In his 88th year of life, Mack Murray left as quietly as he lived. He was a rancher, through and through, and embodied the enigmatic silhouette perhaps romanticized in western pictures, though he’d be the last to envision himself in such a romantic ideal.
“My dad’s whole life was about cattle,” says his eldest child, daughter Anne Lynn Millar.
“Calving and weaning time were what he lived for. He loved putting up hay for the winter. He would have ranched 24/7… but when my brothers got old enough to take over some of the responsibilities, mom put her foot down and said, ‘We’re taking Sundays off.’”
Mack lived and worked on the ranch his father homesteaded, ten miles south of Whitla, Alberta (a ghost town itself 20 miles southwest of Medicine Hat), at one time ranching up to 10,000 sheep before cattle emerged the stock star through the 1950s.
He felt what we’d now probably call an old fashioned connection with the ranching life, enjoying the lowing cattle in the early afternoon as much as the sparkle of the frosted dew on the early dawning pastures he operated with his brother, G.W. (George William) until the next generation came along and shared the ranching roles with their respective fathers.
Mack and Anne were married in 1949. She was 21 and he was 25.
“It was in the spring, and it was lambing time. We had to go out to sheep camp right away after we were married,” says Anne, Mack’s bride of 63 years.
And so went the humble seasons of Mack and Anne’s life together, during which they raised four children, Anne Lynn, Mack II, Stuart and Wayne.
“He was a very good person,” says Anne. “A very kind person.”
Like Mack himself, the legacy of him is a quiet one, with the art of the understatement seemingly a family tradition.
“He was a very private person,” says Anne Lynn. “You’d have to pry to get him to tell you what he was thinking,” she adds, laughing, “And, well, to get him to tell you what he was feeling, you’d have to pry even more.”
His first love was ranching, though many came to know the name Mack Murray through his association with the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede. He began volunteering with the board in 1970, served as president for two years in 1989 and 1990, and had volunteered with the board for a total of 42 years by the time of his passing.
“Mack had every right to brag,” said Bob Porter, fellow rancher and one of Mack’s oldest friends at his funeral service earlier this year in May, “But never once did you hear Mack brag about what he accomplished. I’ve heard other people bragging who had no business bragging… but Mack, he just loved what he did.”
And he did it with as little fanfare as he was willing to give or ask. Which was none.
“He was the kind of guy that when we were little, when we were growing up, learning about riding and ranching, just said, ‘You just get on that horse and chase those cows… and keep your hands off that damn horn,’” remembers Anne Lynn, smiling.
“I wouldn’t have traded my growing up life for anything. I loved it,” she says with the same quiet confidence her dad imbued.
“He was quiet. He never got excited, and he worked hard,” says his widow Anne.
“We had a wonderful life together.”
There’s something sad whenever a beloved family man passes from his earthly travels… but when the likes of Mack Murray leave us, there’s a hollow left in the place he used to fill that in our times, one can’t be sure will ever quite be filled again.