By way of personal introduction, I will submit: on the fifth day of April 1875, I became a separate unit in the land of the living, in or near the village of Rudd, Floyd County Iowa. My earliest recollections are of this place. My parents, Fernando and Alice Howard, were Protestants, faithful Methodists. My residence at this pleasant location was brief. My family moved to Parker, South Dakota, to take advantage of free homestead land. We spent the pleasant winter of 1882 in a one-room sod house near Parker. In the spring of that year, my parents abandoned that location and moved to a more desirable one, and erected a frame house with more room. The Rail Road Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Paul crossed their quarter section of land.
A small amount of sod was broken and some turnip seed sown on it; but before the turnips were gathered, they were snowed under. However, they were gathered in part and were the main item on our list of available food.
The snow that fell in that storm did not completely vanish. It thawed some and settled down, then froze to ice then more snow fell on it and did the same thing. This routine continued until the following March. The Rail Road was blocked with snow frozen to ice. No trains ran to bring in supplies. One work train, with a snowplow did pass going west. It reached Marion Junction, three miles west of our homestead and stopped over night. By morning, it was snowed in and could move neither east nor west. Before the warm weather came in the spring, the country was covered with four feet of snow; packed hard enough so that a team and sleigh could, and did, go any place it chose without marring the surface, perceptibility. When this snow melted, the flood was so great that the bridges were all washed out before a train got through. The railroad was under contract to supply coal to Parker, and I believe to Marion Junction and to other points. The supply on hand was small and soon vanished. This was prairie country and there was nothing growing here that looked like a tree except some water willows along the Little Vermilion River on which Parker was located. These willows were just large enough for fishing poles and the river supplied a bountiful variety of small fish, such as bullheads, chubs, shiners, dace, sunfish, an occasional gropy and the northern pike that we called "Pickerel". The only fuel native to the county at that time was the coarse whiplash. That grew around the edge of the numerous sloughs and the repulsive, life saving, buffalo chips. To prepare this coarse hay for fuel required bare hands and a temperature that did not make them numb and useless.
Consequently, the hay to be prepared must be brought inside and twisted, we called it skeins, similar to the skeins of yarn. This made quite a mess in a one-room house. This snow came so early, there was little hay brought in from the sloughs for winter, use and it was soon used up.
At that time, I was too young, about four years old, to realize the seriousness of the situation my only concern was a warm place to sleep and plenty of food. Not just johnnycake and fish, all but the fish! Johnnycake included any thing that was made from corn meal and water as a base.
This hay twisting was a very definite must! No hay, no fire, no johnnycake! The hay twisting was a regular occurrence. When father brought a bundle of hay, bound by a long strap (that served other purposes, as well). As soon as the bundle was argued through the door and the strap removed, it remained within his reached, until the hay was twisted and stacked neatly by the stove, like we pile wood, if we use wood. The twisting was everybodyís job myself included. At that time, I had two older brothers to help bring me up, a duty they did not enforce if either of my parents were present. I had one younger brother, and what they forced on me, I passed on to him with my own ideas included.
When the coal supply at Parker, South Dakota, was exhausted, the railroad had some new ties on hand to replace the old ones, these, they sold for fuel at the lowest price above their actual cost. They hadnít many as fuel goes and they were gone by the middle of winter, or the people that bought them had no money. Prospects did not look good for these early settlers. How those survived that was distant from the railroad, I do not know. I know what my parents and our nearest neighbor, Mr. J.M. Roper did. There was a long snow fence that paralleled and was built and owned by the railroad that crossed our homestead. Shortly after, we ate our last johnnycake. Dad and mom talked it over and decided to use some of that fence for fuel. "We will keep record of every board, and when we can, we will pay for it." When the snow went away in the spring, there was no sign of that fence left; and every bridge and culvert had been trimmed of any wood that reached beyond its useful length. The railroad never did mention, or ask for pay for their property. Many of the settlers burned their furniture. To my knowledge there was no death from starvation or freezing in our neighborhood, that winter. Not so, later, after we left Dakota, I believe Ďtwas the winter of 1887 Ö the school children in the district south of the district we attended, were released at the usual hour to go home and perished before arrival.
After the snow melted and the floods reached the sea and the damage were made good as far as possible; the country not only resumed life, but was a delightful and productive scope of geography. The gifts of nature were abundant. Blue grass covered the prairies, excellent for summer grazing or hay for winter if cut before the frost. The streams and lakes were a fishermanís delight and a trapperís paradise, but the fur they supplied was of little value. Ermine, mink and muskrat, the main items were everywhere. Jackrabbit, plover, snipe, coate, duck and geese were the main items on this list.
Parker, South Dakota was located on the railroad and the Little Vermilion River, north of Yankton (the capitol) on the Missouri River. It was to Parker, my father and Uncle Leonard Howard walked from their homesteads, three miles distant and worked at mason work, building foundations of the niggerhead rocks and plastering houses to make a living, while homesteading. After homestead duty was done, a person could acquire a quarter section by preemption and then another under the tree claim law.
At the approach of the winter succeeding the hard one, mother took me and my younger brother, Floyd and my older brother, Frank, back to her parents in Wisconsin to spend the winter. At that time, Frank and I were attending school at the county school, one mile from home. On the day of our departure, we were to attend school till after-noon recess, then come home and get ready for the journey. For the previous day or two, there was another boy at school, who was about my size and age that claimed he was the biggest "Little Britches". He had demonstrated with a shove or two, and a remark I didnít like any better than I liked the looks of his face. I had an idea that I could arrange it to suite me better. When recess came, I told Frank not to wait for me, I had some business to attend to. When I got home, still in one piece, we caught the train.
My grandfather, Franklin Pomeroy, was a veteran of the Mexican War. We spent a very pleasant winter with him and Grandma Abigail Pomeroy. The name Pomeroy occupied a prominent place in English history. It is established by authentic pedigree back a thousand years through twenty or more generations.
When spring came, we returned to Dakota, the homestead, and dad and my oldest brother, Bert. When winter came again, myself and my brothers attended the country school, which served as a meeting place for the society, we called the "Lyceum". The parents took part in this and we edited the minutes. The latest copy was read at each meeting and contained all the news. We had debates, spelling contests, spoke pieces and argued politics. On one occasion, an adult member delivered "Grey Forest Eagle" recorded in the MacGuffies fifth reader and my brother, Bert, done justice to "Darius Green and His Flying Machine", the latest worth while article to come into circulation. There is one stanza of that contribution, I never forgot, which I quote: "Two bats for a pattern, curious fellows, a charcoal pot and a pair of bellows and a dipper of water which one might think he had brought to the loft to drink." Tell me something. Was it jest, or ignorance, if not that what inspired some person to record such nonsense. It is useless to try to make any use of the quotation until we decide what kink of bats he had in his mind.
These country schools were in operation about three months of the year. The other months gave ample time for a kid to forget what he or she had learned the year before. I did however, manage to get a few months of schooling in the village school of Parker. We lived in this vicinity until 1885. In the early part of the winter, our family increased by the arrival of a new member, whom we promptly christened Ruby Abigail Howard. Shortly after this event, all of us except mother and Ruby boarded a prairie schooner and headed south. Mother and Ruby remained with Mrs. J.M. Roper, our good neighbor, until we could establish a more congenial postal address.
Did you ever inhabit one of these transient Palaces? They boast only conveniences they donít supply. Beside ourselves, we accommodated an Uncle, Mr. B. S. Howard, who brought our party up to five, and went along to see the country. Mother made the cover of this wagon out of store bought canvas. When we left home, mother and Ruby were with us we stopped at Mrs. J. M. Ropers for them to alight. Mrs. Roper came out to meet them and to spend a moment inspecting the wagon and its cover. We said goodbye to them and hit the trail.
Our course, due south soon brought us to the Missouri River near the town of Yankton. We did not cross the river at this point but continued on the north side until we reached Omaha, Nebraska. We crossed on the rail road bridge since there were no wagon bridge. As we passed down the Missouri Valley, I saw more corn than I thought that there was in the whole world. It had been gathered and shucked by hand and piled in great heaps for want of sufficient granary room. I also saw, chained near the front door, a serviceable boat and a pair of oars, evidence that waters from our deep winter snow had passed down this valley.
After we passed Omaha, we headed for Lincoln, Nebraska. After passing Lincoln, our route was south down the Blue River, until we reached Manhattan, Kansas. Here we arrived in a snowstorm and the coldest weather they had recorded in years, 32 degrees above Fahrenheit. This storm delayed us and it was years before we left that vicinity. Father rented a house in town and we moved in. Mother and Ruby soon joined us.
In the spring, dad bought a farm, such as it was, eight miles north of Manhattan and we moved to it. There was a small house on the place and a good spring of water. There was not much land under cultivation on our place and dad rented more from a neighbor. I hired out to a neighbor and worked long enough to pay for three pigs, at fifty cents a day. The price of pigs at that time was two cents a pound, on the market. One of mine had sunstroke and died. When the other two were at their best, dad sold one and we butchered the other one for our own use. Nothing seemed to go just the way we wanted it to go; I guess we didnít do the right thing about the weather. Three out of five consecutive crops were failures, burned dry by hot winds. I hired out to a neighbor and ran his farm, while he and his wife went to the Worlds Fair in Chicago.
Manhattan, Riley County Kansas, USA was our address for many years. I often heard mother say that the number of times we had moved, have equaled the number of years they had been married. The old saying "A rolling stone gathers no moss and a setting hen never gets fat" must have been true in our case. We never lived more than twelve miles from Manhattan and not less than six except when we lived right in town itself. It seemed that the business of making a living was all that we could accomplish. After Bert and Frank rigged up a prairie schooner and headed west for Liberal, Seward County, Kansas. The farm work all fell to Floyd and me. Dad was doing day work at his trade most of the time, to help make a living. At all the places we lived but one, there was a country school handy and doing business in the winter. Floyd and I usually attended and learned again the "Three Rís" that we had forgotten.
It was a great surprise to me one day when dad came home from town. He had left that morning with a load of loose hay to sell, if possible, and get the mail. He remarked at suppertime that he had rented a house in town and we would move in. The object of this move was to get Floyd, Ruby and I into school. Floyd entered the town school. The Kansas State Agricultural College was located there and they had prepared a special branch for me, in advance. To qualify for admittance, I had to write my name and age. If they could read it any my age was more than eighteen years, I was admitted and if I finished the equivalent of high school work, I could then join the first year class. Then take the regular four-year courses. The object of an Agricultural College, I understand was to vanish, any delusion about farming being a paying proposition for me. My experience during the preceding twenty years had already convinced me that this was true. I figured that perhaps the college knew some drawbacks that I hadnít learned. Anyhow, if I could stand the college treatment, it must stand mine; it accepted me on its own conditions.
