A Lady's Life on a Farm in Manitoba by Cecil Hall - HTML preview
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_Monday_.--Big wash as usual al the morning, and just as E---- and I were to drive a waggon over to Mr. Boyle for some oats which required fetching, we had quite a scare. A _lady_ and gentleman were seen to be riding up. We both of us rushed up-stairs to put on some clean aprons to do honour to our guests, who, with another man, also out from town, remained the whole afternoon. We have never dined as many as nine people in our vast apartments before, but we managed very nicely.
We have had heavy showers with a high wind, and the thermometer down to 50 all the afternoon. We tried to persuade our lady visitor to stay the night, A---- offering to give up his room; but she persisted in going back, and, I am afraid, wil have got very wet, in spite of E---- lending her waterproof jacket.
_Tuesday_.--The household had a long turn in bed this morning, Mr. B---- only getting down at about 7.15, when various things were offered him to prop open his eye-lids when he did appear.
The weather has been slightly better than yesterday, but the wind has been high, and it was really quite cold; varied by slight showers of rain in the morning. In the afternoon we al made hay.
I worked my rake until my horse beat me by refusing to move in any direction excepting homewards; and I had to call A----, who was stone getting, to my rescue. He, with judicious chastisement in the shape of a kick or so, made the horse work. E---- and E. P----
loaded hay. Thanks to the late rains the marshes were heavy, and they very nearly stuck once or twice in going through them. There were no mosquitoes, which was a blessing, but one is never troubled with them in a high wind.
* * * * *July 9.
You should have seen A---- and his equipage start into Winnipeg two days ago. He and the men from the tent had to go in and bring out a waggon and the new "Cortland waggon" (my present), and they had to take in the broken buggy to be mended. So they started with a four-in-hand to their cart, the broken buggy tied on behind, and another pair of horses behind that again. The buggy they say very nearly capsized going over the bridge of the creek when near Winnipeg, otherwise they got on beautifully; but it was a funny arrangement altogether, and they seemed to cover a quarter of a mile of ground as they left here. Winnipeg grows in a most astonishing way; every time we go in, a new avenue or street seems to have started up. Emigrants, they say, are coming in at the rate of a hundred a day. A few years ago the population was about five thousand, in 1878 about ten, now over forty thousand, a fourth of whom are living under canvas.
It was estimated last winter that the building operations this season would amount to four mil ion dollars, but double that amount is nearer the mark, and many are obliged to abandon the idea of building on account of the difficulty of getting timber and bricks. Every house or shanty is leased almost before it is finished. Winnipeg, as you know, was formerly known as Fort Garry, and one of the chief trading stations of the Hudson Bay Company.
Of the old fort, I am sorry to say, there is very little left, and that is shortly to be swept away for the continuation of Main Street. The Governor, now occupying the old house, is to have a splendid building, which, with the Houses of Legislature, are in the course of construction, rather farther away from the river.
The town is built at the confluence of two great rivers, the Red and Assiniboine, the former rising in Minnesota, and flowing into lake Winnipeg 150 miles north, navigable for 400 miles. The Assiniboine has many steamers on it; but the navigation being more difficult, the steamers often sticking on the rapids, it is not much in vogue with emigrants going west, particularly now that the railway takes them so much more rapidly.
There is a large suburb of the town the other side of the Red River called St. Boniface face, the see of a Roman Catholic Archbishop; possessing a beautiful cathedral and a great educational school for young ladies; for some reason or other we never managed to get over there to see it, though the cathedral is a grand landmark for a great distance.
The railway traffic also is enormous. During the flood 4,000
freight waggons were delayed at St. Vincent; now they are coming in at the rate of 4,000 per week, and still people cannot get their implements, stores, &c. fast enough. We have asked several times for some turpentine at one of the shops, and the answer always given is, "It is at the depot, but not unloaded."
We have been wanting turpentine to mix with the brown paint with which we are painting, the dining-room doors. But first of all the paint fails, and then the turpentine, and I ful y expect our beautiful work of art wil not be finished before we leave.
* * * * *July 12th.
It is very certain that no gentleman ought to come out to this country, or, when here, can expect to prosper, unless he has some capital, heaps of energy, and brains, or is quite prepared to sink the gentleman and work as a common labourer.
The latter command the most wonderful wages, there is such a demand for them that one can hardly pick and choose. A plough-boy gets from four to six pounds a month, an experienced man from eight to ten pounds, besides their board and lodging; a mechanic or artisan from fourteen to sixteen shillings a day; women servants are very scarce, they get from four to six pounds a month. We were so astonished at the wages in New York; the head gardener in the Navy Yard was receiving one hundred and fifty pounds a year, his underling, seventy-five pounds, the groom one hundred pounds. It is surprising to me that the whole of the poorer classes in England and Ireland, hearing of these wages, do not emigrate, particularly when now-a-days the steerage in the passenger ships seems to be so comfortable, and that for about six pounds they can be landed on this side of the Atlantic. We have nine Britishers and two Canadians on this farm, and the amount of ground broken up does everyone great credit, considering that the whole place is only of a year and a half's growth. Since we arrived we can mark rapid and visible strides towards completion.
The house has been banked up and grassed, a fence put to enclose all the yard, and we have actual y had the audacity to talk about a tennis ground, which would take an immense deal of making, from the unevenness of the soil. The water, having no real outflow, makes itself little gullies everywhere, which would be very difficult to fil up level; but I don't know that, until we are acclimatized to the mosquitoes, said to be the happy result of a second year's residence, that we should feel inclined to play tennis, as we could only indulge in that diversion of an evening when work was ended, and that is just the worst time for these pests. They spoil all enjoyment, we never can sit out under the verandah after supper which we should so like to do these warm evenings. They bite through everything, and the present fashion of tight sleeves to our gowns is a trial, as no stuffs, not even thin dogskin, are proof against them, and our faces, arms, and just above our boots are deplorable sights. Ammonia is; the only remedy to al ay the irritation. I am not drawing a long bow when I say that in places the air is black with them.
The poor horses and cows are nearly maddened with them if turned out to graze, and the moment the poles across the road are withdrawn they gal op back into their stables. The mosquitoes are great big yellow insects, about half an inch long.
The house and country at Boyd's farm is much prettier than this, from the lot of trees round it, and the ground not being so flat; but we wouldn't change for al the world, it is so stuffy, and the flies and mosquitoes are much worse there than here, where we catch the slightest breeze of wind, which always drives them away.
We were dreading making the hay in the marshes on account of them.
I do not think we shall suffer much from the heat, as nearly always, even in the hottest part of the day, there is a breeze; and as yet the nights are deliciously cool, we have never found one blanket too much covering.
We talk of going an expedition up west next week, taking the carriage and horses, and driving as far as Fort Ellice. I don't know that we either of us look forward to the expedition very much, as we fear we shal have to rough it too greatly; but, on the other hand, it seems a pity not to see something more of the country. There are hardly any inns or resting-places; the accommodation may be fearful. We hear that about fourteen people are lodged in one room as an ordinary rule. A---- has gone into Winnipeg to make arrangements; and if he finds we cannot depend on the inns, we shall take a tent, and camp by the towns, going in for our meals to restaurants.
* * * * *In the Train 200 miles West of Winnipeg, July 24, 1882.
As we seem to stop every two or three miles for some trifling cause or another, I am in hopes I may get through a long, maybe disjointed letter to post to you on our way through Winnipeg to-night, which we wish to reach about 6 o'clock, giving us time to drive out to the farm before it is quite dark. I told you we were proposing a trip up North-west, and we really have had a most successful journey. A---- has a friend, Manager of the Birtle Land Company, who with others has bought up land, intends breaking so many acres on each section and then reselling it, hoping thereby to clear all expenses and make a lot of money besides; and as he had to go up and look after the property, it was settled we should al go together, and very glad we are that we did do it, though we have had some very funny experiences. We are pleased to find that al the North-west is not like the country around Winnipeg, so awful y flat and without a tree; on the contrary we have been through rolling prairie, almost hilly and very wel wooded in places.
