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Canadian Life as I Found It
Chapter VI August 4, 1904


MY wife's indisposition passed off I am thankful to say; she is quite well again, and laughs at the idea of leaving me alone here.

What you have written me about a regular allowance has made me feel ten years younger, for I was dreading this winter out on the prairie; now I have decided to take a small house in town, spend the winter there, and try and get something to do, not to remain idle.

I have found a suitable house, or rather a two-roomed cottage. I shall put my cattle on tack with a herd, and go out again on my claim in the spring, and if I can make a little money I shall invest it in town lots; that is the way the most profit is made out here. I am only sorry I did not see this sooner.

We have been very busy getting in hay. I hope to get in about 20 tons. I am sick of sitting on the mower (did I tell you that it cost 58 dollars?), especially behind oxen; they don't go fast enough for a mower, and they won't turn short; in fact they want half Canada to turn in. One cannot do any decent work with them. When you have done a day's work you are ashamed to look at it; at least I am. Horses are more expensive to keep I know; but you can do double the work in half the time, and do not risk losing your temper.

I hope that you do not think that we are throwing away money going into town this winter; but if you only could see the kind of place we are in you would understand our wish to get out of it during the severe weather, for I do not know a bit what the winters here are like, nor what we might have to put up with, and I dreaded keeping my wife and baby out in our shack, for if any one was ill one could not get a doctor, and if we ran short of stores, it would probably be impossible to get to town to procure a fresh supply.

After a winter spent in town we shall know better what to expect. You ask what would be the cost of putting up another room to the shack. I could do it for 80 dollars I think. But I want, if I can manage it next year, to put up another shack, and use the present one as a kitchen, and have an extra room to put up any stray people who may come along. What I am thinking of would cost me about 150 dollars, and I could get a neighbour who understands that sort of thing to come and help me put it up. We are very cramped in the shack we have. I have not got my stable finished yet; the frame is nearly up, but I have not enough wood. I am going to the bush tomorrow for poles, and sods. We plough and cart the sods up. It takes a long time to do; but it makes a good stable when it's done. The roof is covered with sods too; but I do not think that I shall have time to do that this year, so I shall cover it with hay. You must laugh when you read the descriptions of our buildings out here, but it's really wonderful what you can put up with when you are obliged to. You have to do everything for yourself, even to being your own butcher. I have not come to that yet, as I have nothing to kill, and I do not look forward to the time when the necessity will arise. What one reads of the delights of Canadian life does not certainly apply to this part of it, but I dare say it will get better by and by, and we shall laugh over all the rough times we are going through.

I am told that Winnipeg some fifteen years back consisted of scattered wooden shacks, where to-day there has arisen a magnificent city with all modern improvements. I only hope that we shall not have to wait so long before a change round here comes.

The Grand Trunk Railway surveyors have been about here, and it is expected that in a few years the railway will reach here. This would be of inestimable advantage in giving value to the land, besides opening out this part of the country for commerce, by making easier the transport of all crops grown.


 


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