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Calgary was all agog Sunday morning last waiting to see the arrival of the 65th of Montreal [during the Riel Rebellion], the first body of troops to come to the Amphitheatre City, who were billed to arrive by special train at midday. True to the time table, the train came up to the station, the boys waving their hats and cheering as if they had not been eleven days on the journey and had not had a square sleep or a decent bed since they left their native snows 2,000 miles away.

With faces grimed with the dust of travel, with sun skinned noses and frost bitten ears, with hair unkept and head gear awry, they were a pretty spectacle for their mothers and cousins to see and the "girl they left behind them" to smile at. Nevertheless they trouped out on the platform and paraded on the square behind the station, with a jaunty step and merry air that spoke volumes for their spirits and constitutions, and promised well for their performance of the hard duties ahead. The crowd of course put on their most approved air of western indifference and farthest west criticism, while everything that could put on chaps curretted around on Cummings and Sandy McDonald's horses in a style that made the Sarcee squaws' eyes water.

The men numbered 317 and not a sick man among them. This after the frequent portages along the north shore of Lake Superior, through snow and the ice, in rough sleighs and in open box cars, with the thermometer below zero and the north wind whistling under their caps, was something to be proud of. Not many of the volunteer regiments who have come through to Winnipeg by that route can make the same showing. As the boys paraded to the various hotels to breakfast, they showed their delight at having struck summer at last, in unmistakable fashion.

The thermometer was 67 in the shade and the air warm and gentle. The mountains were in full view with the summer haze shrouding their white peaks. Devil's Head loomed up grandly in the mist, while the sound of the Bow rushing over the pebbles filled their ears with a musical suggestion of cooling baths and moonlight rambles. The camps were pitched in the angle between the railway track and the Elbow on the side of the NMP hospital, the site being a level plateau with plenty of water close by.

Sunday afternoon was spent in pitching tents and playing games. Most of the men took a dip in the Elbow and sang Moody and Hankey and various similar ditties as they swung into line for their river parade. Then they rode cayuses in the style made familiar to us by Punch. They clustered around Jim Barwis and asked their officers if he was a "real cowboy" and various other curious questions which Captains Bosse, Roy, Bauset, Giroux, and Planquette answered with a cheerful disregard for Jim's reputation which elevated those gentlemen to a dizzy height in the estimation of bystanders.

Col. Labranche meandered around with a cane looking the picture of satisfaction. He was evidently proud of the boys and swore roundly that they will "beat the record" if Middleton gives them any show. But the most absorbing subject of interest were three Sarcee squaws who took up their location by the track and proceeded to mash the military. They had red checked shawls over their heads, beaded moccasins on their little feet, and bangles on their wrists. A pencilled ochre line beneath their dark orbs, and tinted cheeks of the same, heightened the charms which nature had bestowed on their Greco Roman faces. A full private came to us and asked if they "were all like that," and being answered in the affirmative, lifted up his voice like our ancestor Jacob, and said that "down Montreal way, now..." but then he got blasphemous and we left.

The squaws stayed, however, and maintained a most creditable gravity, considering the amount of French and English hurled at them. The boys came at last to think they were statues. They clustered round and patted their ochred cheeks and pulled their raven locks, and examined their barbaric ornaments, until finally one with a win or die resignation, pulled out his watch and his knife and 65 cents Canadian legal tender and requested that in exchange for all his worldly wealth he be permitted to kiss one of the maiden's blushing cheeks. The effect was elegant. With a vivacity and insouciance strangely at variance with preconceived notions of her, the untaught daughter of the foothills broke into our native vernacular with a vigour which seriously disturbed the serenity of the Sabbath.

Calgary Herald, April 16, 1885.
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Publication:Alberta History
Date:Jan 1, 2020
Next Article:Iroquois in the West.

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