Cassidy Extends Season Lead

Photo by Shellie Scott Photography.

The beat, as they say, goes on.

Another weekend. Another success story for Curtis Cassidy. The man who has 12 Canadian titles and 21 CFR appearances in steer wrestling on his resume was at his best once again with a 3.9 second run at Hand Hills Lake Stampede for a $1,302 payday and added another $1.924 to his weekend haul with a 5.0 winning run at Bonnyville Pro Rodeo.

“The drawing Gods have been on my side so far,” the Donalda two-event cowboy chuckled. “I had the perfect draw at Hand Hills, just an excellent handling steer. He took a step away from me but Cody (Cassidy), Curtis’ brother and hazer, brought him back to me. Then at Bonnyville, I had one of the better ones in a herd of fresh, bigger steers. Matt Richardson was 5.3 on him and I made pretty much an identical run to Matt’s. The steer braced up just a little on me and kind of hung a bit or I could have been a short four.”

For the second-generation superstar, it’s been business as usual in 2022 and the weekend’s wins increased his lead at the top of the Canadian standings. Cassidy is happy with his fast start. “I’ve been on both ends of it and being first is a lot nicer than being way back in the standings at this point in the season for sure. You’d like to have the CFR made as early as possible.”

And, of course, there’s Tyson, the latest in the long line of brilliant Cassidy dogging horses, that includes recent Hall of Fame inductee, Willy.

“Tyson doesn’t have as many accolades as Willy with his four gold buckles but the thing with Tyson is he’s just so user-friendly,” Cassidy noted. “Anybody can get on him and have a chance to win. He does his job better than any of us do.”

Cassidy acknowledged that having a horse like Tyson is helping to extend what has already been a remarkable career. “In this sport every January 1 you start over. I’m still healthy, I’ve got Tyson and I’m traveling with some younger guys. With COVID behind us and a lot of the bigger summer rodeos back, I’m hoping to have a year that gets me back to the CFR and the NFR.”

It was a pair of team ropers who were the top money winners on the three-event weekend. Veteran Cardston heeler, Riley Wilson, and his heading partner, Grady Quam, collected wins at both Bonnyville (4.5 seconds, $1,874) and Hand Hills (5.6 seconds, $1,437) and added a fifth-place cheque at Leduc Black Gold Rodeo (4.9 seconds, $948) for a total of $4,260. The pair also made the biggest move in the early season standings, vaulting from 22nd to a spot solidly in the top ten.

This week the CPRA schedule makes three more Alberta stops in Brooks, June 10-11, and Rocky Mountain House and Lea Park, June 10-12.

For complete CPRA results, check out rodeocanada.com

102 Years of the Falkland Stampede

Kolby Wanchuk, 2022 Falkland Stampede.

Kolby Wanchuk hasn’t forgotten the way his 2021 Canadian rodeo season ended. The Sherwood Park, AB bronc rider was bumped from Canadian Finals Rodeo contention on the final stop of the regular campaign. This weekend at the 102nd Falkland Stampede, the second generation cowboy took another step toward ensuring that history would not repeat itself.

“I don’t want to miss the CFR again,” Wanchuk admitted. “I’ve been getting to the spring rodeos and I want to do whatever it takes to get back to the Finals. That’s one of my goals for this year. You can’t win a Canadian title if you’re not at the CFR.”

The 25-year-old rode Macza Pro Rodeo’s +2 Big Surprise to 86 points and the first place cheque of $1,226. The win will consolidate Wanchuk’s hold on fourth place in the Canadian standings and keep him solidly in the top 15 in the World.

“I’d seen this horse quite a bit, but this was my first time on him,” Wanchuk noted. “He’s not a big horse but he tries really hard. He had a couple of big jumps at the start and then was really nice.”

Things will start heating up for Wanchuk and all CPRA contestants as the 2022 rodeo season moves into high gear. “We’ll be going back and forth across the border pretty well every week. From Reno in June to the end of August, there are rodeos almost everyday. And I want to get to every one I can.” Wanchuk is especially looking forward to the CPRA (SMS Equipment) Pro Tour events. “I want to get to as many of the 11 Tour rodeos as I can because that money makes a big difference in the Canadian standings.”

