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Canadian Life as I Found It
Chapter XXXVII March, 1907


MAILS have been all delayed owing to the line being snowed up, so they are coming in now all mixed up, none the less welcome I need hardly say. I pity sincerely any one out here whose people at home neglect writing often. Letters are such a joy when one is so far away from all the old associations, and the loved ones left beyond the sea.

The winter has been hard, but we have stood it bravely, and we are none the worse. The horses are looking well and fit for work, the cattle also, so I must not complain. I am rather proud of the fact that they have always had their feed, however difficult to get to the stable, and only one day had to go without water.

We had another bad storm last week, and of course I was out in it, but I managed to reach home before it got to its height. We must still expect storms, but the worst is over, I hope.

Snow is beginning to disappear in places, and the buds on the trees down in the bush are ready to burst forth; everything indicates an early break up. When I was in town last week water was commencing to run over the river ice; this ice was 6 feet deep this year.

I saw the Immigration agent; he had just returned from a relief expedition, 140 miles out, to a family which had not been heard of since November i. He found them alive, although pretty low down; they were living in a hole dug in the side of a hill; they still had some food, but scarcely any fuel; they had already burnt their beds, table and chairs. They just lit their fire for cooking, then put it out and retired to their hole, only getting up to cook their meals. The agent said that they did not seem downhearted at all; the man only wanted to know whether the present winter was considered a hard one.

I was obliged to go to town to buy stores, and to see whether the implements had got through. I wanted a seeder and a plough, but I had my trip in vain as far as the latter were concerned, none had come up the line; they are hurrying all kinds of food stuffs in first, as a rush from the prairie is expected, for many people will not have been able to travel at all this winter. It has been real bad for horses as well as for human beings. I have often had my horses half-way up to their backs in the snow, and once I had to get down and literally dig them out; I had driven into a deep snowdrift. Another bad fix was when I ran out of tobacco and there was none left at the store; a pipe is such a companion, that one misses it almost as much as food. I hear that there are great plans for railroads this spring; the Government is moving in the matter, and pushing on all it can, and not too soon either, for all the timber is nearly cleared out, and if no fuel is got into the country, people will be obliged to quit this part of it. A number of people already are selling out and starting for the Peace River district, where the extremes of cold and heat are said not to be so trying. Needless to say, I am not thinking of joining them; homesteading once in a lifetime is quite enough for me; I do not wish to begin over again.

I hope that the vegetable marrow and cucumber seeds have been sent, for I want to get a nice lot of plants this year, and the marrows keep well all the winter—a great advantage when you can get no fresh vegetables but potatoes. Mabel's flowers were a great success last year; that is her department; I take charge of the common but more useful part of the garden.

Well, here we are nearly at the end of the month, and I have had to come into town again; I got in last night. We had a lovely drive and got loaded up ready to pull out this morning, but of course it is snowing hard again. I shall not be sorry when we get home, for I have a heavy load, and the trails are getting bad, the snow is soft and slushy. I have a three-horse drill and a riding plough on my load, besides stores. It will be rather a work of art to get home without an upset; still if I had waited I could not have hauled out my implements.

The weather is gradually breaking up, we are having warmer weather; but the snow is still deep, and as it is beginning to rot, it makes it very heavy travelling, and we have had also very bad storms. No one who has not been through this winter can imagine what it has been, and a good many will carry the traces left by it for a very long period ; it has, indeed, proved an anxious time.

It was very kind of Mrs. W--- to cable for news of us. The cable could not reach us, nor could we have answered it if it had, but it was so good of her to think of doing it; it is nice to know that people think of one when one is going through a rough time. Well, it is nearly over now, and we will try and forget the bad times when the better ones come round once more.

I got home with my big load safely the other day, but a few days later on I had a fine time down at the bush—I smashed my sleighs all to bits, upset six times. I have never had such an experience in my life before, and I was pretty hungry too by the time I got home; from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. is a long spell to go without food, especially when you are working hard all the time. I cannot carry food with me, for it gets frozen hard. It is a pleasant kind of life you will be thinking, still I can assure you that there is something fascinating about it, and I should be sorry to leave it altogether now that I am more accustomed to what I can call its vagaries.

The homestead inspector is to come out soon. We are eleven in this district who have been out our three years, and therefore are eligible to receive our title-deeds for the 160 acres, the Government free grant.


 


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