Epilogue - 1919
Back at Homesteading
On returning to Alberta in 1919 I found Dad had built a new house and barn. He also had drilled two deep wells without finding any water and had gone a few thousand dollars in debt.
As I was rusty in my knowledge of farming methods, I took what the government called a farm mechanics course. Internal combustion motors were just coming in then and we young fellows were pretty enthusiastic about them. The course was for three months but I only took six weeks on the subjects of motors and blacksmithing. The latter was very important then because we lived so far from town and had only horse transportation and electric welders needed electric power which was not available to rural areas for some twenty-five years after that.
The government was giving raw land and loans to returned men then, but our area was not recommended as it was getting dry and starting to drift. They offered to buy land and start me up in the Red Deer area. Of course I should have accepted that as that proved to be a very good farm area but Dad had put good buildings on what he had and we thought we could make out there until we got the debts paid off anyhow. We did too, but it took twenty years. I took a soldier's grant on the south half of the section he had which had been homesteaded by a man and his wife who were just leaving when I returned from the war. It had a fairly level flat in a coulee bottom that didn't have any rocks on it. I broke about sixty acres on it and more on Dad's preemption until I finally had about two hundred acres altogether, as Dad quit farming when I came home.
I bought a blacksmith blower for twenty-six dollars new, built a forge, got a piece of railroad iron for an anvil, bought a leg vice from Eatons, a blacksmith hammer and tongs and I was in business. I sharpened my own plowshares, did my own welding, got a set of taps and dies in Woolworths that threaded up to half inch bolts and burrs, and made punches and chisels from tool steel and model T Ford magnets which made excellent cold chisels as they were really hard. I used that blacksmith outfit until I retired, except that I got a proper anvil twenty years later. As a matter of fact, I have it yet.
My oldest sister got married while I was overseas and two of the kids went back to Saskatchewan to get a better education. My brother Ted was working on a ranch so there were only five of us living on the farm, the two youngest children, Dad, Mother and I. Dad had built a big house, for the early west, two full storeys, a veranda on two sides of it and eleven windows altogether, a cellar and lath and plaster all through on the inside. I forget what size it was, perhaps twenty by twenty six or something like that.
I bought a two inch test auger that was twenty five feet long and went testing for water around a couple of sloughs in my pasture and after three tries I found a good well at twenty two feet, about a quarter of a mile from the building, and watered up to forty head in it without trouble. I ran into a bunch of rocks in the bottom where the water came out so I don't think it was seepage from the slough. I used it for fifteen years and it never changed. It was nice water too!
However, the country kept too dry, but we managed to get enough to live on until it started to blow. Crops were blown out or buried from blowing summer fallow; as more land was cultivated. The dry years kept the grain from growing but the Russian thistle always seemed to get enough moisture in the Spring to develop and blew around with the wind after they ripened and piled up against barb-wire fences. If the fences didn't go down from the pressure, they trapped the soil and buried the fences. If the grass happened to get six inches high, it was covered up by blowing soil. The year before I moved up north, I drove up in my car and stayed up here for two or three weeks. There was an open quarter six miles north of me that a dim trail angled across. It was getting dark when I got there and the grass, which was about four or five inches tall, was completely covered up. It looked like a worked field. I had gotten lost at first. It was the worst , I think, that I had ever seen. Of course that was fifteen years after I started to farm there.
The year before that I was summerfallowing with a Fordson tractor and I saw a black cloud obscure my neighbors buildings half a mile northwest of me. I had about a hundred yards to go to get to my own buildings and the cloud hit me before I got there. I had to stop and leave the outfit because I couldn't see the edge of my last round. You will probably think I'm exaggerating but I'm not. I was batching that year. I went to the house but the dust was blowing in around the windows through cracks you couldn't see and the house was quivering enough that I went out and laid in the cowshed which was partly dug into a bank and only about four feet above the ground on the north end. The big winds always came from the Northwest. I kept my car in there (it was a 1926 Model T Ford by the way). It was about 3:30 when the wind came up and it stopped about 6:30 I think.
The soil drifting was caused by improper farming as we used to keep summerfallow black and smooth to conserve moisture. It went with a wind like fine snow. A farmer invented a cultivator with six blades on it that cut the weeds off three or four inches under the ground and left the weeds and trash on top undisturbed so the wind couldn't move the soil. To look at a field after it had been worked with this cultivator, you'd think it hadn't been worked but after a couple of dry days, the weeds would be standing there dead. You'd have to give it another application in a month or two but thats all. The only thing about that cultivator is that it didn't work good in rocks. There you have to use a deep tillage cultivator and leave it pretty rough.
