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The Land West of Leavitt

This land lies west of Leavitt, Alberta, Canada.  It is between the Rocky Mountains and the city of Cardston. It consists of rolling hills, covered with tall grass and all kinds of wild flowers like buttercups, twinkling stars, red tiger lilies and hyacinths, and my favorite crocuses that thrust their heads through the sow in the springtime, so the hills are lavender and purple.  The winters are harsh with the wind blowing off the mountain peaks. 

The nights are special, black sky with stars twinkling so close you feel you can reach up and touch them. The moon throwing light across the meadows.  Silence except for insects chattering, an occasion cow mooing, or owl hooting. Even the trip to the out- house is a beautiful experience.  I think if I, a  newcomer to this land, feel this strongly,  Glynn, who spent his early years riding horse- back, driving a team of horses or a tractor, plowing fields, cutting hay, growing up with the feel of the black soil under his fingernails, the urge to return was stronger.  He walked or rode a horse to school in Leavitt, two miles over the hill. Swimming in Lee’s creek with his friends, (they dynamited the creek so they could have a swimming hole.) Working summers painting boats at Cameron Lake, Fishing at Waterston Lake.

Glynn’s grandparents John Ephraim Redford and Sarah Almira Leavitt drove a team of horses pulling a covered wagon from Cache Valley, Utah to homestead the land in Leavitt.  There were a lot of Leavitt families already settled in Leavitt.  All descended from Robert Patefied Leavitt.

The land stretched from Lee’s creek on the south and to the Indian reservation on the north.  They built their first home about five miles south of the reservation. It was built of logs cut and hauled near Waterton, as there were few trees on the home land. They raised nine children; Owen, Nora, John, Blanche, Arvin, Eleanor, Antoinette, Julia and Arilla. The log cabin home was still standing when we lived there, being used for an animal shelter.  John and Sarah then built a large two story home over by Lee’s creek. They sold off some of the land during the hard times.

When Pearl and Owen got married, John and Sarah moved into Cardston to work in the Temple.  Pearl and Owen bought the land from his parents. John Ephriam made Owen promise that he would never let the land go out of the Redford name. Life on the land was never easy for Owen and Pearl.  Pearl lost two children at birth and almost died both times. Glynn remembers his mother being sick a lot when he was growing up. When Glynn was 6 years the house burned down with everything they owned. The family moved into John and Sarah’s old log cabin.  They started to build another home, which consisted of a bedroom, main room and a kitchen.  Hauling water from a spring, heating and cooking on a large coal stove. Coal oil lamps at night, an out- house with a Sears catalogue. Glynn had a brother Sidney and a sister Leola, Leola left home when she was about sixteen years old to work in Calgary.  In 1941, Glynn was 8 years old his brother Sidney had considerable abdominal pain and was taken to the hospital in Cardston to have his appendix removed. The doctor came out to tell Pearl and Owen that Sidney had died, it was not his appendix, but yellow jaundice and they should not have operated.  Sidney was 20 years old, just getting ready for his mission. 

This left Glynn alone on the farm with his grieving parents.  Owen bought a large herd of cows, to calf in the spring.  That summer there was a draught, the hay was low, and couldn’t be bought anywhere.  Then Owen along with other ranchers sent their cattle by boxcar to Edmonton (where there was lots of hay) the cost of shipping and boarding the cattle soon took the cattle and Owen and the others lost everything on that venture.  They sold off some farmland to pay the bank and other expenses.

John Clark Redford was born Oct. 5, 1943. Glynn and I were married in 1950.

The house Owen and Pearl were living in caught fire and burned down, (after Glynn was married) once again they lost everything.  This time Owen was able to build a home with electricity and running water. They tried raising sheep and cattle. Pearl would card the wool and make quilts. Owen worked on threshing crews and in the lumber camps, He also broke horses for the Indians.  Owen also played a Tuba for a band. The band played for dances around the area.

In 1965 we left Orem and moved into Cardston until Pearl and Owen could make arrangements and get moved. The bank was able to loan us money to buy 100 head of cows.  Once again disaster hit, the cows were diagnosed with hoof and mouth disease, and infection called ‘Brucellosis”, which caused the cows to abort their calves.  There were several cases around.  It was very infectious and the cows had to be killed and burned. This was a difficult time for us but the government paid to destroy the animals.  We borrowed some more money from the bank and bought 150 head of cows that were ready to calf in the spring.

