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Memories of the early days.

From the time we left Glasgow July 1st, 1889, we were eight days on the water. We used sails when the wind was in our favour. It took us six days to come from Quebec to Gleichen by train and then overland to Queenstown, arriving there an July 14th.

The grass was all yellow and it was very hot. There was only one rain that year and only enough to settle the dust. The ground did not freeze that winter; it was so dry despite the temperature dropping to 60 [degrees] below. The winters remained that cold for several years and there was three feet of snow an the level.

There were 2,000 Blackfoot Indians on the reserve to the north of our home at that time. All the men were well built, standing six feet tall; the women were fine looking too. Many of them were old and gray haired. After the buffalo got killed off, the next generation went down in health and in fifteen years the band want to 750 as many died of T.B. Now. [1962] there are 1,500 or more but not of the same fine physique of those of 72 years ago.

I was 12 years old when we came to Queenstown and I have three sisters younger than me. We used to play with the Indian boys and girls as there were no white kids to play with. We picked up a lot of Indian words and have not forgotten them. Now most of the Indians speak English.

When the Indians got treaty money many would camp at our place on their way to visit the Bloods and Peigans. They would stay overnight because there was water at our place and the next watering place was a long way off. The camp would include 15 to 30 tipis.

These Indians were great for horse racing and bet their horses. Some would come home with fewer or none while others would have a lot more. They always took extra horses on these trips.

Mother would doctor the Indians and would hum tunes while rubbing their backs and chests. From this, she got the name Humming Woman!

The second year we were in the country Father bought 16 cows. In 17 years they increased to a herd of 800. We sold a lot and some died of old age. One year 65 calves died of Black Leg; there was no cure for that at that time.

The winter of 1906/07 was bad; 1906 had been a dry year and the grass did not grow so we could not get hay for winter feed. That winter was very cold and the snow deep. It crusted and then it was 40 [degrees] below zero for 6 weeks. It was sure cold. The cattle drifted south and even over the American border. At the end of two years we gathered only 300 head out of 800.

The second year we were in the country, we started with 4 heavy mares. The horse herd increased to 30 head when swamp fever killed all of them. Indian ponies did not die; we had used a stallion which weighed 1200 lbs, so the first cross with Indian pony mares made good saddle horses. Later on, Father used heavier stallions until we sold horses weighing from 1,400 to 1,800 lbs. He had started with Indian pony mares that weighed 600 lbs. or less. Finally we had over 600 head.

We don't get the Black Chinook winds we used to get in winter. One chinook wind took off 3 feet of snow in 3 days. The hot wind felt like standing over a hot stove.

Our home was the post office in the beginning and my Father called it Queenstown. Then a village sprung up near our farm and it got the post office. I moved there in 1928 and was in business for myself.

At one time, I went to work for Douglas Hardwick, owner of the Lazy H ranch, as a ranch hand and remained on that job for a year. In the winter I had to haul hay from a stack with a wagon to feed 50 old cows. It was a five mile haul and the snow was so deep in places that I had to shovel out a road. When Hardwick found this out, he said that would never do and he would go to Gleichen and get a set of bob sleighs for me to use. He was away three days and during that time, a chinook came up and took off the snow. Douglas had a hard time to get home and I could never use the sleighs the rest of that winter.

It was a year when the cattle were mangey. Ranchers often rubbed coal oil into their pelts during the winter, when cattle could not he dipped to remove the mange. Sulphur and hot water were the main ingredients used in large cattle dips, to drench the cattle and kill the mange. They would swim through the mixture. Hardwick kept a supply of sulphur but during this winter he did not use it. He used coal oil until he ran out of it.

I was batching when I looked after these old cows and Douglas had left me a bag of flour, and also a sack of sulphur. We got them mixed and tried to make bread from the wrong sack -- we only found out when it would not rise. While there, about 25 timber wolves came to visit me. I could hear them running on the snow so I took a shot at them in the dark and they ran away. Next morning I went to see if I hit any but found that the bullet had struck the ground in front of the pack and had scared them off.

At the Lazy H ranch the corral and sheds were down a deep coulee, while the house was on the bank, about 50 feet higher up. I spent some time alone there.

When we were young we had many experiences. One of my sisters, now Mrs. Wilson, used to go out riding alone at times. One day when she was not far from home, she came upon what she thought was a coyote. It was bigger than others she had seen and it turned and growled at her instead of running away. After relating the incident to Father he told her to mix a poison bait and leave it where she had encountered the animal. The animal returned and died on the spot. It was a timber wolf weighing about 150 pounds.

This was just one of many incidents in the life of teenager sixty years ago.
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Author:Brown, Austin
Publication:Alberta History
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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