Dad was the second son of Howard and Chrissy Buchanan, having an older brother, Gerry, and gaining three younger brothers; Ron, Allan, and Tom as the years passed. The ranch he grew up on near Govenlock had been homesteaded by his grandparents, who immigrated from Minnesota in 1917.
Dad loved the ranch life, and he was good at it. As a young man he partnered with his parents and took to carving out a living in this thirsty, windy country with enthusiasm. He had a natural ability to respond to any animal, especially horses. He knew very early on that it was going to be a lifelong love affair.
If you saw Dad anywhere in those days, it was usually within arms length of a horse. He rodeoed in his youth, making some lifelong friends in his adventures of bronc riding. Throughout his life, he always tried to get to the rodeos to watch the action, pen and program in hand, and visit his friends.
Dad was confident, yet humble. He believed in helping his neighbours when he could, getting any job done, and doing it with fine workmanship. Often he was out on his horse in roundups, or helping at branding or farming. He wasn’t the loud and proud type though; he didn’t need, nor did he want, the extra attention.
In the 1950s he began his Arabian breeding program. His magnificent stallions, with their exceptional bloodlines were soon noticed by fellow horse owners in the Arabian horse associations. Dad received invitations to enter his studs in several horse shows and breeder championships.
In December 1964, Dad married our mother, Gloria Hibbert, from Regina, and the next 14 years were a whirlwind of additions to their family. They had four daughters first; Laura, Susan, Wendy and Katherine. Then two sons, John and Steven.
As Dad was increasing his herd in the house, he was also increasing his herd on the ranch. With his Arabian studs and mares, he had made a name for himself as a breeder of fine horses. And his talents included saddle breaking many a horse with his gentle, patient hand.
With Dad’s herd of Hereford cattle, particularly his bulls, he also developed a name as a breeder of an excellent line of cattle.
Dad was busy in those years. He encouraged all of us to follow in his cowboy footsteps. One of his favourite sayings was, “There are no girl jobs or boy jobs, just work to get done.” That was a special gift given to us, as we grew up with the knowledge of limitless potential. With hard work, we could do anything.
As one of six kids, it meant that any one-on-one time with him was extra special. Often he would choose just one of us to accompany him on his trips checking the herd or crops; or to Maple Creek for a livestock sale; or to Shaunavon to do other ranch business. We all well knew the elation of being the one picked, excitedly jumping on the truck seat, (wearing out the seat he would say), as he drove the prairie trail; or having the honour of joining him at the Star Cafe or the Shaunee Restaurant. Just you and Dad for an entire day! Other memorable trips were to Havre as a family every year to outfit each of us in boots or hats, always at his favourite, Norman’s Ranchwear. Our family also went to many rodeos in those good ol’ days.
Dad always dressed in the same cowboy style: jeans, a western, long-sleeved, snap-up shirt, belt, gray woolen socks and boots. And his wallet in his shirt pocket. As kids we never saw him any other way. Even when we took holidays it was the same attire. We can still envision him on the beach at Cypress Hills, under a tree, with his cowboy hat, jeans, shirt and boots on. It was just one of the many things that we found never changing, always reassuring—our dad.
Relocating to Maple Creek in 1985, brought new opportunities to use his many skills. He had made friends with many folks over the years, having spent a fair bit of time here since his childhood. He worked for many outfits, his knowledge of ranching and farming a valuable asset.
Dad was an avid reader, especially if it involved a cowboy or a horse. He collected every history book he saw, rereading and telling of the history and the people of his communities. His recollection was swift and accurate, and he was the go-to guy if you needed to know who was related to who, and how they came to live where they settled. Road trips were a valuable time, for he pointed out the landmarks en route, and told us of the families who owned the land. Even when you thought you had blocked him out by daydreaming, you somehow knew all those stories, and you find yourself repeating them as you take those highways years later. And the brand boards – many, many hours were put into painstakingly burning into wood, every brand that Dad knew. I could not say how many wood burners he burnt out in his effort of keeping alive that cowboy connection to his past.
Dad was a Progressive Conservative. He got fired up over politics, in particular the NDP leadership in Saskatchewan. He read the newspapers and watched the news, and he had common sense solutions to many contemporary issues. Even as his hearing was failing in his later years, he still paid attention, and the volume on his TV simply increased.
Dad loved his kids more than any other thing in his life. And he loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He filled his walls with his riches and jewels – pictures of his beloved family members, getting tremendous joy from pointing out each new addition he could make to the collection. He provided to us much valuable wisdom over the years: hard work always pays off; the day starts out at sunrise and may not end till way after dark; a kind, slow hand is needed when working with people or animals; be good; there is always time to visit; music soothes the soul.
He had some health issues, which meant he was hospitalized a few times in these last few years. He still made great effort to stay independent. He still walked “into town” almost every day. Any news he learned downtown was another reason for him to call and share with us. Dad was the last surviving of his Buchanan clan. He watched many of his friends and peers leave this earth and spent many hours telling stories of those lives, sharing with us, to honour them. But he wasn’t in a hurry to follow them, he wanted to live. The last time he went into the hospital, he maintained the attitude that he was going home, and he was making his own decisions.
Dad didn’t make big displays of emotion, but we all knew of his deep, unconditional love for every one of us. He missed us when we couldn’t be with him. Every visit, either in person or by phone began with the same declaration, “Oh, you’re here.” And upon departing, a pat on your shoulder with the words, “Take it easy, thanks for coming,” or the simple “Be good,” was enough to let you know of his affection.
He knew we all loved him, and that we missed him also. His last days were spent with his family. We thank him for his generous heart, and the many wonderful moments he gave us throughout our lives.
Daddy, ride hard for the top of the hill and have a good, long look. You’re home. Happy trails.
Those left to carry on Gary’s cowboy heritage are his six children:
Laura (Dale) Erickson and her family Rebecca (Jamie) Hintz and their sons Mason, Gage and Reid; Bridget (Curtis) Doane and their sons Ethan and Lewis; Kim (Bart) Gilbert and their daughter Katianna; Travis Erickson; Eve Erickson and their sons Casey, Shay and Rhett.
Susan (Michael) Sonnie and their daughters Danielle and Erin.
Wendy (Cory) Friesen and her family Desire (Andrew) White; Ken (Elyse) White and their son Grayson; Tyler (Reanna) White.
Katherine (Kevin) Sabine and her family Michael (Pamela) Davis and their daughter Lunati; Jesse (Tanisha) Davis and their son Lincoln; Bailey (Randy) Davis.
Steven Buchanan and his son Kayline Buchanan and granddaughter Serenity.
He also leaves numerous nephews, nieces, cousins and friends to celebrate his life.
Gary was predeceased by his parents, Howard and Christine; brothers Gerald, Ronald, Allan and Thomas; and great-grandson Michael Davis.
A cowboy celebration of life was held on Wed., Jan. 14, 2015, at the Maple Creek Armoury, with Barry Rudd officiating. Cremation was provided by Pattison Funeral Home and Crematorium of Medicine Hat, Alta. Last Ride will be done by Joe Saville to his final resting place, as were Gary’s wishes, in the spring of 2015.
The family of the late Gary Buchanan wishes to express sincere thanks and appreciation to all our various families, friends, and well wishers for attending his Life Celebration, and their many expressions of love, kindness, prayers, and visits during Gary’s life, and during our bereavement. Your support is a great source of comfort.
Any friends who wish to may remember Mr. Buchanan with gifts to Murraydale Stampede & Picnic or to the Jasper Cultural & Historical Centre.