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John (Jack) MacKenzie and
Jennie May (Beazer) MacKenzie

Pinepound Reflections - A History of
Spring Coulee and District pages 291 - 292
by Ellen Stanford

John was born in LeGrande Oregon in 1893, emigrated to Alberta with his parents in June 1898, homesteaded in the Leavitt Mountain View area. As a young man he hunted coyotes with hounds, ranging along the Milk River Ridge south of Spring Coulee and occasionally staying with the Marsden family. At Ross Lake Ranch, he pounded nails in the loft of the barn to hang his pelts on.

On a Sunday outing in Spring Coulee in 1931, with his future wife Jennie May Beazer, they viewed one of the first oil wells in the area. Little did they realize that one day they would own this property.

In 1937 he purchased section 15-4-23-4 from Smith and Over, with Ernest Long purchasing the adjacent west section. The MacKenzie family consisting of three small children, moved to a farm near Raley as Harold Anderson had one year remaining on his lease. The family moved to Spring Coulee farm in the fall of 1938 and Jack was surprised to discover the barn from Ross Lake was now located on his farmstead (and has been in continuous use until destroyed by fire in 1993). Woody Anderson believes that it was moved by Rock Brown, who worked for Ross Ranches. The MacKenzie family moved to Picture Butte every winter where Jack fed cattle in a feedlot near the Sugar Factory. Cattle were driven across the Blood Reserve from Mountain View and Park Bend to Picture Butte with the help of Alfred Blood and Jack Curliss.

One son attended first grade at Vernal School in the fall of 1940. He vividly recalls a terrible dust storm, and not being able to walk home against the wind, crawling the half-mile home in the barrow pit with another boy guiding. The boy turned and with the wind at his back literally flew home. The following year saw the consolidation of the school district and closure of the Vernal School, with school buses running from Vernal and Raley areas to Spring Coulee.

Jack was a well known baseball player having "backstopped" the Cardston Maple Leafs to championship status. After W.W.11 as the community returned to normal he was asked to organize a Spring Coulee team. This likely got underway in 1946 but was certainly organized by 1947. Practices were held on two weekday evenings with games being scheduled for Sunday throughout the summer months. Spring Coulee joined the Boundary League which consisted of teams from Woolford, Taylorville, Jefferson, Rinard and Del Bonita. On Sundays virtually the whole community would turn out at the Park with the scene taking on a festive atmosphere. A collection was taken at the gate to defray expenses of balls and broken bats. Jess Sherman was usually at that spot. The women of the community would run the hot dog stand. Those coming early would claim parking spots along the foul lines in order to watch the game from their cars. Ernie Long (score keeper) would be presented with each team's line up. Two precious pristine balls would be broken out, a number of small boys would get ready behind the screen in order to shag foul balls. Leo Chapman (umpire) would shout "batter up", "play ball" and the game would be under way, but only after everyone had finished honking their horns. Over the course of three or four years the Spring Coulee team became quite competitive due in large part to the strong throwing of the two Johnson brothers. The "best ball" was seen when the Coulee met Del Bonita. An incomplete list of players includes: Bill Fortner, Murray Chapman, Yoshi Kunimoto, Dave Hofer, Roy Johnson, Don Johnson, Russel Bishop, Dale Nish, Tom Beswick, Norman Bengry, John MacKenzie, Don Ripley, Wayne Ripley, Nobi Kunimoto, Ray Long, Ikey Bishop, Leonard DeGinnus, Eddy Lane, Louis Armsworthy, Jimmy Sandham and Frank Rothe.

During this period incomes were increasing rapidly as was the presence and use of automobiles. So even before the intrusion of television this form of community activity was losing viability. The last year for the Coulee team was 1956, this probably being the last year for the Boundary league.

As Jack's children grew he put together several sets of pack horse equipment consisting of: pack saddles, cinches, pack boxes, saddle blankets, halters, hobbles, stake ropes, tents, tent stove, kitchen kit, horse shoe kit, sleeping bags, air mattresses, bridles, saddles, axes, fishing equipment, food, rubber raft, trolling motor etc. Shoeing up to eight horses, preparing farm trucks to haul them, and organizing this mountain of equipment required considerable effort and stands as a testament to Jack's energy.

For a number of summers after what was then a fairly short haying season the family and friends would go on pack horse trips mainly to Glacier Park. These would sometimes last as long as two weeks.

After harvest this pack outfit would be pressed into recreational duty once again to go to the Belly River Lakes for fall fishing trips. Regular and steadfast companions on these trips were: Ken Long, Sid Creed, Tom Beswick, Herman Johnson and others.

Jack and Jennie retired and moved to Lethbridge in 1963 and had many enjoyable camping trips in their motor home, often inviting grand children to accompany them. Jack died in 1978 and Jennie remained in her own home till moving to Diamond Willow Terrace in 1993.

Jack and Jennie had one son and two daughters.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup