The Rocking P Gazette newspaper was the creation of two young girls aged twelve and fourteen living on their family’s ranch in the foothills of southern Alberta in 1923.
In 1923, Dorothy Margaret Macleay, 14, and her younger sister Gertrude Maxine, 12, began producing a monthly newspaper. They called it the Rocking P Gazette, after the Rocking P ranch, founded in 1900 by their parents, Roderick and Laura Macleay, in the foothills of southern Alberta.
Dorothy and Gertrude edited the paper, acted as its principle reporters, drew and painted illustrations, wrote many of its stories and articles and created puzzles – although cowboys and ranch hands often submitted poetry and other contributions. There were section for adverts, fashion, situations vacant and romance. Dorothy and Maxine included a personal column called “matrimonial bureau.”
These entries come from the Matrimonial Bureau, December 1923 issue.
Handsome young lady wishes to correspond with attractive Cow-puncher with view to matrimony. Good flap-jack
thrower and whistler. Red-headed man preferred.
— Miss. B., Muirhead, Alberta.
Young lady wishes to correspond with cow-boy who can cook and keep house, lady musical and fond of travel. Photos exchanged.
– Ilene K. Box 3. Edmonton, Alberta.
Handsome young Cowpuncher wishes to correspond with dark-haired young lady, one who can teach school preferred.
Apply, High (Box H.) River. Alberta.
Who Will Take Me; –– ?
Crippled cowpuncher wishes old but nimble wife. Must be good cook and house-keeper as puncher has one leg off at knee, and a hook hand.
Apply soon as possible to Robbers’ Roost, Alberta.
Wealthy young wife, looks don’t count. Man very homely but stylish dresser.
– J.D.B. Okotoks, A.
Wife. Must be good cook, able to fry steak and boil water.
Not over thirty.
Apply to C.H., High River.
Cowpuncher wants wife to run outfit for him. Has good house and a large set of unbreakable dishes.
– Box 322, – Muirhead, Alta.
The sisters based many of their works of fiction and local news reports on the ranch workers. In Val’s Lament by “Sixshooter Sam,” Dorothy teased a cowpuncher about his love life:
Aw, Minnie, Minnie, where art thou?
Thou whom I think of when driving the cow,
Thou whom I dream of when working the plow,
And many moons have passed
Since I saw you last, Minnie.
Minnie, who used to laugh and talk,
Minnie, who pointed to me the love hawk,
And darned, with her tender hands my sock!
But many moons have passed
Since I saw you last, Minnie.
Come, and once more, let me behold Your shining face of brilliant gold, Cause Minnie my hand is growing cold, But many moons have passed
Since I saw you last, Minnie.
In the Local News section in each issue, we get item like the following:
Feb. 15th. Miss E.B. Watts while out sliding with D. Macleay, met an accident. She was thrown from the toboggan, and seriously damaged her knee cap. However she brightened up as [her then boyfriend] McKinnon hove into sight, *over the horizon.
Frank Van Eden rode over from the Bar S on his new horse “Spoof,” on the 15th.
Jesse Walters and Ted Nelson13 came over to “fan” wheat on the 23rd. They were unable to do any work that day, but got one load done on the 24th. On the 25th they had engine trou- ble and it took S. Riddle, J. Walters and T. Nelson all day to “get’er going” again.
Feb. 26th . Robert Raynor and Stewart Riddle went over to the Bar S to chop [grain]. They worked all day and finished up their job on the morning of the 27th.
Feb. 28th, Val Blake and Tex Smith rode the Bar U flat, bring- ing home a few strays.
Stewart Riddle this month won a thirteen dollar “Cayuse Indian Blanket,” by picking out the right name in a compe- tition given by the Shriners in Calgary.14
The girls were well equipped to edit the Rocking P Gazette in part because they were not products of the country school system. On close investigation, historians have discovered that the typical rural school in the 1920s was poorly financed and equipped, with shoddy instruction, often by a single unqualified teacher in a one-room setting where up to a dozen students of various ages and grades had to be accommodated.
Though Rod attended meetings of the local Muirhead school board and actually sat as trustee in 1924, he and Laura could not expect their children to begin school three miles away when too young to saddle their own horse, let alone open the many gates; and after the war, the Spanish flu was a real concern.
Therefore, between 1916 and 1925, with the exception of two years, they had a hired teacher living on the ranch to work with the girls throughout the school year. If Ms. Ethel Watts, who super- vised Dorothy and Maxine’s work on the Rocking P Gazette (1923–25), is any indication, the Macleays chose their teachers very well.
Fittingly, it was Ms. Watts who recognized the girls’ editorial ability, their energy, and their dedication in one of the fine pieces she herself wrote for the paper.
“Scene – Kitchen” Any Evening”
By the Printers’ Devil
See them, far into the night,
Under a dim, religious light,
Tax their brains and rack their heads Till tis time to seek their beds
For the sake of our Gazette!
See their worried, anxious looks Pond’ring deep o’er many books! Page after page of pencilled treasure They have writ for public pleasure, For our “Rocking P. Gazette.”
Hush! Hats off to these great minds! Walk on tiptoe – draw the blinds! Honour to each lofty brain –
Hard the labour, great the strain, Producing our Gazette.
One creates deep themes of love; One portrays the skies above,
One our hearts, with danger, thrills, One our eyes, with teardrops fills, By tales in the Gazette.
Tales of knightly deeds, out West, Filled with song and timely jest; Days of Ranch and cowboy-life, Poems of love, and mortal strife You’ll find in our Gazette.
Have you thought to advertise?
Down our columns cast your eyes. Perchance your needs you’ll recognize. And please, don’t harshly criticize your “Rocking P Gazette.”
When you’re far from friends and home, When in city haunts you roam,
Turn your lonely heart, – peruse.
With home-sick tears, the “local news.” In your Gazette.
Then give Three Cheers for the writers two, Working by night, and all for you!
May success their labours crown!
May Suns of Glory ne’er go down.
On the name “Macleay,” of wide renown The Authors of our Gazette!
Over 17 issues, the Rocking P Gazette, shows us ranch life in the 1920s, writing about life on the Rocking P Ranch. When Dorothy and Maxine grew up and married, their newspapers were boxed and stored.
All images appear in Rocking P Ranch and the Second Cattle Frontier in Western Canada by Clay Chattaway and Warren Elofson, 2019, Published by University of Calgary Press, which holds the Rocking P Gawette newspapers in tis archives.
Clay Chattaway is the son of Gertrude Maxine Macleay, is a cattle rancher and grandson of Roderick Riddle Macleay. With his wife, Avril, his three sons and their families, Clay operates the Bar S Ranch in the Porcupine Hills west of Nanton, AB. Warren Elofson is head of the Department of History at the University of Calgary.
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