We started last Monday, the 18th, having got up at 4:15, which we did not think so terribly early as we might have done before the days we were accustomed to breakfast at half-past 6, but had even then a terrible run for the train. We had had some heavy thunder storms on the Sunday; and though we al owed two hours and three-quarters, to do our sixteen miles into Winnipeg station, the roads were so heavy, and the mud so sticky and deep, that we really thought we should be taken up for cruelty to animals, hustling our poor little mare. As it was, we arrived just in time to get into the cars, our packages and bundles being thrown in after us as the train was on the move. Luckily we managed to get al on board, and found plenty of friends travel ing west; one a Government inspector, a most agreeable man, who has to certify and pass the work done on the line before Government pays its share of the expenses. He was tel ing us how he and two other men spent three hours finding names for al the new stations along the line, and could only think of three! The stations are placed at the distance of eight to ten miles apart, and they are bound not to have any name already taken up in Canada, so that for a railway extending over three thousand miles to the Rocky Mountains names are a difficulty. We did him the favour of writing out a few, taking al the villages one was interested in in the "Ould Countrie," for which attention he seemed much obliged, and has promised a time table of the line with the nomenclature of its stations when opened. They are building the Canadian Pacific at the rate of twenty-five miles a week, and every available man is pressed into the service, so that it is not so surprising the poor farmers cannot find labour. The wages, two dol ars to two-and-a-half a day, are more than we can pay. There has not been much engineering required or shown on this line, as we went up and down with the waves of the prairies, had only two small cuttings between Winnipeg and Brandon, three hundred miles, and were raised a few feet above the marshes; but considering how fast they work and how short a time they have been, it is creditably smooth.
We disembarked at a city called Brandon, which last year was unheard of, two or three shanties and a few tents being al there was to mark the place; now it has over three thousand inhabitants, large saw-mil s, shops, and pretentious two-storied hotels. We found our carriage, which had been sent on two days previously, waiting for us at the station, as we were to have driven on that night to Rapid City; but, owing to the Manager not being able to get through al his business, and his not liking to leave the two labourers he had with him on the loose, for fear they should be tempted by higher wages to go off with someone else, we decided to remain that night at Brandon, and were not sorry to retire to bed directly after dinner, about 8.30. We were given not a very spacious apartment, the two double-beds fil ing up the whole of it. In al the hotels we have been into, they put such enormous beds in the smal est of space, I conclude speculating on four people doubling up at a pinch. We luckily had brought some sheets; the ones supplied looked as if they had been used many a time since they had last been through the wash-tub. I cannot say we slept wel , chiefly, I think, owing to lively imaginations and the continual noise of a town after the extreme quiet of the farm; and as there was only a canvas partition between us and the two men, who snored a lively duet, we had many things to lay the blame to.
We were on the move again about 5.30, intending to breakfast at half-past 6, and start on our travels directly after; but somehow, what with one thing and the other, the various packing away of our different packages and parcels into our three waggons, it was past 8 o'clock before we got off.
We were rather amused at the expression at breakfast of our waiting-maid when asked to bring some more bread and then tea. She wanted much to learn if we had any more "side orders."
Alcoholic spirits are quite forbidden in this territory; to bring a smal keg of whisky and some claret with us we had to get a permit from the Governor. I am afraid the inhabitants wil have spirits. The first man we met last night was certainly much the worse for liquor; and though in our hotel there was no visible bar, an ominous door in the back premises was always on the swing, and a very strong odour of spirits emanated therefrom.
Our cavalcade, A---- and the Manager in the democrat, we two in a buggy, and the two labourers with a man to drive in another carriage, produced quite an imposing effect. We had to cross the Assiniboine on a ferry, and then rose nearly al the way to Rapid City, twenty-two miles, going through pretty country much wooded and with hundreds of smal lakes, favourite resorts of wild duck.
The flowers were in great profusion; but we saw no animals anywhere, excepting a few chipmunks and gophirs, which are sort of half-rats, half-squirrels. The chipmunks are dear little things about the size of a mouse, with long bushy tails and a dark stripe running the whole length of the body.
Rapid City is a flourishing little town of some fifty houses, and is growing quickly. It is prettily situated on the banks of the Little Saskatchewan, and has a picturesque wooden bridge thrown over the river. We had lunch, picnic style, and a rest of two hours. There was a large Indian camp just outside the town, and as we sat sketching several Indians passed us. Their style of dress is grotesque, to say the least of it; one man passed us in a tall beaver hat, swal ow-tail coat, variegated-coloured trousers, mocassins, and a scarlet blanket hanging from his shoulder. The long hair, which both men and women wear, looks as if a comb never had passed near it, and gives them a very dirty appearance. They all seemed affable, and gave us broad grins in return for our salutes.
The Indian tribes on Canadian territory are the Blackfeet and Piegans. The former used to number over ten thousand, but now are comparatively few. The smal -pox, which raged among them in 1870, decimated their numbers; also alcohol, first introduced by Americans who established themselves on Belly River, about 1866, and in which they drove a roaring trade, as the Indians sacrificed everything for this "fire-water," as they called it, and hundreds died in consequence of exposure and famine, having neither clothes to cover them nor horses nor weapons wherewith to hunt. Luckily in 1874 the mounted police put an entire end to this abominable sale of whisky.
The Indian is natural y idle--to eat, smoke, and sleep is the sole end of his life; though he will travel immense distances to fish or hunt, which is the only occupation of the men, the women doing all the rest, their condition being but little better than beasts of burden. The Indian of the Plain subsists in winter on buffalo dried and smoked; but in spring, when they resort to the neighbourhood of the smal lakes and streams, where innumerable wild fowl abound, they have grand feasting on the birds and eggs.
The tribes living near the large lakes of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and Winnipegosis have only fish as food, which they dry and pack for winter use, and eat it raw and without salt--which sounds very palatable?
When the Dominion Government obtained possession of the North-west Territories, by the extinction of the Hudson Bay Company's title in 1869, it al otted to the tribes inhabiting the country, on their resigning al their claims to the land, several reserves, or parcels of ground, which were of sufficient area to allow of one square mile to every family of five persons. On these lands the Indians are being taught to cultivate corn and roots. Implements, seeds for sowing, and bullocks are given them, besides cows and rations of meat and flour, until they are self-sustaining. They are also allowed five dol ars a head per annum, so that several wives (polygamy being al owed) and children are looked upon as an insured income by a man.
This treatment by Government has been very successful, and many tribes are abandoning their precarious life of hunting.
Horsestealing in former days was looked upon by the young men as an essential part of their education; but now the settler need be in no dread of them, as they are peaceably inclined and kept in check by the mounted police, a corps of whose services and pluck all who have had any dealings with them cannot speak two highly.
The officers are men of tact and experience, and the corps numbers about 500 strong. They move their head-quarters from fort to fort, according to the movements of the Indians and the advance of emigration.
On leaving Rapid City, we took a shorter track than what is general y taken, thereby saving ourselves at least forty miles to Birtle. Our first night, distance about twenty miles after luncheon, we spent alongside of a small store-house on the Oak River; we had passed some very comfortable-looking settlements that afternoon, one, where we got information about our road, belonging to a man cal ed Shank, who had been settled about four years, and had quite a homely-looking shanty covered with creepers, and garden fenced in. At Oak River we had rather speculated on getting both food and lodging; but when we found the fare offered no better than ours, we decided to have our own supper, getting the woman to boil us some water for our tea. We also refused the lodging. The house was scrupulously clean, ditto the woman, but we couldn't quite make up our minds to share the only bedroom with her, her husband and two other men, one il with inflammation of the lungs, rejoicing in an awful cough, and rather given to expectoration; so we had our first experience of real camping out. Our tent was an A tent, just big enough to al ow of two people sleeping side by side; the only place to stand up in, was exactly in the middle, but we arranged it very fairly comfortably by putting some straw under our buffalo robes, and our clothes as pil ows. The men had to make their couch under the carriage with whatever cloaks we didn't want, to keep the dew off them; and by lighting a large "smudge" to keep off the mosquitoes, we al slept pretty well, though Mother Earth is very unrelenting.
If, however, we wanted to change our position we were sure to awake. The following morning, Tuesday, the men had a bathe in the river, which we very much envied them; though, having brought our india-rubber bath, and there being plenty of water handy, we did very well. We were off again at 7 o'clock. Our breakfast bil of fare not much varied from that of last night--tea, corned beef, ox tongue, and bread and butter. The country through which we passed was not so pretty as on Monday, with fewer trees. Our cavalcade was increased by another man in his buggy, who was on his way to Edmonton, and he travel ed with us most of the day. Mid-day, after eighteen miles, we came on a small settlement of four Canadians, who were just finishing their dinner. They were very nice, delighted to see ladies, placed the whole of their place at our disposal, and though, of course, they could do but little for us, we were not al owed to wash up our plates nor to draw our own water. They had everything so tidy and nice, rough it was bound to be. Like thousands of Canadians, they have taken up land, 240
acres apiece, and are working them together, with two yoke of oxen and a pair of Indian ponies. Whilst we were resting, the Manager drove on to find his farm; but as they have bought several sections in different townships from the railway company, it was difficult to find out on which section his men were working. The only thing he knew was two of the numbers of the section and that the Arrow river ran through the property. The Canadians told us that Ford "Mackenzie," for which we had been steering all the morning, was six miles further on; so that when we left them about 2 o'clock (amidst many expressions of regret; they repeated to us several times how delighted they were seeing ladies, not having seen a petticoat since they came up last spring), we had to wander many a mile before finding either the ford or the farm. As it was, we mistook the ford and had to cross and recross the river three times, which we, in our buggy, didn't at al appreciate; the banks were so steep we felt we might easily be pitched out.
