My great uncle Norman owned a cattle ranch out near Elkwater, where my dad spent a lot of his days as a young boy riding horses and exploring. Uncle Norm spent his whole life building up the ranch and figuring out the best way to make millions. None of us could ever really figure out why, as he lived fairly simply rarely buying himself new clothes, driving second-hand vehicles and eating at cheap restaurants. He remained a bachelor and as Norman got older he spent more and more time in town staying at his sister’s (my grandma’s) house. He was a regular fixture at the Medicine Hat casino and if you ran into him there he’d plug a slot machine full of money for you to play while you chatted about the weather and his latest get rich quick scheme. Over the years he invested in a perpetual motion machine, diamond mines, and a million other crazy things; always to have ‘just missed’ making a fortune by a hair. He would also fill you in on the local gossip as though you knew every rancher in Southern Alberta just like he did.
Norman would often show up without warning at our house. If you didn’t hear his Lincoln Continental roar up, you might hear his booming voice long before you’d ever see his six foot four frame duck through your doorway. Norman was known for having a temper, but he was also known for being a generous man. He quietly gave many of my aunts, uncles and cousins a leg up with a new vehicle, a horse or a down payment for a house. He almost always had a roll of bills in his pocket worth about three thousand dollars, and occasionally when I’d run into him as a kid he’d pull out the wad and peel off a 50, or a 20 or a whole stack of bills. This was better than Christmas.. a random sum of money on a random day. His generosity was dizzying; it was almost always something life changing when you were least expecting it. He also had suppliers of various meats and vegetables and if he happened to stop by there on the way to your house, you could expect to receive a few chickens or a bag of tomatoes.