If I had joined the classes as a new recruit, it would have been a different proposition. We would be in a new place among strangers glad and willing to help each other find our places. They still were, but I didnít know it. When I joined their class, they were half way through the fall term, and I had to learn what they had and pass with them, at the end of the term.
It looked to me like this farming business was well wrapped in a single package and the directions on it said not only to shake well, but take it! I took all that I could stand and them made my escape.
A class room door had just closed on a class of sixty registered agricultural victims of both sexes in about equal numbers. After roll call, the boss (the teacher) made this remark, "Did any of you have any difficulty with your lesson for today? You are at liberty to ask any questions if in doubt". I was sure that I had not encountered any difficulty until the present, sometimes I read the lesson before coming to class.
No one spoke, and the boss procured some chalk, and a lady student in the front seat removed the cork from a bottle of ink. The boss turned to the blackboard to display his craft with chalk. He completed three characters, and then it happened; I mean something important to agriculture. He dropped his chalk, he dropped his glasses and I donít know what else besides his dignity. A black bullís eye appeared on the back of his neck and he faced the class "Myo Pronto" as the Mexicans say, to observe an upraised hand with a young lady fastened to it. He gazed a moment down the sea of incredulous faces to recover his dignity and allow his shaking to abate. His countenance gradually changed from one anger to one more favorable to agriculture. He spoke calmly, "What is it, Miss Xcie?" The little red head rose to her feet and said "Why did you make all those horrid characters on the board, Professor? They donít look good to me, the two is only pint size and not in line with the H and the O, is directly under the right side of the H; does its position indicate that it is the Mother or something? "Miss Xcie, donít you remember that our lesson yesterday dealt with nomenclature of the elements and their components; and we, learned that for the sake of brevity, in the study of chemistry symbols were used to represent the elements and some of their compounds.
In this instance H2O represents and is water." "Ohí, says Miss Xcie, "I see", and resumed her seat. The boss, then express his agricultural ability to this extent. "Of course, our State being bone dry, water was a beverage, is not popular. But it is our greatest solvent. It will and does extinguish fire if applied in sufficient volume. It can and does dilute whisky or alcohol in any proportion. It is important to plant and animal growth. And in the coming election, one candidate has dreams of acquiring the complete regalia advocating the unlimited monetary coinage of gold and silver alloyed with 75% pewter; if elected. He will try and do something about this bone-dry business. At present, there is nothing in circulation worthy of comment, except an article that occasionally drifts down the avenues of Commerce from our neighbor country to the north labeled "Moonshine, Maple Leaf or Aurora Borealis." It is well to leave the sampling of this article to the more advanced talent. It has very complex molecule and is not subject to diffusion! Thus relieved, the boss recaptured his glasses and chalk and executed this effigy c.o. "Now, says he. Can one of you guess what that one is? A stalwart member that lived now the Kaw Valley from Wamego relieved his cramped legs. Getting to his feet, and making a few remarks, "I donít know what company manufactures that stuff, apparently it contains two ingredients but to me, it suggests nothing but two percent and is inferior to our home made cider as far as kick goes." The hieroglyphics on the blackboard were arranged like this, H2O and CO, I donít know what use if any, the boss would make of them; the bell rang and our class dismissed. Possibly he intended to add more to his puzzle and make it look like thisH2O and CO equals H2CO . If he did, it would only be more confusing at that time.
There was one question classroom strategy answered for me that day to my complete satisfaction. If at any time present or future, I could afford protection, I knew the make, and pattern, the company that manufactured them and the individual weapon that I would prefer. Of course refer to the red headed specimen of the human race, long haired variety; (she who so well distracted the professor and saved our heads.
On the fifth of April 1897, I rigged up a prairie schooner of my own and headed west for Liberal, Kansas. I had already signed a Quitclaim to my interest in Agriculture, and deprived the college of my society, a loss they apparently did not mind. Liberal, Kansas was my postal address and trading point for some time. It was close to the south line of the State. Beaver County, Oklahoma, called "No Manís Land" lay to the south of the Kansas State line, and extended from Indian Territory property to the Kansas and Colorado line on the west. It takes twelve days to make the trip from Manhattan to Bull Creek with a work team. It supplies the person taking it with an excellent opportunity to do some serious meditating. My thoughts would invariably revert to the class room scene and the lady with the up raised hand, and the blackboard inscription. How is, or can these isolated items are co-ordinated to serve a usual purpose? The inscription on the board is a chemical equation by this skeleton H2O and CO equals H2 and 2CO. The science of chemistry is built on the atomic theory. It teaches that an Atom is the smallest particle of an element that can have a separate existence. It also teaches that chemical combination takes place between atoms only under precious conditions and in precise numbers. It also states that a variation in a chemical compound is not known. The science of chemistry is divided into two branches; organic and inorganic, a glance at the above equation shows that there are only three elements involved; hydrogen, oxygen and carbon and that they are in molecular form, and such a re-fractures. A further study reveals that hydrogen and carbon and oxygen as molecules as well as factors taken separately then by different grouping form each and every compound in the book of organic chemistry. Further study reveals also that only organic substance burn. Coal, petroleum and their derivatives are the main source of our fuel. Plants and animals supply the rest of our fuel or combustible material.
My older brothers, Frank and Bert had arrived at Liberal, three years earlier than I. They worked the first year on the Dudley Ranch, located at the headwaters of the Beaver River. Then Bert filed on a homestead located on Bull Creek. On this homestead there was a spring of excellent water. It flowed in a crystal stream from a sandstone ledge exposed on a cut bank. This water was limited, but was the very best the country supplied until there was some drilling of deep water wells which proved that a good supply of water was to be had at 125 to 400 feet, depending on the topography of the surface.
Frank hired to a rancher located on the Paladora River. This ranch ran both cattle and sheep. The owner R. H. Howard (no known kin to us) was considered the best stockman in the southwest. Frank worked for him for four years, in charge of the sheep herd.
That is where Frank was when I arrived at Bull Creek, Bert had just left with a plow team for Paladora, to help ranchers plant their feed crops. I stayed over night at Bull Creek and left the next morning for Paladora.
It was twenty-five or thirty miles to Paladora the same distance that Bull Creek was from Liberal. When I quit farming and left Manhattan, the only property that I possessed was a walking twelve-inch moleboard plow that I paid one dollar for, at a sale. I plowed gardens in Manhattan until I had nine dollars to see me through the three hundred miles to Liberal. I took my plow along, thinking that I might come to a good place to drown it and get rid of it. But alas, when I got started, I forgot all about it; and when I arrived at Paladora the next morning, I hitched to the plow instead of the wagon and trailed Bert up and down the fields for two months. We broke thirty acres for a rancher, the Sheriff of Housford, Texas. Done an equal number for Tom Ward, a rancher and about the same for Mullock of the Circle Y ranch. Then we went to Bull Creek and put in twenty acres for ourselves. Thatís the way I quit farming; but I was also starting in the livestock business, so I thought, (instead of the deadstock business).
Shortly after our crop was planted, I put a new thirty-five dollar saddle on my smallest workhorse and went back to Paladora to hunt for a job. The first place I stopped was at Mullock he was getting ready to put up hay. He offered me twenty dollars for a monthís worth of work. I told him that was okay with me if he would lend me a horse I would go back to Bull Creek and get my bed, which I did. We moved camp out four miles from the ranch to some sloughs. There had been some snow the winter before and there had been some spring rains; some of the sloughs had grass that made the best hay I had ever sawÖBAR NONE. When we finished the sloughs, we moved back to the ranch and cut the flat land that reached back from the river that was sub-irrigated. By the time we finished, this grass was dried up and brown and if ignited would burn like gunpowder. The ground was baked as hard as a brick. Mullock had no fireguards plowed and he knew what would happen if a fire got started. He told me one morning to take the mules and go out and start plowing guards. He said, "Iíll be along in a day or two to see how you are making out." I told him okay. Mullock had a twelve-inch sod breaker that didnít weigh more than fifty pounds, and a team of extra big mules, that he paid a fancy price for the last time he had been to Kansas City with cattle. I loaded a barrel and the plow in the wagon, hitched up the mules and went to the river and filled it with salty jip water. Stock could live on it but it was a question whether I could. I came back to the ranch and stopped to get some salt pork, flour, coffee and headed for his pasture fence o the east side of his pasture. Mullockís pasture was six miles square, it enclosed thirty-six square miles and that meant that I had one hundred and forty-four miles to plow. When I came to the fence, I pulled the staples and let down the three wires and fastened them and then I drove over the fence and stopped and unhitched the mules and hitched them to the plow. Then a few paces from the fence I wanted to start a furrow to run parallel to the fence. We started all right but the plow seemed to have ideas of its own. It moved along very nicely on the dry grass but if by any means, I tried to persuade it to enter the ground, it would stall the mules in their tracks. They were big and strong and faithful and tried time and again. Now tell me, what a person should do in such a case. I know what I did Ö I did not want the boss to come out and catch me not trying. Finding his team all covered with foam and exhausted, so I just let the plow slide gently along the grass for a mile along the fence and turned around and came back. I had done so many half trips with a plow that I knew just how many trips to make in a ten-hour day. Every time I completed a trip, I drank about a quart of that almost hot mineral water, and gave the mules some if they would take it. By six oíclock, I wasnít feeling any too good so I didnít eat my full quota of flour and water flapjacks for supper. Although they were burned black as usual over buffalo chip fire, and there were plenty of fat pork grease to make them slip down, and coffee I couldnít drink without plenty of sugar. I wasnít feeling much better the next morning. I started in the opposite direction at seven sharp. I was expecting the boss to show up at any moment. At six oíclock he hadnít shown up and I still didnít feel good, and the water barrel was getting low. At seven the next morning, we started as on schedule and went until noon. At one oíclock, we drank the remaining water and went to the ranch for more. The boss wasnít home and no one knew where he would be. I filled the barrel and returned to camp and the routine. The following day brought no change in schedule. I done some more figuring on how long this would last. The fireguard that he wanted was three furrows wide along the fence and then three furrows parallel to them, a hundred yards father out from the fence (he would burn the space between to make a barren spot to stop wild fire). This would require three furrows 288 miles long, nearly the distance from Manhattan to Liberal. So far, I could see no advantage in livestock business over agriculture. At seven the next morning, business as usual until noon. At one oíclock business as usual until two trip was completed, and another one started. A horseback rider was visible and approaching; I had been looking at him instead of watching the plow and it dove into the ground. By the time I got it cussed loose, he had arrived and asked me what I was doing. I told him nothing, just passing the time. I said, "Just hold the plow a minute while I do something". He was a pretty big man, nearly twice my weight. He grabbed the plow handles and I slapped the mules with the reins. The plow started to slide and he elevated the handles and applied his whole weight. The plow dove into the ground and the mules stopped so quickly that the momentum nearly threw him onto their heels. A position a person should shun unless he wants to be murdered. I didnít want him murdered. I didnít want to hold my job and I knew if I laughed, I would lose it Ö and that was the nearest to impossible task I ever accomplished. He was quite determined and made more attempts which all ended the same way. When he got enough, he said, "We will get my lead team and put in front of the mules." I said, "Okay." We went to the ranch and got them and when we returned he said that we would leave both teams hitched to the wagon, and chain the plow to the rear axle. Iíll drive and you hold the plow. "Okay", said I.
