We arrived at S-S Ranch mid afternoon to be greeted by our beautiful smiling Eloise, Scott and Brandy and their three cowgirls, Maysa 10, Hadley 8 and Oaklyn 4. Eloise lived here 3 years ago during her gap year and Brandy said it was just like she had never left, she had just slipped straight back in to their family. Scott said he loves having an adopted 4th daughter. It was so good to see Eloise and how much she is loved by her Canadian family.
The last two days Eloise had spent baiting gophers so Scott said we would go and see what kind of a job she had done. We all piled in to the car together, dog and all and down the paddock we went. It looked like Eloise had done a good job as we saw dead gophers here and there, some staggering around close to death and the lively ones were shot by Scott or Leo out the window of the car. They are the cutest little things but they sure make a mess of the pastures.
It was then over to Johnny and Madonna's (Brandy's parents) Ranch which was just 5 minutes up the road for supper. The men kicked back and had a good old yarn while Madonna prepared supper.
I had forgotten how much I missed a good steak on the barbie, fresh salad, potatoes and garlic bread, supper was absolutely delicious.
Leo and I were staying with Johnny and Madonna so Scott, Brandy, Eloise and the girls went home after supper. Johnny then took Leo and I for a farm tour at 10 o'clock at night. What a beautiful part of the world but I don't know if I have the stamina for these long Canadian days, the sun doesn't set until 10.30pm. I realized how much I missed watching beautiful sunsets, something I took for granted when I lived in Australia and something I never get to see in Beijing.
We woke to a delicious cooked breakfast and Madonna sat me where I could enjoy the view.
After breakfast we went over and picked Eloise up and set off to Irvines Saddles and Western Wear Store which was more or less out in the middle of nowhere. Well, I had heard of this place for years but I wasn't really prepared for it. Saddles, hats, jeans, boots, you name it as far as the eye could see. I was mesmerized. After a couple of hours I walked out of there with nothing but Leo and Eloise did alright.
We then set off to Ponoka which was a good 2 hour drive, going through Tim Horton's for a coffee and a bite to eat along the way. When Eloise was in Canada 3 years ago she rang and told me she had fallen in love with Tim and I thought she had found herself a cowboy but she then told me, no it was a coffee shop. Well I can now say that we have all fallen in love with Tim. We had a slight problem though going through the drive thru as they didn't understand a word we said. You would swear we were speaking a whole different language. It mightn't have helped either that Leo said he would have a pack of Tit Bits (mini doughnuts) and then I saw the look on Eloise's face and she said, "Dad they are Tim Bits, not Tit Bits".
Scott is a Professional Bull Rider with a very impressive bio which includes 2 x Canadian Bull Riding Champion and it was exciting to watch him ride time at Ponoka.
From Ponoka we then jumped straight back in the car for another 2 hour drive to Airdrie. Luckily we had 10 year old Maysa with us this time to do the order as we went through the Tim Horton drive thru.
Unfortunately Scott got bucked off but it was a good night's entertainment. We all went for dinner at a steak house afterwards and then set off home arriving about midnight.
Eloise came over first thing and we were treated to another delicious home cooked breakfast by Madonna. It was this morning that Leo asked Madonna if she would adopt him.
After breakfast we went with Johnny and Madonna to the Hutterite Colony up the road. Johnny took Mum and Dad there over 20 years ago and Dad came home talking about those Hutterites for years afterwards. Then Johnny took Clancy there last year and Clancy is still talking about the Hutterites so I was interested to see what all the fuss was about. Well after seeing how they live I could now talk about those Hutterites for ages but I will try and keep it short.
There are about 100 people in the Colony and they speak German. Each family has their own house which is attached to the next. They have their own school, make their living by farming, producing livestock and manufactured goods and make all their own clothes. All the money made is pooled together. It's a simple way of life but to me it also seemed very structured as everyone has jobs to do at set times everyday and they know what they are going to eat for each meal a week in advance.
We were lucky enough to have a very thorough tour around. They had all top notch machinery and work sheds where they make and sell kitchens and metal products etc.
This is Anna showing us the Kitchen Display Room where you can go and choose what bench tops, timber finishes etc you might like when planning your new kitchen.
It was an honor to be asked in to one couple's home to share a meal. The kitchen in their house didn't have any cooking facilities just a sink as all meals are prepared in the communal kitchen. We had home made soup and freshly made bread rolls which was delicious. I didn't feel right though that the woman had to sit over in the corner to eat hers as the women aren't allowed to eat with the men.
Anna was very proud of some strawberry wine that she made last year and gave us all a glass. Madonna and I took one sip and looked at each other. I was thinking Oh my God how am I going to drink this and Madonna quietly says to me, "there are no pot plants". Here she was thinking exactly the same thing as me. What were we going to do, in the end we skulled it to get it finished quick and quietly prayed they wouldn't offer us another glass.
They were friendly welcoming people and I felt lucky having a peek in to the way the Hutterites live. I think they enjoyed having the contact with us too as the men hammered Leo with questions.
From there we went on to Uncle Eric's (Madonna's brother) place. Uncle Eric is a bachelor who has traveled the world and loves to collect cool things. He also has a well stocked bar and it was there that I had my first ever glass of Sambuca, which sure cleared my sinuses.
After our visit to Uncle Eric's we went to Rockyford for a drink at the Pub and a tour of the town as this is where Johnny and Madonna both went to school.
It was then back to Brandy's place for a book burning party. I am sure some of you will be shuddering at the thought of this but me being a "chucker" thought it was the best idea I had ever heard of. School had finished for the year and all the kids came with their year's exercise books and old exams and threw them on the fire while the parents sat back and enjoyed a quiet drink and chat.
Then it was time for dinner which was weiner roast and smores, now this is livin!
After dinner with still hours of sunlight left in the day Ranch kids don't watch TV or play computer games, this is what they do to amuse themselves.
This is Hadley, aged 8 who is a trick rider.
Once again we woke to a delicious breakfast cooked by Madonna. Eloise isn't silly and she now meets us over here for breakfast.
We went in to Calgary to the Pro Bass shop which is what I think probably most men think heaven is like. It took a bit of getting Leo out of there and then it was off to an Irish Pub for lunch as these two love their Guinness Pies.
We then spent the afternoon looking at trucks to buy in car yards and privately. Leo was happy to be needed by Eloise to kick the tyres and look under the bonnet or whatever it is you need to do when buying a vehicle. He did try and talk her in to a sensible little town car but she wouldn't come at that idea.
It was then off to Rockyford Bullarama where we went to watch Dusty and Dawn's son, 15 year old George ride a bull, and ride he did. It was wonderful to meet Dusty (Johnny and Madonna's son) and Dawn at last and their 4 beautiful children. We were lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time with them as their house is also on the Ranch.
These amazing breakfasts keep appearing so it was this morning that Leo confessed he thought he was falling in love with Madonna.
It was decided we could probably spend another week looking at vehicles but we just didn't have the time so we went back to Calgary so Eloise could buy the Dodge Ram we had looked at yesterday. The look on her face when Leo said he was driving it home reminded me so much of Clancy when he was little. Leo used to buy him the very best remote control toys for Christmas and his birthday but I don't think he ever got to have a go at them.
It was then off to Stirling and Lianna's place (Johnny & Madonna's daughter) for a Canada Day party. It was so good to see them again after 20 years.
At last Eloise and I get a day together and we headed in to Calgary to hit the shops. Leo couldn't believe it when we came home and told him we went out for Chinese for lunch. It wasn't like what we get in China, it was like the Jade Court food that we miss so much, Honey Chicken and Fried Rice.
Eloise and I had a lovely day together and Leo enjoyed his day with Johnny driving around the country side and visiting people. They called in to one bloke's place at 10am for coffee and he poured them a coffee, placed it on the table with a bottle of kahlua and a bottle of baileys and said, "There is your sugar and there is your milk". Leo thought that was pretty good but I hope he doesn't think he can continue to take his coffee like that.
After supper Johnny said, "How about we saddle up the horses and go for a ride?"
He didn't have to ask twice as Leo and Eloise both jumped at the idea.
I took all these photos at 10 o'clock at night.
Johnny is teaching Eloise how to rope and is loving every minute of it. I don't think she could get a better teacher.
We went in to Strathmore this morning with Johnny to sort out insurance and registration for the Dodge Ram.
Stirling and Lianna have opened up a brewery to value add their barley so we went for a tour of the brewery. Craft beer seems to be the rage at the moment and their new venture is going very well. I never drink beer but thought I better give it a go trying a honey flavoured one, strawberry and a coffee.
We went back and picked up Madonna in the afternoon and set off to the Black Foot Crossing. Here we learnt all about the Siksika people and how they would hunt bison on this crossing of the Bow River. Leo was pretty chuffed to have a Chief named after him.
Tonight was our last meal together with Eloise, Johnny and Madonna and we have loved every minute of our time here. I just wish Jeff had of been here. We did reminisce and share each others stories about him every day though which was good. Madonna told me on several occasions she was so happy he found us and made such good friends during his time in Australia all those years ago and she was so grateful to my Mum for looking after him so well.
Eloise came over for breakfast and then it was time for goodbyes. I didn't want to do it but I was so brave. She's happy and she is loved like one of their own here so it made it so much easier for me.
To read the final part of our adventure look out for Part 3 which is coming soon.
On our way home.