February 12, 2019 5:19 pm
Updated: February 12, 2019 6:57 pm

Cow auctioned multiple times to support veteran Alberta cowboy battling health problems

WATCH: Some ranchers in the Calgary area are pulling together to help a veteran cowboy facing a tough challenge. Here’s Gil Tucker on the surprising strategy they’ve come up with and how it all hinges on the long horns of a cow named Molly.


Leading a visitor into his barn, about 20 kilometers north of Strathmore, Alta., rancher Darcy Welsh wastes no time making introductions.

“Here’s this cow, Lester,” Welsh said. “She’s the one down here eating. We call her Molly.”

The Longhorn cow in question is at the centre of a plan to help Welsh’s visitor, Lester Gurnett.

Gurnett is a veteran Alberta cowboy dealing with a tough health challenge.

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“I wear (an) oxygen (tank) almost 24 hours a day,” Gurnett said.

He was diagnosed two years ago with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, commonly known as COPD.

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“In most cases, it just progresses,” Gurnett said.

He’s fighting back by heading across the U.S. border to Montana for stem cell treatments not available in Canada.

“Hopefully we can fix the lungs,” Gurnett said.

But the treatments are pricey and that’s where Molly comes in.

“We’re donating her to Lester for a benefit auction,” Welsh said.

It actually turned into a series of sales at a livestock auction in Strathmore.

“The first person that bought her could’ve taken her home,” Gurnett said. “But he said: ‘No, put her back in and sell her again.’ So, he just donated whatever he paid for her.”

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Many other bidders then followed in the first buyer’s footsteps.

“It was about a dozen times she got sold,” Welsh said. “To raise a grand total of $14,125.”

“That’s a bunch of money,” Gurnett said with a big smile. “That’s a pile!”

The ranchers were happy to be able to help a man who’s been a big part of cowboy life for a long time in the Calgary area.

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“I used to rodeo professionally. I rode saddle broncs,” Gurnett said. “And I’ve probably spent about 50 years of my life in the rodeo business.”

His decades of involvement in the business earned him a spot in the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

“They put me in as a legend,” Gurnett said.

“Oh yeah,” Welsh with a laugh. “He’s a legend!”

The Molly auctions are giving Gurnett a real boost and he’ll be returning to Montana in late February for more treatments.

Ranchers have also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for him.

“Thank you doesn’t seem to be sufficient but I don’t know what else to say,” Gurnett said. “It just blows your mind.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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