At Mackenzie's Ford we found a wretched man who, having settled here two years ago, and was getting on well, had last month brought his wife and children up by steamer on the Assiniboine, where they had caught diphtheria; two children had succumbed to the disease, and his wife, he greatly feared, couldn't live. We luckily had some whisky with us, and were glad to be able to give him some, as the doctor had recommended stimulants to keep up the poor woman's strength.
From him we heard where the Manager's camp real y was, and reached it, very tired, about 7 o'clock, to find everything in the most fearful state of disorder and mismanagement; not even a wel dug to provide water for man or beast. The men had mutinied, ten of them gone off, and only three and a woman as cook left; she had known much better days, and was perfectly helpless and unable to manage the stove or the cooking in a shed made of a few poles with a tarpaulin thrown over.
A---- is the most splendid man; whatever difficulties there are he makes light of them; and directly the horses had been unharnessed he set to work to put our tent up and lay out our supper, which was improved by the addition of some fried potatoes. Our table was the spring seat of the waggon, our seats the boxes; the stores have come in, or our bundle of rugs; and though the ground was harder to sleep on, as we had no straw under our buffalo-robe, still we got a fair amount of rest at night. Two very pretty Italian greyhounds we had brought up with us kept our feet warm, as it was quite chilly, the dews being very heavy. The men were horribly disturbed al night by the mosquitoes, which were in myriads. No smoke of the smudges real y keeps them off, though it stupifies and bothers them a good deal.
On Wednesday, contrary to expectation, we got some water to wash with, the Manager having had a hole dug. Water is so easily procured with digging, and at no great depth, that there is no excuse for not having it in abundance. We then spent our morning, whilst the men were going over the various sections, in trying to teach the woman to, cook, making biscuits, which were not a success, mending clothes, and writing up our diaries; so that the time flew all too quickly.
We drove on twenty-two miles in the afternoon, and, being all down wind, were pestered with mosquitoes and most fearful y bitten.
The country much the same as the previous day, very little taken up; but the wild flowers lovely. We counted forty-two different specimens; those yellow orchids you are so proud of at home, also red tiger-lilies, phloxes, and endless other varieties. Birtle, another mushroom town, looked so pretty and picturesque as we came down upon it, by the evening light, situated in a deep gorge much wooded on the Birdtail-Creek.
You would have laughed to see us arrive at what we thought our destination--a nice house on the top of the opposite hil belonging to a friend of the Manager's, where we were to be hospitably entertained. The house was locked up, but that was no obstacle; we forced the windows open, and whilst A---- put the horses up, the Manager went down the hil for water, I foraged for eatables, E---- for wood to light the fire, and we very shortly afterwards sat down to a very fair meal; our neighbours' bacon and tea, but our own bread. Luckily a Winnipeg lady, hearing of our arrival, came up to offer her services in the shape of food or lodging; the latter we two gladly accepted, instead of pitching our tent outside the house, which was already full, three bachelors living there and our two men intending steeping between the walls, _coute que coule_. The house we spent our night in was a log one, and though unpapered, looked very comfortable, and was prettily hung round with Japanese fans and scrolls, and various photographs. We had a funny little canvas partition in the roof al otted to us; but were not particular, and did great credit to our feather bed.
And how excel ent our breakfast was next morning, porridge and eggs; we hardly knew when to stop eating. We started early to Fort El ice, one of the Hudson Bay forts, hoping to find the steamer on the Assiniboine to take us back to Winnipeg; but unfortunately it had stuck on the rapids. So after waiting twenty-four hours at the fort, we determined to drive down to the end of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and so home. The old fort is very little altered from what it used to be, surrounded by its wooden pailings, and having a store on the left side of the entrance gate, where al the Indians come to make their purchases in cotton-goods and groceries in exchange for their blankets, moccassins, or furs. The Assiniboine we crossed just before getting to the fort, on a ferry. It is a grand winding river with fearful y steep banks, 380
feet almost straight up, which was a pul for our horses, the tracks being very, bad, and not well engineered, going perpendicularly up the hill. Mr. Macdonald is the "boss" at the fort, and had known two of our friends who were up here several years ago.
There is a Lincolnshire man farming on a large scale settled not very far away from the fort; but we had neither time nor inclination to go further north. We hoped against hope that the steamer might get up, but on Saturday gave it up as useless, and settled to drive towards Gophir Ferry, trying to find a friend who, when out at C---- Farm, told us he was living on section xxvii by 13, and near two creeks. For the first five miles our road lay along the Beaver Creek, which was pretty; but afterwards the scenery much resembled Winnipeg, flat and uninteresting, not a tree, and without even the beautiful vegetation and flowers we had had on our previous drives. We had to stop several times to look at the section-posts, it was quite an excitement to mark every new number we came to. Our road took us pretty straight to the Mouse Mountain trail; but at a shanty being advised to leave the track and go straight over the prairie, we overshot the tents we were in search of by a short distance.
Our friend had not returned from Winnipeg, but we made ourselves quite at home, pitching our tent alongside of his men's. He had four Englishmen working for him, two of them were tenant-farmers at home; one man, who had been out two years, had had a large farm near King's Lynn, and has taken up a section close by; but as he bought his land too late in the spring to do anything to it; beyond hoping to build himself a shanty before the winter set in, he is working for our friend, who has 2,000 acres. Another of the men was a newly-arrived emigrant; he and his three children were nearly devoured by mosquitoes, and were most grateful for some concoction we gave them to al ay the irritation. He had been quite a "gent" in his own country, but bad times and alcohol I had been too much for him. I don't think he at all relished the work he had to do, ploughing with oxen al day, &c. They plough almost entirely with oxen up in this country. The oxen are easier to feed, and don't suffer so much from the alkali in the water. But most of the Englishmen when they first get out here dislike using them, they are so slow; and I should agree with them.
A great many new-comers find the ways and means difficult to conform to, and would give a good deal to go back; but after they have been out a year or two they drop into fresh habits and seem to like the life.
On Sunday we started late, for two reasons. The horses which had been very restless al night, driven mad by the mosquitoes, could not be found, having wandered over the brow of the hil to the river edge, to catch the slight breeze blowing; and secondly we thought we would have a rest, and did nothing but regret it all day, as the heat, was fearful, and as we went down wind the mosquitoes were ditto. Also we got into camp very late at Flat Creek, where we had hoped to find a freight train, to get on as tax as Brandon, whereas we had to camp close to a marsh just outside the city--the "city" comprising a cistern to provide the engines of the train with water and half a dozen tents all stuck on the marsh. We were rather amused by the name of one lodging tent, "The Unique Hotel"; in other words, beds were divided off by curtains, so that you were quite private!
We pitched our tent on the highest spot we could find; but the mosquitoes, to accommodate us, left the marshes and came in perfect myriads around us. We lit smudges on all sides, but as there was hardly a breath of air the smoke went heavenwards, and consequently we had to sit almost into them and could hardly see to eat for the denseness of smoke. Query, which was the worst, the evil or the cure? That last night was the most uncomfortable of the whole lot, and I don't think any of us disliked the prospect of a comfortable bed. But in spite of al our roughing we have enjoyed it, and very glad we went. It is satisfactory to know that all the prairie is not as flat as around us at C---- Farm, that it is rolling, and covered with bluffs or brushwood. A---- is pleased, as he has seen no ground as good as his own, and declares he wouldn't exchange his 480 acres for thousand up west. The land is certainly of a much lighter nature, having more sand in it, and is easier to get into cultivation in consequence, but he doesn't think it wil stand the same amount of cropping.
The trails, which are only tracks made by the half-breeds and Indians on the prairie, have been good throughout, but in spring are ful of mud-holes or sloughs.
The new carriage has turned out quite a success and been very useful, as it has carried all our clothes, buffalo robes, buckets and oats for the horses, our provisions, etc., even to our tent, the poles of which were slung along the carriage just above the wheels, and the whole so light that A---- pushed it easily three or four hundred yards when we were moving our camp at Fort Ellice.
* * * * *QUEEN'S HOTEL, WINNIPEG.
We cannot fancy ourselves in this elegant brick edifice; but it's an il wind that blows no one any good, and had we not been nervous of driving sixteen miles in a raging thunderstorm last night you would not have received a letter by this mail. The heat is so great that I am afraid my ideas won't flow. It is a hot thundery day, cloudy and close, the thermometer is at 109 degrees in the shade, and everything one touches seems to be at melting point!
Unfortunately we have had all our cool things for our journey, and they are too dirty to wear in a "live" town. These three last days are the only days we have had to grumble at the heat; and, I expect, if we bad been out at the farm, quietly doing our various works, we should not have felt it so much; but a tent on a hot day is like a stove-house, quite fearful.