We made a beautiful start, the plow slid as easy as ever until I raised the handles and applied weight to the share; then the plow dove through the ten inch crust and turned a furrow three times the depth the plow was built to stand. It didnít go far until the share hit something that threw it out of line with the power applied and the beam bent trying to bring it back into line and that was that! Goliath couldnít hold a plow in line with a bent beam. We arrived at the ranch at dusk with the plow and the camp. After supper, he said, "What are we going to do now?" I said, "Your guess is as good as mine." I didnít tell him that I would soon be back in Manhattan. I was sure that I needed some protection against agriculture or the livestock business.
At this period in growth of our nation the universal weapon for self-defense was a regulation, 45-40 black powder, single action Coltís six shooter. It had some commendable qualities and some that werenít. The practice of fanning the trigger was nearly out of vogue. The smoke screen it provided was nearly as lethal as the slugs it delivered. It was seldom either parties, survived these greetings. My choice of a weapon for self-defense was a smaller double action, smokeless weapon. I remember seeing a 22 of this nature perform, and at the earliest favorable opportunity possessed one. There was twenty-four milestones registered on my career at time and twenty-two on my partnerís. We rented a house in Liberal and I got a job driving a dray wagon.
At this time B. E. Blake and son had bought the Marten Hardware store. Before buying the store, Blake had successfully operated a well drilling outfit I located this machine behind a feed store. The belt from its motor ran an old feed grinder instead of the power shaft of the drilling machineÖ "Now," said Darius "Hurrah for some fun."
A few years back, I had worked for Mr. J. P. Mullock, a successful rancher on the Paladora. I had disappointed him by not plowing his fireguards when he wanted me to. He was running 1400 head of cattle and his pasture was over grazed. He wanted a million fence posts to make it bigger. There was a short canyon that ran back from the Paladora Valley, in his pasture, and some knarled white cedar trees grew in and on the sides of this canyon. Mr. Mullock wanted me to harvest the entire crop of posts and I told him I would for half, and he said okay. I established a cyclone cellar in the bottom of the canyon with a stone fireplace and chimney, and a dirt roof. Then I made a trip to Liberal to get some flour, bacon and coffee. I mixed a jar of sourdough and was in business as usual. I gleaned out 1600 serviceable posts, then hired to him for twenty dollars a month, to gather and haul them to his ranch. At the end of the month, I sold my half to him for ten cents each, doubling my usual salary for three months work. The next work I did for him was the following autumn. Mr. Mullock wanted two miles of his pasture fence moved two miles out. I told him I would do it for fifteen dollars a mile and be paid with a heifer calf at weaning time and five dollars in cash. He said, "Okay."
My parents, Fernando and Alice, had left Manhattan and homesteaded on the Bull Creek, on the quarter joining Bertís homestead on the north. This quarter had a spring of excellent water about a forth of a mile from where we helped dad build a fine stone house.
I made the trip of Bull Creek and brought dad and Bert back with me to help move the fence. It took us about one month to do this. When the fence was completed, Mr. Mullock rounded up half of his herd and told me to help myself, I let Bert pick the calves and then we drove seventeen head of average good but young breeding stock back to Bull Creek. Now, our infant ranch was known as the "Half Circle D." Bertís wife parents lived on the Beaver River a few miles away. They had given their daughter, Dollie, two cows when she became Mrs. Bert Howard. Frank still worked for R. H. Howard, who had sold his ranch on the Paladora to Tom Ward, and had moved to Garden City, Kansas, taking Frank and the sheep along. Frank had been taking his pay in cows, part of the time and had five or six good ones to add to the herd. A neighbor that was living next to Bulls Creek, close to dadís location, quit and moved to another place. Frank filed on this place, giving us control of all the water on Bull Creek, south of his homestead. When he got his boss moved to Garden City and well settled, Frank joined us. The following spring, we took 600 head of two-year-old Mexican heifers to graze for the summer.
I didnít hold that job of driving a dray wagon in Liberal very long. The first time I delivered freight to the B. E. Blake Store, I made the remark to Mr. Blake, "I havenít any cash but could produce security on ten head of cattle if you care to sell me your idle drilling machine". Mr. Blake said, "I will talk to my son and see what he thinks."
The next time I saw Mr. Blake, he said, "We will take your security, you can have possession any time you like; and there is a well waiting for you to start on."
There was a team of horses, harness and a wagon with a water tank as an accessory to the drilling machine, which brought the price up to nine hundred dollars. That was more money, than had every passed through my hands in all my life put together. The next morning, the dray stood idle. I wanted to consult with Bert and get his opinion on the proposition. It was thirty miles to the " Half Circle D". The only means of transportation I had with me at the time, was what nature had provided; I considered it ample for the occasion and set out on foot. It was a nice cool day and I could walk four miles an hour without perspiring. When I came to the river, I sat down and removed my footwear, and then waded thirty yards of ice water that barely reached my knees. Where I emerged from, in the water there was old mowing machine, where I sat to dress my feet. By this time I was shaking like I had the ague, I was cold all over and my legs were stiff and hurt to stand on. I thought I would be all right when warmed up again and I did my best with little relief and it seemed the last seven miles would reach into eternity. I did somehow reach the stone house that was my parentís home . Later in life I had another similar experience, and heard of others who had suffered the same thing from the same cause. It was called, "Water Founder." I could not possibly stand on my feet the next morning but my condition improved after a day or two. Bert favored dealing for the well drilling machine. We loaded the chuck wagon with camping equipment, including a good tent and went to Liberal and closed the deal. We moved the outfit to the location of our first well. Al Blake came out and helped complete the well and erected a 36-foot windmill and got it working. The well was 222 feet deep, and that means that we drew $222.00 for the well and $25.00 for erecting the tower and installing the windmill. We were about two weeks on that job. Our next well took us to my homestead on Bull Creek, about four miles above the headwater. We completed a 125-foot well and erected a windmill and made a dirt reservoir to pump the water into and then turned the mill loose. Before we left for the next location at the head of Fulton Creek, a wagon with three people aboard drove up and asked permission to camp and water. Permission was cheerfully granted. They said they were undecided whether to homestead in Beaver County, or to homestead and lease in Texas, just across the state line. We moved the drilling rig to the location on Fulton Creek and completed a 125-foot well, and erected a windmill to pump the water. When this was finished, the parties who had asked to camp at our place, informed us they had decided to locate in Texas and asked us to drill a well for them. This meant a 40-mile move for us to a location 12 miles southeast of Ochiltree, Texas. This well was 346 feet deep and required a much larger windmill to power the pump; but was a complete success. We operated in the Panhandle for two years and completed twenty wells that were successful also three dry holes that were not and we made no charge for them. But we tried again in a slightly different location and were successful. These wells were all between three and four hundred feet deep. The deepest one was four hundred and four feet. Many times we were asked to take cattle as part payment, which we did. The number of cattle wearing the Half Circle D brand had passed the first hundred and the horse herd numbered between 25 and 30. Our drilling schedule was up to date and we relaxed and amused ourselves with the chuckwagon.
We procured two 14 foot 4X4ís, hardwood timbers, then we removed the wheels and the skeins, they were turned on and fitted them to one of the timbers. The other timber was placed in the center and at right angles to the axle. The front running gear of the wagon was attached to this timber with the tongue pointing backwards to guide the craft. It worked to perfection. The fourteen-foot rear axle of the craft gave enough to smooth the bumps. A twenty-foot mast was erected and accommodated an eight by sixteen foot bed tarpaulin for a sail, which went supplemented with a jib sail was ample power to navigate in a modest wind which nearly always blew in that country. Bert christened the contraption "The Mary Ellen" and sacrificed a quart of spring water to make it a legal ceremony. We christened him Captain Jerry and he Skippered the brig, later to be known as the "Ghost Ship of the Plains".
On one occasion, I was in Liberal for a load of freight for the Half Circle D; Mr. Blake was walking to the post office and stopped to talk to a little boy, who was having trouble at the street corner. He said, "How does she navigate today?" Glennie answered, "Not very good, it nags down main; but if I turn to a side street, a wheel comes off and it tips over and breaks the mast." As Mr. Blake passed along this soliloquy escaped "That little cuss thinks he is going to fly". The Glen Miller Plane was in the air just a few days after the Wright Brothers.
Business as usual with prosperity continued at the Half Circle D. The monotony for everyday business was occasionally broken by items of news. The parties that camped at my well, four miles above the headwaters of Bull Creek, bought 1600 head of sheep. Another Texas neighbor twenty miles southeast had 3200 sheep and wanted to sell them or trade for cattle. That didn't necessarily concern usÖbut it did Öfrom sheep, you could garner two crops in a year instead of one. The wool crop would pay running expenses, while the lamb crop matured. This created a challenge we failed to resist. We valued the cattle at twenty dollars per head and sheep at two dollars each.
In November, we traded for the 3200 sheep and to make the deal come out even, we agreed to drill a well in the spring. We delivered our cattle, and brought home the sheep; and started hauling shelled corn from Liberal to feed them. Two ounces per day for each sheep would ensure their condition being good when grass came again. They did reasonably well on this diet. In January, the party with the 1600 sheep approached us for a trade. They wanted to sell their place and beat it. Their sheep were a higher grade than the others we had bought were and they insisted on $2.10 each for them. They agreed to take our horses and the drilling rig.
This left us in debt $1000.00. We traded and brought them home and commenced to feed them. About the first of March, I moved the rig down and started drilling. In a few days, Bert came to see how I was doing. We had the drilling finished on the fifteenth. Then when we got up the next day, there was six inches of snow on the ground; and it was snowing hard. It continued night and day, for the next day and the two succeeding ones. When Bert arrived at the Half Circle D, he stepped into a Satanic Picnic Ö Dead Sheep, it seemed in countless numbers greeted him. Live sheep were eating the wool off of each other.
