Tag Archives: Calgary

Calgary’s cowtown image ain’t so cow or town anymore

Calgary, aka Cowtown.  Sure maybe years ago that was the case but that title should be taken away now.  Google search of cowtown gives me Calgary’s Wikipedia page as second result.  I know other cities around lay claim to that title like Fort Worth, Texas and others.  But in Canada cowtown lies solely to Calgary.  Anyway where was I.  Right, cowtown.  The other day I was reading a good article about how the cattle industry shaped Calgary’s formation.  I like old history books and articles on stockyards and packing plants.  This one explained the old stockyards location forming the eastside of Calgary over the years it was in operation.  The slaughter houses all contributing to Calgary’s growth.  The formation of the Calgary Stampede.  Calgary was once cowtown.  But look at it now.  The stockyards were swallowed up by city growth and pretty much forced to relocate out of the city.  They’ve been replaced with warehouses and special shops.  The packing plants slowly closed one by one, till the last one closed up shop just last year.  Not much was written, just that it closed and honestly with it, Calgary’s last remaining link to cowtown.  What’s left?  The Stampede?  Thousands of city dwellers going out to get mini donuts and watch salesmen try to sell non-stick pans while their kids ride the midway rides?  Sure there’s still the rodeo and chuckwagon’s but it all seems so much like a show put on for Calgary now.  A reason for the city to dress up in jeans and rolled up side cowboy hats that sit in their closets 11 months out of the year.  To go watch rodeo and have no clue what’s going on.

At least places like Fort Worth keep its history.  The stockyards district in Fort Worth.  The honoring of its past by saving it.  That’s cowtown.  What does Calgary do, pave it over and then fakely dress the city up every July.  Or in the case of its packing plant, turn it into a farmers market/theater with hardly any mention of its history.  Let me quote its website,

This unique building from the 1920s is nestled in the heart of the city near trendy Inglewood. Many weekend visitors say “It’s an important part of their community and essential to Calgary,” which is evident when you see hundreds of families and friends visiting their favourite cheese shop, local baker, butcher or leather shop.

Unique building.  Try, the historic Canada packers slaughter-house.  But no, just a unique building in Calgary.  A true cowtown would honour that and memorialize it.  And surround that area, where the stockyards once stretched, nothing but industrial area.  Wiped clean of anything related to cattle.  No plaque, no designation, nothing.  I’m sure in the not to distant future the now closed XL packers, the last remaining will be torn down and replaced with warehouses or a strip mall of some sort.

Calgary, with it’s “white hatting” ceremonies and its simple cowboy hat logo on its welcome signs that say “Heart of the new west”.  Maybe they should stop and think about the old west for a bit.  The old west that they’re destroying through being the centre of oil and gas development.  The expansion of the city lifestyle out into ranching country, breaking up large ranches into small acreages.  Cowtown?  Hardly.

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Ranch land developement

Sing it Corb! We’re all seeing this more and more. That large new manufactured house built out on what was once pasture land.


The large compressor station put on what was once a grazing flat. The multitude of roads criss crossing pastures to all the well heads.

And then there’s “Fracking”. But I’ll let you learn about that, since it scares me too much to explain it. I’m glad in my own little corner of the world, I don’t have to deal with any of this all that much. Oil and gas is everywhere but at least I’m a little more left alone then others. What exists around here, I can live with. I don’t like it, but I can live with it. I could see it getting to the point Corb sings about though and that worries me. Not only for my generation but mainly for the next. It’s closer to Calgary that the acreages and big homes are a problem. It’s sad though to go for a drive out in these areas and see those big manufactured homes out where they don’t belong. And this streches all along the rockies from Alberta down to New Mexico. We’re all in the same battle. Ranching is viewed as an iconic part of North America but many who admire it, don’t respect it. As Ian Tyson puts it in this article I found,

“The current policy of liquidating oil and gas resources as quickly as possible is not in Alberta’s best interests,” Canadian country legend Ian Tyson tells reporters. “It is destroying agricultural communities, wildlife diversity, recreational tourism, and the signature landscapes all along the Cowboy Trail.”

It’s a very good article. Written a few years ago but still relevent,

Eastern Slopes battle looms.

“There’s no landscape like this left. You can’t just keep chopping it off into pieces.”

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