Cowboys are my Weakness

One of the world’s greatest cowboys, Mack Bryson, has died. As with all great people, the list of things at which he excelled is very long. All I can do is attempt to describe the man I knew.

To me Mack was a ringleader, alongside my father of countless adventures. Our families vacationed together, visited one another and shared so much history. His passing feels like the end of an era, which brings back some of the best memories of my childhood. My husband told me that when he saw Mack and my father horsing around at a rustic resort on Vancouver Island called Yellowpoint, probably playing contact croquet or bocce ball, he got a sense of what my childhood was like. It was epic. And Mack was a larger than life figure.

My memories of being crammed into a station wagon with the Bryons, our family and usually a dog, are epic. There were lots of jokes, yelling, someone blaming the dog for the stink in the car when in fact the odor was of human origin. I remember breakfasts at the Bryson house with Mack flipping pancakes, yelling at us to come get it or we’d lose out. Kids ran all over the house. Dogs barked. The Bryson house was many things but quiet wasn’t one of them, at least when the Oaksmiths were there.

There was a garden in Kamloops were we could pick corn to go along with the steaks Mack grilled. Visits to their ranch included horseback rides which were a rare treat for this city girl. One time a horse wouldn’t behave, acting annoyed to have my nine year old self on his back. Mack swooped in and rode that poor horse up and down a hill so steep it looked like a cliff to me. He thundered down on the horse, stopping on a dime in front of me and jumped off. “He’ll behave now,” Mack said, boosting me up. Of course the horse did.

Mack didn’t walk into a room. He took it by storm. He always had a twinkle in his eye and never failed to tell all the ladies how nice they looked. The young men were always declared “handsome fellahs” and complimented on their firm handshakes. Mack was one of those people, like my father, who make you feel good about yourself. My father and Mack were a comedy routine. They horsed around like a pair of kids, making their wives roll their eyes but both ladies knew they’d signed on to a grand adventure when they married them and life would never be dull.

Although Mack and my dad formed a strong friendship it was the wives that became friends at University of British Columbia some sixty years ago. It’s a friendship that has spanned countries and decades and led them together to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and on so many car trips it’s impossible to count, including one across Canada to Expo in the 1960’s. Both couples formed the kind of friendship that is the stuff of great novels. It endured.

If friendship and love are, as I believe, the meaning of life, then Mack Bryson had life all figured out. He left behind so many friendships, loved ones and people who knew, in his presence, that he was a rare and special man. So here’s to the handsome cowboy that cut a wide swath of admirers and taught us all a lesson on how to live and love.


Ellyn Oaksmith is the USA Today bestselling author of 50 Acts of Kindness and other books. She’s an eternal optimist, dog lover and always plotting something. Join her newsletter for free books, new releases and great reading suggestions. 

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