He started all hands and the cook to skinning the dead. A sheep pelt would bring 25 or 30 cents, if you could find a buyer. The cattlemen lost just as bad as the sheepmen. The horse herds on the range ate the manes and tails off each other and gnawed the fence posts. I decided that the spread between what a man wanted and what a man got was just too wide; and what he wanted most did him no good. Still, there was no place to stop. The directions said "Shake well and Bake."
When grass came, there was just enough sheep left to cancel the $1000.00 debt against them. We still were in debt to Mr. Blake and his son for $150.00, a store bill and final payment on the drilling rig. They sent a couple of four horse outfits down for the sheep pelts. They got them on the railroad just in time to be engulfed in the highest water Kansas City ever recorded. However, they squared our debt. The drilling rig was neither in our possession nor our property. Bert said, now that we have made our fortune, all we have to do is make a living.
At one time on the outskirts of Liberal, I saw an old looking pamphlet that the wind had brought (from CanadaÖI guess). I picked it up to satisfy my curiosity. It contained pictures of beautiful scenery, and told of its unlimited agricultural and ranching possibilities. At the time, it didnít interest me, but I never forgot it. It also told of its game, and fish and climate and fur and minerals. This had some influence on my future life.
In due course, after our financial crash, Bert and Frank took the train to Canada and points north to have a look. Their first stop was Davidson, a station or two north from Saskatoon, about 35 miles from the Elbow in the Saskatchewan River. There was a few now flakes falling and it seemed like winter was approaching. On their first day, they were offered a job drilling wells. The declined and said that they had other business. They bought some lumber and hired it hauled to the Elbow. They completed a dugout with a lumber roof near the river and made a boat and a pair of oars. Frank had bought along his 30-30 Winchester, and he knew how to use it. I had seen him clip a prairie chicken on wing in full flight and stop a Jackrabbit at fifty yards on the run. There was an island in the river, opposite their camp that was considerable size and covered with brush.
"Now," Frank said, "Lets go and see what is on that island." They landed and scared up a hundred prairie chickens, and saw a white rabbit or two, and a lot of fresh deer tracks. Frank told Bert to be quiet and wait a few minutes. He disappeared into the brush and in less than ten minutes, the 30-30 spoke loud and clear and a couple of prairie chickens took to the airÖVenison for supper! This island proved to be a regular refrigerator, it kept game alive and always fresh. The sand hills in the bend of the river supplied plenty of venison and as winter approached, small herds of antelope invaded the western portion. Ideal country, for a hunter. An exploring expedition enticed them down river some ten or twelve miles, where the Red Deer Creed joined the Saskatchewan River. It was too small for navigation, but was a deep valley that reached 25 or 30 miles to the west. In this valley was a chain of lakes with variable spacing between them. This valley and lakes will be the main reservoir for the storage of water when the Elbow Hydro is completed. (This is now the Gardner Dam and Diefenbaker Lake).
At the time that my brothers established camp on the Elbow, there were a few settlers in the district. Jack Hitchcock, for one, on the main shore of the river, twelve miles across the river and upstream from the Elbow, he was a retired mechanic. The Stoffer brothers, Frank and Harry had homesteads two miles from the Elbow, also a couple of Germans. There was one homesteader farther east on the trail to Davidson ( the nearest post office and a 35 mile walk each way).
In the early winter, Bert went back to his family in the states. Frank remained at his camp and the Stoffer brothers were camping with him for company. Harry Stoffer, left camp to get the mail from Davidson, some thirty-five miles away. He arrived back at camp three days later with his feet badly frozen. It was many days before he walked again. They gave him the best care they knew how; poultices with moist tealeaves and sterile bandages.
The camp soon became the main center of interest. There was no other place to go to break the monotony of homesteading. A settler was always welcomed here and on his departure was offered a piece of fresh meat to replenish his meager food supplies. Most people hunt to kill for pleasure; not so with Frank. Supplying the camp became a monotonous job. His kill was never less than six miles from camp, and the distance was not shortened by the fifty pounds of fresh meat in his pack. There was never a scrap of this meat that was wasted. There could have been even more used if Frank could have furnished it and carried it back to camp.
In the late winter months, another settler left for Davidson. He had relatives in the east; and it was assumed when he did not return that he had gone to visit them. His absence from the settlement worried the Stoffer boys and they made inquiries in Davidson and wrote to his relatives to find out if he was with them. The following spring his body was found near his homestead.
When summer came, the CPR was straightening out the kinks in its main line west from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. So Frank and a settler by the name of Mudge walked across the country from the Elbow to a point east of Gull Lake and got a job driving a team on a slip or dump wagon.
On the 19th day of July 1904, Bert and I left Manhattan, Kansas, by prairie schooner, destination "CANADA" via Parker, North Dakota. Bert had nine dollars in his pocket and I had twenty-two dollars. Before leaving, I had been working at the K.S.A.C. (the college) driving a team hauling chip rock from the quarry of white limestone, that supplied building material, majestic buildings that grace the college campus. The rock was roughed out at the quarry and then hauled to the campus. The road from the quarry passed the edge of town and then up hill to the quarry. People by the name of Balderson lived at the foot of the hill. In their front yard, was a pump that was motionless, yet a stream of crystal clear water flowed from its spout. The weather was hot and I often stopped to drink from this pump. I only knew one of the Balderson boys, a husky chap about my own age.
The first part of our journey was up the Blue River to Lincoln, Nebraska. We had traveled this road twenty-two years earlier. The Penitentiary, with its high walls and lookout towers, was at the southern extremity of the city. After we had passed the Penitentiary on our way north, Bert said, "Now this is the street that our old neighbor Mr. J.M. Roper lives on. When we come to his house, will drive in and see if he can identify us; Iíll propose a horse trade as an excuse for stopping." When we were in Dakota, he had a faithful old team named Tom and Nig; they were a set of blacks.
When we came to their driveway, there was a small building at the back that probably housed a cow or a horse, or both. We drove in and stopped, Bert sat in the wagon and I went the door and knocked. A young lady, I had never seen before, came to the door; I asked if Mr. Roper lived here and she said, "Yes", and I asked if he was home. She said no, he was up town delivering milk. I said, "I would wait until he returned". I joined Bert on the wagon. In a very short time, an old lady came out of the house and went to the building at the back and then returned to the house and told the girls, "I know who made that wagon cover and fixed up that wagon, their names are Howard." About this time, a one horse light wagon of some sort turned off the street, and stopped behind our rig. A man got out and came up side of us and stopped. I made the remark, "Traffic is so thick on the street, we drove in to rest a minute". To which the gentleman replied, "I donít like having my yard littered up." And I shot right back with "I would like to trade for that horse you are driving". He said, "I donít want to trade, that is the only horse that I have got". Then I asked, "What have you done with old Tom and Nig?" He said, "Howards." I said, "Precisely." He said to unhitch that team and give them feed, there is a lot of visiting to do. He took us to the house and introduced us to the charming young lady we had never met; it was his youngest daughter. Their oldest daughter, Mable, was married and lived in Lincoln, a few blocks away. Mr. Roper took us to see her. We happened to meet just as she stepped through her gate to the street. Mr. Roper said, "Our cousins from the east have some to make us a visit." She looked at us and said, I canít see any cousins, this id Bert and Ralph Howard" Ö a good guess, for today, people that donít see us together that often make the same mistake. We learnt that John their oldest son was in Parker, dealing in hardware. We enjoyed their hospitality and a pleasant visit and then continued on our journey.
I somehow wasnít feeling right, my appetite wasnít right and what I did eat didnít agree with me; I was weak and feverish, at times and as we journeyed each day, I felt a little worse. We reached Parker about mid afternoon on Saturday. We stopped and visited Mr. John Roper at his store, a little while and then drove to the Little Vermilion River and made camp. We visited old friends and relatives in Parker until min afternoon Sunday.
We had an uncle living one mile out of town and one of his sons was living with him. He came to town and asked that we come out and spend the night with them, which we did expecting to depart in the morning. This was Mr. Lenard Howard, the man who had walked with my father from their homesteads to do mason work together in the early days. I was feeling worse in the morning but managed to get dressed and laid down on Aunt Minís lounge and the next thing I knew, a man was standing over me with a watch in one hand and holding my wrist with the other. In a few moments he spoke to Aunt Min, "This man has all the symptoms of typhoid fever". To me he said, "Get into bed and I will see you again this evening". We had known this doctor before we left Dakota twenty-two years before and he was still practicing and had much experience with typhoid fever. The Doc came again, in the evening and brought another physician with him to confirm his diagnose. He supplied medicine and precise instructions for its use, and visited me twice daily for many weeks. I finally survived but Mr. Balderson, who drank from the same well as I did, did not. I think that by travelling north, I had a few degrees lower temperature in my favor. I had a severe run of typhoid and a few days, Mother was at my bedside, I think someone must have sent her a telegram. Shortly after her arrival, the Doctor asked in my presence, when had I last taken any nourishment. I believe it was Bert who answered, "Seven days." The doctor said, "We will have to get him to take some nourishment, Iíll be back toward evening and tell you how to cook an egg for him." I couldnít stand the thought of food but I knew I had to take something. I spent the hours trying to find courage to try.
When the egg was done, I did manage to get some of it down. It felt like chunks of lead. In the morning, they brought me another egg, and said, "take it". I knew this was to be a continuing routine and asked for a square of fresh watermelon with the skin and seeds removed. This happened to be okay and relieved me some and soon the danger point was passed. My recovery was very slow and for many days, I had to be turned over in bed and could not move. I gradually took more nourishment, mostly watermelon, and the only thing that seem to work. I got so I could wiggle my toes and quarrel with the nurses. I would ask what day it was occasionally, and be told it was Friday, I would wait another day and asked again, the following day was also Friday. Finally I told the nurse it had been Friday for three days, werenít there any Saturdayís left? Delirium associated with fever is a real as life itself; a patient canít distinguis h it from reality and you canít tell him any different. I got so I would turn my back on the nurse when she came in and the cook wouldnít cook what I wanted and only a starvation ration at that. It made me so mad, I wiggled all over and remember I am on my way to Canada. I decided maybe the cook was keeping daily business at the beer parlor and maybe he would run out of money pretty soon and then do better at his job. He didnít and the rations only increased a very little, and in a desperation, I tried to sit up in bed, I couldnít make it work. It sure looked like I wasnít going anywhere and was well on my way. I made another effort and nearly made it. I rang for the nurse and told her I needed more watermelon. I ate it and slept for hours and woke up starved for watermelon. Uncle Len had an abundant supply in his garden and was selling them at the market. My next try at sitting up, succeeded and I started to look for my wearing apparel and failed as usual. The Maternity gown that I was wearing was big enough to hold a whole litter like me but it wasnít going to keep me in bed much longer. A couple of watermelon later, when nobody was looking, I got my feet off the bed and in contact with the floor, and I tried to stand up. I couldnít quite make it. My left leg gave a twist or something and began to feel numb with pain and stiff. I made another try, and pain or no pain I was on my feet and fairly straightened up. I had to hang on to the back of a chair to keep from tipping over, but I remember thinking, "Now Canada, you just be patient, if the melons hold out, I will soon be your responsibility.
