Jen Zollner discovered a rural treasure, Harry Forbes. Harry was 103 years old (as of April 11, 2021) and a wealth of information about local rural history with a wicked sense of humour!
Harry has written five books that document his early life on the farm, the lives and challenges of Indigenous people and other topics that are important to rural history in Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
We decided to begin featuring excerpts from his books on our web site, to preserve this precious history.
See “Meet Harry Forbes” poem below.
The most recent stories are posted first.
We are greatly saddened to announce that Harry Forbes died in Maple Creek on Thursday, September 29th at the age of 104. He has been a special part of our MHCP interview family. We regularly feature his stories on our website. (Stories below). How precious to have captured his superb story-telling ability!
His obituary is posted below. We will continue to bring you excerpts from Harry’s books.
Harry (Soddie) Forbes passed away peacefully at the age of 104, at the Maple Creek Hospital on September 29, 2022.
He is survived by his wife Norma, his three daughters; Gail (Dave) Haines, Terry (Murdoch) Carriere, and Lois Forbes; his five grandchildren; Chris Haines, Leigh Miller, Amy Carriere, Dana Carriere, and Megan Dillon; and seven great grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Harry is also survived by his sisters Helen Hoszouski and Betty Hok and brothers David, Elmer, and Ralph Forbes.
Harry is predeceased by his parents Allan and Bertha Forbes, brothers; Leonard and Kenny Forbes, sisters Agnes Oddan, Ella Sutton, and Elsie Odden.
Harry was born and raised in the Maple Creek area. After serving in World War 2, Harry married Norma Anderson on December 29, 1948 and they bought a ranch in Cypress Hills. Harry liked working with horses, he especially enjoyed training a team of horses to pull a wagon. In 1939 Harry and his brother-in-law Victor Oddan drove a wagon and a team of horses from Maple Creek to Maidstone. In 1989, to commemorate the fifty-year anniversary of their original expedition, they made the return trip with team and wagon from Harold Oddan’s ranch at Maidstone, to Maple Creek. They arrived in time to participate in the Canada Day parade.
Harry loved to dance. In his mid-nineties, he had both knees replaced so that he could still polka. At 104 years old, Harry could still “cut a rug” and had the stamina to outlast many of his younger contemporaries on the dance floor. Harry, well into his eighties, travelled to Eastend, Maple Creek, and sometimes Shaunavon on a weekly basis to dance. He maintained his mobility, never using a wheelchair or walker. He often pushed other residents’ wheelchairs at mealtime in the Cypress Lodge.
Harry was an avid writer and had just completed his seventh book in 2022. He collaborated with his brother-in-law Tony Hoszouski to write ‘What Price Freedom’ about their experiences in World War 2, and collaborated with his sister Helen Hoszouski on two other books. Excerpts from some of his books have been published by the Medicine Hat Cowboy Poetry Foundation which can be accessed online at http://www.mhcowboylife.com/
The family of Harry Forbes would like to thank Jeanie and the wonderful staff at the Cypress Lodge, Dr. Govender, Dr. Joe and the staff at the Maple Creek Hospital, and the Maple Creek Legion. A Celebration of Life for Harry Forbes was held at the Royal Canadian Legion, 218 Maple Street Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, on November 12, 2022, Harry is interred at the Maple Creek Cemetery.
Click on titles to go to the stories.
#14 Spring Flood
Harry tells about the “close calls” caused by winter snowfall and subsequent spring flooding.
Harry Forbes recalls how they entertained themselves when he was growing up.
#12 Almost Disaster Free
Only one broken bone in decades of prairie living!
#11 No Emergency Service – Call 911
How do get medical care when there are no roads and no ambulances? Link
#10 Home Remedies #2
More home remedies from the Forbes’ kitchen. Link
#9 Home Remedies #1
Harry’s sister Helen recalls the home remedies they once used to keep themselves healthy. Link
#8 Balky Horse Stories
My dad had told me to never beat a balky horse; it just makes them worse the next time. You have to do something to get their mind on something else or be patient until they finally give up. Link
#7 Runaway Horses
Harry never heard his dad swear but once, when his runaway team ran away again! Link
#6 The Sheep Business
Harry’s mother builds a herd of sheep with orphans. Harry explains how to shear a sheep. Link
#5 Family Life
Seven Forbes children declare there are enough children in the family. What happens next? Link
4 Life of a Farm Wife
Harry’s sister, Helen chronicles the hard work their mom experienced raising children on a farm. Link
#3 Harry Forbes’ Sister Remembers their Mom
In our third in the Harry Forbes Remembers series Helen shares the story of their mother’s life. Link
#2 Harry Forbes’ Sister Remembers
In our second in the Harry Forbes Remembers series, Harry’s sister, Helen Hoszouski, nee Forbes, shares early family history and her memories. Link
#1 Harry Forbes Remembers
In this, the first story in the series, Harry Forbes remembers what it was like growing up on the farm. Link
Meet Harry Leo Forbes
by Jen Zollner
Harry Forbes is his name, call him ‘Soddie’ means the same.
His age now? A hundred years plus three.
As a rancher he has wisdom,
Hist’ry has his criticism,
He’s an author with no formal school degree.
Mother came from German Russia, says he’s just a common mucker,
But he’s hero for the stories he can tell,
Paints the hist’ry of his times,
Searched the many needless crimes
That our government upon First Nations fell.
Was a veteran in the war, his experiences and more
With his in-law brother published in a book,
But they left out gory matters,
Gave the losses, different battles,
So the price of war, we dare not overlook.
He’s historian for ‘The Creek’, he has a gift unique,
His mix of facts and story are such fun,
He recalls with accuracy
Dates and names so naturally,
He’s a treasure and his knack can’t be outdone.
Here’s a story Harry told, “It’s John Peterson with a load
On a wagon pulled by Blow Out and Spark Plug,”
Dad says, ‘Doesn’t it you bother
That one horse is ahead of the other?’
John said, “That’s all he gained in a 10-hour lug.”
“In a bar at Maple Creek, it was Saturday of the week,
The piano music this cowboy did not like,
So on horseback he did rope
The piano with the hope
To drag it outside, but the door too small to hike.”
“My wife sold her wildest buck, I was herding him up on the truck,
To the sound of ewes behind him he did duck,
He went back between my legs,
But mine are such short pegs,
That my backwards ride was the wildest mutton bust.”
Harry’s got plenty more to share, and to find it? Here is where:
On our website MHCowboyLife.com,
He gives prices way back then,
Famous cowboys and brave men,
Learn what times were like for him and for his mom.