We’ve never paraded in the morning before, but we had a lot of firsts at Stirling, so this shouldn’t be surprising. I was on the ground at the arena with Kevin and Cookie getting us ready to roll, so I didn’t see the parade and didn’t get to ride on the fire engine (which was my hope: on the fire engine – up on the ladder! I thought my firefighting stepson would be proud of me. *grin* But no.) A bunch of Stirling Silver Saddle Club members came out and we made quite the show of pink. (This town really “gets it”.) The parade went off without a hitch, and we were only half an hour late getting out of town.
And so started the long, winding, “oh-my-gawd-we-must-have-missed-the-turn” road. It’s a gravel road off Highway 62, about half way between McGrath and Delbonita … and it’s not marked. About 8 km in I was sure I’d taken the wrong turn … but at the top of the next hill, there it was: Sandstone Ranch, property of Nature Conservancy of Canada. Add another 2 km and we were there – at the bottom of a coulee on the Milk River.
Nature Conservancy couldn’t afford to buy the whole Sandstone Ranch, so they partnered with some ranchers in the area and made it into a grazing lease as well. Everybody wins. The cattle are interesting. All the cows are Black Angus and all their calves were a pale blonde colour! With all the hype about Angus beef, I was surprised by that. But these ranchers know what they’re doing, so they must get a better dollar for calves that are (I assume) half Charolais. Only thing I can say for sure is that they have a whack of awesome looking calves. Big, strong, healthy. Alberta beef at its finest.
Our guide for the day was Roger Thomson, a man who has his finger in every pie in the ‘hood! He’s a very nice gent who has that laid back Canadian rancher attitude. It seems nothing much phases him. He runs his own guest ranch and had three Swiss guests of his own riding with us, plus a woman from Leduc. What great scenery down there! It belongs in an old western movie … as did our guide. As they rode away, Kevin commented, “Gee! Who’d have thought we’d get Burt Reynolds for our guide!” And I laughed right out loud because he was right! Our Roger’s easy on the eyes and has a Burt Reynolds moustache to boot!
It was pretty hot down there, so Roger kept the ride down to 2.5 hours for the horses’ sakes. From all accounts, they loved it. They went down the river to the bluffs where there are some crazy rock formations, up some draws and back to base camp. Everybody said it could not have been a better ride … well, except for maybe Roberta. Her ride could have gone better. At one point one of Roger’s horses kicked Ove’s big pinto gelding that passed it on, kicking Roberta’s mare behind him … and off Roberta went! (Roberta is 72 years old and an excellent horsewoman. I wrote about her before.) Tough little cowgirl that she is, Roberta popped right back up and onto her mare with no fuss, no whimpering, no nothing.
When we left Sandstone, we were off to Coutts for the night. The lovely Joanne Person and her partner, Marvin Bohne, met us at their rodeo grounds. Well, Joanne met us. Marvin was running around on his bobcat doing a bunch of guy stuff. We sat around a bonfire and visited for the evening. It was a perfect night off. Not too hot. Not too cold. No bugs. No wind. We sat around the fire pit not wanting to go to bed because the night was so lovely.
A perfect star lit ending to a perfect prairie day.