I don't think the wind blows as bad as it used to now. Trees have grown in the sloughs and every place has a shelter belt.
Well, to go back to the days when I was farming, we could get ten or fifteen bushels to the acre on the average and a thirty or forty bushel crop once in a while. In 1927, I harvested forty bushels on one hundred acres. I think it was a fair price that year also. I bought a small, second hand Case separator and a model T Fordson tractor in partnership with a neighbor and we did our own threshing. It was a three team size separator. My partner was an Englishman and was too old to run an outfit, so I bought out his share a year later and did my own threshing and a couple of outside jobs to get teams. By 1929 the country went drier than ever and the grain was so short we had to cut it loose and make a little elevator to carry it from the binder onto a rack with a low side on it. The bigger operators bought ten foot swathers that the horses pushed ahead of them. Of course the depression started then and you couldn't get anything for your produce. Thats when the exodus started.
I'm not going to talk about that time much. We just grew enough food to eat. It took about all you could grow to do that but we got enough to eat and didn't actually suffer any. I sold nine good steers for eighteen dollars apiece and half grown pigs for five dollars each. I remember we ran out of grub once and took three nice wiener pigs in the democrat and headed for Oyen and pedaled them on the way to farmers for five dollars each. Then we went into town and bought one hundred pounds of flour, 20 lbs. of rolled oats, 20 lbs. of sugar and one pound each of tea and coffee and returned home with one dollar and fifteen cents out of fifteen dollars. Our larder consisted of beef, pork, eggs, milk and butter. We had no fruit except for Saskatoon berries, a box of prunes once in a while and cheap dried apples. We came through O.K. though.
We had a Constable Murphy in Oyen and of course people didn't worry too much about going into town in their cars or trucks without licences and parking their vehicles. Murphy, knowing the situation and circumstances, was as lenient as he could be but when they started parking in the street in front of his office he had to put his foot down (he had something to do with relief applications I guess) and one day, when several farmers were in his office with their vehicles parked out front, he gave them a lecture and said he was going to start pinching them for driving without a licence. "I haven't got time to run all over town looking for unlicenced vehicles but I won't have parking on my street and that's final," he said. One or two in our area managed to get plates and when someone had to go to town (no one went any more than was necessary) they borrowed the plates. This same constable told me he nearly got in bad trouble once with a Russian named Mike who lived near me. He was pretty odd in his head and got violent once, and he had to take him to Calgary. As he seemed docile when he got him, he didn't bother handcuffing him, put him in the back seat of his car and took off. When he was about twenty miles from home he glanced in his rearview mirror and saw Mike just getting ready to crown him with his jackhandle. He said he was breaking regulations by trying to move him alone so he went back and got a man to go with photos He said he was sure fooled that time. He'd known Mike for quite a while and thought he was practically harmless.
This Mike had a Rumely threshing outfit. I was helping him thresh one time and the tractor stopped. It was a single cylinder model. After I had rested on my load for awhile I went to see what was wrong and he was poking a screwdriver around between the cylinder head and the block. "Oh," he said, "the head gasket blew out but I've just about got it plugged up with a rag and we'll be ready to go again". His tractor was still there the following spring I noticed.
We had an old Irishman living there called Tom Murray. He was the most stubborn and ornery man I ever knew to talk to. It didn't matter what you said to him, it was wrong and he would tell you why. He liked nothing better than getting your goat and was always asking questions and gossiping, but he had a heart of gold and wouldn't do anything to harm anybody really. I asked him once why he left Ireland. "oh, I don't like to talk about it. I had to leave in the night", he said. One time he asked me if I was the oldest in the family. I told him I was and he said the oldest one is always spoiled. I said "Where were you in your family"? He said "oh, I was the oldest." We had some cattle rustling trouble one year and had cattle detective roaming around. He came to me one day and asked if I had sold any cattle recently. I said no. "Have you lost any"? "Not that I know of". "Have you checked your cattle lately"? I said no. He said there was one sold as unbranded that had your brand on it. We know who sold it and we would like you to appear in court to testify against him so we can prosecute photos I said it was probably someone who got one of mine by mistake. He said no, that they'd been watching him for some time and they know what's been going on. If you appear we can convict him and give him two years. If you don't appear, we can only fine him and get you a fair price for your animal provided you identify the description we have of the cow. This I could do as I recognized the animal from the description and brand. When he mentioned the rustler's name I knew photos He had visited me a few days before and asked me about my cattle, and had I missed any. The cattle were running on open range and we didn't check them for months at a time. The detective asked me to go with him to show him a road somewhere, I forget where now. We went by this old Tom Murray's place and he asked me if I knew photos I said yes, he was quite a crank but I didn't think he would hurt anybody intentionally. He said he had questioned him about everybody around here and he wouldn't say anything against anybody but he said there are some people around here that you think are your friends but are your enemies. I said I know that too so he said no more about it.
