Canadian Cattle Woman
|Marjorie riding her pony, Trixie, at the
Anderson Ranch – 1944
Photo courtesy of Linthicum Family
Marjorie Helan Linthicum was one of the most respected cattle women in the Canadian West.
Born during a blizzard on the LA Ranch on Feb. 22, 1936, she was the 12th child of 13 born to Leonard and Aquina Anderson, who lived on Rock Creek south of Fir Mountain, Sask.
Horses were the transportation of the day. Like every other kid in the area, Marjie rode to school. In those days, there was no such thing as summer holidays; school ran all year round. Once winter settled in, her mother would move to town to look after their older children who attended high school.
Marjie’s interest remained with the ranch. After graduation, she returned home to work alongside her father and two of her brothers. Ranching was, and still is, hard work: riding at calving time; sorting and moving cattle; plus she did a lot of the farming, putting up grain bales and green feed. They didn’t have hay land; it was all cropland that had to be seeded and harvested year after year.
Her father decided to let the ranch out on shares “and I was to be part of it,” Marjie is quoted in the book, A Voice of Her Own. A bona fide pioneer, she became one of the first women in Saskatchewan to become a full partner, with a written contract, in a ranch with her father and two brothers, Carl and Jim, in 1959.
The landmark decision caused quite a stir in the community and later, even at the Canadian Wheat Board. “It created problems because it had never been done,” she said. “Women weren’t supposed to be able to do it (ranching).”
When Marjie had extra grain – she would sell it. This led to her infamous run-in with the Canadian Wheat Board. In order to sell grain, the seller needs a quota book. The Wheat Board official said a woman could not have a quota book. The elevator agent knew Marjie and sided with her; he righteously drove the Wheat Board official out to the ranch to prove to him that Marjie could, indeed, drive a tractor. She got her quota book and sold her grain.
“I think I have had better opportunities because I was a girl. My dad was getting older and I was more his pace, so he could take me with him and it was easier for him to set the pace with me,” she once said.
The following year, she married Frank Linthicum on Oct. 22, 1960. Frank was in partnership with his father and brother, and Marjie had land and cattle of her own. “So I just took them with me,” she said. Together, Frank and Marjie raised their five children: Louise, Laurie, Murray, Melody and Neal.
|Marjorie Linthicum on the 1996 Western Stock Growers Centennial Cattle Drive
Photo courtesy of Linthicum Family
She believed her first obligation was to her family, but there was still ranch work to be done. “I didn’t want to be tied to a hired man, to cook for them and wash for them so I found it easier to have a hired girl.” She also found it easier to get the work done alone “than to have a hired man under my feet all the time.”
In 1976, Marjie wrote eloquently in favour of ranching at the proposed Grasslands National Park hearings. “I appreciate and respect first flowers in the spring, the wide starlit sky and the night winds whistling.… I know what it’s like to ride all day and never encounter another person, to have a faithful horse bring me 16 miles home through a blinding storm.… I am as much a part of this land as the coyotes and the gophers.”
Today, Saskatchewan boasts the first national park of Canada to preserve a portion of the mixed prairie grasslands.
A life member of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association as well as a long-time member of the Canadian Hereford Association, Marjie was the first woman asked to judge the Commercial Cattle Show at the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina in 1993. “I guess they thought I had a good opinion of cattle,” she said.
In 1997, both Marjie and her husband Frank were inducted into the Saskatchewan Livestock Association Honour Roll.
Marjorie Linthicum died at home on the ranch in 2003, a trailblazer of the Canadian cattle industry.
“I am as much a part of this land as the coyotes and the gophers.”
Special thanks to my friend and Marjorie’s sister, Thelma Poirier. Quotes from a Voice of Her Own published by University of Calgary Press.