We have had a very successful tour of seven days, sleeping five nights on Mother Earth, which was mercilessly hard. Lived chiefly on corned beef, tea, and marmalade, three times a day. Driven 173
miles, nearly the whole time in pretty, sparely inhabited, wooded, and undulating country. Had another 300 miles to and fro in the train, and arrived here last night hoping to get home to our own beds, when we distressed at finding no buggy from the farm, though we sent them a telegram early in the morning before leaving Flat Creek, which we conclude they haven't received.
Just as we were starting, and before our small packets could be fetched from the station, a fearful thunder-storm, preceded by a dust-storm, came on; and we had to take refuge in an hotel, which, contrary to our expectations, was not only clean, but comfortable.
The climax to al our troubles has been that the man from the livery-stable was unable to get our hand-bags, so that we actual y had to go to bed last night and get up this morning without a sponge, comb, toothbrush, or any blessed thing. We were nearly sprinkling ashes on our heads and rending our garments when the fact was broken to us; but, considering we had no other clothes to fal back upon, we suppressed our feelings (and drowned our tears) in sleep, putting in nearly twelve hours, as it was 9.15 when we woke this morning, and it was not very late when we retired. We had neither of us slept wel the night before, and it had been a hot, suffocating day for travelling, so that we were very tired when we got in. What useful things hair-pins are! I have always found them excel ent bodkins, button-hooks, wedges for misfitting windows, &c., but until to-day had never realized what a capital comb they would make, held tightly.
I don't know that we have had any very amusing adventure; but the whole expedition has been an adventure, and therefore, as it proved the business of the day, it was taken seriously--I mean, we hardly laughed when we all shared the same drop of water in a bucket to wash our face in turns, and then hands, drying ourselves with the same towel, which was not always of the cleanest, and when we shared the same tin cup to drink out of. Of course we managed to get in a very fair amount of chaff. I used often to drive, and it was said that if ever there was a hole or stone on the trail I used to bump, bump over it, shooting the others almost out of the carriage, so that there were cries of "danger ahead,"
when they declared they had to hang on to each other for safety.
We had to leave A---- behind us yesterday at Flat Creek with the carriages and horses, to fol ow us in a freight train, and he has just turned up, very hot and weary and out of temper with the railway authorities, as they make so many unnecessary difficulties in unloading. Instead of following us directly yesterday, as he was told he would do when he first put the horses on the train, they did not start until late in the afternoon, and have been travel ing all night, A---- sleeping very peaceably in the horsebox.
We are to go out to the farm as soon as the horses have been fed and we can reclaim our lost baggage of last night.
I am thankful to say that we never came across any snakes during our expedition, though they are said to abound by Brandon and further west. The only one we saw was when the conductor on our train brought us a parcel and showed one coiled up inside. It was a trial to our feelings, but I believe it was dead. There are none around Winnipeg, not even a worm.
* * * * *C---- FARM, July 30th.
We found the most lovely batch of letters, almost worth being away from home for ten days, on our arrival here at 12 o'clock P.M. on Tuesday, which completely revived our drooping spirits; we were feeling rather limp and tired after a long day in Winnipeg, and losing our way across the prairie coming home. It was very dark, and the only guide we had was when the vivid flashes of lightning reflected the farm-buildings; as it was, we drove through the big marsh, the mosquitoes nearly eating us up; and A---- so worried by them that he couldn't think of the trail, and trusted to the horses finding their way. The joy of coming upon our own fence is better imagined than described. I pictured to myself that we should be like one of our labourers, who, having gone into town just before we started up west, lost his way coming out, unharnessed his horses and picketed them, and sat down quietly, waiting for daylight before he ventured on. It is marvel ous that anyone finds their way on the prairie. There are numberless trails made during the hay-harvest, which may mislead; and in a country which has been surveyed, some time back, the section-posts have almost entirely disappeared, the cattle either knocking them down or they having been struck by lightning.
We found our bedroom very full of mosquitoes, so that our sleep was much disturbed, in fact we never slept properly til after the sun rose; but our letters cheered us up and were far more refreshing than ten hours' sleep.
The netting over our windows had got torn from the tacks, so that the mosquitoes had come in by shoals just to show how they appreciated the attention of having things made easy for them.
Otherwise, we are not generally much bothered with them in the house, netting being over every door and window.
The cat sometimes thwarts our protection by jumping through them in the morning, and no thumpings seem to impress her with respect for the said net.
We are told the mosquitoes wil be gone in a fortnight; certainly the big yellow ones have lived their time and are, not so plentiful, but they have been succeeded by a smal black species which is quite as venomous, and not so easy to kil .
We went to Church yesterday at Headingley: quite a red letter day.
It was only the second time we have been able to manage it in the ten weeks we have been here; and though it was very hot in Church we were ashamed to take our gloves off, on account of the scars.
The Church is quite a nice little building, and the service delightful after so many weeks of not hearing it. We had to take our horse out, tie it to the churchyard paling, and put the dog, in the buggy to take care of our goods and chattels.
We are getting quite low at the thoughts of leaving this in ten days' time; being rather like cats, attached to any place where one has heaps of occupation, and where one is kindly treated and wel fed, however ugly that place may be.
We have been very busy haymaking since we got home, and a grand stack is in the course of erection nearly opposite the dining-room window. You never saw anything so astonishing as the way the oats, potatoes, etc., have shot up in our absence. Even the puppy, which we left a fluffy bal , seems to have grown inches. Then, al my chickens are hatched, and are an endless pleasure and anxiety. I am supposed to spend hours over them.
We have received four sheets of official paper from Mr. W----, ful , of directions about our journey to Colorado, describing his home, etc., even to the nickel-plated tap we shall find in his kitchen, which is to supply us with an unlimited amount of water.
He tells us we need bring nothing but a saddle and a toothbrush,--he wil find all the rest; and that we are to make it a note that it is one of the strictest rules of mining camps that guests are never allowed to pay for anything. As we hope he is making a fortune by his mines, we shal not have so much compunction of accepting these terms. We are to sight-see, climb I mountains, go into the mines, fish for trout, and do nothing the live-long day but amuse ourselves.
I am afraid A---- wil miss us terribly, dear old soul! He is very fond of having us here, and is always bemoaning our departure. I think it wil make a great difference to him and to his humdrum hard-working life, as we are always cheery and have never had a difficulty or annoyance of any sort.
* * * * *August 6th.
We are rejoicing now that we have settled to go to the Rocky Mountains, as the hot weather we speculated on avoiding has come in with a rush, and for a whole week the thermometer has been at 80 to 85 degrees. One morning before a thunder-storm, when it fel forty degrees in a few hours, it was up to 90 degrees. We have had some rain, but not the heavy if storms we have seen wandering round which generally fol ow the course of the Assiniboine--a relief to our minds, as our hay is still out.
It has been cut nearly al round the property outside the fence, in spite of the risk one runs of having it subsequently claimed by the owner of the section, who is generally a half-breed, a loss only to be avoided by leading it home at once, which we are doing.
This has happened to our neighbour, with whom, I am afraid, we do not sympathise very keenly, as he had taken up the marsh which our men cut last year, and had the ful intention of doing again this year, so they looked upon it in the light of their special property.
We have only two waggons working here, as nearly all the men and horses are gone over to Boyd's; and as our hay is a mile and a half away, we don't get much more than five loads a day, so that the stack does not grow very fast.
Our excitement this week has been a cricket match with Boyle's Farm; four of their men we chal enged. It really was too amusing.
They had a bat and ball, stumps, but no bales, and played on the prairie, which was so fearful y rough that it was almost dangerous, the ball shot in such various directions after hitting the tufts of grass. Everybody fielded, but a bal going into the wheat-field behind the wickets was not counted as a lost ball. The total score of the two innings was only ten, and in one our opponents went out without a single run; so you may fancy the howls of either applause or derision at every ball.
* * * * *August 17th.
The Farm with al its toils and pleasures is a thing of the past; we were both very low when we turned our backs upon it and its inhabitants just a week ago. We have been in such robust health the whole of our three months, hardly a headache or finger-ache.
Our maid-of-all-work life has suited us, and we have acquired such an immense deal of practical knowledge that for those reasons alone, we might be gratified and pleased we came. Since then we have been staying with Mike in Minnesota, where we were either riding or driving (anything to do with horses) al day long.
Driving four miles, jumping the horses over a pole, taking them down to water, having a mule race (which was truly amusing as the course was just in front of the house and several bolted home), and driving, a gang plough, were a few of the "diversions" found for us. Our host was most kind and anxious to make us comfortable; he worked heaven and earth to get his house ready, the contractors having taken so much more time than they said; anyhow, he turned the carpenters out of the house the day previous to our arrival, carried in the furniture, nailed up mosquito blinds, and did many things himself, so that everything should be in spick and span order.
