Another of the old time cowboys passed away recently. There aren’t many left and now there’s one fewer.
James “Jim” Jeffrey’s last wish was to end his days where they began – in the ranch house where he was born.
There was one complication – he was in British Columbia and the ranch is in the Blue Hill district south of Moose Jaw.
According to Jeffrey’s memorial card, “with his great spirit and love of the ranch he made an epic 30-hour journey from Victoria in an ambulance… with a convoy of family following behind. He was able to get back to the ranch, spend a day and a half in his grandparents’ old bed having family and friends visit before peacefully joining those who had lived at the ranch before him.”
Jeffrey got his wish Aug. 29. He was 95.
On Aug. 31, Jeffrey’s friends and family gathered at the Blue Hill Church. Named after the blue clay found in some of the coulees, the church has been the region’s hub ever since the early pioneers decided not to divide themselves into religious factions. They were Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, but they built one church and welcomed everyone.
On the last day of August, the Blue Hill congregation said good-bye to one of their own. The family loaded Jeffrey’s pine box into the back of a Chevy half-ton, parked it on a hilltop overlooking the setting sun, and shared one last drink with their loved-one.
If you grew up on the Prairies, you understand the bond we feel to the land and to our way of life. Jeffrey understood that connection and he asked to return to the land his family’s cattle grazed and he’d galloped over.
Elsewhere in Saskatchewan, another community gathered recently to express thanks to some of its members. The ceremony took place Sept. 10 in Estevan where the Royal Canadian Legion unveiled a massive statue that honours the country’s veterans. It measures 6 metres or 20 feet in height and is 5 metres or 16.5 feet in circumference.
Darren Jones of Rimbey, Alta., carved the Estevan Soldiers’ Tree from a single cottonwood that was 102 years old. The tree was dying and legion members felt it should be salvaged to pay tribute to veterans.
Jones used a chainsaw to sculpt and carve the likeness of Canadian men and women who contributed to the Allies’ triumph in WWII. Pardon the pun, but all branches of the Armed Forces are represented: land, sea and air.
The artist placed the soldiers close together on the tree to symbolise the way combatants share a bond and look out for one another during war.
For the past century, the cottonwood grew a short distance south of Estevan. After the sculpting was complete, the tree was cut at the base and moved into the city. Standing next to the courthouse, the statue is surrounded by a ring of Lee-Enfield rifles, which Canadian soldiers fought with in both world wars. The silhouette of the Lee-Enfield was cut out of metal and painted black to form a symbolic honour guard.
Plaques bearing war poetry have been placed on the statue and in the surrounding park. One of the plaques is inscribed with John McCrae’s In Flanders Field.
The dedication ceremony was well-attended by the community along with veterans and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces.