On Western Trails in the Early
Seventies Chapter XXIV
Strike for Whoopup country—In the
great pasture country— Meet Mr. Joseph Healey—Keep Union Jack
floating on our wagon.
Finishing our work among
these northern camps, we turned south, striking for the Whoopup country, for
we wanted to give all men fair warning of the change that was coming. When
we were some ten miles away, a young Indian I had met several times
previously caught up to us where we were lunching, and seemed anxious that
we hurry up and go on. Feeling that something was up, we hurried our horses
into harness and under saddle, and just as we were about starting, a troop
of wild fellows came charging out of the hills, and I soon saw that they
I told my men to be ready,
and then I palavered with these newcomers, and got out some tobacco and told
the leader to distribute same to his following, and we moved on. They
dismounted and started in smoking, and we moved on and travelled into the
night, stopping late only to change horses and make a cup of tea. While we
were doing this, one noted horse-thief came up to us and wanted to travel in
our company, but I told him his pony was too small and poor to keep up to
our party. So we gave him a cup of tea and some tobacco and shook him off
and continued our journey, and thus we kept on all night at a steady gait.
I wanted to put as long a
distance between those last camps and ourselves as possible. When day broke
we selected a good spot and went into camp. This was Sunday, and, resting in
turn, we enjoyed the day as best we could.
Near evening we discovered a
solitary Indian. We brought him into camp and kept him with us all night,
and did not let him go until we were ready ourselves to start the other way,
bright and early Monday morning. Then we made for the crossing on the Bow
River, where I had found a ford the previous season. Here the water was at
such a stage as to necessitate the raising of our loads and the steadying of
each cart from the current as we crossed. And now we were in the great
pasture country between the Bow and Belly and Old Man's rivers.
For centuries the countless
herds had roamed and tramped the surface earth solid. Over this we rode and
rolled at a good pace, and, crossing the little Bow away down, struck
straight for Whoopup.
Crossing the Belly River, we
drove up to the fort, and found the gate shut and very little sign of
humanity around; but presently the gate opened to us and we entered. Mr.
Joseph Healey was in charge, and had but one man with him at this time, The
others were away interviewing the Boundary Commission, which was now about
finishing the work of survey to the foot of the Rockies. Both countries
interested had parties of engineers and troops working together and
determining the 49th parallel from Red River to the mountains. These had
been at work since 1872. Healey told us he expected the Whoopup contingent
back at any minute, and invited us to make ourselves welcome in the fort.
And as his one man was more or less under the influence, and himself pretty
well braced, he set to work preparing a meal for our party.
"Unbuckle and lay off your
armory for the moment, Parson John," was his kind injunction to myself, and
while we were at lunch he discussed the situation from his standpoint.
"There was not much need for
Government intervention in this country. He and his friends had been able to
and could keep the rougher element out. For instance, there was So-and-So.
He came in and was going to run things. He lies under the sod at Standoff.
And there was So-and-So. He had aspirations, and we stretched him beside the
other fellow. And there was So-and-So. He went wild, and we laid him out at
Freezeout, and some more at Slideout. These bad men could not live in this
country. We simply could not allow it. No, Parson John, we did not let any
really bad men stay in this Whoopup region." Thus my friend did argue, and
conclude that the Government's action was not needed.
However, I told him the
Government was coming; and I read to him my instructions' He drew a long
breath and gave a solemn sigh of resignation. We were still at our lunch
when we heard a wild crowd approaching, whooping and yelling, and Healey
said, "I guess the boys are coming home."
Sure enough, here they were;
and as Joe opened the gate, in they dashed, more or less under the influence
of alcohol. When they saw my carts and the little Union Jack, they blustered
and swore, but did not pull it down. Some of them I had seen before, but
many were strangers. They had just come from the biggest kind of a circus.
Having supplied the men of the Boundary Commission with their whiskey, these
fellows had thoroughly enjoyed the fist fights and general rows in the camp
of the survey. They reported the survey finished for this section, and that
the line struck the mountains immediately on the north side of Chief
Mountain. They also reported that the last seen or heard of the Mounted
Police was away east of Woody Mountain.
Said Mr. Davis, afterwards
the first member from Alberta in the Dominion Parliament, "You are looking
for the police? 'Well, I can tell you, there will be no Mounted Police in
this country this year. You can just bet on that. I can tell you, Parson
John, we will flood this country for one more year with whiskey."
I told him I could not help
the delay, nor yet understand it; but my instructions were that the Canadian
Government was now sending in a body of police, and had fully determined to
establish law and order.
He said, "Well, when this is
done we will drop into line and obey the law; but until then we will do as
My instructions were to
report to the commanding officer of the Mounted Police, if I should find
him. However, this latest information relieved me of going any farther just
now. I had seen the representative Indians of the mountains and the plains,
and had also gone to the headquarters of the white men concerned; and now,
through these, the whole country was officially informed of our Government,
so I concluded I could very well feel I had done my part, and return as
quickly as possible to our own fort and people.
Moreover, I knew my brother
had gone on the second trip to Fort Benton, and the care of our families and
dependents was at this time, under Providence, upon the Stoney Indians; and
these were, in turn, dependent upon the food supplied. I therefore told my
men to make ready and we would immediately turn our faces northward.
I think it was at this time
that a big, blustering fellow came up and accosted me in this wise:
"--------", "--------", and
you are the man who has written to the Eastern people and Government,
telling all kinds of lies about us men who are trying to make a living in
this country? Don't you know you will catch it for this? Don't you know that
seventy white men between here and Benton have solemnly put their names to
paper to see this thing through? I tell you, your game is up."
I looked him over, and said,
in my turn, as he shook his fist in my face, and reached his hand around and
gripped the handle of his revolver, "My dear sir, as you know, it is a
question of truth or falsehood. If I have, as you say, lied about you and
your friends and conditions in this country, there is no need for a fuss
about it. Of itself it will fall through. But, let me tell you, if I have
spoken the truth, it will not matter if seventy times seventy men solemnly
put their names to paper, as against what I have said and done. I will
prevail, because the truth, and the truth only, shall prevail."
Just here, unconsciously to
me, another man was at my back. He clapped me on the shoulder and said,
"Bully for you, Parson John, and it, I will stand by you."
I saw the first man slink
back, and, turning to my new-found friend, beheld a different type of man.
He was with these men, but not of them. We shook hands warmly on the grounds
of eternal justice and sterling principle.
Spencer, who had come with us
thus far, decided to go on to Sun River and find out about his cattle, but
Robinson decided to return with me. I bade these wild frontiersmen good-bye,
and, with our little Union Jack still proudly waving in the breeze, we
re-forded the Belly River, and climbing up the big hill, journeyed out
The next day I ran buffalo,
and we took the meat of a fine cow for our food supply. Near High River my
two Indians, who had shown the finest pluck and given me most devoted
service, left us to join their people, whom they expected to find up along
the foot of the mountain. Tom Robinson and myself were now alone, and our
hope was that we would not meet any plains Indians for the rest of the way.
In this we were strengthened by the absence of buffalo. These were still
farther out on the plain, and in this much were a guarantee of the absence
of large bands of Indians.
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