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Ranching in northeastern Alberta

In 1918, the Hines family shipped over 800 head of Hereford to Kitscoty by rail, and they’ve been raising cattle in the Marwayne area ever since

The roots run long and deep for the Hines family of Marwayne, Alta. They have been ranching in the Marwayne area for over 100 years. Over that time the family has grown to include many that are well-known in the cattle industry.

In 1906, Jim Hine’s grandfather, George (Judge), had come north from Montana to the Rockyford area in southern Alberta. According to the local history book, Pioneering in the Parklands, “They don’t know how he received the nickname, Judge, but he never said a great deal but when he did it was usually worth listening to.”

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In 1918 Judge looked out the window and saw tractors plowing the grassland. He told his sons that he was going north to find another place and would be back in a couple of weeks. By then the family included four girls and six boys.

When he got back he said, “We are moving north to a place called Marwayne.”

Over 800 head of Hereford breeding stock were loaded on the rail at Rockyford and hauled north to Vegreville and then east to Kitscoty that spring. The horses were in a separate rail car and the cattle scattered when they were unloaded. It took until fall to get the cattle all gathered again. Jim says they were not very popular with the ladies in the area as the renegade cattle had trailed into many yards and wrecked a number of gardens.

Soon after, they were struck with the challenges of the hard winter of 1919. They had to sell the entire calf crop and buy feed oats from the neighbour at $1/bushel. After that Judge bought more land to grow their own feed.

Of the 10 children, many stayed in the Marwayne area. With a family of that size it was no surprise for the senior Hines to donate three acres for the Burkedale School. The Hines place was a popular gathering spot and hosted many “small-scale stampedes,” according to the local history book. Jim remembers riding to Burkedale School for eight years until they had a bus into Marwayne.

Left to right: Jim, Marty and Terry Lynne Hines.
photo: Supplied

Judge Hines passed away in 1933. He and his wife were for known for being good neighbours and helping to build the community. Jim’s father, VC, took over the original homestead and continued with commercial and purebred horned Herefords. He passed away in 1978.

As with many of his generation, Jim grew up helping his dad on the farm. Now at 78, he says he has been in the cattle business for over 70 years. The ranch is located on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River, but the leased pasture is on the north side. Jim recalls ferrying cows and calves across the river to the summer grazing.

“There would be a few guys on foot at the front of the ferry, to make sure nothing jumped off and we would put 35 cows and 35 calves on at a time,” he says. Once across they would open the cable and the cows would trail to the pasture.

“The only ones we had to chase were the last bunch across,” says Jim. He remembers all the kids getting to help. Some had saddles and some rode bareback.

“But by the time we trailed over five miles to the river, many were ditching the saddles. Later, during the first week of July, they would hold the branding.

“We had 50 to 60 people come and help,” he says, remembering it fondly as a fun, social time.

The calves were trucked out in the fall on one-ton trucks, which held 10 calves at a time. It was a big deal when some of the guys moved up to two tons. In 1957, the Lea Park Bridge was built, so they would then trail the cattle across that and no longer used the ferry.

Some years they kept calves and some years they sold at weaning. Jim remembers a year when they were short on feed and sold calves out to Ontario. Again, they were sent by rail. They were involved in the legendary Lea Park Cattle Sale, which started in 1948. Many cattle from that sale were also trailed into the town of Marwayne and loaded on rail cars. In those early days it was predominantly a Hereford sale.

Processing calves in the summer.
photo: Supplied

When Jim got married, he moved a house into the yard from across the road in which his uncle, Roy, had lived. Jim has had Here­ford cattle all his life. Over the years they purchased bulls from both the Lloyd Bull Sale and Calgary Bull Sale, adding some private production sales as time went on. The trend of being involved from a young age continued with Jim’s son, Marty. Marty and his wife, Terry Lynne, moved into the original house after the death of his grandmother in 1987.

They have also been patrons in the Old Frontier Community pasture for many years. The pasture encompasses 18,800 acres and runs a mixture of both cow-calf pairs and yearlings. In the early days when there were 15 patrons they used to run 1,000 pairs and 500 head of yearlings. Currently the patrons are at 10.

Both Hines’s market their calves through Balog Auction in Lethbridge, which they have done for many years. Marty sells his right off the cows and Jim keeps his into January.

Marty’s four children have always been involved with the cattle. Three of the six grandchildren have also got a start on their own herds. Those grandchildren mark six generations on the place.

As Jim says, the times have sure changed over the years.

“Neighbours used to work together more and have more fun.”

Last year, Jim and Marty Hines were recognized by the Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association as Cattleman of the Year. The award began in 1986 as a way to show appreciation and to honour commercial cattle producers in the Lloydminster region.

It is appropriate that the Cattleman of the Year award states, “The Hines family are recognized for their outstanding contribution to the commercial cattle industry and their commitment to excellence, exemplifying quality rural life and involvement in the community.”

Kelly Sidoryk ranches with her family just west of Lloydminster, Alta. She consults in a number of areas including succession planning and holistic management.

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Kelly Sidoryk ranches with her family just west of Lloydminster, Alta. She consults in a number of areas including succession planning and holistic management.

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