We had quite a few stampedes through the country in those days and had one in our local town of Bindloss one year. There was a hotel there and the boys got lots of beer. A couple of the neighbors whose first names were Bill and Andy, both married men, got wrestling in the beer parlor and Andy accused Bill of tearing his pants and was a bit peaved at him as he had no other pants with photos Bill said "I'm sorry Andy, I didn't mean to do it but we'll get a needle and thread (his brother ran the Hotel) and I'll sew them up for you': "All right", Andy said, "but you've got to sew them with a baseball stitch as thats the only kind that will hold." So Bill got a needle and thread and a chair and Andy laid across his knee. Bill sewed up his pants right there in the barroom.
I saw a cow puncher come out on a broncho and slide off backwards on the first jump. He sat down exactly in the chute gate and gawked at the horse until the gate men pulled him away so they could close the gate. He was just too tight to move himself. I think it was the shortest ride in history.
I was driving down the street in an old Model T Ford when it suddenly stopped moving. The motor was still running and I looked back and saw two men holding it up with the hind wheels off the ground, laughing like hell. Of course I did too.
My brother Ted was working on the ranch across the road from me. One day he and Sol Buillion came in about three o'clock in the afternoon and wanted something to eat. Dad and I were batching at the time and Dad said all we could get easily was eggs. "That's good enough. We can eat anything" they said. "How many can you eat"? dad asked. Ted said he could eat six and Sol said he could eat a dozen so dad fried eighteen eggs and they cleaned them all up, made a smoke and were ready for work again.
My brother-in-law had a threshing rig near Buffalo. He was stopped for something and the two boys whose teams were at the machine were passing badinage at each other. The separator was idling and the Ukrainian boy, always up to something, threw his cap into the machine and it went right through and out the blower, undamaged. The other boy, who was an Englishman recently out from England, thought that was funny so he took off his straw hat and flung it in. It came out in just a few straws, he was short a hat and everybody laughed.
Another time we were threshing stacks at my brother-in-laws place and for afternoon lunch my sister served hot biscuits with butter and Rogers Golden Syrup. Frank Logan, a local lad, was eating biscuits and syrup after the rest had finished. My sister asked him if he'd like something else and he said "Oh no, I'm just trying to get my biscuits and syrup to work out even."
One summer dad and I were working on the road about three miles north of home. Mother was alone and we had left the saddle horse tied in the barn with the saddle on. Mother went into the barn for some reason and the horse whinnied at her. She thought he wanted a drink so, as he was already saddled up, she decided to ride him to the well a quarter of a mile away and water photos She never did much riding and neglected to tighten the saddle cinch. When she mounted him, the saddle turned and she fell off and broke her arm. I guess it happened just after noon and we didn't get home until about seven o'clock or so. She laid on the couch for four hours with a broken arm. I had taken a bit of first aid in the army, and as it wasn't a bad break I could have set and spliced it for her but she wouldn't let me so I had to ride to Bindloss sixteen miles away and phone the doctor in Empress. He came out in his car and took her to the hospital the next morning. She was sixty one years old at the time and the doctor thought she might have trouble getting it to knit, but she didn't. He also couldn't understand why a woman that old, who wasn't used to riding a horse, should try to do it anyhow.
Our house had one large room ten feet by twenty with fir flooring in it which we kept well oiled and was very popular for dancing. We had many dances in it as there were no halls in the country nor in the local towns at the time.
