By Mrs. A Jussila, Manyberries, Alta.
About 14 miles southeast of Manyberries in the southeast corner of Alberta, lives a white-haired old lady, Mrs. Rebecca Cross, commonly known as Aunt Kate, and loved by all who know her.
Her farm was for many years entirely surrounded by Higdon range and her unpretentious house has been an oasis for many a weary rider. Everyone has been welcome at her home, but especially is this true of the cowboy. Who knows how many have been invited to unsaddle their mounts and eat one of Aunt Kate’s chicken dinners. No matter what the time of day, they were always welcome.
In the spring of 1948 Aunt Kate was taken to the Medicine Hat General Hospital with a serious heart condition. While sitting there by her bedside one afternoon, I was joined by Mrs. Gilchrist, a neighbour of Aunt Kate’s. On another visit she told me she had been visited there on different occasions by Mr. and Mrs. Chay Gilchrist, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hargrave and Mack Higdon. She added in her quaint southern accent, “It ain’t many high ups that would come to see a poor widder woman.”
At that I wondered how much depended on the “poor widder woman.” My surmise was borne out by the words of Aunt Kate’s attending physician, Senator (Dr.) F.W. Gershaw. He said, “She must be a wonderful person. She was half dead when she was brought in here and still brought in an armful of pussy willows to brighten the hospital wards for others.”
- More history from the Canadian Cattlemen: The story of Edward McKay
Generosity and thoughtfulness such as this surely must come from the heart. It is true that by her generous giving away of everything she had, Aunt Kate has remained poor in this world’s goods. Perhaps spiritually she is far richer than most. As Chay Gilchrist has said, “Maybe she is far richer than the rest of us. Some people get so attached to material things that they lose sight of the things that really matter.”
How true that is! The true friendliness and hospitality is typical of the cow country. Could we but keep alive this tradition of the old West.
During the many years on the prairie, Aunt Kate naturally had many dealings with cattlemen. Perhaps the most amusing of these was when she traded Mack Higdon eight cats for a mule.
Aunt Kate’s life has been an active one, filled with hard work. Today she is able to take a few steps at a time. The evening sun is slowing setting on a life that can have few regrets. The heart that has had only kindness towards humans and animals alike, beats weaker now. Again she is in hospital and there is little left but to wait until that good range boss lets down the pasture bars and a good servant can go home to rest.
For more of the past from the pages of our magazine visit Canadian Cattlemen’s History section.