Dad returned from Alberta about the first of May and we loaded up the stuff again and went to Alsask, unloaded it again to haul sixty miles with horses to the homestead. We left Alsask about 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning and got to a neighbors place about ten miles north of the homestead. Two brothers named Maclntyre, Donald and Malcom, lived there. One had four horses and the other had four oxen. The next day we went to the homestead, unloaded the wagon and went back to the Maclntyres. We borrowed a wagon from there and went back to Alsask the next day, rested the horses a day in town and brought out two loads the next day. We had two cows with us which I think we led behind the wagon but I forget if it was on the first or second trip. The country was bald prairie but had good grass that year. We used to make the trip in a day resting the horses for a couple of hours, letting them graze and feeding them lots of oats.
The Maclntyres went to Oyen which was only thirty miles north of the homestead, (I forget why we couldn't have unloaded there instead of Alsask) and hauled us out a load of lumber to build a 14' x 20' car roofed shack and helped to build it. Dad hired them to break ten acres at four dollars an acre. They brought two outfits, one a horse outfit and the other an oxen outfit and did the job in two or three days and helped build the house too.
There was a rancher whose lease was just across the road allowance east of us and there was no road on it yet. He came in to see us about a month after we got there and said he couldn't believe his eyes when he came by and saw a house and breaking there when about a month ago he had been by and there was nothing. He said he was glad to see someone had moved onto the land because when his stock got out on this side he never knew about it for days, poor guy.
Anyhow, he was plowing a fireguard on our side of his lease that was starting to grass up and he offered us fifty dollars to plow eight miles of it from our place. Eight miles was convenient for us as it was just one round a day which was just a nice days work for the horses. Dad had an eighteen inch stubble plow he had bought in Saskatchewan so it just took five days to do the job. I guess he was just about broke at the time too.
The next thing we had to do was get the family from Saskatchewan as it was getting around July first. Mom had had a baby in June, (her last by the way) and was ready to come. I was the cook of course and as the nearest town was Oyen thirty miles away, I had to learn to bake bread and had dad get some yeast. It was in hard round cakes in a pasteboard container at that time and you had to set the yeast the night before and mix it into dough the next morning. I followed the instructions on the box, made it into loaves which raised nicely, lit a fire and put it in the oven. I never thought about having the oven hot before I put it in and after about half an hour in the oven, I looked in. The bread had fallen flat and wedged itself into the oven so badly that it just about had to be pried off. We had to eat it though as we didn't have much else. I realized my mistake though and after that had very good luck with my bread. I had a twenty-two rifle of my own by this time and I used to shoot jack rabbits, chicken and golden plover strictly for eating purposes I assure you.
We had an old Democrat. I forget whether we brought it from Saskatchewan or got it after we came to Alberta. Anyhow, Dad drove it into Alsask and got the family. There was one rock on the road that stuck up higher than the rest and was easily seen but somehow Dad accidently hit it with a hind wheel and threw mother and the baby out of the wagon. They weren't hurt but my brother Ted who was about nine years old was enraged and said it was the only rock on the road that needed to be dodged and he had to hit it.
Our biggest problem there was to find water. There was a spring in a coulee about two miles south of us from which we had to haul our water and water the stock with. We had two or three barrels on a wagon and chased the cows and led the extra horses for over a year. It used to take half a day, twice a week to haul water.
That first year we had no time to dig a well as we had to put a leanto on the house. We had brought our furniture from the east where they had a much bigger house than they did here so there was no place but outside to put the furniture and the weather was raining on it. We also had to put sod walls outside the house before winter to make it warm enough to live in. We also had to haul enough wood from the Red Deer River (nine miles away) to burn and build a sod barn for the stock and we had to get this all done before the threshing season started as dad had to get all the threshing he could to help get through the winter. The sod had to be plowed from a slough bottom or draw and cut in three foot lengths and laid one row lengthwise and the next one crosswise alternately all the way up, making a wall three feet thick and really warm. I think the barn was sixteen feet by twenty four feet. One had to plow furrows singly so as not to damage sod, so it was a rather slow process but I know my brother-in-law used one of his barns built this way for twenty years. Ours was only used about five years as we got frame buildings by then.
I think there was a fair crop in the country that year and I don't think Dad had to go very far to find threshing. He also bought a mower and horse rake and cut about ten loads of prairie wool which was excellent hay. Fortunately it was a light winter as he had to cut another ten loads in March which, though frozen, was good enough to keep stock alive until spring. He cut all the hay off his own land and it was the only time I ever knew it possible to cut hay during the winter. When there was no snow on the ground, we had to haul water through that winter. If there was snow, we melted it for water. We even carried it into the barn and put it in the horses' mangers. I think we had four horses and two cows to take care of and that was plenty but they were all thin enough by spring. I think we had a few chickens as I seem to remember cleaning up where some neighbors threshed for chicken feed.
The man that located with Dad moved in a couple of months after we did. He came from Sarnia, Ontario but I guess he must have had a little more money along as he built a better house and had a grown son who also took a half section of land. He also had a brother-in-law who was a carpenter who came first and built his house. It was the same size as ours but it was a story and a half giving them an upstairs. They also had two or three more kids but were good workers and were also ready for the winter when it came.