Some of the boys used to drink some, especially the ranch hands who considered themselves cowboys. They were too, of course. One, whose first name was Tom, was prancing around and doing tricks. He fell through an open window that was right over an outside entry to the cellar and broke a pane of glass out of it. He was showing off to his girlfriend who was awfully embarrased. She wouldn't speak to him for the rest of the evening, but she married him eventually so I guess she got over it.
My youngest sister took nursing training in Edmonton. She was sent to St. Paul to a hospital there, where she developed yellow jaundice and had to quit training for a year and return home. As I was getting fed up with the prairie (this was in 1929) my brother Gerald, who had sold some badger hides recently, let me talk him into driving up in a car I had to see the country and bring Cathy home. We got to Wainwright the first night, intending to stop over night (it was about dark) and found it had been burnt out the night before and there was no place to stay so we had to go to Vermilion. It was dirt road all the way then and was a bit muddy but we made it there in a couple of hours and stayed in an autocamp (trailer park) . The next morning we went on to St. Paul over a dirt road full of holes filled with water. I was driving a 1923 Chev 490 then and you had to watch that the water didn't splash up on the fly wheel which was poorly protected, and wet the leather faced clutch, making it slip, in which case you had to dry it off before you could go again. I always carried a little can of ground resin and lifted the moveable floor board and threw a little on the clutch leathers and you were away again. The water had to be about a foot deep to bother but there were a lot of places on that road where it was. I went through one hole that had a big rock in the rut that was covered with water. When the front wheel jumped over it, the jar knocked the top windshield loose on one end and it fell off and broke. Going through those deep holes full of water on a dirt road you had to drive fairly fast to be sure to get through so it was quite a bump alright. The motor got a little hot from running in second so much. I stopped at a farmer's place to get some water and when he saw the windshield he said "I bet you done that on this road here. I've been after the municipality to do some work on it. I want you to sue them for damages. I know you'd get it too".
At that time it was solid bush from Vermilion to St. Paul. We made it by noon though and darned if it wasn't burnt out from the Savoy Hotel west for a couple of blocks. We stayed there overnight, got Catherine and headed home the next day. (oh, I got a windshield put on for four dollars and didn't have to sue the municipality after all). We got back to Vermilion that day and stayed overnight. We got Cathy a room and we slept in the autocamp, (we had bedding with us) and got home by night. I was firmly satisfied that I didn't want to move up there but two years later a cousin of mothers, Jack Kavanagh came down and talked us into it as he was starting up here at Lindbergh. Dad went up with him and they both came back. He had a son the same age as Gerry and the only prospect Gerry had in the south was to be a cowboy. He was 18 I think so we loaded up a car and mother went with him and Jack. She bought a quarter section from the local doctor who had received it from a patient who died on him and left him his farm as he had no one to leave it to. He had ran up a large doctor bill before he died. Cathy went back to the St. Paul Hospital and worked there for several years.
I remained in the south until 1937. I had some cattle; I forget how many. I know I got four hundred dollars for the bunch when I left. That was in 1936.
Cathy, my sister, kept house for me for a couple of years after mother and Gerald left. Then she got a chance to nurse up north and took it so I had to batch. I think dad stayed with me part of the time anyway. We got some ten bushel crops but I didn't remember any good ones after 1927. Of course I was selling a few cattle every year and finally managed to get the debt paid up. I kept driving up north every year but the depression stayed with us. Of course it was just as bad up north, worse probably as it was in a more primitive state than the south. However, things would grow and there was enough rain but it was a country and slow to get established in. The only way to cut bush was with an axe and ten acres a year was about all one man could cut, burn and stump. Trees over six or seven inches in circumference had to be cut high and grubbed and pulled with a chain. How much grubbing you had to do depended on how much power you had. If you had a tractor it was about twice as fast as a team. After you got the little ones out you had to pull down the big trees which took lots of grubbing. A good big tractor was best for that. Grubbing involved getting a ten or twelve foot ladder to put a light cable on the tree about twelve feet up and pulling until you spun your tires and cut off the root that was holding, pulling again to cut another. After you got two or three it usually came.
We hired Indians to cut and pile the small stuff (which was the most of it) for around six to ten dollars an acre, when we could get them which was not always possible. l traded a few horses for brushing as that was Indian transportation in those days and they seemed to be on the road most of the time in the early years.