The next day the left leg did not feel good but I got inside my britches and navigated across the room and made a face and played peek-a-boo with the nurse, and returned to port. The melons held out in spite of all I could do to the contrary. My leg kept on swelling and was stiff and pain some but I went further every day, and soon I could make it to the Little Vermilion River, where I used to lead the cows and horses down to drink, twenty-two years before.
The trees were twelve inches in diameter that had only been fishing pole size beforeÖ "Now Canada, itís this way, I have a brother Frank up there on the South Saskatchewan River. He is working for the Smart and Johns Ranch, two miles above the Saskatchewan Landing. Iím writing him for living expenses and transportation and as soon as it arrives Iíll be on my way".
Mother returned to Kansas, Bert worked on a threshing rig through the season, and then sold the ponies and returned home to his family.
Frank sent the money and I arrived at Saskatchewan Landing. The nearest railroad point to Saskatchewan Landing was Swift Current, some 35 miles away. I came out to the Landing with the mail carrier (it cost me four dollars). When he went into the Post Office, I followed. The office was a store and a ranch house. There were two men and presently two more entered. They seemed to be looking me over pretty close and I inquired if there was a man present by the name of Smart. One replied, "There is, and speaking". I asked if Frank was at the ranch, he said yes and I told him I wanted to see Frank. He asked if I could ride horseback and I said yes, some and I could also walk and I would mosey up to the ranch all right. When I got there, Frank was reading a letter out load and I was in time to hear, "Our stable and horses burned, yours as ever, T. Stoffer". He looked up and said, "Well, you make it!" I asked who Stoffer was and Frank said he was a settler from the Elbow. Mr. Smart soon arrived and took me in and introduced me to his wife and said, "You are as welcomed as the flowers in May, rest up and get well" Ö and then I knew that all the good people in the world were not confined to the United States.
Mr. James Smart had been a veteran of the Boer War in Africa, and he and his partner Mr. Johns had at one time taken a herd of fifty of their beef cattle and driven them to the Klondike where they made them into Pemmican and sold the product. Occasionally in the evenings, I could get one or the other to tell of some of their experiences and never before in my life had I heard anything so interesting. When I left Kansas, I brought along my axe, all but the handle. After a few days rest, I asked Mr. Smart if any hardwood grew in the country. He said only the occasional white ash and there was some over near the Rim Rock. I borrowed his axe and went to the Rim Rock and cut the best one I could find and brought back a three foot length which I split and roughed out and finished a handle which done me very well. I then went to his woodpile and limbered up. But I soon tired, but when rested, would go at it again. In a day or two, his woodpile was all stove lengths. He sent Frank with a bunch of cattle to a rancher that lived down the river about 25 or 30 miles away. I knew Frank would need some help. I had my saddle that had followed me from Texas, but I was weak to stand a two or three day ride. When Frank returned, he was to haul in some hay from about ten miles out. I told Mr. Smart, that if he would rig up another team and rack, I would go along with Frank and we could bring in two loads of hay on the way back instead of just one. This suited him fine. I tied my 30-30 carbine to rack the next morning and started out. I thought I might get a shot at a coyote. The trail from the valley up to the higher level was worse than I had ever traveled, especially so with a load of loose hay. So steep in places that the horses could just make it up with the empty rack. Coming down loaded, you had to out run the rack and wagon or be run over. Before you got to the bottom the trail would turn side wise to the slope, then the centrifugal force combined with the slops would act together and the person riding topside would not be able to enjoy the scenery, at least I didnít.
We made the grade finally. The days shortened up according to habit and if we reached the haystacks and loaded two loads on and tumbled down those hills before dark we didnít have any time to waste. Finally, I thought about the coyotes, I hadnít seen any. Then about two miles down the valley and 75 years from the road, I saw a badgerís head protruding from his hole. A badger hide might make a good start on a fur collection of some value. I got the team stopped and completed the arrangement for the fur collection. When I shot, Frank stopped his team until I secured my fur, all but the skinning and cleaning. Our next stop was the haystack, twelve oíclock sharp, and for dinner raw badger and hayÖ no melon. We loaded and were back at the ranch by dark. How we ever got down them hills without up setting, Iíll never know. I know I was never any worse scared in all my life. When we got the hay hauled, the boss wanted us to cut his winters wood. Three miles up the valley was a patch of fire killed poplar, dry enough to burn real good. We moved Frankís tent and bed and stove up there and commenced to cutting. We cut about ten cords up in stove lengths. Mrs. Smart planned to go east to spend the winter with relatives. About four days before she was due to leave, Mr. Smart wanted us to go out and get some wild meat for winter use. We saddled up and started up the river about 15 miles to a vacant summer camp, shack, corrals and stable. For grub, we took salt and about two pounds of rolled oats. We got a late start and followed the high ground along the edge of the valley. It was a cold windy day and we had to face the wind. When we got within three miles of camp, Frank stopped and said, "Iíve got a bunch spotted". I asked where and he said up the valley and across the river. I looked and couldnít see a thing. He said, "On that flat near the river at the upper end". I looked and could just see a tinge of brown it was two miles away. We hurried on to camp, put the horses in the stable and ate a handful of raw rolled oats Ö still no melons. We took our 30-30ís and crossed the river on the ice that reached across the places, there was plenty of open water, but we followed along down the flat. We couldnít see any antelope but there were tracks of about fifty of them. They had started up a coulee that came in from the north. We followed about a mile and came upon them lying down in the head of the coulee. We couldnít approach closer than two hundred yards without being seen. This was our limit of range figuring trajectory. We were both lying down, rifles resting on an elbow.
I was ready and waiting for Frank to shoot first, and Iíll admit itís possible I had a bit of what they call buck fever. Franks rifle clicked a mute shell and mine declared a clean miss! The antelope were up in a flash computing distance with their feet putting down zero and carrying four. But before they faded from view, behind the nearest rise, two shots bade them, good-bye. We followed to higher ground for a parting view and discovered red spots on the ground and a little farther on, a lone antelope was lying quietly in the snow. We removed the head so it would bleed well and removed the entrails to lighten the burden, tied the front and rear legs together with a length of strong cord, slung it over a shoulder and started back to camp. One was carrying the rifles and the other carrying the meat. We were now two miles north and two miles east of camp. We took a straight line for camp, which crossed another coulee before we reached the river. When we reached the coulee, we saw another herd of antelope about six hundred yards away. We each took a shot and now we each had meat to carry. It was dark when we reached the river and we hung our meat in the trees where the coyotes couldnít get at it. It was only luck that we didnít walk into the open water it was dark. We reached a cold camp, no light, no wood, no axe, and no blankets. Good shack, good cook-stove. After we searched around the buildings we collected some scraps and soon had a fire going. The stove had enough cracks to give some light and the only thing in the shack that resembled furniture was an old bedstead and some springs. We pulled this over by the stove and kept the fire going all night. The next morning, we took our rifles and crossed the river to bring the meat. First we circled about a mile and got another antelope. When we had them skinned and carried to the camp, it was near night. Frank said, "I have to be at the ranch early in the morning so Mr. and Mrs. Smart can get an early start for Swift Current to catch the train, I am half way there now, so you bring the meat in, in the morning". When I got the meat loaded on the pony, there was no room for me on top, so I walked and led him by the bridle reins.
Mr. Smart wanted us to spend the winter with him, but we had planned to do some trapping. When he got back from town, he, Mr. Smart had a winter man with him. Frank had a light wagon and harness and we each had a good saddle. Frank also had a tent. We loaded our entire possessions in the wagon, told Mr. Smart, goodbye, and headed up the river for a vacant summer camp further on. This camp was located where the Mirey Creek joins the South Saskatchewan River, on the south side. There was a good log shack here and plenty of wood handy. We arrived here mid-afternoon and set up our stove and made some coffee. We had brought along a frozen quarter antelope. I cut some of this into inch square pieces and then cut a slit, half an inch deep, and dropped in a dose of strichnine, and then closed the gash with lard.
When we drove up to the shack, we saw a couple of coyotes about a half a mile up the creed, sitting on top of a cut bank. Frank and I drove up to see what the attraction was, and found a cow mired in the creed and partly eaten. I scattered a dozen baits in the grass close by and we returned to camp. We rode the next morning to see if the baits had been taken and picked up three coyotes. Then we crossed the river and rode a couple of miles out on the Matador range and shot a nice fat antelope. We removed the entrails and poisoned them. There was eight inches of snow and we put a noose over the antelopeís head and drug the carcass to the river, dropping bait every two hundred yards or so. A coyote that found this trail would follow it until he found a bait then follow it to find another and you knew where to find him.
The antelope suffered no damage from sliding on the snow and in a small way our collection of fur began to thrive. We shot an occasional badger in the early winter, before they hibernated. Frank shot one wild cat. When we had been out about one week, two strangers came walking into camp and asked if Frank was there. I told them he was across the river and I expected him back any time. They said they would wait. Frank soon returned and introduced me to Mr. Frank Stoffer and Mr. Charles Mathews.
They lived new the Elbow about 150 miles from where we were they had traveled on the ice most of the way. Frank and Harry Stoffer had camped with my brother Frank, the first winter in my brotherís dugout at the Elbow. It was Harry who had frozen his feet. Charlie Mathews was homesteading nearby at the time. He had no water on his homestead and the Saskatchewan Government was offering assistance to reliable settlers to get water. The Government offered to pay half price for a drilling and cancelled the other half when three wells had been completed. They had come to find out if Frank would run the rig for them. Frank talked favorable and decided that we had better take these men back to their home at the Elbow. The next day we took up what baits we had out and destroyed them then loaded camp and started for the Elbow. We had a ten by twelve-foot tent and a small camp stove, and a blanket or two that we called a bed, but it wasnít enough for two and now it had to do for four.
