Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Alberta Ranch Summer Recreation Photos

My childhood memories of summertime are filled with swimming in the lake, berry-picking, fishing, and hiking. Although I no longer enjoy those activities, it's nice to know things haven't changed much over the years and that when given the opportunity people of all ages still enjoy the same summer events as they did one hundred years earlier.

All of the photographs in this post, my final in a series of posts about life on an Alberta ranch in the early 1900's, were taken by rancher Hugh Beynon Biggs and donated to the Glenbow Museum Archives

Since the first one is merely entitled, Tennis players, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta, we don't know who the subjects are, but some of their faces are familiar from other photos in this ranching series. Although it couldn't be called common, there are enough photographs and mentions of tennis being played in prairie farm and ranch yards to know this was a popular past time for those who could afford it. 

Tennis players, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Courtesy of Glenbow Museum Archives

There's nothing better on a hot summer day than heading down to a well maintained pool with water so clean you can see the bottom. Sounds good, but not for the common folk one hundred years ago. Back then, the old swimming hole was a dangerous place without a beach so getting in was a trek across rocks, or down a slippery grass or mud slop. Once you got in you couldn't see the bottom because you'd be stirring up the silt. The bottom itself was usually rocky or mucky or somewhere in between. We used to swim in a lake which was fun once you got used to the silky muck oozing up between your toes. Once you got out, you had to check for leeches, or blood-suckers as we called them, that would hide between your toes or go looking for scabs that had softened in the water. 

Boating and swimming at Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Courtesy of Glenbow Museum Archives

An amusing event happened a few years back when we stopped at a popular provincial campground. The beach was crowded and people of all ages were in the water. I jumped in with the rest of my family and was really enjoying myself, despite the fact that I couldn't see the silty bottom, until I felt a little sting on my leg. The second time it happened I asked a little girl of about six years of age who was splashing nearby if the lake had any blood suckers. She looked confused. I made an ow sound as I felt another sting. Suddenly, the little girl's face brightened. Her eyes grew round and the cords on her neck stuck out as she said, "There's leeeeeeches."

Yes, there were leeches. I'd forgotten about a small scrape on my leg and after making a dash for shore, I looked down to see a blood sucker clinging to my shin. Ugh. 

I've caught my biggest fish while casting from a boat in Alberta and Quebec, but you don't need a boat to get in some decent fishing. You don't even need to know how to choose a lure, tie a fly, or read the water, but all of these help to make the fishing trip fun. I would have loved to fish beside the person in this next shot. The water appears so quiet and still...the kind of day where you can see the fish reach up to snatch an insect from the surface, hear the little splash, and then seen the ripples spread out. This is relaxation at its finest. 

Fishing in creek near Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Courtesy of Glenbow Museum Archives

Unpack the wagon, unhitch the team, and settle down for a picnic while you watch the kids burning energy. The dog in this next photo sure knows how to enjoy life or perhaps he's pooped out from running? Likely as not he rode in the wagon with them and just wants so loving. 

Group on picnic, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Courtesy of Glenbow Museum Archives

This next photo of the woman and child in a canoe shows that canoes haven't changed over the years. Since the water doesn't appear deep and it's near impossible to get in and out of a canoe without tipping it, I'm assuming that the photographer pushed the canoe out to where he wanted to take the photograph. It's a beautiful shot which shows the fashion of the day with an inspiring reflection in the water. 

Woman and child in canoe, Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1907-1910. Courtesy of Glenbow Museum Archives

This final shot shows an aerial tram or tramway and is used to get from one side of a river or gorge to the other in cases where roads aren't possible or would take too much time to go around. It's similar to a zipline, except it's not on a slope which means it's moved across by sheer muscle, hand over hand. In this case, it looks like the ranch hand is crossing with his saddle which makes sense as he would leave his horse on one side of the river, and then cross over to the other side, do his work, and then return.

Man on tramway over creek near Springfield [Biggs] ranch, near Beynon, Alberta. ca. 1900. Courtesy of Glenbow Museum Archives
Although the man crossing the aerial tram in the above photo is hard to see, he could also be sitting on a seat like in this following image from A Railroad in the Clouds by J. Eglinton Montgomery, first published in Scribner's Monthly Illustrated Magazine for People, and then with the issues from May 1877 to Oct 1877 compiled in The Century, Volume 14 which happens to be a free download at this time.

Engineer Crossing the Chasm Over the Rimac, The Century, Volume 14

So why am I including the aerial tram on this post about summer activities? Because in today's world zipline adventures have sprung up wherever there is any kind of a slope, gorge, or valley and it's a great way to look at the earth in an exciting way.

Have you ever taken a ride on a zip line or aerial tram? Care to share your experience? 

For more photos of this Alberta Ranch, check out these other posts:
Mar 5, 2016 - Riding Side Saddle
May 5, 2016 - Alberta Ranch Cowboy Chore Photos 
Jun 5, 2016 - Alberta Ranch: Summer Haying


Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her first novella, Romantic Refinements is found in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, Jan 2016. Discover more at  www.anitamaedraper.com

Romantic Refinements by Anita Mae Draper

It's the Texas-style version of Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility...

 misguided academy graduate spends the summer falling in love . . . twice.
One of four novellas based on Jane Austen's heroines found in 

Austen in Austin Volume 1


  1. I love these old photos. I've never zip lined or anything close to it, but it sounds like it would be fun. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You're very welcome. :)

      I've never zip lined either, but I have crossed a very long and high suspension walking bridge that shook with every step. I've often wondered which would be more terrifying.