“A Fist Full of Characters from The Cowboy Trail”
By: Rob Lennard
There are thousands of highways and roads in the great province of Alberta but almost all are used for the sole purpose of going from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time without any regard to the historical significance of your journey. The same cannot be said for the remarkable Cowboy Trail, Hw #22, as this stretch of “trail” has a history that’s as rich as the “Dingman No. 1” oil strike on May 14th, 1914 near the town of Turner Valley and as plentiful as the cattle which were rounded up in the country’s largest cattle drive in southern Alberta in 1885.
Apart from the close proximately to the majestic Rocky Mountains, what makes The Cowboy Trail’s history so extraordinary are the amazing characters that are associated with the trail. Listed below are my favorite ones, my “Distinguished Dozen”, which I have lassoed for your enjoyment.
John Ware & “Ca Sous” Lavarro –
Cowboys from the Cattle Drive Era
The most famous cowboy from the Cowboy Trail cattle drive era was undoubtedly the freed slave from South Carolina, big John Ware. John came north to Canada with the Bar U trail cattle drive in 1882 and worked tirelessly as a bronc rider/horse breaker and cowhand for two years before owning his own cattle ranch near Sheep River. What was truly remarkable was that the only horse that ever bucked off the tough as nails cowboy was the one that killed him shortly after Alberta became a province in 1905. Another cowboy worth mentioning is the cowboy from Mexico who was put in charge of the large cattle drive from the Cochrane Ranch down to the Waterton Lakes area. His Spanish name was Jesus Lavarro, pronounced Hay-Sous but all the rest of the cowboys called him “Ca Sous”. “Ca Sous” was described as “a remarkable ranch hand who had few equals in the country”. Incidentally, some of the finest cowboys from the first Calgary Stampede in 1912 were Mexican and the very first horses in Western Canada arrived from Mexico in the 1700’s.
Tom Three Persons & Herman Linder –
Champion Rodeo Cowboys
Tom Three Persons was the only Canadian to win a World title at the first Calgary Stampede and in order to capture the coveted Saddle Bronc title, the tall aboriginal from the Blood Nation with eye-catching red chaps had to ride the legendary wild horse Cyclone who had bucked off 129 consecutive cowboys before him. What makes it remarkable is, unlike today’s cowboys, who have to stay in the saddle for a mere 8 seconds, back then cowboys had to stay in the saddle until the horse came to a complete standstill which sometimes could take minutes! Another great cowboy was Herman Linder The “King of Cowboys” from Cardston. Herman won an unprecedented 22 Championships at The Calgary Stampede, including 12 All Around titles.
Flores La Due & Anna Chevallier –
Flores La Due was much more than the wife of Guy Weadick who started the Calgary Stampede, the 5 ft., one hundred pound cowgirl won The World Champion Lady Fancy Roper title at the first Stampede by her amazing tricks, including stopping 5 galloping horses coming towards her at full speed with her rope! Anna Chevallier was almost as brave a cowgirl and her claim to fame was riding her horse Johnny off a 40 foot high platform into small water tanks as part of the Dr. Carver’s Diving Girls Show even though she couldn’t swim!
Fay Wray & Stasia Cross Carry –
Glamorous Cowboy Trail Movie Stars
Fay Wray was born on a ranch outside of Cardston and starred in over 50 Hollywood movies including the original King Kong in 1933 while Stasia Cross Carry started out as a circus performer who thrilled the crowd with her amazing riding and sharp shooting skills and ended up in a movie with the one and only Will Rodgers called Cupid the Cowpuncher.
Prince Edward & Evelyn Eagle Speaker –
Cowboy Trail Royalty
After Prince Edward attended The Calgary Stampede in 1919 he was so smitten by the scenery and wide open spaces of southern Alberta that he purchased a 41 hectare ranch and owned it for 43 years until 1962. The E.P. (Edward Prince) Ranch is located on The Cowboy Trail adjacent to the historic Bar U Ranch. The beautiful Evelyn Eagle Speaker from The Blood First Nation was the first aboriginal woman to be crowned Stampede Queen in 1954.
The Sundance Kid & Sitting Bull –
America’s Most Wanted
Harry Longbaugh also known as The Sundance Kid was a notorious outlaw south of the border before and after he worked as a cowhand at the Bar U Ranch. Fortunately the only crime he committed in Canada was to injure a horse while breaking him in. Sitting Bull escaped to Canada with thousands of his followers after they killed General Custer at Little Big Horn and while on the Cowboy Trail Sitting Bull ordered John George “Kootenai” Brown, Waterton’s first park warden and his partner to strip down to their birthday suits and stole their horses, guns and clothes. An embarrassing crime indeed for the man who first discovered oil in the area in 1888!