Aunt Kate

By Mrs. A Jussila, Manyberries, Alta.

About 14 miles southeast of Manyberries in the southeast corner of Alberta, lives a white haired old lady, Mrs. Rebecca Cross, commonly known as Aunt Kate & loved by all who know her.

Her farm was for many years entirely surrounded by Higdon range & her unpretentious house has been an oasis for many a weary rider. Everyone has been welcome at her home, but especially is this true of the cowboy. Who knows how many have been invited to unsaddle their mounts & eat one of Aunt Kate’s chicken dinners. No matter what the time of day, they were always welcome.

In the spring of 1948 Aunt Kate was taken to Medicine Hat General Hospital with a serious heart condition. While sitting there by her bedside one afternoon, I was joined by Mrs. Gilchrist, a neighbor of Aunt Kate’s. On another visit she told me she had been visited there on different occasions by Mr. & Mrs. Chay Gilchrist, Mr. & Mrs. Harry Hargrave & Mack Higdon. She added in her quaint southern accent “It ain’t many high ups that would come to see a poor widder woman.”

At that I wondered how much depended on the “poor widder woman.” My surmise was borne out by the words of Aunt Kate’s attending physician Senator (Dr.) F. W. Gershaw. He said “She must be a wonderful person. She was half dead when she was brought in here & still brought in an armful of pussy willows to brighten the hospital wards for others.”

Generosity & thoughtfulness such as this surely must come from the heart. It is true that by her generous giving away of everything she had, Aunt Kate has remained poor in this world’s good. Perhaps spiritually she is far richer than most. As Chay Gilchrist has said, “Maybe she is far richer than the rest of us. Some people get so attached to material things that they lose sight of the things that really matter.”

How true that is! The true friendliness & hospitality is typical of the cow country. Could we but keep alive this tradition of the old West.

During the many years on the prairie, Aunt Kate naturally had many dealings with cattlemen. Perhaps the most amusing of these was when she traded Mack Higdon eight cats for a mule.

Aunt Kate’s life has been an active one, filled with hard work. Today she is able to take a few steps at a time. The evening sun is slowly setting on a life that can have few regrets. The heart that has had only kindness towards humans & animals alike beats weaker now. Again she is in the hospital & there is little left but to wait until that good range boss lets down the pasture bars & a good servant can go home to rest.

Reprinted with permission from Canadian Cattlemen, June 1947.

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