Great weather and record crowds were on hand in Falkland, BC throughout a weekend that saw several other outstanding performances. A pair of 90 point rides highlighted the weekend action with reigning Canadian Bareback Champion, Clint Laye, navigating Macza’s award winning 118 OLS Tubs Stevie Knicks to first place and $1188 in the bareback riding. That effort was matched by 2016 Canadian Champion bull rider Jordan Hansen who posted his 90 point ride on Macza’s D 180 Big City Life – good for $1,398. Other Falkland champions included tie down roper, Clayton Smith who clocked an 8.5 second run for $1962; steer wrestler Quentin Branden who was 3.9 seconds ($1,426), team ropers Dawson and Dillon Graham whose 4.4 netted $1,512 for each. Ladies barrel racing saw a one-two split between Lynette Brodoway and Bradi Whiteside who were 16.38 seconds for $1,544 each. Breakaway roper, Kylie Whiteside posted a 2.44 to win her event and pocket $994. The novice saddle bronc event also saw a tie with Colton Powell and Devon Hay marking 69 points for $224 each while in the junior steer riding, Nash Loewen was 82 points for $329.

For complete CPRA results, check out rodeocanada.com

How to Bet on a Racehorse

A day at the races can be fun – and maybe even profitable – if you know what you’re doing when it comes to placing bets.

By Jenn Webster

Have you ever wanted to place a bet on a racehorse, but became overwhelmed by the thought of it? Wagering at the track, when done in moderation, can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. In honor of the Kentucky Derby today, we have compiled an easy guide to placing bets on racehorses. There’s no bigger thrill than watching the powerful equine you bet on, cross the finish line first!

Thoroughbred racing is the oldest form of organized racing in the world but in North America usually means the horses are flat racing on a dirt or turf surface. Race lengths can vary. In Canada, Thoroughbred racing is seasonal so it’s normal to see many short races at the beginning of the season when many of the horses are not yet conditioned for longer races. Younger animals too, usually run shorter races, taking into consideration the horse’s rate of growth and inexperience. However, some horses (all ages) run consistently better at short distances and these statistics are all recorded – something seasoned bettors note! Depending on the length of the race, Thoroughbreds may run straight sprints or on larger tracks that require them to go around turns.

Quarter Horse (QH) racing is much like Thoroughbred racing, however the race distances are much shorter. There are several different lengths available for these horses, ranging from one furlong (220 yards), to four furlongs (870 yards). Most QH races are straight sprints, which means they must be able to break well from the starting gate.

Standardbred racing is harness racing – the horse pulls a light cart or “sulky” and is driven, as opposed to being ridden. Standardbred horses are either pacers or trotters.

BETTING

1 – Decide how much money you are willing to bet. The minimum bet is $2, but you can always bet more if you like.

2 – Pick your horse. People pick their horses in a variety of ways. You may like its name, colour, number, jockey or colour of its silks. Many advanced bettors choose their horses based on past performance, the trainer’s reputation or the jockey’s records. Other considerations they might keep top of mind is the type of track, the weather, bloodlines of the horse, or the size and shape of the track. And here’s a pro tip! If you’re ever observing the racers in the paddock prior to a race, the horse that is jumping, rearing or displaying a lot of extra activity is not usually the one you want to bet on – the horse that is calm, cool and collected in the paddock is the one conserving its energy for the race.

Race programs too, give you the information on every horse and every race for the day and they are usually available for a small fee. They can be helpful in picking a horse.

3 – Choose your Bet. Straight wagers are the best type of bets for visitors completely new to the world of racing. When you making this type of bet, you are only betting on one horse.

WIN – This means you are betting on a specific horse, to come in first place.
PLACE – Your horse must finish first or second.
SHOW – Your horse must finish first, second or third.

Odds are something else you’ll want to look consider. These are the numbers appearing beside the horse’s number (displayed in numerous places around the track, in the program, etc.) The more a horse is liked by bettors, the lower its odds are and the lower the pay-out will be. The underdog horses have higher odds and consequently, a higher payout.

4Master More Advanced Bets. Once you are comfortable with how win, place and show works in a basic bet, you may want to move on to a more exotic wager. Here is some terminology you should know:

EXACTA – You bet on two horses to come in first and second, in an exact order.
QUINELLA – You bet on two horses to come in first and second in any order.
TRIFECTA – You bet that three horses will finish in first, second, and third in an exact order.
SUPERFECTA – You bet that four horses will finish, first, second, third, and fourth in an exact order.