As these men, Mike having two partners, are farming thirteen thousand acres, they are on a much larger scale as regards buildings, numbers of horses, etc., to anything we have seen before. Their living-houses are about double the size of C----
Farm; they have also huge stables, which A---- fancies wil be cold in winter, but have a most imposing appearance, as have also their implement house, sheds, etc. The land seemed much the same as ours, a rich black loam, but very much wetter, marshes everywhere.
They have broken two thousand acres since the beginning of June, and were busy, whilst we were there, cutting hay, Mike hoping he had already got over five hundred ton up!
We drove one day to see a neighbouring farm which is said to be the "boss" one in all the country, belonging to a man who has been out five years. He was just starting to cut his two square miles of wheat, and we watched the seven self-binding machines with great interest. They seem as light as a reaper, and the machinery comparatively not intricate.
We were driven through some standing corn, which was rather agonizing to our British ideas, but he thought nothing of it. The straw was four and a half feet high, and he hopes to get forty-two bushels to the acre. His farm being on the Snake River, and having many creeks running through as drainage, is a great advantage. His vats were pronounced no better, if so good, as ours at C---- Farm.
We remained at Warren a day longer than we had intended, as we got to the station just in time to see our train move off. We accused Mike's Irish groom, who is quite a character, of bringing round the carriage too late on purpose. If he did, I think al the party forgave him; we were very happy, it gave us another night of A----'s society. Mike was low at our going. Poor man! one cannot be much surprised at his liking to keep us, as, besides the fascinations of ladies' society, he has no neighbours whatsoever, and, excepting the two men he has in the house, there is not a gentleman nearer than Winnipeg. He offered me seventy-two dol ars a month to be his housekeeper. E---- was to have two dol ars a week as parlour-maid, which she considers an insult; or she might have seventy-five cents a day if she would drive the ploughs.
Servants and labourers get higher wages there than in Manitoba, all the men were averaging thirty-five to forty dol ars a month and their keep. They were al Swedes and Germans, of whom there is an enormous colony in the state.
We are now trying to spend our day at Council Bluff, a large junction of the Grand Pacific Railway, having come in here at 8
o'clock this morning, and our train to Denver not leaving till 7
o'clock this evening. The hotel is right on the station. The weather is so hot, that as yesterday, at St. Paul's, where we also had to spend a whole day, we have never summoned up courage to go beyond the door. It was suggested we might take the tram and go up into the City; but E---- has a notion that one city is much like another, particularly on a hot day.
It is curious how Americans live in hotels; there are several families in this, and if my letter is not very intel igible you must forgive me, as I am writing in the grand corridor to try and catch the slight draughts of air blowing through, at the same time that half a dozen children are playing up and down.
The scenery yesterday from St. Paul's all along the banks of the Missouri was very pretty. We both of us sat outside the Pul man as long as daylight lasted, feasting our eyes oh the water, trees, etc. The height and luxuriance of the latter seemed quite incomprehensible after the total absence of forest scenery for so many months. It is pretty round here; and by the time we get to the Rocky Mountains we shall have got beyond the stage of thinking a hil ock a mountain, and fairish-sized trees not so wonderful after all; but at the present moment we are in that pleasing state, ready to admire anything and everything. We hope to get to Denver on Saturday night, and rest there Sunday and part of Monday, and we also hope to get to Church there. Mike offered to drive us into Warren last Sunday; but as the service was a Swedish Presbyterian, we didn't think we should be much edified.
* * * * *DENVER, August 2lst.
We arrived here Saturday evening, very tired and not at all sorry to exchange the Pul man for a comfortable room and bed, which we had telegraphed for, and therefore not, like so many of our fel ow-passengers, obliged to seek shelter elsewhere. The Pul man's are most comfortable, and for a long journey like ours nothing could be so good; but I am glad that in England we don't have either these or the ordinary American car in general use. The publicity is so odious, and one does get bored by the passengers constantly wandering up and down the train, and the boys who pass and repass every ten minutes selling books, newspapers, cigars, candy, and the unripest of fruit, which they are always pressing you to buy; to say nothing of chewing, spitting Americans one has to countenance all day long. The last four-and-twenty hours of our journey have been very tiring. The scenery has been so monotonous; endless long undulating plains like the waves of the sea, covered with grass quite dried up, a few flowers, and a bee-shaped cactus.
The heat was very oppressive, a hot sirocco, wind blowing which; obliged us to keep our windows shut on account of the fine alkaline dust. E---- had her window open last night, and awoke this morning to find herself in a layer of ashes.
We skirted the South Platte River most of the time; it was only a bed of shingles, wide and shallow, with not a drop of water in it.
These plains, extending for thousands of miles in al directions, are the great "ranching," or cattle-farming districts, formerly the favourite breeding-grounds and pastures of the buffalo, which, alas! have all disappeared. We only saw a few tame ones amongst the herds of cattle; they have been killed in the most ruthless, indiscriminate way for their furs, and wil soon be "things of the past."
We wondered much, with the river and every visible stream so dry, how the large herds of cattle and horses were watered; but have since been told that water is so near the surface the herdsmen have no great depth to dig to procure any quantity. We thought we could have made a good pick or two amongst the horses, but we didn't care for long-legged ugly big-horned cattle brutes. Here and there was a herdsman mounted on a smal Indian pony with a high Mexican saddle, enormous spurs, and a long lasso, gal oping and dexterously turning his animals.
Our train had to pul up several times and whistle loudly to turn the animals off the track, there being, as usual, no rail or protection; but pulling up for them was not half as exciting as on Thursday night, when we stopped repeatedly to turn a man off the train who, not having paid his fare, nor apparently intending to do so, had swung himself in some marvel ous way under the cars, hanging on by the break. Whenever we slackened speed he jumped off, walking quite unconcernedly alongside; but the moment we moved on he got on again. We never knew how far he continued his perilous ride, I fancy that even the officials gave up remonstrating; anyhow, as long as daylight lasted and we could watch the men, no efforts on their part seemed to make the smallest impression.
Three hours before getting into Denver we had our first glimpse of the Rockies, and although they were then only in the blue distance we were quite excited about them; and at Greely Station (much impressed on our minds by having read Miss Bird's book just before coming here), we came in full view of Long's Peak,--almost wishing
"Mountain Jim" might stil be alive to ascend it with us,--and the whole of the gorgeous range; and quite one of the loveliest sights I ever saw was watching two thunder-storms on either side of the Peak break and disperse, whilst the reflections from the sunset-glow lit up the rest of the heavens. The railway and Denver City itself is about thirty miles distant from the mountains, but the atmosphere is so clear that they look as if quite within an easy gal op.
It is difficult to understand why the town has been built so far from the mountains, situated as it is on a sandy, treeless plain.
It is growing, like most of the western towns, at a tremendous pace, and we are lodging in a luxurious hotel, our room on the fourth floor numbers 454. We found the avenues of trees lining every street an immense boon this morning in going to church at the cathedral.
The heat, though great, is not so oppressive as either at St.
Paul's or Omaha, but then we are at the height of 5,000 feet; and this afternoon the air has been cleared by a thunderstorm preceded by a great sand-storm, which we watched from our windows encircling the town, so thick that mountains and all view was obliterated for the time being.
Denver is a great resort for invalids, chiefly those suffering with asthma.
* * * * *August 22.
Before leaving Denver we went to a gunsmith and invested in a fishing-rod and numberless flies, with which we intend to do great execution. We also went to the exhibition, opened a month ago and still unfinished; one of the leading men, to whom we had a letter of introduction, showed us everything. It is chiefly interesting to miners, as the display of minerals from Western America is unrival ed. There seemed, in the specimens, enough gold and silver to make us rich for ever; unfortunately our ignorance on the subject of ore is too great to thoroughly appreciate it.
* * * * *OURAY, August 24.
It is not easy to sit down and write after forty-eight hours travel ing, as we have been doing since leaving Denver on Monday night at 7 o'clock; but in such scenery and air so exhilarating we do not feel as tired as we expected. You should have seen the omnibus, stage-coach, charridon, or any other name you please to give the lumbering vehicle in which we performed our last twelve hours' drive; it looked truly frightening when it drove up to Cimarron depot, one tent, last night, to pick us up, intended for twenty passengers and any amount of luggage, and swung on great straps. It was wonderful y wel horsed, and we changed our teams every ten miles; but only then came at the rate of five miles an hour. We both of us started for our sixty-four miles' drive on the box-seat with the driver, who happened to be an extremely nice man and an experienced whip; in former days he had driven the stage-coaches across from Omaha to San Francisco, a journey of three weeks. But he took up much room on the seat, and every time he had to pul up his horses his left elbow ran into me, until "he guessed my ribs would be pretty-well bruised."
About midnight, when our only other fel ow-passenger turned out from the inside of the coach, I entered it, though I expected nearly every moment would be my last, the bumping was so fearful.
