Mahlon Bourne, though he raced in Raymond and won the Raymond Businessmen's Derby a number of times, was from Magrath and was a Magrathite through and through. But horse racing was mainly centered in Raymond and Lethbridge, unless you went north to Calgary or out to weekend meets at Trout Springs or Milo, so that was where Mahlon could be found year in and year out from his early teens to his death September 20, 1996.
Mahlon was a big man, but his wife Evelyn (Schmitz) was a small woman, and a proficient exercise rider for many of Mahlon's horses in the early days.
"That's where Elijah got his size from," said Len Bourne, one of the 14 Bourne children - Don, Addie, Manley, Orene, Neil, Elije, Clark, John, Monte, Leonard and daughters Connie and Bessie.
John said his mother had a great love for horses, and heard his uncle, Ira Bourne, say many times that John’s mother was a great jockey and could ride with the best of them in the early 1930s. “Mom went to meets and she rode a lot of races for Dad in the early days,” John said shortly before his passing. “She died here on Dec. 27, 2005. Her and Dad were married 64 years.”
She used to exercise Mahlon’s horses, and one day, while pregnant with Orene, she took a tumble and was kicked in the stomach as the horse galloped away.
"Dad had horses since he was 12 years old. His nickname back then was Tink, and that was the name of one of his first horses,” said Len. "His favourite race horse was probably Flume (half owned with his son John). His final horse was Proud Falcon, and he was one of the stubbornest horses Dad ever had. But you know, he ran, and won, in Lethbridge the day before Dad died, and he ran and won again, the day of Dad's funeral. Dad would have liked that. Proud Falcon was his last winner."
Another top horse was Joe Diamond, and in 1978, Frank Larat rode Joe Diamond to victory at Lethbridge. After the race Larat said Mahlon’s instructions were, “If the horse goes to the front, just keep him there.” Larat later became a trainer but had his life cut short in the mid-1990s when he died in an automobile accident.
Manley Bourne, another son, also gone, said the first reasonably good horses his dad owned were Unrivalled, Well’s Grey and Hi Mont, and he ran them only in Raymond, Magrath and Cardston. “Magrath had a match-box of a dirt track just next to the skating rink when Dad began racing. It was about where the park is today. They’d use it for track and field events and then run the horses on it,” said Manley.
During one of the festive Magrath race weekends there were four Bourne boys riding in the featured race, Manley, Elije, Monte and John.
“I don’t really recall who won, but Monte got dumped off and broke his collar bone,” said John. “Maybe I won, on Glen Holeman’s horse, because they were all mad at me.”
John rode a lot for his dad, at Raymond, Magrath and Taber during the 1950s.
It seems Mahlon was always involved with horses and started out as a Roman rider, in Raymond, Magrath and other small towns. He’d toss off his shoes, riding in his stocking feet. He tied the horses together with a twine, on the saddle stirrups, so they wouldn’t head off in different directions. He usually won. He also tried his hand at chariot racing for a time.
Mahlon tended to have a wild side, and was known to get pretty obnoxious when drinking. “Dad was certainly quite a character,” said John.
Both boys, now gone, acknowledged their father was at ease around horses and was always shoeing them for extra money, ordinary ones or work horses, it didn’t matter.
“He knew horses, and though he wasn’t a vet he was always helping people with their livestock,” said John. “He could pull a calf, give a shot of penicillin, stuff like that.
“He was bright, but it seemed every horse he had he spoiled. They all seemed to be fat and mean, and we kids - from me on down - were stuck with working with them.
“Me, Max and Elijah would ride them in races. It seemed we all rode and trained them, and Dad was always giving us hell. Even when it was the horse's, or someone else’s fault, we got hell.”
Mahlon, who was born August 6, 1908, ran mainly in southern Alberta, sometimes venturing south to Great Falls and east into Regina. He didn’t stray away too far. All the while Mahlon was running horses he maintained a seven-day a week job, working on Art Riries’ cattle and sheep farm, a job he held for at least forty years.
Manley said a lot of Mahlon’s horses were castoffs from Ted Meeks, the prominent Raymond horseman. One of those horses was Silent Marquis.
“He ran in Lethbridge, but he bucked like an S.O.B. There were no starting gates in Raymond and the other towns then, and he’d buck before the start and half the time when he started running, he’d buck. I was training with him once and he bucked me off. My foot caught in the stirrup and he dragged me, but I still had hold of the reins, and I yanked him around and I fell free. He ran off home. ‘
Max later rode him in races, but he was pretty hard to handle, even for him.
“Dad had Bold Onslaught and another Silent horses, Silent Messenger. Really, those Silent horses just had cheap speed. But Dad won the Magrath Derby three years in a row with Silent Messenger, and got to keep the trophy.’
By the time Mahlon was ready to bring horses into Lethbridge he was involved with some other horsemen, like Ron Siebetz and Leonard Mehew at times.
If anyone asked Mahlon about the highlight of his racing career, as like as not he would have told you of the time involving Star K Lady in a race in Lethbridge, about 1978.
Elijah was mounted on his Dad’s horse, and as they left the gate the bridle was rubbed off, and Elijah was left without a steering wheel.
“Elije just kept riding,” said brother Manley. “He’d tap that horse on the neck or head with his hand to keep him running straight, or to turn him, and they just kept running. Best of all, they won!”
Elijah was certainly the most prominent of the Bourne boys when it came to riding, and was most always a fixture on Mahlon’s horses at Lethbridge - except when the two were fighting.
Elije and Dad were both alike, that's why they didn't get along… but no matter what Elije did, Mom stuck up for him, John said with a laugh as he as he explained his brothers and fathers volatile relationship.