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On Western Trails in the Early Seventies
Chapter XXVIII
Make for Pine Creek—Cross the Porcupine Hills—Indian's body cached In tree—Meet Col. Macleod of Mounted Police—Police build fort—Government established without a shot being fired—Reach home again.

We made our course for the north end of Pine Creek, and in the evening of the day found some wood, and had our first meal since the previous midnight. Hurrying with our supper, we packed up and made over the spurs of the Porcupine Hills on buffalo trails, which helped us very much. I ran ahead, and Spencer drove the horses after me. It was rather cold to ride, and our horses had come through deep snow and were tired.

It was after midnight when we came out on the Willow Creek, where it debouches from the hills, and where we hoped to find timber for camp purposes; but during the autumn and earlier in the winter large camps of Indians had been in the vicinity, and all the dry wood was used up. However, by dint of much effort, we found some small willows, enough to boil our kettle and make a cup of hot coffee. In hunting up wood, I wandered up the creek among some large cottonwood and poplar trees, and in the dark night, feeling for what might be a dry limb, I took hold of a frozen limb of a long, tall Indian. His friends had cached his dead body in the forks of the tree. The body was wrapped in a hide of buffalo leather, which was lashed around with green buffalo hide. This frozen limb, stretching out in the dark, and seeming to be as a part of the tree, gave me a queer sensation, and I strolled back to Spencer and felt somewhat comforted when I found him. We cut some green willow, and cleaning away the snow in the lee of some shrub, floored our camp with willows, and then made our bed thereon. Then we cut a hole in the ice of the river, and, hastily making up a small fire, succeeded in securing a hot cup of coffee, and at once rolled into bed. We were tired; we had kept up the march for the full twenty-four hours and better, under difficult travel in very cold weather, and soon were asleep.

When I awoke it was coming daylight, and as I had uncovered to look I felt the warming change of a chinook. I put out my hand and felt the snow- bank beside me, and already it was softening, and I shouted to my companion, "Chinook, old fellow; chinook!" Gladly and quickly we were up, and set to work to gather some wood with which to make our breakfast. In doing this I took Spencer up to where tile tall Indian was hung in the forks of the tree. He looked at me and said, "Did you see this last night" and when I said, "Yes," he answered, "Well, I am glad you did not tell me."

All day we travelled in deep snow, but this was slowly lessening because of the west wind blowing, as it did, full and strong. We managed to boil our kettle at the cut bank on Willow Creek. Already it was late in the evening of the day, and we went on through the night. Coining down into Willow Creek, near its junction with the Old Man's, we began to move carefully, for here somewhere we expected to find either the police or the whiskey traders in force.

It was now after midnight, and just as I thought of camping and waiting for daylight I saw a glint of light and concluded to make for it. We found this was across the Old Man's River, on what was known as the Island.

Reaching the place, we found that the light came from a small shack, and we were very fortunate when, on opening the door in answer to a clear "Come in," we found ourselves in the presence of Col. Macleod, the officer in command of the Mounted Police. He was making his home temporarily with Mr. Charles Conrad, who represented the firm of I. G. Baker & Co., of Fort Benton and Montana. Charlie, with his usual energy, had got up a store and warehouse, and had put up this little shack to live in. And here we were, by good fortune, domiciled with these men, who were at the top representing the Government of Canada and the southern trade of this country, as this now lapped over from Montana. I, in loyalty to the Hudson's Bay Company and English and Canadian trade, had done what I could to inspire the Honorable Company; but it was unfortunate that the Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company at this time was of the non-enterprising type, and thus the live American firm of I. G. Baker & Co. went in without opposition and gathered great wealth through our Government opening up this Western country by the establishing of law and order. The Government alone for many years was a large source of business and income for this active firm, and as they did not deal and had not dealt in intoxicating liquors of any kind, we could not but be in hearty sympathy with them.

We were hospitably entertained by Mr. Conrad, and Col. Macleod was very glad to meet me. He had many things to talk about. I told him at once that I had not come to give any information concerning anyone at this time, but to ascertain for myself as to their arrival and what we might now depend upon. That, so far as this trip was concerned, I gave the whiskey traders of the North every chance to stop the traffic or get up and go out of the country; but if there came to me direct evidence hereafter, now that I had come to find him and his police with regularly constituted authority to carry out the law, why, then I would lay information against anyone infringing upon the same.

The Colonel did me the honor to confer with me as to past crimes. He said that already several cases had been brought to his attention.

What would be the best way to deal with these?

I gave it as my opinion that he should start with a clean sheet. This country had been without law. It was not what was past, but what would occur now and in the future, we had to do with. I said that "Let by-gones be by-gones" would be my policy; but now, make every man walk right up to the mark. Furthermore, I modestly interjected, there should not be one law for the white man and another for the Indians.

