Dick Hunt's Blog

April 29, 2011

Goose Hunters on Gadsby Flats

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Goose Hunters on Gadsby Flats.
by Dick Hunt, April 29, 2011.

The fall of the year after I was discharged from the R.C.A.F. in 1945, I went with my Father in my old 1927 Chevrolet car which I had converted into a truck, to the Gadsby flats in east central Alberta.  Our trip was necessitated by reason of an injury to one of our cattle which were on pasture there for the summer. The area was a lease area where for paying a lease fee based on the number of adult cattle there for pasture in the summer we could pasture them. The injury to a adult steer occurred as the result of a goose hunter aiming at a goose beside the watering hole and shooting the steer in the hind leg, breaking the bone and putting the steer out of action.  We were there to butcher the steer and save the meat for our consumption on the Ranch. The shooter never revealed his name or paid compensation. There was a large water reservoir at the site where the steer was injured and a large flock of Canada Geese spent time on the water there. Geese spend part of their time on the water, being amphibious creatures that are home in the air, on dry ground and floating around on water.

We had taken along tarpaulins, knives and of course a rifle to shoot the animal before drawing the blood from the carcass and begin the skinning process.  My Father had served a seven year apprenticeship as a butcher in Worcestershire in England as a young man and he had passed on his skills to me.  The steer was a large animal and we had to use brute strength to prepare the meat for transportation on the truck to the Ranch, forty miles away.  It took us most of the day to finish the task and then drive home again.  In those days we did not have the use of refrigerators and so we hung large portions of the meat, well wrapped in white cotton sheets and with ropes and pullies, pulled the portions way up into a windcharger electric tower where it hung for aging and in the cool breezes for some days as we fed the family and hired men.  The meat never spoiled in that process and of course we used it up fairly soon. Nowadays, there are laws which prohibit producers from butchering our own livestock for human consumption on the grounds  that the produce is then not safe for human consumption.

We lived on that ranch, founded by my Father in 1903 until Ruth and I and our children left there in 1955 and never once in all that time did any person on the ranch ever suffer any illness from doing our own butchering. That is a far better record than modern  practices which quite frequently necessitate the recall of large quantities of various meats and other foods because of various impurities which caause serious illness and even death among consumers.  We did our own butchering of cattle, sheep and hogs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese etc.  with never a flicker of illness  among our family and staff, never numbering less than 12 people year round and in busy summer seasons up to as many as 24.

The result for farm and ranch producers of livestock is that considerable costs have to be borne by owners to get their animals to the abatoirs, have the meat processed, wrapped etc. and then returned to the producers.  The owners of the abatoirs do well. The producers bear the very significant cost.  Just another unfair and in my strong conviction unnecessary cost to be carried by those people who labour hard and long under ever increasing difficulties to raise the food to meet the needs of our whole population.  My Mother and her helpers used to cut quite a lot of the beef into cubes, put it in one quart sealers, and we put it under water in spring enclosures in which the water stayed at 34 degree temperatures the year round.  That was akin to placing food in Refrigerators at roughly the same temperature.  Some poultry and beef meat was cut up and put in sealers to be cooked in large copper boilers on the kitchen stove  and then removed and cooled to be stored for use in a cool basement where it would keep for long periods of time. Pork was processed for bacon, hams, shoulders, sausage, head cheese, lard  and smoked to be used as needed over months long storage in the cool basement.  We knew lot’s of tricks and no-one became ill or went hungry. We didn’t waste anything and we had freedoms and a life style that was precious. And we cared for our neighbours as they cared for us.

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