Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finally Home

Dad at John Ware's Cabin
I'm finally done travelling for the summer.  Just before heading into the field this spring, my dad moved off the farm into an Extendicare Lodge, so as soon as I got back from work I wanted to go visit him in Alberta.  Calling him from Nunavut on the satellite phone and describing things like the lack of trees and the sun going around and around was a little confusing.
Souvenir water from Vulcan, AB
I told him I was working in Nunavut, but he must have heard "I'm working on the moon a bit", because he was telling everyone that his son was working on the moon this summer.  To be fair, he is living in Vulcan, so children leaving home to explore outer space isn't that unusual.

Dad and Sandra at Dinosaur Provincial Park
I had a great 10 days with my dad and stepmom.  We went for lots of drives and I soaked up the southern Alberta scenery.  One of the highlights for me was a trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park, northeast of Brooks.  I wanted to go to see John Ware's cabin, which is preserved in the park, but the Badlands in the park came close to stealing the show.  The soft mudstone and sandstone erodes beneath the elements, while the much more durable ironstone weathers more slowly creating caps and pinnacles at the top of water-gouged hills.  This fantastic landscape stretches along river valleys and coulees for miles.
A landscape formed by erosion

The mushroom shaped formations are called Hoo Doos

The badlands stretch for miles and miles along river bottoms

A Centrosaurus bone bed display
As if that wasn't amazing enough, this erosion has exposed millions of dinosaur bones and bone fragments, including hundreds of complete skeletons.  The Royal Tyrell Museum has a field station set up in the park and many of the fossils are prepared and interpreted on site.  More recent Alberta history is also showcased in the Park, inlcuding John Ware's cabin.
John Ware's Cow Country : A Grant MacEwan Classic
John Ware was a rancher in Southern Alberta who was born a slave in the Carolinas.  When he was freed after the Civil War he was determined to become a cowboy.  His quest brought him into southern Alberta on a cattle drive that started in Texas and ended at the Northwest Cattle Company, which eventually became the Bar U Ranch.  Eventually, John saved up enough money to buy his own small herd of cattle and he settled on the Red Deer River.  Over the years, the Legend of John Ware grew.  Today, its difficult to separate fact from fiction, but he was a real man and when he was killed in a riding accident on September 12, 1905, his funeral in Calgary was the biggest funeral that the city had ever seen.  Alberta Historian, Grant MacEwan, told the story of John Ware in his book, John Ware's Cow Country.

I've always been particularly fond of John Ware.  Two of his daughters, Nettie and Mille, lived in Vulcan while I was growing up and going to school there.  In fact, Millie was a resident of the same Extendicare Lodge that my dad lives in now.  During my undergrad at the University of Calgary I was awarded a scholarship established by the Ware-Lewis family and my archaeology field school was held at the Bar U Ranch, where John first worked when he came to Canada.

John Ware's Cabin
The log cabin in Dinosaur Provincial Park was built by John in 1902.  When the Red Deer River flooded that spring it washed his previous home away.  But as luck would have it, the same flood freed a boom of logs at a sawmill upriver and using a team of horses and a lasso, John scavenged enough logs from the river to build his family a new home.

Photo Credits: 
1-7,9,10: Tim Rast

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