Ranch history book based on old newspaper

Alberta rancher Clay Chattaway and University of Calgary historian Warren Elofson collaborated to write a ranching history called the Rocking P Gazette and the Second Frontier of Cattle in Western Canada. The book uses a series of hand-written and illustrated newspapers produced by Chattaway’s mother and aunt, Maxine and Dorothy Macleay of Nanton, Alta. | Barbara Duckworth photo

Dorothy and Maxine Macleay published the paper as teenagers in the 1920s, writing about life on the Rocking P Ranch

A tribute to the history of ranch life in Western Canada has been published.

The Rocking P Gazette and the Second Frontier of Cattle in Western Canada is based on 17 volumes of a local newspaper published by Dorothy and Maxine Macleay from 1923-25.

The teenaged publishers illustrated and wrote about life on the Rocking P Ranch in southern Alberta and filled lined school notebooks with local news, cowboy poetry, cartoons and paintings with help from a teacher named Ethel Watts.

When the two grew up and married, the newspapers went into boxes and eventually came to Maxine’s son, Clay Chattaway, who ranches at the Bar S Ranch near Nanton, Alta.

“We all knew what they were about and we glanced through them, mostly for the humour,” said Chattaway.

He had copies made to preserve the originals, which are now at the Glenbow Museum archives. Eventually University of Calgary historian Warren Elofson saw them and recognized a diamond in the rough as each page took him back in time with stories about lonely young bachelor cowboys living and drinking in bunkhouses, as well as participating in stampedes, sing- songs, country dances and baseball games.

The cowboys also wrote poetry that was published and illustrated with cartoons and paintings by the two girls.

“The artwork is incredibly well done by two little girls aged 12 and 14,” said Elofson.

Chattaway and Elofson used the gazette as a reference to fill in the historical blanks about western culture and entertainment.

“The thing that comes out of the Rocking P Gazette more than anything else is western culture,” said Elofson.

The second frontier of ranching encompasses family owned operations rather than large entities like the Cochrane Ranch or the Bar U. Many of the ranches running after the First World War are still working with the original families in charge.

The book is available in soft cover, as well as free of charge for online versions through the University of Calgary.

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