Many racetracks like Century Downs in Balzac, AB, even offer Betting 101 classes for free. You can join them and learn about placing exotic bets, multi-race wagers, Jackpot High-5 or Century Down’s own unique wager. Their experts can walk you through the betting basics so placing your first bet isn’t so daunting. Have fun and enjoy yourself!

How the West was Worn

Blue jeans, automobiles, brightly-colored dishes and even dental bling all have one thing in common – they’ve all been influenced by western design. Discover how the history and craftsmanship of the West influenced goods and culture through the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s newest exhibition, Western Wares, that opened February 11, 2022. The museum is based in Oklahoma City, OK.
 
Western design is a term familiar to a global audience, drumming up images of pearl-snap shirts, rhinestones, and cowboy hats. Visitors will learn that western design has been crafted over time by different people and traditions. It is a continually evolving style that is both connected to the geography of the west, but also defined by each person who wears it. 


“Here at The Cowboy, we know that the history and legends of the West have influenced many aspects of American culture deeply,” said Natalie Shirley, Museum President and CEO. “This exhibition is a fun way to see the impact that cowboy and. western culture has had on the world of design.”
 
Western Wares will take museum visitors through the history behind the rise in popularity of the western aesthetic, from the 1890s, to its historic peak in the mid-twentieth century and then on to present day.


 Upon entering the exhibition space, museum visitors will first experience the early influences of design that stemmed from Indigenous, Hispanic and European cultures and were used on the range starting in the 1800s. The exhibition will then explore varied interpretations of western design by rodeo performers, musicians, vintage enthusiasts, and people looking to reclaim their cultural traditions. It will also feature a space that delves into the mechanical processes of making a look, including sewing, leather working, silversmithing and design. 
 
Much of the western fashion presented in the exhibition will come from the museum’s extensive collections. The exhibition will also feature many never-before seen photographs. Western Wares will be on exhibit through May 1, 2022.

(VIRTUAL) OUTLAWS FOR LIFE

“I can be a Moonshiner now..!”

It’s not a sentence I’m used to hearing from my daughter.

And never in a million years did I expect to be writing about a video game in Western Horse Review.

Yet, here we are.

If you’re in my demographic, you were first introduced to the world of video games on an original Nintendo – the gray box system that came with Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. Whenever the chores were done, us kids leaped at the opportunity for a few minutes to play. Watching the pixelated, Italian characters (twin brothers Mario and Luigi,) dodge fireballs and break bricks with their heads for coins became a fond childhood pastime.

I’m here to tell you that video games have come a long ways since…

With a mature rating, I wasn’t sure what to think initially, about Red Dead Redemption II (RDR II). Created by Rockstar Games, RDR II comes from the home of Grand Theft Auto – which in all honesty, isn’t a game I allow my children to play. RDR II too, has a long list of warnings for violent content, strong language, etc., and suggests that it should only be played by gamers aged 17 and up.

Somehow, however, we were drawn to RDR II and I now realize why. This vivid game boasts insanely, beautiful graphics and oozes the wild west. Set at the dawn of the modern age in 1899 America, RDR II is at its core, about survival. The main character, Arthur Morgan finds himself at a crossroads after a robbery goes horribly wrong in the town of Blackwater. He’s forced to choose between his own ideals and the gang of outlaws who raised him.

Players experience this epic game as the tale of Morgan and the Van der Linde gang unfolds – the group must flee federal agents and bounty hunters that are closing in. Characters have to cross cruel and rugged territory, and survive wildlife and the elements. Of course, there are more underhanded tasks too, as the gang fights and robs their way through.

Players travel on horseback and this is where one truly begins to notice the extreme level of detail in the game. There are 19 different breeds of horses in RDR II and each one has different characteristics and handles differently. Characters must bond with their mounts and if not, some horses won’t hesitate to buck their riders off when faced with a threat. Then there are times when the horses get impatient and begin to stomp their feet if a player is taking too much time to decide on things.

Both situations are not that much different in real life.

The graphics in Red Dead Redemption II are stunning and the story line will make you think you’re in a movie.

