To Stan Cowley, of Rafter 6 fame

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 19, 2023

Anyone who regularly watches the Calgary Stampede Parades or Cochrane’s Labour Day Parades will know immediately of whom I speak. He’d come riding in his Rafter Six Ranch’s bright red horse-drawn stagecoach, with many of his family along. Yes, I’m referring to Stan Cowley, the lover of the Old West known far and wide for his generosity of spirit, sense of humour, creativity, and artistic skills, as well as his respect for First Nations. (And yes, his daughter Kateri also happens to be my beloved goddaughter!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my old friend this past week. As we approach winter, two of his cartoons keep coming to mind. A few years ago on a snowy day, he joined me for coffee, and we soon began talking about how the English language loves natural metaphors for making a point. “On thin ice,” for instance, and “getting the drift,” came to mind. Later that day Stan sent me some cartoons he’d just drawn, to add sparkle to our conversation.

But it’s really his commitment to the cowboy lifestyle that most strongly motivated many of his achievements over the years. Most obviously, of course, it’s what inspired him to establish the Rafter Six Guest Ranch west of Cochrane back in the 1970s. That quickly became a meeting place of a world eager to experience the best of Canada’s Old West hospitality.

And cowboy values inspired his personal philosophy of endurance. “You get bucked off?” he’d ask. “Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, get back on, and ride on.” That kind of thinking also showed up in the accompanying cartoon he drew, with the caption, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Well, for the past year, the going’s been especially tough for Stan, 87, in his struggle with health issues. On October 11, tough guy that he’s been, he rode off to his heavenly home. We will miss you, Stan. Thanks for your sojourn with us.


© 2023 Warren Harbeck

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