Monday, November 05, 2012

Restoration of historic railing recalls history of Alberta ranches

Progress does not always run over history in Calgary. A current restoration project is preserving a piece of our ranching past. Back in the early 1950s, Calgary lawyer Marsh Porter commissioned a railing for a new home he was building in southwest Calgary. He had it made up of 34 symbols, many of which were the branding stamps from ranches in the region. It was unique, and quintessentially Albertan. “He had a good sense of history,” recalls Dan Hays, whose parents Harry and Muriel Hays bought the house from the prominent Calgarian in 1969. No one knows why Porter chose the brands he did, a strange collection that calls to mind ranches from all over southern Alberta. George Lane’s famous Bar U cattle brand is there, alongside brands that belonged to other early cattlemen, including Quirk, Gardner and Burns. They all ranged cattle in the High River area of southwestern Alberta. Not all came from the area, however. The Bow River Horse Ranch, which was located near Cochrane, was also included in the mix. “I assume he was trying to recognize the contribution of those early ranchers,” says Hays, offering his best guess for the reason for the brands in the railing. An ambitious rebuild of the property is underway, and a talented Calgary woodworker is restoring the railing to its former glory. Some parts have to be repaired, but most of the woodwork is solid...more

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