I managed to get a few winks of sleep towards morning. E---- sat outside al night, finding it very difficult not to drop off the coach from drowsiness. The early hours of the morning, after the moon went down until dawn, were truly wretched, what between the outer darkness, the flickering of our lamps, the unevenness of the road, and the clouds of dust, and one almost began to wonder if the journey was worth so much trouble.
But with daylight we quite altered our opinions; as real y I do not think, if you searched the whole world over, you would find anything more beautiful than the Uncompahgre valley and park looked in the morning light.
Mr. W---- met us at 5 o'clock A.M. at the "Hot Springs," so called from the boiling water that gushes out of the ground, and which is said to give the name of "Uncompahgre" to the district, that being the Indian word for hot water. He brought us out hot coffee and food to refresh us, and drove us the last nine miles up the valley. We came slowly, thoroughly enjoying the scenery. On either side of the road are well-cultivated farms. Within two miles of Ouray the park narrows into a magnificent gorge, bounded on each side by precipitous cliffs of red sandstone, covered with pines and quaking aspen, the whole crowned by arid peaks. From this gorge you suddenly come upon the town, situated in an amphitheatre of grand gray, trachyte rocks.
Our house is in Main Street. The ground floor is an office; our four rooms are on the first floor, to which we ascend by a wooden staircase outside.
Every nook and corner is fil ed with some curiosity or mineral specimen. Our host being a great sportsman, there are various trophies of the chase--a mountain lion, wild sheeps' heads, bears, cranes, even to a stuffed donkey's head; there are also cabinets of fossils, specimens of ore, etc., and great blocks of the same piled on the floor.
Our family consists of our two hosts, Messrs. W---- and B----, two Indian ponies, a mule, two setters, and two prairie dogs, which are reddish-buff marmots. We are only to remain here one night, and, if thoroughly rested after our journey, go up to the log cabin in the Imogene Basin, 3,000 feet higher. We are both looking forward to it immensely. It is right in the heart of the mountains, 10,600 feet, and with no one near us, as al the mines surrounding the cabin belong to a company which had to suspend its works last month for want of funds, so that they are not being worked. The air is glorious, and we feel already perfectly restored to our usual health, though we are warned that strangers cannot walk much at first, the air is so rarefied, that one is soon out of breath. Anyhow the atmosphere has been so clear that it much added to our enjoyment in seeing the ever varying beauties and distant mountain view al along our journey from Denver here.
We unfortunately came through the "Grand Canyon" at night. Had it been clear the porter on the car was to awake us to see it; we could quite picture to ourselves its beauties by the scenery in the Black Canyon we came through yesterday by daylight. The engineering al along the line is marvel ous, the way we rose nearly 7,000 feet by a zigzag over the Marshall Pass, or the Great Divide, going down nearly as many feet on the other side and then through these canyons, which are only narrow gorges for a raging torrent to rush through on its headlong career.
Our train was a very narrow gauge with bogie wheels, and we twisted so, in and out of the bends of the river, that the engine often looked as if it might easily come into contact with our carriage which happened to be the last. It is the great advantage of the Pul mans they are always on last to the train when passing through any pretty country, and when there are no other carriages of the same, so that one can sit on the rear platform and see al the scenery.
We entered into conversation with two Germans, and were amused by one of them surreptitiously bringing us two pink trout from his luncheon at the wayside hotel, we having remained in the carriage for our frugal meal; and though we had got to the "Sweets" stage felt hound to begin again, and much enjoyed our fish. The food provided at these wayside inns is generally so bad and dear, a dol ar a head charged for sixteen to eighteen dishes, of almost uneatable messes, that we prefer the tinned meats and fruits we have, in our luncheon basket; and for drinks we have beautifully iced water in all the carriages, the ice being replenished at every big station.
The last forty miles of our railroad journey was over a line only opened ten days ago, by which, I am thankful to say, we avoided twelve hours more of the stage-coach and a night in a Colorado inn, which, we are told, is anything but pleasant, there always being many more bed fel ows than what one bargains for; and we should not have seen the Black Canyon and its thirteen miles of grandeur and sublimity. The railway track is cut out of the sides of the over-hanging rocks, and in places is built on a bed of stones in the creek itself.
The rocks at times almost seemed to meet overhead, then widened, we crossing and re-crossing the torrent by wooden bridges which shortly are to be replaced by iron ones. The colouring was so beautiful, the chasm being general y in shade with the mountains above standing out in glorious sunshine, covered as they were in many places, even as far down as the water's edge, with pines.
Nature is marvel ous in its productions, but the ingenuity of man is also wonderful, and we quite came to the conclusion that the scenery of that canyon was worth coming al these thousands of miles to see.
* * * * *OURAY, August 27th.
The name of Ouray, given to this town, is from the last chief of the Utes, who, with his tribe, lived to within a couple of years on a reserve down in the Park. The first stake is said to have been struck by white men in 1865, but no cabin was built until 1874, and from that time the town has been growing rapidly, having now about 1,000 inhabitants. In the south-west portion of the basin in which it stands, and where the waters of Canyon Creek flow into those of the Uncompaghre, there are some lovely canyons and picturesque gorges, and here, in places where the hot springs overflow the banks of the main stream, the rocks are covered with maiden-hair and other ferns. These hot springs serve to keep the river unfrozen even in the severest weather.
* * * * *MOUNTAIN BAT'S NEST, IMOGENE BASIN,
This is a glorious region, and we send you the enclosed sketch to show our picture of comfort and perfection. I assure you, nightly as we sit down to our evening repast, or later round our wood fire in our "parlour," we congratulate each other, and fancy we would not change places with the highest of the land, the air and life are so intoxicating.
After twenty-four hours in Ouray we came up here, sending the darkie Henry and our luggage on before us in a waggon. We have brought nothing but the bare necessaries of life--al our heavy boxes are gone to Chicago to await our return--being warned to bring as little as possible, on account of the difficulties of transport in the mountains, also of only being allowed 50 lbs.
weight on the coach, every extra lb. charged ten cents. We ourselves rode up here, arriving about 6 o'clock, and found poor Henry waiting outside, not having been able to get into the cabin, the door-key being careful y in Mr. W----'s pocket; but as everything is always left in order it didn't take us long to make ourselves comfortable; and as at sunset the cold had been piercing, a fire soon lit was very acceptable.
This cabin is quite unique. It consists of two rooms on each side of the front door, with a tiny passage used as larder, wood-hole, saddle-room, &c.
Our room is our bed and drawing-room combined, which is hung al round with every imaginable skin, wolf, skunks, lynx, &c., stuffed animals and birds, guns and traps, to say nothing of shelves covered with different specimens of ore taken out of the adjoining mines. It was quite creepy, the first night, having to sleep with a bear's head at the foot of our bed, with a stuffed fox just over our head, which has the most awful squint, and is the first object that catches the eye on awaking, and a dried root, the fibres of which so much resemble a man's beard that it looks horridly like a scalp. The hay-mattress on our bed has to be; shaped into grooves for our poor bones to rest comfortably. In the day-time it is covered up with skins, and then is cal ed the "lounge."
Our washing-stand is primitive, a box standing on end, in which our tin bason and cans are concealed, so that we can consider our
"parlour" quite correct. Our other room is the kitchen, and fitted up with four bunks against the wal , which Mr. W---- and Henry occupy. We breakfast and dine out of doors, at a table placed just outside the cabin, and on the only bit of flat ground we have near, as we are situated on the slope of a mountain, and a most beautiful stream of water runs about forty feet below us with the clearest and coldest of water. One of our first occupations in the morning is to take the animals down to water, and afterwards to picket them in amongst the long grass, growing in great profusion and height during the short summer on al the foot hil s and wherever there is an open space. The first afternoon we were up here we went for a ride round Imogene basin, and were delighted with the wild flowers, which are quite innumerable--columbine, phloxes, blue gentian, dandelions, harebells, vetches, and fifty other species. E---- picked a good many, and hopes to draw them for the benefit of you al at home. The flowers shoot up almost before the snow has melted, and make the most of their short existence which lasts about two months and a half. We tasted the
"bear berry," which grows as a bush and has a round brown berry, quite bitter, but, as its name shows, is much appreciated by the bears, who come any distance to get it.
* * * * *
We are enjoying this mountain life; the weather is al we can desire, and we are in the most robust of health. We live almost entirely out of doors, sketching al the morning, in the afternoons making expeditions either into some of the mines, or over a mountain-pass; and for "tender-feet" the name given to al new-comers, are pronounced to be good mountaineers; but our ponies and mules are so sure-footed and pleasant that we follow any trail, however narrow and uneven, with the greatest confidence.