In all this the Colonel heartily agreed. He said he thought this was fair and just, and would act accordingly. I found the force a fine, hearty 1t of fellows, and on this short trip became acquainted with a number of the officers and men. They were busy building a fort out of the cottonwood and poplar timber of the valley. Most of the men were living in tents, and the sharp weather and storm we had come through had tried them sorely; but they were looking forward to quarters, however crude, in good time. Their unacclimated horses were dying. Their long trip across the plains, and too much red tape withal, had been more than these horses could stand. To this extent the force was sadly crippled. The men's clothing had worn out on the long march, and now they were being dressed in buffalo leather pants and robe coats. However, all hands were cheerful and hardy, and glad to have finally reached their objective point for the present.

I could not help but think that they might have come on the scene three months earlier, which would have given them so much better season for building and preparing for the winter. The distance they had come was not so great, but the manner of their march delayed them. Too much of the military and too little of the practical had with them caused delay, as in very many instances in the history of campaigns. However, they were now here; of this we were sure, and consequently thankful. The storm and deep snow had kept them from sending out hunting parties, and the camp was down to bacon and hardtack; but this would be remedied when buffalo could be secured, and also flour brought in from Montana. Freight, that winter of 1874-5, was ranging from 8 to 12 cents per pound between Fort Benton and Macleod. During the one day we spent with the police, Col. Macleod said to me, "How far is it to the 49th parallel?" After thinking a minute of the time I had taken to either walk or ride or drive the distance, I told him that it was between 48 and 50 miles. Then the Colonel took some observations, and, making his calculation, said to me, "How did you know? Had you measured it?" I answered, "No, sir; but I have travelled the trail so much, and have journeyed so many thousands of miles that I can come pretty close in my estimates." Then he told me it was a little more than 49 miles from where we were.

I renewed my acquaintance with quite a number of the Whoopup fraternity, all of them very decent and law-abiding citizens now, "you bet."

Thus, without a shot being fired, government was established simultaneously at Edmonton in the North, and at Macleod in the South. A mere handful of men, unused to this wilderness life, "tenderfeet" for the most part, had come across the plains of the southern North-West Territories, and another company had taken the old trail up the Saskatchewan, and not a man had said them nay, just because the whole country was tired of tribal war and constant lawlessness, and was looking and longing for this change which was now brought about by the advent of the representatives of government and order. I claim that the missionary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had more to do with the peaceful occupation of this immense land than any other man. He was the real forerunner in this case. In buffalo and moose-skin lodges, in the centres of great encampments, beside many campfires, during countless conversations as thousands of miles across country were being traversed, he glorified the law, he extolled order, he preached forever peace and loyalty to good government, and thus the minds of the people were prepared and waiting for this day we now beheld.

This was as we thought, as we slept beside the Colonel that night in December of 1874, and thus we felt as we rode forth the next morning to return and spread the news of the arrival of the Mounted Police, and give the reason for their coming again and again as opportunity occurred. That is, we would go on as we had in all the past fourteen years and better of our lives in the far West, to emphasize righteousness and liberty and equality of the race.

When we had taken stock of our equipment at the cut bank that day we found our "grub-pile" to consist of Chicago bacon and hardtack; and as we sat and munched this we were sorry that we had not brought a rifle with us. We each carried big revolvers, but the horses we were riding were not buffalo runners, and it seemed as if there would be no change until we reached home.

However, as we were steadily jogging northward that afternoon there came a fine band of buffalo out of the hill, and as these rushed across our course, perhaps a half a mile ahead of us, one of them suddenly dropped out of the race, having broken her leg. I said to Spencer, "I will gallop up and take stock of this animal." As I approached I saw that here was a very fine heifer, in splendid condition; so, as she turned to fight me, I drew my revolver and shot her dead, and Spencer coming up with the pack animal, we took on a fine lot of fresh meat. Verily, we were now well provisioned for the trip home.

We planned to reach the Sheep Creek trading post about daybreak. Accordingly, camping in the timber on High River, we made our way through the deep snow, which at this point had not been very much affected by the last chinook, and reaching Sheep Creek long before daylight, we had to go down into a coulee and make a fire and wait for daybreak. Then we moved in on to the traders; but while I noticed that the robe pile had grown larger, and the goods on the shelf remained about as before, still there was not even the smell of whiskey anywhere. Their plan was not to allow any liquor to be used about the place. The Indian must take it home to his camp, or they would not let him have it. All this I found out later.

In due time we reached home. The trip had taken longer than I had planned. The snow from south of High River to within a few miles of the Bow was most unusually deep and very heavy to travel through. I had previously been summoned in a most peremptory manner by the "acting Chairman" to attend a district meeting at Edmonton on January 1st, 1875.


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