There are many astounding features that come together to bring RDR II to life. (Did we mention that Willie Nelson lends his voice on the game soundtrack?) There are dogs to pet, mountains to cross, pockets to pick, mustangs to break, outlaws to kill and gold bricks to find. Meanwhile, you’ll marvel at the scenery and the wildlife and the cinematic shoot-outs.

Love ‘em or lump ‘em, video games are here to stay. The Red Dead series is all part of the modern west and I don’t mind it one bit that my kids are fascinated by a virtual world, inspired by a western adventure. It’s another way western heritage is being infused into the 21st century: a day and age where western culture is slowly disappearing. With all of its sagebrush, sunsets, drama and gorgeous scenery, Red Dead Redemption II is wildly satisfying. So, if you find yourself brushing a kid aside for a chance at the controller yourself – Hey, a mom’s got to do, what a mom’s got to do.

  • By Jenn Webster

Spiced Squash Soup

This creamy, cold weather soup is the ultimate in comfort food. Make it ahead and save in the freezer to suit a busy schedule, or serve it as an appetizer to really wow your family at dinner. This hearty soup combines the sweetness of butternut squash from the garden with a whipped, goat cheese finish that neutralizes the soup’s cayenne kick – offering a blend of flavours that are sure to chase the winter blues away.

By Mike Edgar & Jenn Webster

INGREDIENTS
1 Onion
1 kgs Butternut Squash, Peeled and Diced
1 Onion, Chopped
4 Cloves of Garlic
2 Tbsp. Ground Tumeric
2 Tbsp. Ground Ginger
2 Tbsp. Ground Coriander
1 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
2/3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 L Chicken Stock
500 ml Heavy Cream
Nasturtium for Garnish1 Cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds
1 Tsp. of Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 Cup Whipping Cream
100 Grams Soft Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp. Chives

Prep and chop all of your vegetables and spices.

METHOD
Prep and chop all of your vegetables up (squash, onions, garlic and chives.) Toss the onions, garlic and squash together with seasonings, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill in a large, cast-iron skillet, or roast in the oven at 400-degrees Fahrenheit until the squash is tender. Depending on how you cut your squash, this process could take anywhere from 10-25 minutes.

Either grill or roast the squash, vegetables and seasonings together until tender.
Finalized, roasted squash.

Puree the roasted squash mixture when cooked.

Puree the roasted squash when cooked and combine with cream.

Meanwhile, mix the pumpkin seeds with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400-degrees Fahrenheit until the seeds turn brown.

Roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven until brown.

Next, whip the whipping cream on high until you achieve stiff peaks. Add the goat cheese and chives and whip until incorporated. Set aside for the moment.

Whip the whipping cream, goat cheese and chives together.

Add the pureed squash mixture to chicken stock in a large pot and stir together on the stove. Add 500 ml of heavy cream and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Taste and check for flavour – if it is not to your liking, you may want to add a little more seasoning.

Add your pureed squash mixture to chicken stock, heavy cream and brown sugar in a large pot and stir together on the stove.

Put the soup into individual bowls and top with a spoonful of the whipped goat cheese mixture. Sprinkle each bowl neatly with toasted pumpkin seeds. Top with a few pieces of nasturtium, for a beautiful finish.

Beef Shanks

This holiday feast is juicy, full of flavour and will have your guests Ooo-ing and Ahh-ing all evening long.

If you’re up for a non-traditional Christmas dinner this year, this iconic dish is bound to become your next, family-approved classic. Slow-cooked to perfection, this show-stopping platter of beef is topped with a glaze reduction, vegetables and dainty truffle oil fries, then served on a bed of smoked blue cheese polenta. It’s a meal so filling and delicious that you may never go back to turkey dinner again.

By MIKE EDGAR & JENN WEBSTER

BEEF SHANKS

There are two ways to obtain the off-cut of beef that is desirable for this recipe. Firstly, you can ask your local butcher for a whole beef shank tied, or you can have the butcher cut the meat into two to three-inch thick pieces. Cutting them into smaller pieces makes them easier to handle. For this recipe however, we cooked the shanks whole.
 
