Well, another year has flown by and its time to write the 11th annual Hanson Christmas Letter. 2021 has been a year full of new changes and challenges but we’ve continued to be blessed with good memories and even better friends. Looking back, I recall spending most of my New Year’s Eve in the barn calving cows. We had a pretty successful run to kick off the calving season, and the barn was filled up most nights. I enjoyed doing the night checks because in-between them I could occasionally slip away to the dam to go ice fishing with the crew. In January we were fortunate enough to have mild and dry weather, which was really nice for the calves. I think Clyde and Walter would agree that nothing beats playing with calves on a sunny day, as long as the big mommas weren’t around to run them off. Towards the end of January, we got a new remote camera system set up at the barn which made calving season much more relaxed. The technology to see what’s going on in the barn or at the yard anywhere from your phone definitely saved a few calves. School went alright but felt strange not to be spending anytime curling with the team. Unfortunately, the Covid19 era continued to drag on into the new year and I finished my final year of high school without any of your typical extra-curricular activities. That was alright though because that basically just meant more coyote hunting.
Jaynes first University semester was online here at home but in the new year the rules opened up and she was able to move to Kelowna for her second semester which she really enjoyed. Compared to most years at home, winter in the Okanagan valley seems quite tropical to her. Aside from the lack of moisture, we lucked out on good winter weather here as well. Not often is it nice enough in February to wash Bulls outside to have them clean for sale catalog pictures. This last winter I was pretty busy with school after I decided to finish off the rest of my Grade 12 classes early. It was a heavy load but worth it in the end. Later on, in March while Dad was calving cow’s Mom and I went grad shopping in Strathmore where I picked out my suit at Lammles. From there she dropped me off at Calgary where I flew to Kelowna and got to spend a week with Jayne. The nice thing about online school was that I had the opportunity to do things like that and still get my computer work done, or at least pretend to. While I was there, we went skiing at Big White Ski Resort and then tried some fly fishing too. When I got back the commercial herd starting calving and it was already time to start breeding the first purebreds so we were kept busy. Jayne missed being part of it all, but with the new camera system we installed she’s able to watch what’s going on and check the cows from Kelowna on her phone for the midnight check. Our bulls were sold on April 2nd in the 7th annual Grasslands Angus Bull Sale in Mankota, and we did very well considering the poor year.
Spring came early and it wasn’t long before pairs were all being kicked out to pasture and Jayne was back home before we knew it. She immediately started training some horses and working at the RM. Our weekends and evenings were usually filled with going to brandings. It was nice to spend lots of time with the horses. In May, Jordan took Jayne on a bear hunt up north, but I doubt they sat quiet enough to see one. This was our last year in 4H so Jayne and I spent some time working with our steers before our final achievement day in Mankota. It was very hot and dry this summer and every spare evening we had was spent out in the boats at the Val Marie dam with the crew, the water was always really warm because it was so low compared to most. One time I was pulling Jaynes’s boyfriend, Jordan, behind the boat on waterskies and when he fell, he simply stood up in the mud and you could see his knees above the water. Yikes.
School was also coming to a close and I had my grad pictures done at the pasture east of Val Marie in the hills one night. Alex Waldner, Mckenna Legault, Chase Duquette, Madison Stevens, Gabrielle Schmidt and I graduated on June 11th at the ball diamond here in town and I convinced Aspen Blake to be my escort. We had another outdoor grad similar to last years here and it worked out great. I heard several people, including uncle Karson tell me that it was the best Grad Ceremony they’ve ever seen, and I can imagine he’s seen a few decent ones in his day. Soon after it was Frontier days in Swift Current and we had a bittersweet feeling going into it for our last time with the Mankota 4H Beef club. It was a wild one let me tell ya. After that I was able to do some haying work for Tim and Christina Christianson again which was nice, and on July 14th we had one big boating party at the dam before I left for the Yukon. There was lots of us out that night and we were out on the water wakeboarding and waterskiing until past midnight! Mom and I pulled the pin bright and early the next day and the three-month journey working for Midnight Sun Outfitting in the northern Yukon had officially begun. I was dropped off at Calgary where I met the crew and loaded the trailers to head up the Alaskan highway. 3240km and about a week later I found myself in my saddle trailing 32 horses with 7 other people up the Wernicke mountains towards their base camp at Hart Lake, YT. There’s nothing that compares to riding 50km a day for 4 days over mountain passes and river valleys under the midnight sun in July. It was absolutely wild. My entire time up there was fantastic. I seen some really cool things and met some very interesting people. During my time north of 60 Grandpa Howards rifle was never far away, usually either on my back or in my scabbard. It sure is wild country and those mountain horses are tuff as nails. Also, Dall Sheep hunting is definitely as challenging as they say it is, and the mountains are a lot taller once you’re on them. Winter set in early up there and we trailed out the second week of October through the snow. On the way home I couldn’t wait to get back to share my new stories. Meanwhile the rest of the family got out on a few weekend camping and fishing trips, as well as spent several evenings out riding with friends and family. While I was away, the rest of the family made it to a few weddings of close family and friends too.
It slipped my mind that I was coming back to the month of Cowtober, and immediately I joined in and started working cattle to help people every single day for the next few weeks. Dad was also busy preg checking cows all over the place, and I was helping him when I wasn’t working in Mankota at the stockyards. When it comes to the beef business, we sure appreciate living in a ranching community where you can lend a helping hand to one another. When I got home there wasn’t much time left in Archery Mule Deer season and I was pretty busy with cows but I did manage to get an evening stalk in and I missed my shot. He was a big one too! Better luck next year. I had my chance so I can’t ask for anything more. Mom was drawn for a bull moose tag this year east of Val Marie, and one day it worked out to go on a horseback hunt after a few that were seen the night before not far from our land. It didn’t go as planned exactly, but I pointed out to Mom that it doesn’t matter how many times you shoot, you won’t get the moose unless you actually hit the moose. But she did finally get it and it does taste good. It was fun to take our own horses on a hunt out east in the hills after spending all that time up north getting good at it. Jayne was back for a break In November for reading week, and it was good to see her again. Around that same time our good friends from Stony Rapids and La Ronge came down for hunting season with the usual crew. They had drawn mule deer and antlerless elk tags west of Val Marie so it was fun for Dad and I to go out for a few days with them. The one day, we took the horses and rode deep into the community pasture where we found a giant herd of 116 elk. I’ve never seen a bunch so big, and I’ve always wanted to hunt elk on a horse through some rugged country so it made for a pretty cool experience. The weather was also really warm this fall down here and so it was nice not to freeze your fingers off in hunting season.
This fall Foxes from Lloydminster asked me to help them at Agribition stock show with their Black Angus show string, so I went and spent the week there which was a good experience. It was great to see everyone again and learn some more about some popular trends in the beef business. It’s been pretty slow at home after Mom and Dad sent the yearlings and commercial cows to the feedlot for the winter, but like many other people we didn’t have much choice. Before we know it the purebreds will be calving and we’re anticipating that this could be our best calf crop yet! Mom and Dad are still working at the park and Jayne will be coming home for Christmas in a few weeks. Clyde is also excited for Christmas, he’s hoping for -30 and a foot of snow so that he doesn’t have to pant. As for Poncho the bad cat, she’s already climbing up the Christmas tree and asking to spend the winter outside. All is well in Val Marie although there has been a few recent losses in the community. Their families are always in our thoughts and prayers and we hope that everyone can feel comfort and love from one another this holiday season. We have a lot to be grateful for and we are blessed to have such good friends and family as well as this special way of life. Always remember the reason for the season.
Merry Christmas and God Bless, Arlis Hanson