Friday, July 5, 2013

Montana Joe

Back home in Canada, the annual Calgary Stampede opens today. With all the recent flooding there, hopefully there has been enough time to dry out the exhibition grounds. It has been years since I last visited the Calgary Stampede.

The Gelin brothers, Moses and Joseph arrived from the Ukrainians at the turn of the previous century. They settled in Winnipeg and bought 160 acres of farm land from the Canadian Pacific Railway. The brothers had both been horsemen in the Russian army and they kept some horses on their new farm. Joe traded in horses, and his buying and selling took him across the border into Montana and west into Alberta. Joe entered the first ever Calgary Stampede in 1912 with his favourite horse Don, which had won him eight prizes in Winnipeg prior to that. He even brought back an official postcard of the opening parade.

Moses purchased large parcels of land and settled in with his new bride Anna, who had just arrived from Odessa, Ukrainians. By day the brothers set up shop on Main Street near Portage and sold smaller sections of real estate in the newly developing town of Winnipeg. After work Moses returned to his family life with wife Anna. Joe, on the other hand went to his second business, a more exciting and profitable one, a bordello on Main Street. 

The competition was fierce in those days; he was up against the strongest of madams and had to be creative to get the best customers. At night he would don his cowboy gear and become Montana Joe. He could lasso just the right girl for you, and on a good day, twins. 

When my father-in-law passed away, we found a small suitcase in the storage locker containing the personal album of Uncle "Montana Joe".

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