Efird: Justus “Jock” Clinton
Oct. 30, 1927-Aug. 3, 2018
Justus “Jock” Efird, a resident of Valleyview died August 3, 2018, at Grande Prairie Care Centre, at the age of 90 years. He was one of three sons born to B.C. and Marie (Nygard) Efird who homesteaded 16 miles south of Oyen.
You might say we gathered at the funeral to share old hunting stories about Justus Clinton Efird. A hunter looks through a scope to sight prey. In the same way, we all look through a different scope when we describe Jock. Some see him as a friend, some see him as an uncle or brother, some as a grandpa and some as a father.
If you knew Justus well, if you had him properly sighted in your scope, there are some things about him that became clear to see. He was caring, generous, kind, friendly, inquisitive, ambitious, and self-reliant. He was also a survivor.
He learned self-reliance growing up in the prairies of southern Alberta during the Great Depression. He was born on Oct. 30, 1927. On the day he was born, his mother, Marie, felt her labour pains beginning and they went to the hospital. The doctor, however, turned them away, saying the time had not yet arrived. The weary travellers headed for a friend’s farm, which was just a few miles away. The doctor must have wanted to go home for the night because Justus arrived that very night as an unexpected house guest.
He was named Justus Clinton Efird. Justus after his grandfather, Ezra Justus Efird. And Clinton after his uncle, Clinton Efird. Sometime around the age of 10, a farmhand began calling him Jock. We are uncertain how this nickname came about, but it stuck.
He loved school and for a time he lived with a German family in order to be able to attend. After he moved back home, he later rode a horse to school every day. Like many men of his generation, the obligations of work and survival outweighed school at too young of an age. He became a skilled hunter and the game he killed fed his family and many others during those lean years. When he returned to his hometown just a few years ago, he met a relative of one these families. This individual thanked him for what he had done for their family.
Justus told another story about members of his mother’s family who were visiting from Saskatchewan. In preparation for their visit, he went out and shot five antelope. At that time, there was a ban on hunting antelope and the possibility of a very large fine if you were caught. He hid the antelope in a gravel pit until his uncle arrived the next day. On their way to get them, they shot two more. No one went hungry during their visit.
Not only was he a skilled hunter, he also made money breaking wild horses. This was dangerous work and he suffered a broken arm working with one especially rambunctious horse.
At the age of 16, he came down with pleurisy and double pneumonia. He was hospitalized for 28 days. It was during this time that one of his lungs collapsed. He recovered and went back to work on the farm and the loss of the lung did not slow him down for the rest of his life.
At the age of 20, an unfortunate farming accident occurred. He was trying to start a hand-crank tractor when it backfired. The crank struck him in the face, causing extensive damage. He was taken to the closest doctor who felt there was very little hope for his survival but stitched him up the best he could. The community rallied around him and raised funds for him to undergo reconstructive surgery in Calgary. This is a testimony to how he was viewed by his neighbours.
His father felt the best chance of success was at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and did not think surgery in Calgary was likely to be helpful. As a result, the money was not spent on his rehabilitation. Justus believed the money was left at the hospital to help others in need.
Everyone knows how much Justus enjoyed spending time at the coffee shop. One trip to the coffee shop proved to be especially important. It was there that he met a tall, slender, beautiful woman named Doris. They were married in 1958, and he adopted her daughter, four-year-old Nancy. As a newlywed couple, they also took in Justus’ 10-year-old sister, Irene. They shared a one-bedroom home. Things got even more crowded with the arrival of their daughter Lynn.
When Karen was born, it was time to move into a bigger house. At that time, the family moved from Oyen to Excel. Two years later, Laurie was born; three years after that, Brenda arrived; and three years after that, mercifully, a boy was finally born, Kevin.
It was at this time, that Justus made his most ambitious plan yet. He moved the family to New Fish Creek to homestead. Here, he built a new life. They cleared the land and began farming. They also put in a huge garden. Doris would often ask why they needed to plant 60 heads of cabbage. The reason he wanted to plant so much cabbage was so they would have plenty to share. Summer days were filled with preparing for winter. Berries, peas, carrots, beans and potatoes were frozen, canned and stored. His love of gardening was not necessarily shared by the rest of the family, especially when it meant harvesting potatoes in the snow.
The season that brought the most joy and anticipation was fall: hunting season. Justus was a hunting guide for many years. He guided hunters from many different states and Europe. Regular clients became like a second family. Running the guide service also gave him the opportunity to work closely with Kevin, who loves hunting as much as his dad did.
Hunting was an activity he could share with his nephews, sons-in-law and grandsons. He never tired of hunting and shot the biggest moose of his life when he was in his 80s. Despite losing a lung as a young man, he lived an extremely healthy life. He was always fit and was often concocting some sort of home remedy for your every ailment. Never forget to leave a cut onion in your kitchen to help ward off any illness that is going around.
Justus was well known for his friendliness. He loved meeting people and hearing their stories. He always had time to talk, whether at home, at the coffee shop, or on the street.
He will be sadly missed by his children: Nancy (Les) Tonne, Lynn Vanderveen, Karen (Kort) Clair, Laurie (Les) Gehrett, Brenda Efird, and Kevin (Lisa) Efird; as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Jock was predeceased by his wife Doris Efird.
A Memorial Service was held August 25 at 2:00 p.m. at New Fish Creek Community Hall in Valleyview.