They put a bridge across the Red Deer River a few years before I moved up north as a relief project and everyone who wanted to work was given two weeks work on it. As there weren't so many wanted to work after I had put in my time, I stayed until they finished. The bosses weren't keen on changing gangs all the time because whatever they were doing it was awkward and slower when they lost their men just after they had them broke in. I was working with a gang buttressing the end piers with rocks to keep the water from washing around the ends of them and cutting the bank out. The rocks had to taper in towards the top for appearances sake so it required a little skill to do a nice job. The boss was reluctant to lose any of his men when it was time for me to go. After that was done no one came looking for a job so I stayed on until the end. I made over one hundred dollars which was quite a lot of money then when wheat was forty cents a bushel.
I rode into town with a horse rancher when I got that job. He was a big fellow whose name was Cud Howe. He had a bronco he was breaking hooked up with a trip-rope, on his first drive to town. When one of us lesser men would have been driving him in an open field or on the prairie, Cud was driving him on a none too wide road. I offered to hold the trip rope for him but he said he was used to doing it alone. He put it over one shoulder, down under his other arm and around his waist, and when the bronc would try to run or kick, Cud leaned back to throw the bronc on his nose before he could leave the road. The bronc was tied firmly to the other horse who also knew his job, but after about two miles the horse was working fairly well.
One day I went down to see about something at the ranch across the road. It was owned by W.D. Maclenan at that time. I stayed late playing cards and it started to blow and snow outside. Mrs. Mclenan wanted me to stay overnight but it was quite mild out and mother was home alone so I decided to go as it was only about four miles and I thought the horse would get me home safely. I found the first gate O.K. about a mile from the buildings. The wind was in the northwest and I had to go straight west. Somehow the mare I was riding went sout~ west and I wound up at a place that a former ranch owner used for a cattle dip, though there was no dip there now. I ran into the creek bottom. It had brush patches in it, was about five feet deep so I stopped in one, made a fire and camped for about six hours until morning. The brush was small and I had to keep breaking it off to keep the fire going but I was fairly comfortable. During the storm I had no idea what part of the creek I was in or I might have followed it to the fence and followed the fence home. The storm ceased at daybreak and I went home. Mother never even missed me. She thought I had come home and gone to bed.
In 1936, my wagon wandered off the road in a similar storm, but colder, while I was coming home from Bindloss with a ton of coal and a few hay bales. I was batching then and as I was just lucky to wander back onto the road I got a bit scared and decided life was too short for that kind of existence and definitely decided to pull out. By that time my nearest neighbors were all gone.
I never regretted leaving there either. In the winter of 1935-36, the people from up north gathered up a carload of vegetables and shipped them down into that area (the railroad hauled them free) and the train men said they were astonished at people taking out free vegetables in trucks and cars while the people who donated them hauled them in with horses, oxen and some even carried them on their backs. The people who were getting them didn't have any other form of transporation at that time, and the people who grew the vegetables probably didn't have roads they could drive a car or truck over anyway.
In the spring of 1936 I had two or three hogs that were fit to sell. As they were hardly worth hauling to town as you were lucky to pay the shipping bill out of the returns, I thought I'd butcher one and send it up to Gerald and mother so I shipped it to St. Paul. I don't think there was a freight shed at Elk Point yet. I was short of money at the time so I shipped it collect. I think the freight was around five dollars and Gerald said he could have bought one for four and a half dollars so I hadn't done him much of a favour after all
As I had decided to move out, I only sowed sixty acres of summerfallow that spring and it came up nicely. When it was about four inches high, a dust storm came along and buried most of it but we got a shower and in a week or two it was about four inches high again. Then another dust storm came along and buried it again. I gave up then and decided to come north and try to get a place. I traded a guy a team of horses and harness for a quarter of land with thirty acres broke on it. It was on tax sale so I paid him two hundred dollars cash besides and he came down to help me move up.
I had a hip-roofed barn down there with a loft in it1 good shingles on it and shiplap walls, all made of good lumber. We tore it down, bunched up the shingles hauled everything half way to Oyen. I had quite a bit of machinery; a binder, drill, double disk, harrow and small threshing outfit, lumber, one wagon and a 1926 Ford touring car I had remodelled to a truck. It was getting old but had spent five years in garages and was running well. I had a flatcar for a truck and threshing outfit. As I said before, we got everything half way to Oyen in the fall. Then I stayed with my belongings until after Christmas, hauled it to Oyen and loaded it on the railway cars. I traded the house to Finnerty, the guy I was staying with, for two heifers which I sold to a cattle buyer there for twenty dollars apiece. I paid my expenses with that. It wasn't much for a house that cost two thousand dollars to build and was as good as it ever was.