It took us two days to reach Saskatchewan Landing. We hadnít made two miles until one of the Matadors asked us where we were going. We said, "To the Elbow". "Well", he said, "Its absolutely impossible to get through with a wagon along the river". We could see a way for a hundred and fifty yards and shoved on and stopped at the edge of the Badlands (as they are called). They reached from the river back I guess to infinity! The river banks were nearly perpendicular and ten or twelve feet high and we had to make a place to get the wagon down the bank to the ice, and had neglected to bring a bulldozer, and doubted if the ice would hold when we got there. Iím glad to say that we finally got our outfit on to that ice and it held! An inquisitive coyote rewarded us with a prime pelt, while we were delayed.
Dusk found us in a settlerís yard on the south bank of the river, his name was Morgan, and he was not at home. We erected our tent and appropriated some of his dry wood and made ourselves disagreeable. From Morgans, the wagon would take the prairie trail to the landing. It was cold and we walked to keep from freezing.
I decided to continue along the river to the Smart and Johnís ranch and try for a coyote. When I came to the ranch, I asked if a wagon has passed, Smart said it had. It was near night and I had missed dinner and been delayed to skin a coyote. Although I had never drank a pint of hard liquor in my life, Mr. Smart pulled the cork from a bottle of whiskey, handed it to me and said, "Drink hearty". I took a swallow and that tasted good so I took another. I thanked him and arrived at the camp with a good new pelt and a beautiful appetite.
We crossed the river here to the north and had better going. Three days later, we were traveling near the river. I was with the wagon and saw a coyote about 75 yards away. The wagon stopped until I got my rifle and I made a clean miss and that didnít make me feel very good. The wagon started again and didnít make a hundred yards until it acted like its back was broken near the rear end. An examination proved the rear axel was broken near the middle. Now what? Ö It was evident to me that we were in a serious predicament, but what to do about it, I could think of nothing. It was cold to stand and look at each other, and we had to do something to keep from freezing. Finally one of our friends spoke up "When we came up the river we passed a vacant summer ranch. I think it was a couple of miles farther along. There was a wagon near the buildings. I will go and find out if it is still there". I took my carbine and started. I made about one mile and saw a badger while I was maneuvering for a shot, one of the boys passed with the team dragging the double trees and neck yolk. By the time I had that badger skinned, he had passed going back with the wagon. I continued on to the buildings and found the door to the house padlocked. The wagon soon arrived with the camp and broken axel. The problem now was to pick the lock or pull the staple. I donít think any of us had practiced the lock picking and had neglected to bring tools of any description. Eventually the staple lost the argument.
The house was log and well made, there was a stove, some chairs, a table and room to stand up, a chair to sit on, a table to eat from. We soon had a fire going, a huge pan of steak frying and a fragrant pot of coffee on the way. A search for to make a new axel resulted in a length cut from a white ash tree on the woodpile, well seasoned. We had only an axe and a pocketknife to shape the new axel. Two days later we were on our way after cleaning up the house and leaving the borrowed wagon where we had found it. This was the only padlocked house we found along the Saskatchewan. A person in need was welcomed to use any unoccupied house if they were decent about it. A vacant house where the Snakebite Coulee joins the Saskatchewan welcomed us on arrival. This was thirty miles up the river from the Elbow.
When Stoffer and Mathews left home, they rode horse back this far and left their horses with the nearest rancher and walked the remainder of the way. They got their horses and left for home. Frank went with them to get a bundle of traps he left with the Stoffers, when he left the Elbow and started for a job on the railroad grade th e year before. Stoffer and Mathews wanted us to get them some winter meat. While Frank was after the traps, he looked the country over a little and hung up three fine deer. When Frank returned, we poisoned the entrails and put out baits and were in business as usual.
The yield from the baits the first night was a red fox, a coyote and while skinning the coyote, Frank discovered and shot a badger near by. We enjoyed this camp for one week. Then another coyote hunter moved in, his name was Loomis, he was from Montana. He drove a four-horse team of light horse hitched to a Montana sheep wagon. The best wagon I ever saw was tightly covered with 18oz canvas and a 12 by 12 foot tent of the same material. It folded against the back end of the wagon when not in use. Two is company and three is a crowd. Frank and I load camp and headed up the river twenty miles to Crookshanks vacant summer camp. When we were five miles on our way, we tied a rope to a frozen meat drag and dropped bait at regular intervals. We set up our tent and tended to business.
In a few days, we had run out of tobacco, a foolish thing to do this far from a supply. The nearest store is at least 75 miles away. We happened to know that Harry Richardson had a fifty-pound bale of Hudsonís Bay leaf tobacco. He lived across the river and four miles from SnakeBite Camp. On the chance that I could deal him out of part of this supply, I saddled up and left for SnakeBite, watching the drag we had made on our way up. I hung up three coyotes and spent the night with Loomis. Went down to Harry Richardsonís and dealt for a portion of his leafed treasure and returned to SnakeBite. Before I arrived, I picked up a red fox and brought along Loomis and spent another night with him. I arrived back at Camp Crookshank with three frozen coyotes to thaw out and skin and tobacco, adequate to the task. We operated from this camp until February and then went down the river to the Elbow for supplies and headed out west from there, to what we called Devilís Lake, to begin muskrat trapping as soon as the weather warmed. We spent the first night with Mr. Jack Hitchcock, four miles from the lake and then proceeded to the lake. We saw a badger on the way but didnít get him. The lakeshore on the north for one hundred yards back, showed more badger holes than I ever saw in one place.
The lake, itself, showed no signs of muskrats. The shore to the north for a mile was flat and level, reaching to the base of a range of hills from which deep coulees with a good flow of spring water, supplied wood and protection for camping. Among the hills were many small sloughs, alive with muskrats. When we had the tent set up and a supply of wood gathered I took some big traps and went to the lakeshore and set them for badger.
Frank took the lighter traps and went to the sloughs for muskrats. ĎTwas a little too early for either. My first round of traps surprised me with a blank. Frankís first round supplied him, a half a dozen rats. My luck was not better the next round Frankís next round was a little better, too. He skinned his catch and scattered baits around the remains. On my next round, I shot a badger and picked up a red fox. Frank brought in ten muskrats. I made two more trips and didnít bring in any fur Frankís catch did not improve. A team and wagon came in sight, down by the lake and headed for a good place to camp. He stopped when he came to our tent. He was ready to start trapping muskrats. The next day, we all started north to the lakes on the Red Deer Valley, about twenty miles away. We established a camp in the Valley between two lakes separated by a hundred yards or less. The snow was all gone except some drifts. A stream of water flowed down between the lakes that we couldnít cross until the surface water ran off.
Mr. Loomis started his trap-line along the shore below the lake. Frank started his line on the upper lake; I started mine in a slough that we had passed near the valley. Loomis had two dozen traps, Frank had the same number and I had eighteen. Our first dayís catch was 75. It took us half the night to get them all skinned, the hides cleaned and on the stretchers, to dry. The next day, I brought my traps in and it took all my time to take care of the furs. I stretched lines in one tent to dry them out, and as soon as they were partly dry and set to the shape of the stretcher, I removed them and hung them in loose bundles to finish drying. There was an average of fifty per day brought in for about two weeks and then the catch began to dwindle and we were hard run for grub. We had brought very little meat with us. I remedied this by riding out to look for antelope one afternoon. I returned at dark with a fine specimen; Frank matched it with a plump goose, the first to appear for the season.
We thought there was a new and better trapping, up the valley farther. We loaded up camp and started, but came to nothing worth stopping for. We were nearly south of Tramping Lake, so we turned north to see what it was like. No good for muskrats! So, we headed for Battleford to get supplies. As we approached Battleford, we met teams hauling lumber, household goods, machinery and the like. We arrived in Battleford on May 1st, ten days before the close of the muskrat-trapping season. The Hudsonís Bay offered twelve cents a piece for prime number one muskrats. We traded our share to Loomis for one of his horses; then parted company with him and started west following parallel to the CNR tracks. We saw lots of good agricultural land, partly open and partly covered with poplar trees. We finally arrived at Lloydminster and camped at the edge of the village. Before arrival, we had sold one of the ponies for $75.00.
The next day, a man walked into our camp and asked where we were from. We said, from the States, "Been looking around at the country". He said that he was from Montana, and was also looking at the country. He said, "I stopped south of Lethbridge and had a look, I seen lots of horses, good ones too, big enough to farm with". We visited with him for a couple of hours and he went back up town and we didnít see him again. On the following day, another man came to our camp and asked where we were from and Frank said, "Saskatchewan Landing". We talked a while and then he said, "Iím holding a bunch of cattle north of town". Frank then asked if they were IGL brand and he said yes. After he left, I asked Frank, who our visitor was, Frank said, "His name is MacGee, I know two of his brothers. They had a ranch near the landing".
We knew if we had some heavier horses, we could do enough homesteading to establish a permanent camp. We could go out to the North Saskatchewan River and be far enough away from the railroad to make a success or the livestock business either; and the country north of the river might have some game or fish, or fur. It only took us a few days to find a buyer for our team, harness and wagon. Then we packed a trunk with camping equipment, rolled our rifles in our bedrolls; boxed our tent, stove and tools and hired them stored. We took the trunk and bedrolls to the station, bought tickets to Lethbridge, via Edmonton and Calgary, checked our baggage and boarded the first train going west.
We had trouble getting our baggage transferred from Edmonton across the river to Strathcona. There was no rail connection across the river at this time. We spent a couple of days at Lethbridge. The coal miners were on strike, they thought that we were hunting for a job. We couldnít find any horses for sale at a price that we could pay. Frank and I took the train to the Montana border, and stopped at a sidetrack and store, which was run by a settler. We told him our troubles, he hitched a team to a democrat and said, "Get in, I know a rancher, his name is Ross. He lives two miles from the railroad and eight miles back from Lethbridge. He had 750 head of cattle, 100 head of good horses and the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, and lives alone on his ranch". We made his acquaintance, he said he didnít have any broke horses for sale, but he had a man breaking some for him and it would only take a couple of weeks to have them ready. We selected a team of three-year-old mares, paid him one hundred dollars and told him to get busy.