The next year both families petitioned for a school and got one. A 12' x 20' one in which we got youngsters in training for school teachers who would teach during holidays each summer and then the pupils would take government instruction by mail. It seems to me we used to get three months a year. I was above school age I guess as I never went anyhow. I guess I went to work out about that time whenever I could get a job. We got a well in a slough with some water in it twenty feet deep not very far from the house. It furnished enough for the house and watered the workhorses in the summertime. It think it was four feet square and dug by hand of course. We dug a couple of dry ones too. I think we got a small pasture fenced that year too. We also got some oats off our breaking and broke fifteen or twenty acres and cut twenty loads of hay off government land north of us. We also got two calves and had plenty of milk and butter.
That fall, Dad went threshing again and left the hauling of the bundles to us. There were only a few loads and while I was loading them in the field the kids were playing around chasing mice with the dog. One mouse ran across under the wagon while I was moving up to the next stook and my brother Bernard and the dog were after photos I was on the other side of the wagon driving the horses and couldn't see them. Bernard dived under the wagon and one hind wheel ran over him at about the middle of his body. It knocked his wind out and he fainted. We were two or three hundred yards from the house and one of the kids ran up and told mother and she came running down. He was still unconsious and she thought he was dead but he started to come to about then and we took him to the house. There didn't seem to be any broken bones but we were afraid of internal injuries as it was a heavy wooden wheeled wagon with a rack and several stooks of oat bundles on it. The nearest doctor was thirty miles away and there were no telephones that far out of town. There was one man who lived four miles north of us who had been a veterinary surgeon in the British army during the Boer War so mother had me walk over and see photos He came home with me though and said he didn't know what he could do. He couldn't find anything wrong and said as the kid wasn't spitting or passing any blood he doubted if there were internal injuries. As it turned out there weren't and in a few days he was O.K.
We used to chase cattle and idle horses to the spring for water. We had one big bay gelding that had been injured when a he was a colt. He had a roach back and couldn't use his tail. He was very quiet so three of the smaller kids used to ride photos He used to graze all he could during the trip and when they wanted to mount him they would get astride his neck when his head was down, kick him with their heels, he would throw his head up and they would slide down onto his back one at a time but he'd hardly miss a bite of his grazing. In 1915 we had a terrible accident. Four of us went to the spring and Cecil, then twelve years old, was shot in the knee with a twelve guage shotgun and died from the wound. His knee was completely shattered and it was carelessness on my part that caused it. I had been carrying the gun which was old and had a hair trigger on one barrel and the other trigger wouldn't work. Some ducks flew up and I cocked the gun to shoot at them but wasn't quick enough and forgot to let the hammer down. Cecil had snared a gopher and it had got stuck in its hole and he yelled for me to come and help him get it out. I handed the gun to a younger brother and went to help photos He was on his hands and knees and the lad I gave the gun to came running up and threw the gun on the ground and it went off shooting Cecil in the knee. I made a tournequet from a piece of heavy twine I had in my pocket and got the bleeding stopped and sent one of the others home on a horse. A young fellow from Oyen just happened to have called at the house to get directions or something in a model T Ford and he came to the spring, picked up Cecil and took him home. Then he went back to Oyen for the doctor. The doctor was away so he had to wait an hour for him and when he got there, Cecil had died of shock.
We buried Cecil on the farm and he is there yet. We made a headstone and put a concrete slab over his grave several years ago. He was the one who was so sick in the east whom the priest said he felt would never grow up.
I looked after a mans' cattle in the fall 'of 1914 for a month or so while he was away threshing. I had to chase them one and a half miles to water every day and pumped water for them, fifteen head I think, and was paid fifteen whole dollars and my board. He had a widowed sister looking after his house while he was away. She had a little girl and was a good cook, an American whose specialized in cooking Boston baked beans 'and they sure were good.
We used to go to church at Acadian Valley once in a while after I got a car, and we went past a place Barney Doherty had at the time. He had three goats and a pig that followed him when he was choring around the yard. We stopped at his gate and he came out to speak to us. He had just painted his car up that morning or the night before, his pets were following him, and when he came by his car, the goats had to jump up on the hood over the top and down over the trunk one following the other. Being goats, they couldn't go around it. It sure looked funny.
The next year (1915) I worked for a man who lived near Oyen for three months, plowing summer fallow and driving a binder at thirty five dollars a month. He had five girls I remember and was a religious Methodist I think. A good enough guy to work for. Just as I finished working for him, I had a bit of an accident. I'd been up town and was walking back when a man I knew from near home came by in a Ford car, and offered me a ride. I had only about a quarter of a mile to go so I rode on the running board. I think it was my first car ride and when I wanted to get off, I just stepped off as he seemed to be going pretty slow but he was going fast enough to crack my kneecap though I didn't know it at the time. I walked into the house but the next day I couldn't step on that leg and as Dad knew I was through there, he came in for me and took me to the doctor. He taped it and put an elastic support on it. I had to stay off the knee for a week or so but it was alright after that. The guy in the car never knew it happened I don't think.
The next spring I was helping a man who lived twenty miles north of us for a few days and just as I finished up there a recruiting sergeant came along and I joined the army.