Ingredients:
2 Whole Beef Shanks, Frenched and Tied.
3 Carrots, Chopped
4 Celery Stocks, Chopped
2 Onions, Chopped
5 Garlic Cloves
250 Grams Fresh Ginger, Chopped
750 mls Red Wine
5 L Beef Stock
5 Thyme Sprigs
4 Rosemary Sprigs
Salt
Ground Black Pepper
2 Cups Brown Sugar
 
Method:
In a large frying pan or Dutch oven heat canola oil on high heat. Generously season the shanks with salt and pepper. Sear all sides of the shanks and transfer to a large pan or Dutch oven. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic and ginger to the pan you seared the beef in. Sauté until the vegetables start to brown. Add half the wine and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the wine, beef stock, brown sugar, thyme, and rosemary. Bring to a boil and then pour into the pan with the shanks. Cover and braise at 35-degrees Fahrenheit for five hours or until tender.

Cover and braise your beef shanks for five hours, or until tender.


When shanks are done, strain out half the braising liquid into a separate pot to make a glaze. Leave the shanks in the remaining liquid and cover to keep warm. Reduce the strained braising liquid on medium heat, until it reaches a syrup consistency. To serve the shanks, you will need help to prop them up on a platter. You can use your favourite holiday accompaniments. For this recipe, we used a smoked blue cheese polenta, balsamic roasted shallots, roasted squash and grilled bok choy. Please see below for these recipes.

Drizzle the glaze all over the shanks.


Firstly, on the bottom of your platter, pour the polenta down as a base. Then, arrange half of the vegetables around the platter and gently place the shanks in the center – moving any vegetables around as needed, to aid the shanks in standing straight up. Drizzle the glaze all over the shanks. Scatter the remaining vegetables on the platter, and you are ready to impress your guests!
 

Creating the polenta.


SMOKED BLUE CHEESE POLENTA
6 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Cups 35% Cream
2 Cups Coarse Corn Meal
60 gm Butter
200 gm Smoked Blue Cheese
1 Cup Grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
¼ Cup Parsley, Chopped
¼ Cup Chives, Chopped
 
Method:
Bring stock, cream, salt and pepper to a boil, add the corn meal and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring constantly until thick and creamy.
Remove from heat and stir in butter, blue cheese, parmesan, chive, and parsley and you are ready to serve.
 

Dicing up shallots and bok choy.
Roasting the shallots, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.


BALSAMIC ROASTED SHALLOTS

10 Large Whole Shallots, Peeled and Halved
3 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Honey
4 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves
Salt and Pepper
 
Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter in an oven-safe frying pan over medium heat. Add honey, balsamic, and thyme. Stir to combine. Add your shallots flat side down, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in oven for 20 to 25min.

Roasted with butter, olive oil and salt, these squash wedges make a delicious addition to the beef shank dish.

ROASTED SQUASH

2 Kabocha Squash, Seeded and Cut into Wedges (leaving the skin on)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Butter
Salt and Pepper
 
Pre-heat oven to 400-degreesFahrenheit. Heat oil, and butter in a cast iron pan. Place squash in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. After the squash has a nice golden brown sear on one side, flip them and put in the oven to roast for approximately 20 minutes, flipping every five minutes.
 

Grill bok choy on the BBQ for a nice finish.


BOK CHOY

Cut bok choy in halves. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place bok choy flat-side down on a very hot grill and sear for 30 seconds, ensuring each one gets a really nice grill mark. Flip and sear for another 30 seconds and they are ready to eat.

Creature Comforts

Photo by Krystina Lynn Photography.

Our Gift Guide for the beloved equines on your list!

SHOW-STOPPING Pads
Show-stopping style is always a wise choice when it comes to gift giving and horse lovers. You will find a huge selection of cutting edge show pads, show shirts and other accoutrement at the Ranch by Design shop near Lacombe, Alberta. Luxx show pads are beautiful premium quality blankets made with 100% New Zealand wool. Oversized and just under nine pounds, these saddle pads come in a wide variety of colours and designs. $236. Online at: www.ranchbydesign.com

FOR YOUR HERD

The Equistro line of products is specifically designed to serve the needs of the equine athlete. With a range of supplements, their goal is to help your horse deal with the challenges of heavy training, frequent travelling and staying on top of the game. Use the promo code CLAY10 for savings on online purchases. www.equistro.ca

Use the promo code CLAY10 for savings on online Equistro purchases.