At that time there was a farm pumphouse in Oyen where farmers who had to stay in town overnight used to sleep to save hotel bills. Dad had borrowed a shire stud horse from a fellow who lived northeast of us the year before to breed some of his mares. He had about three or four I think. He had done this without my knowledge and I had made arrangements to run them with Mclenans studs. This horse Dad got was dangerous to handle so I left him in the barn for a month and then took him home. He was a big black Shire, Maclenan had one that was the same, and we got three black colts. Gerald had chased them north with another lad who had some horses also. The owner of the horse Dad had used saw them going by and was in town when I pulled out He hit me up for some money for his colts. I told him I hadn't used the stud but he didn't believe me and I was pretty grouchy about it. I only had thirty dollars left or I would have given him something.
However, after noon, just before the train left I was paying a bill and I found I was ten dollars short so I couldn't help thinking he got something for his horse after all. I arrived in Lindbergh with two dollars in my pocket so maybe I didn't need it. I arrived in Lindbergh on January 6, 1937. There was a lot of snow up here It seems to me I used the sleighs on my last load down there too. When I got to Lindbergh it was pretty late in the afternoon. I unloaded the truck at the loading platform and started for home. I got stuck in the snow on what was called the Frisbee's hill, left the car there and came home with a team that had come in to meet me. We went back the next day to get the things out of the car. Lindbergh was quite a town at that time. It had three stores, a lot of houses and a few local fellows made a living in the winter cutting wood and hauling down there. I had a few extra horses that I traded for feed as a few people needed horses but had no money. We were back to the old barter system and it worked out fine. Gerald needed a new house and had been getting lumber out for it so we used the lumber I brought up and got the house liveable the first year I was here. Jack Kavanagh was a fair carpenter and we built a pretty good house. The second winter I got my first logging experience. There was some spruce and poplar logs left although most of the timber had been cut before I came. It had been about the main industry for quite a few years I think. Ted and Gerald dealt into a small lumber saw which we used for a year or two using my Fordson tractor. As we could only saw three thousand feet a day with it, Ted soon got a bigger one and Gerry and I got a bigger tractor to break land with. Then Ted got a bigger tractor for sawing and he had a pretty good sawing outfit for the last year or two. We sawed over a hundred thousand feet I'm sure altogether, more than some of the bigger outfits sawed every winter. Gerry had some poplar logs on his own place but we had to go about ten miles north for the most of it.
I got my thirty acres sowed with oats and yielded a good crop. I did some custom threshing but not much as there were bigger outfits that had been in the area for years.
Ted, I and Nick Chomlac, a neighbor, went fishing about this time to a lake (North Gamier) about four miles north of our farm and camped overnight. We rowed around the lake once and caught eighty-three fish. We had no fishing poles either but used spoon hooks on heavy lines which we swung around over our heads to cast. Ted, a dedicated fisherman, said that was the best fishing he ever had. We threw back all the fish that were under two pounds too. The largest caught was about seven pounds. They averaged about five pounds I'd say. In the same lake nowadays, they average about two pounds. I was out fishing with Bill Saranchuk, another neighbor, that same year. I asked him if he'd done much fishing (he'd been in the country quite a while before I came). He said yes but it wasn't for pleasure, it was to get something to eat for the next week. Nick smoked the surplus of what we caught too.
Two Scotchmen were talking about fishing once. One said "There are only two people I'd believe telling about the size of the fish they caught, that is you and me, and sometimes I have my doubts about you."
I traded the horses I used for brushing to an Indian and instead used my Fordson tractor as it pulled a sixteen inch plow fairly well. However, when we bought the big Allis Chalmers I didn't use the Ford anymore. A neighbor who for some reason couldn't get threshed one fall, asked me to bring my little separator over (he had a tractor) in the winter as it would be easier to move on a sleigh. Ted, he and I slid the sleigh under it and took the wheels off. We had to travel on a logging road through bush in which there were bad enough hills and sideling places and we tipped over once. It was a lightweight eighteen inch case separator and they were getting ready to use horses to pull it back up. I said,'Let's try it by hand first', so we all got hold of it and lifted. It flopped back quite easily much to our surprise. A year or two later I traded my little truck which I couldn't afford to run anymore for some breaking of my land. There were more rocks on my land than I suspected so to be done with my rock problem I decided to follow the breaking plow with a crowbar and dig out what rocks the plow left behind. I got rid of a lot of rocks that time alright but I still had to pick rocks off it for ten years after that. I had a neighbor help me pick rocks off that breaking once and we could get a wagon load by just moving up once in places. I was grumbling about them being so thick and he said "That's the way I like them. I don't have to be wandering all over the field for a load." I said "I would be perfectly happy to drive over a hundred acres to get one."
