THERE is one statement made
during my earlier experience of prairie life that I subsequently found was
not borne out by actual fact, I refer to Canadian hospitality.
When asked for it is never
refused, it is true, but it has as a general rule to be paid for, settlers
out West simply cannot afford to give away anything; 25 cents is invariably
charged for a meal, whether it is a good or an indifferent one. This applies
equally to what are called the stopping houses, places where people on the
trail can find a night's lodging for themselves and their teams when unable
to go on to their own homes.
The lodging generally
consists of a mattress or a rug on the floor, and as animal life in various
shapes is very numerous, there is matter for great caution in many of these
I arrived at one on a very
dark night, cold and hungry, some 15 miles from my holding, saw my team
under cover and gave it a feed, then asked for a meal for myself. Bread was
put before me with some of the syrup that is so much eaten out here. I eat
the bread and looked at the syrup, expecting something more sustaining to
follow; but I got nothing that trip but some slices of raw suede seasoned
with salt, and a cup of tea. For this sumptuous repast I had to pay 25 cents
and 10 cents for the team's entertainment, but I must add that in many of
these houses one gets a very fair meal, always for the same amount.
Some friends of mine had a
queerer experience. They arrived at a shack where an old Dutch couple lived;
they were given quite a decent meal, very clean and well cooked, but when
they expected to sleep on a mattress on the floor of the shack's one room,
the bed was turned broadside on, the kitchen table put across it, and all
four laid down together, their heads on the pillows and their feet on the
table; but the most comical part was that the old woman was put in the
middle, for fear that she might fall out.
Of course there are no
buffaloes left now, but we have near us a trail called the bone trail, along
which the Indians used to carry buffalo bones to trade at the Hudson River
Settlement ; and on this trail one often finds not only bones, but sometimes
entire heads, whilst all over the prairie there are buffalo wallows, kind of
oval-shaped holes that are distinctly unpleasant to drive over.
Skis are very useful for
quick travelling in winter when one gets used to them. Personally they have
caused me many a tumble, but a young Norwegian near us covered 45 miles the
other day in about two hours.