MAKE PAY DIRT
Not all gifts are meant to be under a tree! Put a big red bow on Conterra’s EquiGroomer-TR and watch them run (or drive) in circles with excitement! www.conterraindustries.com

EQUI-NUTRITION BOOST
Warm the bellies of your equine friends during colder days with locally-owned and operated. Equiboost Feed and Oil. Flax-based and made with zero soy products, this feed will have your furever friends feeling, looking and performing their best! $55 for a 30-day supply. Find them on Facebook @equiboost

FEELIN’ GOOD

Spread good cheer and good feels in every way, with Cavallo Pulse Therapy, based out of Cochrane, Alberta. Owner and practitioner, Keely Gibb, travels to her clients to help them feel their best. Specializing in equine bodywork and PEMF for the performance athlete. Gibb also offers massage therapy, K-Taping, myofascial release as well as stretching and mobilization services for your equine and canine companions. Find her on Facebook @cavallopulsetherapy

BARN DANCE
Why put gifts under a tree when you can put them in a barn? Make dreams come true with Affordable Barns, a company who has been building high quality barns for affordable prices for years! With base pricing starting at only $20,695, all barns come complete with finished 12×12 stalls, and many options to choose from. www.affordablebarns.com

Small Matters

Portrait of Charlotte Small. Artwork by Wandering Jayne Creatives.

On June 10, 1799, she became a child bride – married at the age of 13, to a man 16 years her senior. The girl was “…about five feet tall, active and wiry, with black eyes and skin almost copper-coloured”; the daughter of a Scottish investor-partner, named Patrick Small, and an unnamed mother.

She was Métis. Abandoned by her father at the age of six, her father left his family (two girls and a boy,) and returned to his roots in Europe. Her mother raised her children in relative obscurity. Here is Charlotte Small’s story.

By Debbie MacRae

During her lifetime, Charlotte Small would travel over 42,000 kms across some of the most perilous terrain in Canada. She and her husband, David Thompson, would unlock the mysteries of Canada’s unbelievable sweeping geography – and she would become one of the most significant female contributors to the development of Canada. Together, their cartographic accomplishment would become legend; the largest, most significant survey achievement in the history of mankind. Small’s contribution, until recent years, had been relatively unacknowledged.

Charlotte Small was born on September 1, 1785, to the “country wife” of a Scottish investor in the North West Company fur-trading partnership. Her siblings, Patrick Small, Jr., and Nancy Small, would also become part of the fur-trading business, with Patrick becoming a North West Company clerk, and Nancy, the first wife of North West Company partner, John MacDonald of Garth.

“Country wives” was a term coined when a marriage took place with little formality or documents, and the marriage was arranged in “the country” to enhance the standing or security of the wife, who might have mixed lineage. And also to enhance the trade advantage of the fur trader, as a result of an alliance with the woman’s Indigenous family, where she could assist by translating and trading on her husband’s behalf. Often the practical advantages of their alliance outweighed the opportunity for love, as men desired wives who could cook, clean, and sew for them. European wives were not well suited to the harsh elements and did not have the survival skills to compete with their “country” counterparts.

Small could speak French, English, Cree and multiple dialects. She could hunt and fish. Marrying a man employed by the North West Company would bring her stability and security, and perhaps status. The irony of their exchange would be that Small would bring her talents to the table, and on more than one occasion, it would be Small who would ensure they succeeded.

In June of 1799, Small agreed to marry Thompson, and they married in the Cree tradition at Ile-a-la Crosse, SK. Their marriage vows would be solemnized by clergy 13 years later at the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Montreal on October 30, 1812.

She would bear 13 children; seven boys and six girls. Small was 44-years-old when she gave birth to her youngest child, Eliza in 1829.

On their marriage day, Thompson made a notation in his journal – “Today wed Charlotte Small.” He would honour that commitment for 58 years; travelling over 42,000 kilometers with her and their children by his side, at a time when most European men retired and returned to their prestigious European lives, leaving their Canadian country wives and families behind – like Small’s own father. The marriage of David Thompson and Charlotte Small is the longest recorded marriage in pre-Confederation history.

Thompson was born in Westminster, Middlesex, and his father died when Thompson was two-years-old, leaving his mother in dire financial hardship. She was forced to place him in the care of the Grey Coat Hospital, a school for the disadvantaged of Westminster, where he then graduated to the mathematical school, renowned for its survey and navigational training. That training would prepare him for the prodigious survey work he would achieve in later life.

