Five generations of Stampede stories
In our family, five generations have been touched by or participated in some part of the Calgary Stampede.
It all started in the winter of 1912. Nellie Marsh, my husband’s great grandmother lived in a cabin on Scotsman’s hill with her husband Joseph and their four small children. Joseph was away during a terrible storm and while Nellie was preparing the evening meal for her children there was a knock on their door. She opened it to the howling winds of the blizzard and the shivering body of a native man who had been out in the storm looking for four lost horses. She invited the man in and offered him a hot meal of stew and dumplings. She placed his coat by the fire to dry and while he ate his meal, the children stared at the man in wide-eyed awe. The man relished the warmth and the hot meal and after finishing, he thanked Nellie and disappeared into the snowy darkness.
That summer, Nellie and her children went downtown to see the first Calgary Stampede Parade. The Parade included bands, floats, cowboys and the Treaty 7 First Nations people of the area on horseback, in all their traditional finery. As the Sarcee band was approaching the place where Nellie and her children were standing, the chief raised his hand to motion his warriors to stop. He halted directly in front of Nellie and removed his headdress and bowed down to her. It was then she recognized the man to whom she had served dinner to on that stormy night. For him to stop and bow down to her was considered the highest honor that could be paid.
This story has been shared with great pride over the generations and one that began what has become a sweet friendship between the Calgary Stampede and five generations of our family.
Years after that incredible moment at the Stampede Parade, another member of our family tree started what would become an annual tradition. Henry (Harry) Huish had worked in the coal mines of Wales and later in Crowsnest Pass when the family immigrated to Canada. It was June 9, 1914 when the Hillcrest Mine explosion killed 197 men. Henry was found two days later with timber across his back, piled with tons of coal. He had two broken hips, a broken pelvis and a broken back. He wound up crippled, bent over almost in two with his legs crossed and needing to walk with a cane for the rest of his life.
The family moved to Calgary where both Henry and his son Frank got jobs with the CPR. One of Henry’s favorite times of the year was when the Calgary Stampede came to town. It was there that this crippled, bent over, cross legged man would go down to Stampede Park and play the sledgehammer game where the contestant would attempt to swing the hammer hard enough to ring the bell at the top of the tower. Without fail, Henry would ring the bell every time, with one arm (because he had to steady himself with his cane) and shuffle away with a well-earned, shirt pocket filled with 10 cent cigars.
A generation later, Henry’s grandson Harry became very involved with Calgary and the Stampede. A born and bred Calgarian, Harry had also made a career with the CPR. A week before Stampede the trains carrying all the equipment and employees for Royal American Shows would roll into the 9th Avenue industrial yard across from Fort Calgary. They would be spotted at the east side of the river at Stampede Park and the carnival games and rides would be unloaded. Harry was responsible for ensuring that all the Royal American Shows needs were met by the CPR and in doing so he received certain benefits. My husband (Harry’s son) remembers meeting the man in charge of Royal American Shows and walking through the Midway with his dad and younger sister enjoying all the rides and most of all, never having to stand in line. It was really something to be treated like royalty by this large man who chewed plug tobacco and spit into a large spittoon in the office that was in one of the permanent rail cars owned by Royal American Shows.
Harry became an original member of the Sam’s Steele’s Scouts in 1976 and in 24 years, never missed a single year riding with the troop in the annual Calgary Stampede Parade. As a City of Calgary Alderman for two terms, Harry always chose to be involved in the various Stampede committees and later on in his life was a volunteer working the on-park parade every year until his death in 2000. His name is still proudly engraved in bronze on the monument that displays all the volunteers of the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede in front of the Big Four Building to this very day.
My husband, Frank Huish, also became involved with the Sam Steel Scouts. He rode in many Stampede Parades but rodeo was really his passion and competing in the Calgary Stampede was his dream. After we met and married in 1982, Frank and my brother joined up with the legendary cowboy and Chief, Gordon Crowchild and together they competed in the Calgary Stampede Wild Horse Race for four consecutive years.
At that time we had also formed a Wild West stunt group called The Gunfighters Western Stunt Club which includes our son, Clint Huish as a lead stunt man and in the last 30 years we have performed many times for the Calgary Stampede’s many private corporate events held in various venues. One of our favorite memories was doing a fight and high fall during one of the big extravaganza’s that The Young Canadians performed for the Grandstand Show every night of the Calgary Stampede.
Now, 100 years after Nellie was so honored in the first ever Stampede Parade, her great, great granddaughter, Nicole Huish, (the youngest of our family) has the unique privilege of being a member of the Calgary Stampede Ranch Girls. She proudly rides Stampede Ranch horses, carries sponsor and competing nation flags and performs a variety of other duties during the 10 days of The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
One family, five generations - forever united with the Calgary Stampede.