Old-Time Road Warrior
Ray Faulkner was born near Pincher Creek in 1900. His family moved to the south slope of the Cypress Hills in 1902 where he was raised and remained to ranch until retirement.
In 1926 or 1927 there was a roundup to bring horses that had ranged into Montana back to Canada. Cypress Hills rancher Bub Gaff had Ray rep for him. They moved camp along a string of reservoirs so they would have water for the growing herd of horses. Eventually they circled back north and arrived at Altawan (a rail siding on the Alta./Sask. boundary) where the horses were cut into herds. The job took 34 days from start to finish.
In 1933, Bub decided to trade those horses for cattle north of the South Saskatchewan River. He hired Ray for the job. They cut out the ones Ray would take and proceeded to halter break them. This consisted of roping them by the front feet and snubbing them up to a post alongside his corral. Then the horse was hog-tied, a halter put on, his foretop cut off to trim him up, and then tied solid to the corral and let up. Now he was halter broke! The fellows to check that out were the farmers who bought them! The halters stayed on as it would “spoil a sale” to take them off and put them on again.
It took five weeks until the horses were inspected by the stock detective and ready to hit the trail. There were about 100 head; 15 belonged to Ray and his brother Ora. Jack Noble and Ora trailed the horses and Ray drove the bed wagon. The hardest thing about the journey was finding water. They went well over 200 miles north to Kindersley, Rosetown and Tramping Lake country
Ray would trade a horse for a cow plus a couple of yearlings “to boot.” The cow would be for Bub and Ray got the “boot.” He did trade for something other than cattle once though. An old fellow came along with a mare that was too much for him to handle. He wanted a gentler horse, Ray had a quiet one but wanted something to boot. The man had no cattle or money, but he had bacon he’d just smoked so a deal was made. The old fellow went away with a horse that had been pulling the bed wagon and the young mare took its place.
Seeing a man coming with the mare he’d gotten a few days earlier, Ray was apprehensive that he had a dissatisfied customer. Indeed he did! The man said the mare wouldn’t work, Ray was able to trade him another horse and put the first one back in the bunch. When they came to a slough, he discovered her problem. She had lockjaw and couldn’t eat or drink. The remedy would be to catch her and give her a good hard crack over the head with a board to break the lock so she could open her mouth. However, when Jack was going to rope her, the weakened mare stumbled on a rut, hit her head on the ground and broke the lock herself. Able to drink and eat she recovered and ended up with another owner along the way.
After they had the horses traded and cattle gathered and were ready to head home, their next worry was crossing the river on a ferry. Ora claimed he knew how to handle that, so Ray left it up to him. When they came to the ferry the cattle broke through the fence and headed into the water in a frenzy. There were cattle everywhere but on the ferry! Ora hadn’t let them drink for two days and they were frantic for water. They didn’t lose any, one cow got into some quicksand, but they got her out with a horse called Blizzard that was really good on a rope. They trailed the cattle home, Bub got his share and Ray had his. He fed them out and took them on the rail to Chicago to sell.
The next year Ray repeated the experience, but this time for George Legge. He took about 80 head, but profits were much less as the country was filling up with horses. This time only Ray and Jack headed down the trail, they took a pack horse to carry their gear and bedrolls. Or at least they did for most of the trip! One day when they were done trading horses and were having a lunch of cheese and sardines before heading out with the cattle, a fellow came along with a team and democrat. One of his horses had died that morning and he was desperate. Ray had traded all of the horses though, and had none to spare. The man finally wanted the pack horse. “Well,” Ray said, “he ain’t worth a dam.” The fellow replied, “Well, he’ll hold up one end of a neck yoke!” So, a deal was made and Jack delivered the horse and brought back two Holstein heifers, but what would they do with no pack horse? They solved that problem when they roped a steer from the herd, stretched him out and tied the pack on him! He wasn’t happy and tried to rub the pack off on fences, but he got used to it and carried the bedrolls right through Maple Creek to the Cypress Hills. He got so quiet that he’d stop as soon as the rope hit his head when they were catching him.
These trips took about six weeks and Ray never brought a horse home. He had the opportunity to go again when Monty Wylie approached him after his second trip, but Ray had cattle to prepare for Chicago, so it didn’t work out for them. Ray never made the trip again as the horses that had made it possible for us to settle and make our way in this land were becoming less profitable.
Ray Faulkner went on to ranch in the Cypress Hills until 1965 when he moved to Medicine Hat.
This is an excerpt from the history book, From Sage to Timber “Ray Faulkner’s Trails Travelled” written by Heather S. Beierbach from conversations with Ray Faulkner.