The scenery everywhere is far beyond our sketching capacities, but we find spoiling many sheets of drawing-paper a never-failing amusement and occupation; and we can sit out anywhere, as neither snakes nor mosquitoes are known in these altitudes. Our darkie's criticism might be discouraging, he saying he cannot understand our wasting so much time on "things not at all like nature," were it not counterbalanced by the praise given us in the "Ouray Times"
which paper we sent home to you last week. The balsam pine, which is about the only tree we have, is rather monotonous and sombre-looking, being of a blackish-green; and we have not here, as in the val ey around Ouray, the beautiful sandstone and porphyry rocks for background; only never-ending blue distances, brought out so clearly on account of the extraordinary dryness and purity of the atmosphere.
We have been escorting two men to-day over a pass 12,500 feet, part of the way to San Miguel, going as far as the ridge, from whence we had a most glorious view and panorama, as we could see into the val eys and canyons some miles below; Mount Wilson, which unfortunately was shrouded in dark, stormy clouds; a range of mountains in Utah cal ed Sierra la Sal, about 120 miles distant; and a long way into New Mexico.
In returning home we got into clouds, and could hear a thunderstorm raging in the valley below us, for some little time losing our trail, and not sorry when we found it again and were able to descend from higher regions, the cold was so intense; not so surprising, as we found when the mist lifted that snow had fal en on all the surrounding peaks.
* * * * *IMOGENE BASIN, September 12th.
Two days' after our expedition to San Miguel we awoke to find ourselves in a "white world," the snow being two inches deep. It is said to be a most unusual y early storm, but it was not altogether a surprise: the glass had been falling and storms had been audibly growling al round us. The snow only lasted about twenty-four hours, just long enough for us to realise and admire Imogene in its winter garb, and enable us to try and walk in snow-shoes. We did not attempt either going up or down hil in them, so that our performance was confined to the smal space in front of the cabin.
With the exception of this one storm our weather continues lovely; bright, sunshiny, warm days--we do not even require an extra jacket out of doors until after sunset--with a slight frost every night.
Last Monday we started early, taking provisions with us, and spent a long day in Red Mountain Park, sketching the marvel ously bril iant scarlet peaks, whilst Mr. W---- shot grouse, of which he got three and a half brace. The grouse are much like ours, only larger, and roost in trees. These parks abound in game. We have been wishing to see a bear; at a safe distance, perhaps, but have never succeeded, though several have been kil ed since our arrival. Whilst shooting, Mr. W---- came upon the fresh trail of one and its unfinished meal of a gophir not very far from where we lunched; only fancy what a stampede there would have been had the bear appeared. We are always looking out for thin trees round which a bear's claws would overlap, and therefore they could not climb, to take refuge up in case of danger; but they very seldom attack, unless wounded or a she-bear with cubs. In the spring and autumn these parks abound in deer; but in summer they go above timber line to graze on the succulent bunch grasses and to be free from flies. There are also mountain-sheep, coyotes, and foxes, and along the streams several beaver; but we never have seen any animal bigger than a prairie-dog, or smaller than a coney.
Chipmunks and the mountain-rats disturbed our slumbers at night, running about the cabin, and I do not at all think we should like our dormitory were we not watched over during our slumbers by a cat, the most sociable of beasts, who as a rule sleeps between us, and protests loudly if we either of us move or wake him.
* * * * *September 7th.
By degrees we are learning something of the mines and miners; also are beginning to know all the packers who daily go up and down the trails, each with a train of ten donkeys carrying the ore from the mines. The men's appearance is of the roughest, but they, one and all, are most civil, both of speech and manner. Women are rare in these districts, the wife of the manager of the Wheel of Fortune Mine being the only one living up here. She has been here two years, and is quite idolized by the miners and trappers, as she has never been known to refuse hospitality to any. We were much amused, whilst going through the Wheel of Fortune tunnels last Saturday, to hear one of the miners ask who we were, and when told with the ready answer, natural to this country, that "we were Duchesses," he wished much to know if that was not something like the Prince of Wales.
We went into a lower shaft whilst two fuses were fired in an upper. The anticipation of the shock was worse than the realisation. Each of us carried a candle, and the concussion blew them al out; but beyond that, the smell of gunpowder, and smoke, we experienced no harm, and as we had matches and the candles were soon relit, we had not to grope our way back in darkness.
We have been into several of the tunnels on the eight well-defined lodes in this basin, also into some in Sneffels; these veins may be all traced through into Red Mountain Valley, which seems to be the volcanic centre of this neighbourhood. The porphyry vein matter or ore-bearing quartz, having decomposed more readily than the trachyte of the mountains which they intersect, in some instances, as in the peak just above our cabin, they have cut deep notches in the summit of the ridges, making the outline very jagged and rugged looking.
The mineral wealth around us is astounding, hundreds of rich mines have been discovered in all the surrounding mountains, and are being discovered now. Three men, whilst at dinner a month ago in Red Mountain Val ey, in picking round with a smal axe where they were sitting, knocked off a piece of rock which, when analysed, proved to be so valuable a lode, that they have since then sold their claim for 125,000 dol ars.
Any man can stake a claim of 1,500 feet on a vein if not previously done; but he has to expend 100 pounds on it in the first five years to enable him to obtain a patent from Government, which secures the property to him for ever.
There must be a certain amount of excitement to miners as to what treasure will be produced after every blast of gunpowder; but oh!
how I should hate the life, living underground in these subterranean passages, which are al more or less wet from the water percolating through the rock, and never able to see the sun or the beauties of nature. The wages of the men are enormous, able miners getting four dollars a day; sorters, or the men who break and turn over the stone, three and a half.
Mr. W---- had a hard life when he first came out here in 1877; as he and his partner worked with no other help for four years underground mining, besides having to build their cabin, being their own blacksmiths, assayer, cook, &c., and he declares he enjoyed it immensely, with the exception, perhaps, of the first winter, when, getting in their supplies very late, they had to live on bacon (and that rancid) and flour, but little else.
Stores for the winter have to be brought up in October, as the trails early become impassable, and all outer communication can only be kept up on snow-shoes. The snow averages about seven or eight feet, though in this basin it has been known to be thirty-eight deep, but in the Uncompaghre Valley and down by Ouray it averages only a few inches. Animals are left out to graze there all the winter.
* * * * *THE RANCH, UNCOMPAHGRE PARK, September 16. Ten miles below Ouray.
Amidst many tears and regrets, we have torn ourselves away from the cabin, where we could have spent another month or six weeks in perfect contentment; but a storm being predicted, and duck-shooting and fly-fishing being part of our Colorado programme, we accepted the loan of a house on a farm down in the val ey, and are instal ed in it.
It wanted a certain amount of pluck, on first seeing our accommodation, to come down. Our house is one room, thirty feet long by about eighteen wide, an open roof with plenty of air-holes, and no partition whatsoever, excepting what we have made by hanging three blankets from a rafter, behind which is our bed (or lounge in day-time), the washing-stand, a box set up longways, and a tin bason, an arm-chair which consists of two pieces of wood, and an old wolfskin, much worn, and a rickety table, at which I am writing now, lighted by a candle stuck into a bottle. On the other side of the blanket-partition is the kitchen stove, big table, store shelves, a pile of saddles, &c. Mr. W---- sleeps in a tent outside; Henry in a waggon: he, poor man, is not at all happy, as he imagines bears and coyotes are nightly intending making their evening meal off his portly form. He is the greatest coward I ever saw, and came in horror confiding to me that he had seen a snake, yards long, which Mr. W----
kil ed the day fol owing, and it proved to be a small water-snake, hardly ten inches.
Henry affords us a great deal of amusement; he does not at all presume, but, in his quaint way, wishes to tel , and asks so many things, queries which often are almost unanswerable. The day we spent in Ouray on our way down from the cabin here, we much distressed him by not "striking a show" in the street, and not wearing smart clothes which had a "tong," if it were only to show that we consider Mr. W---- a "big bug."
He left his wife in the South eleven years ago, and, in spite of all our protestations and lectures, informs us he is going to marry again, as in the Bible he reads "that it is wrong for man to live alone."
It is a matter of infinite surprise to him how we can remain out of doors with no covering to our heads, he could not stand the rays of the sun as we do; and why our complexions in consequence are not as dark as his is a mystery to him.
* * * * *THE RANCH, UNCOMPAGHRE PARK, September 24th.
Although this house does consist of only one room, is situated in a stony field, with not a tree near us, and that we are not having good sport, either trout-fishing or duck-shooting, we should be quite happy and contented were it not for the B flats which abound, the first we have come across, which, Henry assures us, are not from dirt, but grow in the pine-wood. Why are they not, then, in the log cabins which are entirely built of pine? We have not disclosed the fact to Mr. W----, he is so thoroughly enjoying his holiday, as we know that we should be instantly ordered back to Ouray, where he would have to begin his work. Whilst he is out shooting, we make expeditions, exploring over al the foot-hills.