Thompson was indentured to the Hudson’s Bay Company, working as a clerk, and was dispatched to various regional inland locations, learning the language of the people as he went. After seriously fracturing his leg in a sledding accident near North Battleford, SK, it took two years for him to recover, during which he studied mathematics, survey and astronomy. At the end of his apprenticeship, he asked the company to pay him with a sextant and navigational equipment, instead of the traditional Hudson’s Bay coat. They provided him with both, and hence began his next career in surveying. He was 27 years of age.

Two years later, after their marriage, Small would assist with the literal “groundwork”.

“[W]ith black eyes and skin almost copper-coloured” – a description later rendered by her grandson, William Scott, Small moved easily among the First Nation’s people. Her coloring, language fluency and ability to decipher related dialects assisted in securing trust when travelling and trading.

Thompson wrote, in an 1874 manuscript, “….my lovely Wife is of the blood of these people, speaking their language, and well educated in the English language; which gives me a great advantage.” Although not much is known about their relationship, he wrote in a language of love and respect.

The expanse of Rupert’s Land was unknown; the rivers raging and perilous. Travel was arduous for fur traders, completed on foot, by canoe, and horseback, often in unfriendly territory. Seasons were harsh, and winters particularly cruel. The elements (fire, wind, and water), injured or took lives indiscriminately, and starvation was always a consideration. During the winter of 1805 and 1806, while wintering at Reed Lake House, the Thompson party was in much need of food. Small’s hunting experience would be their salvation, providing nourishment from the meat she secured snaring rabbits and shooting birds. Thompson journals Small as having snared eight rabbits between November 1805 and February 1806, hardly sufficient nourishment to sustain a whole party – yet the group survived.
The extent of her contribution is barely appreciated – yet significantly more commendable given that she had two small children, Fanny and Samuel, and was expecting their third child, Emma, in March of that year.

Small first explored the Rocky Mountains in May of 1807, when a trade route was opened over the Howse Pass, west of Rocky Mountain House, AB. Ascending and descending the crossing was dangerous and nearly fatal on several occasions.

“The water descending in innumerable Rills, soon swelled our Brook to a Rivulet, with a Current foaming white, the Horses with Difficulty crossed & recrossed at every 2 or 300 yards, & the Men crossed by clinging to the Tails & Manes of the Horses, & yet ran no small danger of being swept away & drowned.” Notes the David Thompson, Travels (unpublished manuscript): iii, 34a,ca. 1847; quotation courtesy of William Moreau as noted in the essay David Thompson’s Life of Learning among the Nahathaways by Jennifer Brown.

Although Thompson’s journal entries are limited with respect to his family life, it is imperative to appreciate that they travelled together. The journal entries, provide insight and glimpses of the challenges Small faced as a woman and mother, with three young children to nourish and protect. She faced the same cruel conditions as the men, yet except for a few notations, her challenges remained nondescript and unrecorded.

On one occasion, Thompson wrote, “One of my horses nearly crushing my children to death with his load being badly put on, which I mistook for being vicious, I shot him on the spot and rescued my little ones.”

A day later, he added, “…..at 3 P.M. we reloaded, but missing my little Daughter & nowhere finding her, we concluded she was drowned & all of us set about finding her – we searched all the Embarrass (log-jams) in the River but to no purpose. At length, Mr. McDonald found her track going upwards. We searched all about & at length thank God at 8 ½ P.M. found her about 1 Mile off, against a Bank of Snow.” (Sources of the River, Nesbit.)
Small was no doubt, frantically assisting in the search for her child lost in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. It was June of 1808, in the mountains, with high water, and snow still likely on the ground. The wildlife were recently out of hibernation and hungry, and the group were constantly under threat of attack by the Peigan people. She was seven months pregnant with their fourth child, John, at the time.

They would traverse the Blaeberry River through the Kootenai mountains and follow it to its junction with the Columbia. Because the Columbia flowed north at this junction, Thompson did not believe the river he viewed was the Columbia – and instead, headed upstream to Lake Windermere. Near the south end of the lake they built Kootenae House. Now they had another addition to the family, with four children under seven.

Between 1808 and May of 1812, the family would journey from Canal Flats, BC, into Montana and Idaho, back up to Fort Vermilion at the confluence of the North Saskatchewan and Vermilion rivers, and back down into Montana and Idaho on Lake Pend Oreille, where they established Kullyspell House and Salish House on the Clark Fork River. Because the Piikani (Peigan) people were blocking access to their southern passes, a different route had to be established to bypass their lands.