They were putting up sheep corals at the railroad opposite his house, preparing for the annual shearing. We passed by and spoke for a job and got accepted. We bought the running gear of a wagon, some boards to make a box for it. What grub we had bought at the store, put the boards on the wagon, loaded up our baggage and the next day hired his boy to haul our wagon up to the shearing pens. Frank, eighteen husky Brighamites and I got busy. They could shear two sheep to our one, and lie faster than they could shear. When this herd lost its wool and half its hide, more arrived. In two weeks, the last herd was nearly finished when Mr. Ross came over to see how we were getting along. He said the man had backed out on the breaking the horses and would we come over and help put up some hay when we were finished the sheep. Of course we did. Mr. Ross was on hand with the team to haul our wagon and us. The first thing we did was to catch our team and put them to stake, rope and halter break them. That day, a man came to the ranch, looking for men to put up hay in Spring Coulee. He wanted Frank and I to come up as soon as we could. Mr. Ross had a patch of fox tail hay in the swath, one half mile from the house. Frank and I slept on the ground by our wagon. The next morning, Mr. Ross called us when the sun was half-visible on the horizon, 15 minutes to four oíclock in the morning. He ordered one of us to bring the horses and the other to help get the breakfast ready. Frank went to get the horses and I went into the house. Mr. Ross sat in his best chair and I asked, "what shall we have for breakfast?" He said, "whatís in the cupboard". I looked and I could see anything but dirty dishes, a closer inspection revealed nothing edibleÖ I went to our wagon and got some flour to make some bannock, rolled oats and coffee. After breakfast, I made the remark, "we canít make hay without grub, what we brought is used up, we will have to get some more". "Okay", said the boss, "we will start at once". ĎTwas fifteen miles to MacGrath, the nearest trading post. I paid for his dinner at the restaurant, he said he didnít have any money. His son lived two hundred yards from his and he wanted some hay. Before we started for grub, Mr. Ross brought his pitchfork and a grindstone into his house and locked the door and put the key in his pocket, so no one could wear them out before his return. We got back before dark with three cans of corn packed in a market basket, and some salt, a package of soda biscuits and one of rolled oats. "Now", he said, "I want some hay" Öhe never mentioned money. His boy had two sets of harness which one set was new. I paid him cash for it and said I would get it in a few days. Mr. Ross raked his hay Frank and I, each rigged up a hay wagon. Mr. Ross called us a little earlier each morning. The grub played out in two days the hay was stacked in four days. I brought my harness and put it on the team I had been working, an older team, quiet and good breeding stock. I hitched them to the wagon and went to the house and informed him, "I have traded you the young team for the old ones, it was a pleasure working for you, good-bye, we are on our way".
We stopped at MacGrath where Mr. Meekum lived, and made a hayrack and went to Spring Coulee where he had a camp and started haying. It turned out that Mr. Meekum was first generation material from Brigham Young and one notch down in social rating. He had two mowing machines, and two horse rakes, and one team and a hay wagon and enough sons on the job to drive them. The idea was to run both mowers, one team with the hay rake was to rake and bunch for both mowers, one team with a hayrack and our own was to haul and stack. This worked fairly well for a few days then it rained like it had no business and stopped the work.
Mr. William W. Campbell, our brother-in-law, arrived at our camp direct from the States. Frank and I stacked our hay separate we were to get $1.25 per ton for it in the stack. We had a nice stack for forty loads. It rained some more and the stack started settling, it rained some more and Ďtwas a week before we could get at it again. Will, got a job, driving for a farmer, putting in 300 acres of winter wheat. It rained some more and stopped haying and seeding. So what! Frank and I had a date in Lloydminster that we had no intention of breaking. We told Mr. Meekum that we were grieved to leave him before he got his hay measured. (I had already measured the part we were interested in and there was $17.00 due to us. He said he didnít have any money until the hay was measured, he said, "I will send you the money by Will". Wills month lacked two weeks of being up he was to meet us in Lloydminster. Before we left Mr. Meekum, unknown to us, he had put a good 14-foot logging chain in our wagon that he probably stole. It took a day to get ready for the journey. We oiled our rifles, bought a box of twenty 30-30 ammunition and a new tent, a camp stove, some salt, matches, baking powder, lard, flour, coffee and two pounds of bacon. We headed a little east of north and were on our way.
As soon as we were out of the Mormon settlement, we began to see the occasional coyote. It was too early to get fur for the market but we though a pelt or two might come in handy for our own use. We didnít molest any, unless they were within easy rifle range and we took it about, just to get in practice. Frank got one, the first shot and two days late, I did the same. We also had a fine Winchester Repeater 22 for smaller game. It was prairie country until we reached the Battle River, some timber along the streams. There were ferries on the largest streams if you could find them. A dim trail led down to one crossing there was no ferry. The river was broad, at least 150 yards, I believe or more. The water was crystal clear and the bed of the river was covered with rocks of all sizes, rounded and smoothed by erosion. From our seat on the wagon, we could see every rock and how deep the water was. It never reached the hubs of the wheels but it was the roughest road Iíd ever traveled! We discovered the 14-foot logging chain in the wagon and we fastened it to the wagon and hauled it farther out of the water and set up tent. Then we rigged up a fish line pole and hook, and at a place fifty yards up there was a little still water near the shore. We caught a half dozen, Ĺ pound Gold Eye fish. We fried a couple a golden brown in some bacon grease, made some fresh bannock and a lard pail full of coffee. When these had served their purpose, we lit a pipe and were ready for business. The wagon tongue itself was not completely ruined. It was the hounds that were ruined and we had to have a new set. Green soft timber would not do. We noticed some beaver cut peeled poplar, that had been left by high water on the shore. We finally found enough for our needs. This was axe and pocket knife job. It had to fit the hounds of the wagon and then a bolthole made through the hounds and the wagon. This would have been a short job if we had not neglected to bring a brace and bit of the right size. We had to do this with the bolt and a knife. We tacked the hounds to the pole to hold them in place, fitted them in place on the wagon and marked it with the bolt by a light tap where the edge of the hole would be and where it should emerge. Then removed the tongue and hounds and pull the nails. With the point of the knife, we marked a circle the size of the bolt and chipped out the center of the circle and then with the bolt red hot, you could burn a quarter of an inch deeper and then pour in water to put out the fire. Then repeated the performance until we finally had the hole through the tongue and hounds. When they were in place and the bolts in and tightened, we were ready for the trail againÖ This job held until we reached Lloydminster and located our homesteads and did twenty years of homestead duties. The rest of our journey was uneventful and monotonous. Our main worry was to find water to camp, and most of the country was unsurveyed. We traveled days on end without a glimpse of the sun, or of man or of a domesticated animal. Were we traveling in circles? We asked each other often, are we right, and one would say, "it seems to me that we are traveling a little too far to the left, and the other would say it seems to me we are too much to the right!"
We finally reached the Battle River and we traveled parallel to it course, the way it flowed, for a day and then we wanted to cross. This stream was comparatively small but looked good. The geological formation of the banks was a little different and suggested the possibility of quicksand. The water was a little cloudy and you couldnít see the bottom in a foot of water, the banks were abrupt and generally high. If you found a place where you could get down to the river on one side, the other bank would be straight up. We spent the day looking for a crossing; we search the river two miles in each direction and decided where the chances were the best. To reach this place with the wagon, we had to cut a road through thick poplar for half a mile. The side where we entered, was high and steep but the other side was low and looked like a good place to get out. It looked like a risky proposition to me. I studied about stripping and investigating, but the water was icy cold and my left leg was still swollen (and still is) from the effects of the typhoid and the effect of a sudden chilling was to cause the leg to cramp. So what! The directions said "Shake or no shake", take it! We drove into the water, which reached the wagon box, we reached the other bank and the wagon came out, then the horses sank to their bellies but kept floundering on Ďtil they reached firm footing and we were across and the SUN CAME OUT! We headed straight north until we came to the CNR tracks here a trail paralleled the railroad to our destination. As we entered the little village of Lloydminster, we spotted Will Campbell, working with a crew making a cement foundation for an elevator. We said hello and told Will to come out to camp for supper.
The next morning, we removed our property from storage and headed northeast for the North Saskatchewan River. We left Lloydminster by what we called the road to Onion Lake, north of the river. It was a prairie trail to a ferry on the river. A mile and a half form Lloydminster on this trail was a settler by the name of Sutton; near the trail there was a spring of fairly good water, and as this water flowed, it brought forth a stream of bubbles. We later often stopped at this spring to water our team and get camp water. After we passed this spring, on our first trip, I spotted a coyote about 75 yards off the trail, having a look at us. I reached for my carbine and our expedition delayed until I took his pelt, which would bring in a dollar. A dollar would buy a fifty-pound sack of second grade flour. Second grade flour would bring delicious biscuits under the influence of the sourdough jar and good management.
We crossed the Big Gully, twelve miles out from Lloydminster, where a settler by the name of Charlie Hay lived. Down the Gully, two miles farther, another settler had completed his shack and moved in.
At the Big Gully, a trail branched off to the east and angled northeast to the east-end of Greenstreet Lake. Ranchers by the name of Greenstreet and Jones had a good bunch of cattle and were located here. We passed their ranch and headed northeast to pass a high hill, then headed north until we reached the North Saskatchewan River Valley, which was narrow and deep. We drove along the brink of the valley until the river made a bend to the east. We scared out a bunch of deer and made camp here. It was late afternoon and we tried for some venison but were disappointed.
We drove around and looked the country over for a week. It was very much alike, deep black soil, stony in places and thick poplar in patches to match open patches of prairie. The survey was twenty-seven years old and we couldnít find a corner to get section numbers. We had a township map but that wasnít enough. I donít know what possessed Will, but before we left Lloydminster, he bought two small watch sized compasses with a strong light strap attached. He gave one to me and one to Frank and said, "Fasten them on you some place where they canít come off or get lost and leave them there". I happened to remember my compass so I said, "lets see the map". We were near a big slough. "Now", I said, "According to the map, there is a section corner stone about one half mile east of the north edge of this slough". We found the corner and by starting a line by compass and pacing 1700 steps we could locate the next section corner. We got the numbers of three quarter sections that would do as well as any, and beat it back to file. Our applications were received and recorded on October 22, 1906. We returned to my homestead, the northwest quarter of 10-53-w3 meridian and started building a log shack.
While we were looking the country over, one day, I took my carbine and done some investigating alone. I hung a big deer that froze over night and I packed a small one to camp. After we had the shack nearly done, I had a little time while Will and Frank cut the roof poles. I went to the river a little more than one half-mile away and set a couple of traps.
That night, we had the roof on and Will said, "Tomorrow, I want to go to Lloydminster and catch a train to the States and bring us a car of horses and machinery in the spring". I said, "Okay, Iíll take you to Lloyd". We started with just the running gear of the wagon. We stopped half way to feed the horses oats and brew a pail of tea. Then I cut a load of dry wood and we reached Lloydminster after dark. Willís train left about midnight with him aboard. In the morning, I sold my wood for three dollars. I bought a sash of glass for a window, a pound a tea, a pound of smoking tobacco, a fifty pound sack of flour and had forty cents left to winter on. I arrived back at my homestead about midnight in a snowstorm. Frank heard me coming and was up with a good fire going and a pail of tea, on the make. It was snowing in the morning and continued until mid-afternoon, then the sun came out. Frank said heíd russel some wood for the night and I said I would look at my traps. There was something in one, I wasnít sure what. It was about the size of a large cat, but had a longer tail. It was soaking wet and covered with mud.