I used the truck for a couple of years before I traded it off but most of the time the road wasn't fit to drive on as there was too much mud and water. Quite often we would have to take a tractor four miles to get across a mud hole and leave it there until we came home again. When I first came up here, I was the only person with a motor vehicle in the immediate area and somehow, when I was going to town the neighbors would hear about it and about four of them would come over and go with me for groceries. Several times I had a load of groceries, a couple hundred pound sacks of flour and four passengers. The body of the truck was bumping on the hind end continuously. It was several years before anything smaller than a one ton truck could be sure of getting through so I finally bought a 1949 one ton Ford truck.
Catherine married Robert Bartholomew in 1939. I always liked him though he had a few faults like everyone else. He tried his hand at farming but could not adapt to it so he gave it up and became a mechanic, a very good one too. We used to work together quite a bit. When he quit farming I bought his quarter and farmed it for ten years. I think it had sixty acres broke on it so I broke thirty or forty more. He became a Catholic when he married Cathy. I remember one occasion when he and I went to Elk Point for midnight mass. We went in early to do some shopping, (I forget now whether we took horses or drove a car) but to put in time until midnight, we went to the beer parlor, determined not too drink too much of course; we didn't either though we had to walk carefully I'll admit. There was a big crowd at the church so we sat near the back; we wouldn't have dared get too close to the front anyhow and were getting along fine until we heard a noise behind us. A full bottle of beer rolled by and stopped in the middle of the aisle. We couldn't help but snicker and I was wondering if the owner would try to retrieve it. He didn't and it was there when mass was over. I guess the janitor got it.
Mother was getting pretty old by this time and kept a hired girl whenever she could get one. Most of them were Indian girls as no white women were available most of the time. She finally got a nice German girl (Marge Schmidt) from south of the river who stayed quite a while. She and Gerry got married in 1946 and raised 9 kids.
Gerry used to ride broncs in those days. He had a little blood mare that was as pretty as a picture but was unpredictable. She would act quite nicely most of the time but would suddenly start bucking. She could really buck too! He was riding her to church one day and she bucked him off on the hard road. He hurt his back and he had to go to bed for a few days. Since that incident, Gerry has been troubled with a sore back and when it does get sore he just goes to bed for a few days. Consequently, I had to do a lot of his work for him and I lived with photos I got out of batching that way anyhow though I didn't accomplish as much for myself as I should have but I'm still around and in fairly good condition.
During the war years this area started to use tractors and by the end of the fifties there was no horse farming to speak of. During this time the municipality also started getting modern road construction equipment and in the early sixties we had comparatively good roads and school buses. I don't remember just when they started busing the kids to school but when they did the roads had to be in good condition for the buses.
We also started cutting brush and breaking with caterpillars. The Indians started driving old cars and the pioneering days were about over. We also got electricity around 1957.
In 1956 mother got so she needed to be around a hospital in order for someone to look after her. Cathy and Robert were living at Cold Lake eighty miles from here. She was nursing in the hospital there and Robert was in the garage business. They had a small house on the back of their lot that was empty so I rented it and mother and I lived there until she died about a year later in June. I stayed on until the end of the year. While there I took a job on the Armed Forces Base and worked three months at the Radar Station with the landscaping gang. One day while we were working a shower came up and we took cover under a catwalk that connected two buildings. When the shower ended, as the boss had gone over to headquarters on some errand about an hour before, we didn't rush back to work after it stopped raining. The boss came back and found us still under the catwalk and said "Hello boys, is it raining?" Thats all he did say though..
