This is a brief history to remember Alexander Hugh Cameron Macalister — ‘Sandy’ to all who know him and ‘Uncle Sandy’ to all his relatives and in-laws.
He was born February 22, 1909 in Elphinstone, Manitoba and passed from this life, at his home at McLeese Lake in his own bed, on August 15, 2002.
In 1911 his parents, James and Charlotte Macalister, and their five boys left Manitoba and headed west, by train, to Ashcroft. Then north with a team of horses and a team of oxen, with a milk cow being led behind the wagon. Their original aim was the Bulkley Valley, but one of the oxen went lame so they settled at what soon became known as Macalister.
The family continued to grow to 10 children — Don, Jim, Jack, Sandy, Joe, Kath, Bob, France, June, and Rene.
A FEW TALES
The school was about two-and-a-half miles away and they walked. One fine march day they decided to go barefoot and hid their shoes in a culvert. It snowed about six inches that day. They were rescued before they had to walk all the way home, but as brother Bob said at the funeral: “My feet are still cold.”
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The five boys often went down the river to swim in the backwater. One time when the river was high and the current was running through the backwater, the youngest (about two or three years old) fell in and was swept under a logjam and nearly drowned. And, as Sandy recalls, “we didn’t tell anyone about that for a long time.”
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Sandy was a runner. One time one of their horses had gotten away and spent about a year with the wild horses on the mountain. One day Sandy spotted him, ran him down, and rode him home bareback.
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One winter Sandy had been hauling hay from the meadows up the mountain. Somehow, the team backed up and his leg got caught between the hayrack and a tree and broke. He unhooked the horses and rode one of them home. When he got to the gate, his sister Rene was crossing the yard with a butcher knife in her hand. He yelled at her to open the gate. She said: “What’s the matter, break a leg?” He said: “Yes.”
They didn’t find the butcher knife until spring.
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Back to history. In the Dirty Thirties he rode the rails to the Prairies looking for work. In the late 1930s and early 40s he was a hard rock miner in Wells. Then his brother France wanted to join the Air Force and go to the war so Sandy came home to run the farm.
After the war, the public health nurse, Nain Grimmett, came to the farm one day in search of Macalister School. Sandy took one look and promptly developed a sore back as an excuse to go to Quesnel and see the nurse.
They were married January 19, 1946.
They had one daughter Sandra.
In 1965, France bought him out and Sandy ‘retired’ to his property on McLeese Lake, moving into their new house at Christmas, 1968. He drove school bus for a while and continued to clear land for fields, put up hay, and raise cattle.
One day Sandy had to move some cattle across the highway. He walked into the Oasis Pub and announced “I have to move some cattle and I need some help,” and walked out. The bar emptied and he got his cattle moved.
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Sandra was taking over more and more of the ranching and, after a mild heart attack at age 75, he ‘retired’ a bit more firmly. However, he still raked hay, drove the hay wagon and helped sort cows until a 1,500-pound cow backed over him in the loading chute in 1997.
Then he finally retired.
Except, of course, to drive up on the range to check cows, drive up to see how the haying was going or to check if the irrigation was going when it should be. You just can’t keep a good man down.
To go back a bit. When he became a grandfather in 1987, he was walking on air. Even with an artificial hip and a cane, he could float over the lumps and bumps of frozen cow manure in the barnyard faster than a young person. For a man who was virtually incapable of saying the word ‘love,’ he loved, and is loved, immensely.
Sandy continued to cook his own meals in his own home and to drive to town or just to visit friends or relatives right up to the end. Then he died at home, in his own bed, just as he wished to.
He is survived by his daughter, Sandra; his granddaughter Kate; two brothers, Jack of Merritt and Bob of Victoria; and three sisters, Kath Yorston of Australia, June Sinclair of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, and Rene of Kamloops.
Let us never forget a wonderful man. God bless him.