Ultimately, they would cross the mountains through the Athabasca Pass over a treacherous route along the Athabasca, Whirlpool and Wood Rivers, arriving at the forks of the Columbia and Canoe rivers on January 18,1811.
The men refused to go on, and they wintered at Boat Encampment. Small remained at the side of her husband with her four children, despite the harsh crossing. The survey of the Columbia River was completed in May of 1812.

A copy of the navigator’s sextant used by David Thompson.

The family returned to Fort William on the shores of Thunder Bay, on July 12, 1812. They had made the decision to leave the employ of the North West Company, and made their way eastward toward Montreal, surveying the North shore of Lake Superior as they went.

After their return to Terrabonne, north of Montreal, Small and Thompson formalized their marriage vows in the European tradition and baptized their five young children. Ironically, in 1813, after surviving some of the harshest conditions of their young lives, two of their young children, John (age five) and Emma (age seven) would die, as a result of round worms, a common parasite. Small ultimately did not adjust well to life in Quebec, choosing to reside in Montreal while her husband travelled. Another child, Henry, would be born in 1813, followed by seven more siblings between 1815 and 1829.

In the years following, Thompson would complete his greatest achievements; his map of the North-West Territory of the Province of Canada in 1814 – so accurate it was still being utilized by the Canadian government 100 years later; survey of the newly established Canadian/US borders from Lake of the Woods to the Eastern Townships of Quebec; and his atlas of the region from Hudson Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

They would lose two more children. Despite financial hardship, and ultimate ruin, Small would remain by his side, even after being forced to move in with their daughter and son-in-law.

When the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company merged in 1821, Thompson’s work was treated with indifference – likely because he had left the employ of the HBC and was never truly forgiven for his transfer to the North West Company. His survey data was sent to Aaron-Arrowsmith of London, and was used without proper credit to the surveyor – leaving his family impoverished for lack of payment, as well as the bankruptcy of a company in which their life savings had been invested. The maps they had developed, and the atlas completed in their later years, was never returned nor paid for.

David Thompson died in 1857, at the age of 86. His “lovely wife”, Charlotte Small, followed him to the grave three months later, at the age of 70. They were buried side by side, in obscure, unmarked graves, until geologist J.B. Tyrrell resurrected Thompson’s notes, and published them as a narrative and part of the General Series of the Champlain Society in 1916. Tyrrell’s efforts, in partnership with the Canadian Historical Society, resulted in the placing of a tombstone to mark his grave. In 1917, David Thompson was recognized as a National Historic Person by the federal government. However, Small’s contribution went singularly unnoticed.

In the 28 years of his travel, Thompson had traveled over 88,500 kms and surveyed 4.92 million square kms of wilderness. Small and her children accompanied him on over 42,000 kms – three and a half times further than the expedition of Lewis and Clark. Many of Thompson’s maps would be used on the Lewis and Clark expedition in their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest between August 1803 and September 1806.

However, on July 1, 2014, Charlotte Small was eventually recognized in a special ceremony at Rocky Mountain House, AB, by the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada. She was acknowledged as an, “Acclaimed wife, mother, explorer and Metis daughter of the fur trade” “…for her contributions to the fur trade and exploration of western Canada. Charlotte Small exemplifies the contributions of Aboriginal women to the building of Canada, and …, we celebrate her as a person of national historic significance.” Ironically, at the time of her death, women were not recognized as persons, an achievement that would not take place until October 29, 1929; 72 years after her death.
Theirs was a partnership which lasted through the most strenuous of tests. Her commitment and devotion to her husband and family, his work, and their purpose is immeasurable and unparalleled.

“Standing in the silence, Charlotte Small was an important figure, giving a voice to the many multi-skilled women who were unpaid and nameless in the male-dominated fur trade that was highly dependent upon Aboriginal and Metis women acting as guides, translators, confidantes and expert wilderness survivalists. Charlotte Small performed all these roles as a wife, mother and daughter. Her courage and achievements will withstand the test of time and serve as encouragement for the generations of Aboriginal women to come, and recognition of the many silent women of the fur trade,” (Pat McDonald, historian and author, Rocky Mountain House).