Just after the war I had an old panel truck for awhile and I guess the Indians thought it was some kind of an ambulance. Whenever any of them had to see a doctor they used to come and ask me to take them to Elk Point. One night a woman and her parents came along about eleven o'clock and had to get to Elk Point to have a baby, (it wasn't mine either) so I got the car out to take them and the old lady said I had to go fast or the baby could come on the road. It was February 29th so the road wasn't good. (They had brought a lot of bedding with them by the way). I was just going through Lindbergh, which was about half way, when I heard a baby squall in the back. I kept right on driving as I had never had that kind of experience before and didn't know what to expect, but pretty soon the old lady said "You can go easy now, the baby is born." The baby was a girl and has seven of her own now I've been told. Though they never knew it, Lindbergh had a leap year baby born on their main street.
About 1943-44, a retarded boy of twelve or thirteen got lost in the bush here and was gone about two weeks before he was found. His dad sent him out to the pasture about eight o'clock in the morning. Somehow he went out of the pasture and got lost. We saw him go by here with a halter slung across his shoulders about nine o'clock but paid no attention to him as there were Indian kids hunting horses quite often that strayed from their overnight camps. We didn't know the kid personally but there were searches out every day. We had reported it to the police and they had a man out to organize the search all the time. It was all bush country we were searching in and we would spread out five or six rods apart and go for an hour or two according to the size of the bush an then go back and form up again. There would be anywhere up to a hundred involved everyday. A lad by the name of Mike Hollowaychuk finally found photos He hadn't been out much before and he was riding a horse on his own. He found him in a logger's shack as it was an area that had been logged and had old cabins scattered around through it.
The kids father whose name was Kozack, was pretty excitable and was pretty well fixed compared to the rest of us. He had offered a thousand dollars to the one who found him but I heard later that he didn't give Mike anything. The kid was in fair shape when found, to everyone's surprise. He said he mostly ate Saskatoon berries and raw mushrooms. He was only in the hospital for a couple of days. They said he was slightly dehydrated, otherwise in good condition. He had wandered into the shack only a couple of days before he was found. The other searchers had looked into it once or twice before.
Gerald moved the family up to Cold Lake and worked in a dining room for two or three years around about 1960. When troops were stationed at a bombing range up north of Cold Lake they used to fly part of the dining room staff up to Primrose Lake by helicopter every morning and bring them back at night. I used to haul him a truckload of wood whenever I could to help him out on the fuel bill. Consequently I got quite familar with the road. On one occasion I ran into a fog five miles west of Bonnyville just before dark. I had to run in low for two hours to the Beaver River. It was the worst fog I'd ever been in. I batched on the farm while Gerry was in Cold Lake.
I used to do my own threshing most of the time as I was reluctant about using a combine on account of the weather-hazzard. The last fall I threshed there were only four of us with a 26 inch separator designed for six teams. We had two racks and tractors, 2 men loading in the field, Gerry's wife Marge driving tractors back and forth to the machine and infield for loading if necessary. We also had a spike pitcher who stayed at the machine. I ran the machine and shovelled grain as we had no grain loader. We could get one hundred bushels of oats an hour but could not work too many hours at a time.
When Gerry got back from Cold Lake he started working at the Lindbergh Salt Plant and worked there for twenty years until he retired at 65 years old. I sold one quarter and coasted along until 1967 when I went to Expo in Montreal and rented my place to Gerry as his kids had grown up pretty well. I got old age pension in 1969 and retired as far as useful work went.
I went down east to Newfoundland partly to get a jet ride and to go with a niece to visit our relatives in Ontario. I guess I should have mentioned that I visited them in 1967 when I went to Expo. I really enjoyed my first jet ride and went east a couple of times later. The relatives finally all died off, the ones of my generation that is. I went to Paris and Rome in 1975 on a Pilgrammage which I enjoyed very much. Gerald, his wife Marge and daughter Patricia (the one who taught in Newfoundland for a year) and myself went to Ireland in 1981 for three weeks. That was a good trip too.
On one of my trips down east, the last one I think, I picked up my sister Evadne who was a nun in Ottawa I think and we visited relatives in Toronto and Smith Falls and some nuns she had been acquainted with in her teaching days. They had a car and drove us all over Montreal. One of them had been raised there. Then we came back to Winnipeg by train as it is quite scenic around Fort William and the end of Lake Superior. Evadne is living at Lac Ste. Rose not far out of Winnipeg. We stayed overnight with them and I came back to Edmonton.
Pat and I went down and visited a cousin living in Oakland, California last year for a few days and had a look at San Francisco. We found it quite interesting only we found the Golden Gate Bridge to be superceded by one twice as long now.