Most of the ranching families of my acquaintance were hard-working, honest folk; generous and helpful and willing to pitch in if ever a colleague or neighbour—or even a stranger—needed it.
Maybe it had something to do with the isolation their chosen profession necessitates. Miles between neighbours. Vast tracts of land stretching forever, inhabited only by cows, antelope and the occasional tumbleweed.
My grandfather, George Lewis Stringam (a member of this noble and notable group), was a man of scrupulous honesty and a wonderfully overdeveloped sense of fairness.
Qualities he passed on to his sons . . .
Uncle Owen, eldest of Grandpa Stringam’s nine sons was a rancher like his father. For some years, he ranched near the hamlet of Blindloss in southern Alberta.
While there, he made the acquaintance of a young, newly-minted and recently-married rancher, Bradley. The two men helped each other out on several occasions and became good friends.
When Owen sold his ranch and bought another near Duchess, Alberta, the two families kept up their friendship.
A couple of years later, Bradley came to Owen for advice. He had a chance, he said, to sell his ranch and go farming. The offer had been made for his land and he had one day to consider it and give an answer.
Owen counselled him to wait. At that point in time, 1948, there was an embargo on cattle sales in their area. An embargo that everyone expected to be lifted at any moment.
Once it was off, cattle prices would soar.
But young Bradley didn’t want to wait for some future event that could possibly be far in the future.
Giving in, Uncle Owen sat with him and figured a price for his land, buildings, cattle, horses and machinery. Then suggested a compromise.
If Bradley refused the present offer, Owen would come down and look over the land. And, if it was as good as he remembered, he would pay $5000.00 more than what they had just estimated.
Happily, Bradley agreed and the deal was struck.
Owen duly came, looked over the land, and, after once more cautioning Bradley to wait for the embargo to be lifted, agreed to the greater price.
Papers were drawn up by the bank. A down payment changed hands.
And Bradley and his wife headed for the last time toward the home they had just sold.
But the story doesn’t end there.
As they drove, an announcement came over the radio that the embargo had just been lifted. Cattle were selling for twice what they had brought only four hours before.
The couple turned around and hurried back to Owen, asking that he tear up the papers and forget the deal.
Owen refused, saying that he had repeatedly warned Bradley and that they had made a more-than-fair agreement.
Disappointed, the couple left once more.
But for the next two months, Bradley kept calling, asking Owen to reconsider.
Owen and his brother, Bryce, took a portion of their newly-acquired herd to market.
And made enough to pay for the entire ranch.
The two brothers decided to do something unusual.
They would offer the remainder of the herd—some 240-plus head—back to Bradley.
Then throw in the ranch and machinery.
As a gift.
Nope. Owen definitely wasn’t about to cancel a bargain.
But he didn’t have a problem making a new . . . and infinitely better . . . one.