Neale Daniels is a man to be envied! As he looks back over his three score and ten years (plus eleven beyond that!), there’s not a whole lot he’d change. He’s had a good life...a good wife...and good kids!
He was born towards the end of the Great Depression, the son of a farming couple. Being born in that era largely shaped who Neale is. Memories of warplanes, soldiers and Depression hardships have influenced how he handles money and how he treasures life. He kissed school goodbye after Grade 10 – he wanted to be a cowboy and couldn’t see how additional education would help prepare him for that. There weren’t too many career options in those days anyway – the oil boom had not yet hit the area. He could have headed north to work for Hudson’s Bay, or put on a suit and tie to work for the bank, or holster up a gun to uphold law and order with the RCMP. But what were those compared to being a cowboy!
With his career path decided, he got ‘hitched’ to a young lady named Gail whom he’d met at a dance in Melita...and the family began. First a son –Todd – and then a daughter – Brandi. The family tree has grown since then - today Neale and Gail have four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
In those early years, he worked for Dad on the family farm – watching the cows, maintaining the fences and ridding the land of gophers. In his later years Neale became a ‘gopher’ himself – the farm ‘go-fer’!
He avoids tractors and combines– his specialty is his John Deere Gator. He doesn’t like the technology
of bigger equipment! Sports never really interested him – what was the point of chasing after golf balls, baseballs and hockey pucks?
What did interest him was horses – how he loved horses! They have been a source of countless memories for Neale. For instance, his many horse rides along the Boundary Commission Trail. It extends for hundreds of miles from Emerson, MB to Fort MacLeod, AB. Neale has ridden most of it, pulling a overed wagon with a team of horses. He would take a week and cover about one hundred miles of the trail, traveling with as many as 800 other horses that made up a caravan four miles long! The covered wagon was home on these adventures. He last rode in 2013 – he was thrown from a horse while rounding up cattle and broke his hip...serious riding came to a crashing halt.
He still rides casually in Riding Mountain National Park – his favourite place in the world! These rides combine Neale’s love for horses with his love for nature.
Another fond ‘horse memory’ comes from 2007. The movie The Stone Angel was being produced and Neale and his horses were invited to Hartney where two scenes were being shot. Clad in cowboy garb rom the early 1940s, alas, only Neale’s horses and Neale’s leg made it to the big screen! His fifteen minutes of fame went as high as his belt buckle! Why? Neale was sporting a pair of tinted glasses – an ‘accessory’ that was not around in the 1940s! He did find some consolation – while the other ‘extras’ dined on soup and sandwiches, Neale, the owner of the star horses and the star leg, feasted on steak!
Neale’s love of horses and cowboys took him to the rodeos. His Depression-Era frugality prevented him from participating but he watched at Stampedes in Calgary and Morris.
Neale’s love for nature and the outdoors has taken him places. Besides Riding Mountain National Park, Neale has been to Churchill to watch polar bears and Beluga whales. He regularly travels to the Minitonas area to sit by or on the lake, fishing with his grandsons. He also enjoys hunting deer, ducks and prairie chickens for nourishment...and gophers for sport!
He is also a history buff – one of those guys who stops at roadside historical markers to see what piece f history unfolded there. On his 80th birthday, he literally became a part of history – his family presented him with a book that detailed the history of Neale’s life!
Neale has been an active resident of Pierson. He served as a Municipal Councillor in the 80s and 90s during difficult years of high interest rates, farm foreclosures and dry spells. He kept getting re-elected – he must have done something right! He finally retired in 1995 to devote time to his ailing parents! He has served on several boards and continues to be a member of the Cemetery Committee...and likely will, until he ‘moves’ there! He is still an active member of the HRCGG – the Heritage Restaurant Coffee Gossip Gang!
Only one thing surpasses Neale’s love for horses, nature and history; his love for his family; his love for Gail, his wife of 56 years. Although she may not share his love for history, she and Neale share in their love for everything else...especially horses!
And that’s Neale Daniels saddled up for you – a man who has truly loved the life he’s led!