Christmas came with lots of snow, cold and windy the boys had to walk about a mile to the road to get the school bus, as it would not come up our road until the road was cleared. While getting a Christmas tree our family was in a car accident in Mt. View. A few days after Christmas Glynn started to have back pain. He had to go to Calgary for back surgery.

The Redford home was located in the middle of nowhere.  The rocky mountains about 12 miles west, Cardston about 12 miles east, and the little village of Leavitt about 5 miles east on the highway.  We were two miles from the main road leading to Waterton Lakes.  Glynn’s aunt Ella lived about 2 miles down the hill north of us by the highway. We didn’t see much of their family. We had a dirt road running uphill to the farm; it was kept ploughed by the municipality when school was on.  The school bus would come to the house and turn around, most of the winter the kids had to walk through the snowdrifts to the highway.

When the boys got home from school, they fed the pigs, fed and watered the horses and checked the cows in the fields.  The farm was covered in snow most of the time with a strong west wind blowing off the mountains, often we had blizzard conditions with the temperatures dropping to 30 degrees below F.  Then a Chinook wind would come through bringing the temperature to 40 degrees above F. within an hour.  Then everything was warm and muddy.

While Glynn was in the hospital in Calgary all was going well, the cows decided it was time to calve, and then it started to snow, one of the worst snow storms Southern Alberta ever had.  In three weeks we had 72 inches of snow, which stayed on the ground.  And this was the end of April and 1st week of May 1966.  The cows were out in the field without hay, the phones were out.  Glynn’s parents and John were in Cardston, and couldn’t get to us as the roads were covered with snow drifts and impassable. I’m sure they worried about us city folks trying to care for 150 head of cows ready to calf.

Rod and Derek with their great ingenuity saved the cows. They took the hood off an old junk car, turned it upside down and attached ropes to it and piled hay on the hood.  They attached the ropes to the saddle horn, got on the horse and pulled the hay out to the cows a couple of miles away.  The third week Glynn’s parents had hay dropped in from a helicopter to the cows in the field.

Meanwhile Randy and Robbe dug a tunnel through the snow to the pig barn.  The mother sow had ten baby piglets. Three of the piglets were not doing very well so the boys brought them into the house and fed them with a baby bottle.  We put them in the bathtub. Lori was four years old and she thought the piglets were fun and would let them run all over the house.

Derek and I got on the horse and went out to check the cows in the field. On the way home a blizzard came up and we were not able to see the horses head.  We prayed and the answer came to Derek, he said he had read a book where the guy just let the horse find the way home.  So we tied the reigns to the saddle horn kicked the horse and put our heads down and prayed while the horse led us to a fence which we could hardly see, and the he followed the fence to the house. We were warm in the house with propane gas, enough food, and plenty to do.  I remembered my favorite scripture in Proverbs.  Where it says to trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thy own understanding and He will direct thy paths.  He certainly answered our prayers and directed us home. 

It was a tremendous experience, but we were glad to see a snow plough coming up our road with Glynn’s parents behind it.

Once we got out we went to Calgary to bring Glynn home.  He was in a body cast from neck to top oh his legs.  Doctor said he would be in the cast six months.  It was hard for him, when he couldn’t help with anything on the farm.

We soon realized that Glynn would not be able to manage the cows with a body cast.  We were all heartbroken to leave the farm and move into Cardston, as we felt we would never be back again.  We just knew our future did not lie in Southern Alberta.

We moved into a house across Lee’s creek . It was a large house with an apartment upstairs. We settled into the ground floor apartment, I continued to work at the Cardston Hospital.  The boys were able to continue going to the same schools.  Glynn was able to take care of Lori and the home while in his body cast.  He got around well with a cane for balance.

When Glynn got out of his cast, we moved to Salem Oregon. Glynn worked in the State Penitentiary and got an associate degree in business. I worked at the State mental hospital.  In 1976 we purchased a 60 bed nursing home in Eugene, Oregon. Later we built a 120 bed rehab nursing home which we owned and managed until we sold it in 1995, retired and went on a mission to Sudbury, Ontario. When we returned home we served as ordinance workers for 10 years in the Portland temple.

Written by Glynn and Millie Redford in 2017.