Whether rebuilt or original facades, one only has to let her mind drift to a simpler, dustier day.
Horses may have been tied to that post or drank from that barrel.
The swish in the gravel may have been caused by a hoop skirt, a gal’s delicate parasol victimized by the wind.
The plumes may have risen from the wafting of cigar smoke as that fellow twirled his freshly waxed mustache.
This is Cochrane … or at least what, in my head, it looked like 100 years ago.
Today, people jockey for parking position in the shadow of the century-old Rockyview Motel.
Just down the street, folks are lined up for a taste of McKay’s Ice Cream, a legend which winds its way to Calgary.
“You’re going to Cochrane for the ice cream, right?”
Nay, not this lass.
Next door to McKay’s resides HQ, also known as Home Quarter Pie and Eatery. It’s a homey little bistro with comfy furniture and friendly wait staff.
And the pie … oh the pie.
In truth, I’ve never feasted on any of the lunch fare … just coffee and pie. This time, Dutch apple with a side creamy vanilla ice cream, so delicious that I wonder if it came from next door.
Maybe I should ask?
Instead, I query the gal at the cash on whether she likes Cochrane. She’s young and I imagine she has dreams of the big-city life, hanging out on Stephen Avenue, tripping the light fantastic at the super-hyped club scene.
I’m correct in that she doesn’t much care for Cochrane. But it’s the rest of her response that surprises me.
“Cochrane is too big,” she says. “I’m a farm girl.”
Her parents once owned property on grand Valley Road but they sold it some years ago to move to Vancouver. They returned to the area but couldn’t recapture that lifestyle … property values had risen into the millions.
It’s indicative of the bedroom community Cochrane has become. Now it’s home to the rich and famous who toil on the ‘oil patch,’ the nickname for Calgary’s downtown where most of the oil and gas companies are housed.
But it holds onto its history.
Just off Highway 1A is a plot of land which was the site of the original Cochrane Ranche. Permanent signage describes the lifestyles led by the men who operated what was at one time Alberta’s largest livestock ranch.
The Ranche encompasses 136 acres with an easy walking trail that winds around the interpretive signage, a rebuilt corral, a children’s centre, picnic area and memorial markers for the foundations of two original Ranche buildings.
The path leads to the current Ranche house, passing a high bluff on which sits a statue of a man sitting stoically on his steed.
He represents the ‘Men of Vision,’ says the plaque at the base of the statue, a commissioned work completed by Malcolm J. Mackenzie. The cowboy commemorates the working cowboy of early ranching days in Alberta.
The cowboy reflects the peace one can find in Cochrane on a brilliant spring Sunday … a mere 20 minutes away from the bustle and hustle of Calgary.
And don’t forget the pie.