When I got back to the shack, Frank had the woodcut and I said to him, "I suppose we have got a fox". I hung whatever it was back from the fire until it dried off. Then I gently brushed and shook it out and the fur fluffed out and it was beautiful. It was not a silver fox. I skinned and stretched the pelt; it was a cross fox, less valuable than a silver or black fox, but more valuable than a red fox.
We moved the tent to a good muskrat slough near the big Gully. Frank began trapping muskrats. I began hauling wood to Lloydminster. I would cut a load one-day and take it to Lloydminster the next day and return to camp. It started snowing, again. When I went in with the third load, I took what fur we had and traded for grub and oats for the horses. The snow was too deep now for wagons and we had no sleigh. When I returned to the homestead, I made something that we called a sleigh. It would carry the camp, but not a load of wood. We set up the tent at the foot of the highest hill, three miles east of Greenstreet Lake, where it remained until the following April. We camped in these hills knowing that the snow would blow off their tops and sides, exposing the grass for the horses and by feeding them some oats, they would winter.
We would trap until the oats and grub played out, then take the tent and stove and when we reached the Big Gully, set up the tent and spend the night. From here we could make the trip to Lloydminster and back the same day. The mail between Lloydminster and Onion Lake kept the trail broke. Before spring, the snow would be three feet deep. It would take four or five days to make the trip to Lloyd and back to the hills, too long to go without a bed. I would keep the fire one night while Frank slept on the oat sack, the next night Iíd sleep on the sack and Frank kept the fire. On the April 1st, we were on our periodic trip of Lloydminster there was no sign of spring. We set up the tent as usual at the Big Gully and Frank stayed in camp. I went to Lloyd and returned with supplies and the mail. A letter had arrived, informing us that Dad was due anytime now. I returned to town the next day and picked him up with his baggage, a large trunk containing his clothes and a large woolen quilt and some light blankets. We returned to the Gully and spent the night and made it back to the hills the next day. We made better time than usual, the trail we made coming from the hills had not blown full of snow as it usually did.
We remained in the hills for a couple of weeks, waiting for the snow to melt. One of our team had a fine colt and we named her Jess. A few days later the mare failed to come into camp in the morning for her oats. A search found her on a little slough in two inches of water with a dead colt. When the snow thawed and settled down to six inches, we moved to my shack and homestead.
Dad started looking for a homestead and soon found one that suited him. He lost no time placing, filing and commenced building.
Will, my brother in-law, arrived with his car of equipment and hauled it to Frankís shack and homestead on section 16-53-26-w3rd. Then he built his own homestead on section 22-26-53-w3rd. Dadís homestead was NEľ 14-26-53-w3rd. Bert and his family arrived on NEľ 13-26-53-w3rd. We spent the summer building and getting gardens broke and fire guards around the buildings and hay was put up. And hauling freight from Lloydminster which was our nearest post office.
I spent the first winter of my homestead with my wife, Ruvilla, and family, a two-year old boy and a three-year old girl named Capitola Fern. I trapped some from home, but was busy most of the time building stables, corrals, stack yards and getting out and cutting wood. Frank and Clifford Howard, Bertís son, took packed outfits and crossed the river and headed north to explore, hunt and trap. They soon found plenty of moose, deer and the occasional caribou. They helped all of us with the meat and did some trapping.
In the spring, we got a letter from Frank Stouffer and Charlie Mathews. They had finally delt with the government for a well drilling outfit and had the rig at Charlieís place. Frank and Charlie wanted us to come and run the rig. Bert left at once and a week later he wrote for me to come, too. It had been the best paying job I had ever worked at. I arrived at the rig, the machine was set up and drilling had already started. We soon discovered we were not drilling down in the panhandle or close to it. The geological formation was entirely different.
In all the drilling that we had done down there, we only drilled one hole that encountered blue clay. It was a stratum, 20 feet in depth and it nearly ran us wild. We often struck a stratum of rock but they were soft enough so steel would cut them and the entire stratum under the drill would mix with water then we could remove the drills. Blue clay does not mix with water, some of it acts like soft rubber or chewing gum, you can pound and mix all you want but the bailer will not pick it up. The rocks here is mostly nigger heads mixed with blue clay and have been rounded by erosion and are so hard that steel will not cut them. Your drill will find them at any depth, more often near the surface, where your drill usually strikes one and the surface is sure to slant in some direction and the drill will slide off and wear the hole out of line with what you have finished. With the old fashioned cable tooled drop drill, if your well once started to go crooked, you were in trouble. If it once started, then the cable rubbed all the way down to your tools. They were also in the same direction as they started and the farther the drill went, the harder the cable rubbed and you wouldnít get far until the drill would not drop with any force. Just slide down and you couldnít keep the drill turning, and if the drill didnít turn, it wouldnít go down. To over come these difficulties the first preventative measure was to be sure that you machine is set on solid ground so that no part of it will settle. If one side settles, it will throw your derrick out of plumb. The cable at all times should hang in the center of the well. This nigger head rocks the drill then it wonít cut and sometimes it will break in two pieces then the drill may drive these pieces farther apart. Then the drill when turned one way drops into the crack, and if it turns crosswise, it wonít go down. The only way to turn the drill is by twisting the cable by hand at the surface. The drill should turn ľ the circumference of the well each stroke. The only effective way to treat the split rock or if the drill starts sliding past a rock, is to pull your drill. Slush out the hole with water and place a half a pound of dynamite well down in the crack or twelve inches down the side then put 20 feet of water on top of the charge and "Let her rip!" If your charge is placed right, the rock is shot back into the wall and your drill will never touch it again. Nor will your casing follow if the rock is not moved back.
I worked two summers and one winter in this neighborhood, Bert soon returned to his homestead and stayed there. I couldnít be away so much and do homestead duty, so I shipped the rig to Lloydminster by rail. I no sooner had it unloaded when Mr. H. B. Ball, a merchant with whom I had delt with and Mr. John Bell, a citizen, approached me with a business proposition. The citizens owned a light plant that wasnít giving good service and it was short of water. I soon remedied this to their complete satisfaction. Before I had finished this job, a man from Lashburn, Saskatchewan approached me and talked business. His surname was Johns and a Mr. Bruce of Lashburn employed him. Mr. Bruce was building a huge farm, four and one half miles northeast of Lashburn called the Ting Duin. He wanted a well drilled at the cottage hospital and one at the church, which I believed he donated to the town. He also wanted several wells on his farm. He asked if I could commence at once. I told him, "as soon as I finish this one, I will be on the job. You have four hundred feet of well casing on hand when I arrive". I worked in this neighborhood for two years then I turned my interest over to Frank Stouffer and returned to my homestead. In the meantime, Lloydminster had bought a good drilling rig of their own and hired whomever they could get to run it.
After our homestead filings were made, the next time I was in Lloyd to do my trading, a prominent citizen who asked, "How is everything in Yankee Bend?" greeted me on the street. To which I replied, "fine so far". Lloydminster and the immediate surrounding land were appropriated by the Barr Colonists two or three years before our arrival. The town was theirs. A member occupied every branch of business. They had no business competition and would not allow a rival business to locate.
At a time not distant in history, a boat sailed from a port in England with a cargo of respectable citizens: destination, the New World. They arrived safely and disembarked at Plymouth Rock, U. S. A. In transit their social rating deteriorated from respectability to Yankee, or was it the reverse? When I arrived in Canada, I faced the same predicament; still I was proud of my English ancestry and nationality. This is characteristic of all people regardless of race, color or nationality. Later, I lived for some time in Lloydminster and found the people good neighbors and easy to deal with. They didnít have much luck with their drilling rig. Some of the citizens decided to build a flourmill. When the mill was completed, they discovered they needed a good supply of water, and started their drill to work. The machine occupied this position half the summer and nearly half of the following winter. To keep their mill going they employed a man and team to steadily haul water.
One day at the homestead, I was surprised to receive a visit by Mr. Huxley, the mayor of Lloydminster. He asked me to come and complete the well. When the weather got cold, the drilling quit, it was such a disagreeable job. I well knew this, but I went back to Lloyd with Mr. Huxley and went to work. I finally left a satisfactory well at the mill and they sold the mill at a good price. The same as they did with their light plant, a few years before. I ran their rig two summers, cleaning old wells, drilling new ones and repairing pumps. When they didnít have enough work to keep me busy, I paid them three dollars per day for the use of their rig and I drilled by the foot for farmer near town. Their rig had been in service 20 years before I took charge of it. I finally made them an offer to buy the rig, which they gladly accepted. I ran this rig and paid for it, then bought a house in town and moved my family to town and paid for my property. My family had increased to three boys and four girls. My wife, Ruvilla, had not been strong for the last six or seven years; under the doctors care at intervals. Shortly before my youngest daughter, Grace, was born, Ruvilla returned to the homestead for awhile. But her condition gradually got worse. It was about two years after this event I bought a house in town and moved everyone there. As long as I kept working, I could keep the bills and living expenses paid. There was nothing at this time that resembled relief, family allowance or free hospitalization and it seemed everybodyís business to relieve you of your money, for fear you might waste it on booze. My wifeís condition did not improve, after she had been bedfast for a week or more, the doctor ordered her to the hospital for an operation for appendicitis. I asked him if there were any chance she would survive the operation. He said he had operated on ninety-seven patients and never lost one. A few hours after the operation, my wife died. THE END.
COMMENT: It seems that this was indeed an appropriate place to end this story although I know the writer intended to add a good deal more. However it was only a few weeks after this much was done that he fell ill very suddenly and died almost before we realized that he was ill.
NOTICE: A most unique description of a courtship and marriage. At first may strike the reader as oddÖ But when the whole character of the writer is assessed, we see that this was absolutely the highest form of comparison he was capable of drawing, and was, in no way uncomplimentary to his bride. Hunting and trapping were both vitally necessary to life in those early days; and were also the source of deep satisfaction and enjoyment. Nothing, BUT NOTHING! Could bring so much security, satisfaction, protection and pride as the possession of a really good gun! Thus the highest honor that his heart could bestow, after long years of loneliness was the beautiful (when you understand it) description of the wife he most certainly loved and adored.
QUOTE ADDED: By authorís niece, Joyce Naylor. I was only a small girl, at the time of her death and am now a grandmother. But I have never in all my life seen a strong silent man so terribly broken as he was, when my mother, Ruby, and I met him on the road and he told us of her death. He laid his head across his arms on the top of the wagon wheel and great sobs tore over his lips and shook his whole body as the tears flowed.