so they would have had the best winter clothing. Every Saturday night, the galvanized tub would be filled with warm water and, in turn, we would take a bath. I can still remember how good the fleece lined underwear felt after a good bath.

And so, the seasons came and went on the ranch. If the cattle prices were good and if Dad could sell some horses and sheep along with the cattle, we might look forward to store shirts and pants. Everything depended upon weather and the price of the farm products we had to sell. Things have not changed that much.

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