One day, after wandering up a beautiful val ey, we came upon a Park or "Mesa," and I do not ever remember having seen such a view: miles of grass on which wild cattle and horses were feeding, with clumps of trees artistical y dotted here and there, and for background the orange and scarlet tinted foot-hills, pines on higher regions, and a glorious panorama of snow-capped mountains beyond. But for the mountains, one might almost fancy oneself in some English park, and at every turn we felt we ought to come upon an Elizabethan House. There were many tracks of deer, but none were visible. We overtook a man driving a team of ten oxen with lumber, and of him asked our way, as one might very easily lose oneself in these rolling park-like glades, intersected with deep canyons, with no trails or roads, excepting here and there one made by lumberers. In coming down the hil again, close to a large saw-mil , we watched a man breaking in a horse of five years old.
He had secured a dozen, all wild, in a corral or fenced enclosure, and had thrown a noose over this one's head. He was trying to draw it up by means of a thick rope to the fence, the rope getting tighter and tighter as the animal backed or tried to gal op round with the other horses. Finally, when the poor brute was almost choked, and perspiration was streaming down him, he allowed the man to go up to him, who very dexterously and quickly slipped a halter over its head. The horse then was tied up to the post, the others turned out, and the man intended keeping him there until the fol owing morning without any food, when he would put a saddle on, and ride him, and hoping to sel him as broken for eighty dol ars.
Many of these horses are not broken at al ; we were shown a good- looking mare of thirteen years old who had never had a bit in her mouth.
* * * * *THE RANCH, September 29th.
This is the country I should like to have a farm in, were I bound to emigrate. In this val ey every sort of grain and vegetable seem to grow in the most luxuriant way, and we have been feasting on tomatoes, cabbages, beets, lettuces, etc. The butcher, who is also greengrocer, sent a potato twelve inches long by nine round, "hoping the ladies would take it in their trunks to England as an average specimen." Then on the "Mesa" or parks above the foot-hil s, large herds of cattle can always graze through the winter. We have had jelly made of squawberries and the Oregon grape, which is excellent. There are also wild gooseberries and black currants, both of which we have found.
This ranch is 160 acres; the only buildings the owner has put up are the dwelling-house and one shed as a stable and implement-house. Hay last year was sel ing at 10 to 12 pounds a ton, potatoes 3d. to 6d. a lb., oats 4d. a lb., and everything in proportion; eggs 3s. to 4s. a dozen al the year round, milk 6d. a quart; so that any man ought to make a very large profit, the land originally costing him nothing, and, excepting in hay or harvest time, very little labour required.
Oats are cut very green and stacked for winter fodder. These fertile valleys are very limited in number, and as the consumption must be on the increase, mines being discovered and opened out, some time must elapse and the railway come nearer, ere competition reduces the prices, or the farmer's profits are lessened.
The people round are most kind and friendly, and would be more so had they received the slightest encouragement; but Mr. W---- gave out we wanted to know no one, that we were not to be in Ouray, and that al our time was to be taken up seeing the country. We went one day up Bear Creek, as Mr. W---- was asked to see a mine, and dined with the manager and his wife. They gave us a sumptuous repast, and tried to persuade E---- and I to remain the night, though we were only about four miles from home; but even we two are not enough un-Englishified as yet not to object to sleeping with two other people. They had only one room for kitchen, bed, sitting-room, &c.; and it is curious how little one now thinks of the bed standing in one corner, the washing-stand in another, whilst kitchen-stove, and scullery fill up a third. I suggested that when strangers did sleep there they gave them the adjoining cabin; but was told that a trussel bed put alongside of the host's
"took no room whatsoever." Mr. W---- tel s a funny story of a picnic party in the mountains in an old cabin of his, which only contained one room, and where five women and six men had to sleep the night, the women occupying the bunks, the men (after promenading outside whilst the women were getting into bed) sleeping on the floor. They all laughed and talked so much that daylight almost appeared before any of them got to sleep, and there was a regular stampede under the blankets among the ladies when a match was struck, one of the men objecting to his neighbour lying alongside of him with al his clothes on.
* * * * *October 3rd.
How the time flies! in forty-eight hours from now we shal have said good-bye to the most fascinating of regions, and Ouray and the Rocky Mountains, with al the glorious scenery, will only live in our memories and be things of the past.
I fancy one could never tire of it, and wish so much I could describe the view we had from our Ranch looking up the Uncompahgre.--the valley bright yellow with the grasses and aspen trees turning colour from the frosts, the scarlet dwarf oak on the foot-hill, and the mountains lost in the blue distance. During our six weeks' stay we have tried al the different phases of life. The cabin life in amongst the mountains and miners, the Ranch, and town, and certainly give the palm to the first-mentioned. As we anticipated, our Ranch life was brought to an abrupt end the moment we owned to Mr. W---- how our slumbers were disturbed with the B flats; we had to return into Ouray, and have been living here some days.
Mr. W---- found such an accumulation of work on his return, that, excepting at meals, we never see him; and have to content ourselves wandering and exploring on our ponies al the different trails, and we shall soon be acquainted with every one within miles. The only ride we do eschew is the Tol Road up the park, the only piece of flat ground anywhere about, and fit for cantering along. It is the favourite resort of the ladies of the town, who are smartly arrayed in very long-skirted habits ornamented with brass buttons and velvet jockey-caps, and who must naturally look down upon us as disgraceful y turned out in our every-day gowns and broad-brimmed hats, which, to say the least, have seen better days.
Ladies riding alone are required to pay no tol ; a custom we think ought very much to be encouraged all over the civilized world.
We have spent one more night at the cabin in Imogene, leaving Henry in Ouray and "doing" for ourselves; and whilst Mr. W---- and the "expert," for whom we went up, were inspecting mines, we two fetched the water, made bread, and had a general sweep out. The cat was supremely delighted to see us, and could not apparently make enough of us when not al owed on our knees, stood up against or walked round us.
The heavy snow-storm of last week destroyed al the grass and flowers; they were so high when we left that a mule could hardly have been seen whilst grazing, and now they are laid quite flat with not a vestige of their beauty left. The wind was very high as we went up the canyon, so we had to hurry past the patches of aspens growing on the rocks and having very little hold for their roots, which were being blown over unpleasantly near us.
This will be the last letter you wil receive, as when once started we shal go as fast as the stage-coach, rail, and steam-boat can take us to England, I having had a telegram which hurries us home.
Good-bye, we look forward immensely to seeing you al again; but we have had such a pleasant trip throughout, without a single _contretemps_, that we can but be delighted we came, and shal always look back with immense gratification on our six months'
sojourn in the Western hemisphere.
* * * * *LONDON, December, 1882.
Since arriving in England I have received the following letter from my brother in Manitoba, and as I want this book to be a sort of guide to colonists I think it well to add it:--
C---- FARM, November 14th.
I am writing now to send you a kind of statement of our farm accounts; though it cannot be quite correct, this year's crop of oats not having been thrashed out, so that the calculation can only be approximate.
1st. _The Land_.--The cost of the land is taken as the first purchase-money and the amount it has cost to bring 410 acres under cultivation.
2nd. _The Buildings_.--They consist of two dwelling-houses and two stables; one of the houses, being for the men, is also used as a warehouse and granary.
The contract price was very low, and also the price of timber; now both gone up, but put down at the original cost.
3rd. _The Horses_.--Valued, I think, rather low at 250 dol ars a team; 500 dol ars for the stallion. The 4,326 dollars include their cost; the amount of oats and hay they have eaten.
_The Cows_.--Include their original cost, hay and percentage of keep.
The price of cattle now is high; we sold two cows this summer at an average price of 75 dol ars.
_Implements_ have been reduced about 35 per cent for their two years'
_Carriages_ being new, we have taken nothing off them.
_Pigs_ have the cost of their feeding added; the young ones taken at an average of ten dollars.
_Furniture_.--A slight deduction for wear and tear.
_Oats_.--We are calculating 2,500 bushels off 181 acres.
_Hay_ is difficult to calculate; I do not think we have 400 tons. The price now is very low; 5 dol ars a ton, and it would cost us three dol ars to get it into Winnipeg.
_Potatoes_ are uncertain. They are worth one dollar a ton now, and if we can manage to keep them during the winter they will be worth a good deal more; but they are difficult to keep, although we have a good root-house; If the frost happens to get to them they wil all spoil; and it is difficult to keep the frost out, going as it does twelve feet into the ground.
_The Fence_ is quite worth the money; so you see that putting most things at a low price, one has a certain profit, though not in hard cash; and it is satisfactory to find that one hasn't been working for two seasons for nothing. No one expects a farm to pay in this country during the first two years.
Original Value. Dol ars. Present Value Dollars Land, 480 acres 4,110 worth 30 dollars an acre 14,400
Building 2 houses and 2 stables 4,814 4,814
Horses--2l horses 4,326 3,000