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Trooper and Redskin In the Far North-West
Chapter III

Organization of N.W.M.P.—General fatigue—Indian Summer— Cold—Provost guard—Prisoners—Escape of Sioux—The Broncho—All sorts and conditions of men—Horse-thieves— Pay—Fever—The irate doctor.

The organization of the force, in those days, was as follows. There were five troops, each supposed to consist of 100 officers, non-commissioned officers and men. I do not think any of them, with the exception of "D" Troop, contained their full complement. Each troop was commanded by a superintendent with the relative rank of captain, and there were three inspectors as subalterns. The commissioner and assistant commissioner ranked as lieutenant-colonel and major respectively.

"A" Troop had headquarters at Maple Creek, with a detachment at Medicine Hut. "B" Troop was stationed at Regina, and supplied detachments along the line of railway. "C" Troop held Fort Macleod, away in the grassy ranching country, among the Bloods and Peigans, at the foot of the Rockies. "D" Troop comprised the northern division on the North Saskatchewan. There were outposts from Battleford at Prince Albert and Fort Pitt. In the October of 1884, the hapless Fort Carlton was taken over from the Hudion Bay Company, and garrisoned by the majority of the reinforcement which had just left Regina, many of them never to return. At Calgary, in the Blackfoot country, and at the then limit of the C.P. Railway, was "E" Troop, with detached parties up in the mountains where construction was going on. There were also outposts at Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan; near to which the river of that name first springs from its glacier bed.

The day following the departure of the Battleford contingent was Saturday, October 4th, and a day of general fatigue. Every one was engaged in cleaning out empty rooms, and there was a general redistribution of quarters. I found myself billeted in No. 5 of the smaller rooms, which actually possessed a couple of corporals. One of these had served in the 6th Carbineers, in Afghanistan and India, and the other was formerly an officer of the Galway Militia. Poor Talbot Lowry ! he was killed at Cut-Knife Creek. Light lie the turf on his head, for a finer fellow never stepped!

This afternoon I drew my kit. I must confess, I do not think that to any other corps in the world do they supply a better outfit—if as good. Not only was the quantity abundant, but the quality was excellent. I do not know anything of the articles supplied to-day. This is a list of my rig out.

2 pairs long riding boots, 7 pairs in 5 years.
1 pair ankle boots, 3 pairs in 5 years.
3 pairs riding breeches (blue, yellow stripe) annually.
1 burnisher.
1 brush, blacking.
1 „ polishing.
1 „ brass.
1 „ cloth.
1 button stick.
3 pairs blankets (10 lbs. each).
1 pair blanket straps.
1 ,, braces.
1 cloak, cape, and belt (blue cloth).
1 forage cap, annually.
1 fur cap (busby shape, yellow bag).
1 helmet (white) 2 in 5 years.
1 kit bag (like a large valise, waterproof)-
1 cup, plate, knife, fork, and spoon.
2 pairs flannel drawers, annually.
1 haversack.
1 rug.
1 buffalo overcoat (not issued now, buffalo extinct).
1 pair gauntlets.
1 „ mitts (buckskin) annually.
2 pairs moccasins (moose) 7 pairs in 5 years.
1 hold-all with razor, comb, shaving-brush, and sponge.
2 pairs sheets.
2 „ long stockings (wool).
14 „ socks (wool).
2 over shirts, flannel. ? Annually.
2 under shirts „
1 tunic, scarlet serge.
1 „ „ cloth, 3 in 5 years.
1 tuque (red woollen nightcap).
1 waterproof sheet.
1 palliasse and pillow-case.
1 pair overalls (brown duck).
1 jacket.
I pair steel spurs. Horse-brush and curry-comb.

We were armed with the Winchester repeating carbine, holding nine rounds ('45-75) in the magazine. The Deane and Adams revolver has now been superseded by the Enfield. We rode in the high-peaked California!! saddle made by Main and Winchester in San Francisco. While I am running through a list of dry details, I may as well give the scale of rations per man per diem.

lbs. beef, or 1 lb. bacon.

l½ bs. bread, or 1¼lbs. flour, or 1¼lbs. biscuit.
½oz coffee.
½oz salt.
3oz sugar.
1oz rice.
1/36oz pepper.
1 lb. potatoes, or 2 ozs. dried apples, or 2 ozs. beans.

When out on the prairie, on "active service," these rations are increased one half.

After a few days of biting cold, accompanied by drifting showers of sleet, the Indian summer descended

upon us like a halo of heaven-sent glory. We enjoyed a fortnight ofthe most perfect weather. A soft stillness, with a thin filmy haze of gold, lay upon the slumbering plain. Nature seemed hushed in prayer, before withstanding the ice-blasts of the coming winter. Over in front of the officers' quarters^ the ladies amused themselves with lawn tennis. But after this beautiful vision of a magic season the cold period began in earnest, and increased daily in intensity. We were to experience the most severe winter known since the advent of settlement. After the 21st of October you could not expose your ears to the nipping air. Fur caps were taken into wear; and forage caps consigned to a temporary burial under the white helmets on the shelf. I found the routine to be very easy, as I was dismissed drill in about a week. Owing to the scarcity of duty men it was impossible to provide a proper barrack guard, so a provost-guard—as it is called—was mounted instead. With this guard there is no sentry posted in the daytime. There were a few prisoners, mostly Indians, confined in the guard-room cells. This was the only prison in the Territory. The names of some of our captives were highly edifying and entertaining. "Frog's Thigh," "Lizard Hips," "Blue Owl/' "Cunning Funny," "Bear Door," and "Woman-who-sits-during-the-day" are a few of the poetic epithets. These prisoners were taken out to work, such as chopping wood and carrying coal around the barracks at 8.30 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. They were brought in for their dinner at noon ; and were each locked in a cell at night. A certain number of troopers were told off daily to attend them as escort, with loaded arms. This provost guard was a very trying piece of business, and it "caught" me twice in three weeks. The non-commissioned officer in charge of this guard was changed daily at 10 a.m. The four men comprising the guard remained from Monday at 10 a.m. till the following Monday at the same hour. You took up your quarters in the guard-room and bid adieu to society for a week. You were not supposed to go to your room under any pretext, or to remove any article of clothing, arms, or accoutrements during your entire turn of duty. You slept upon the wooden guard-bed in turn; being allowed to send to your room for your blankets, and your cleaning things. There was a wash-basin in the guard-room, and the prisoners performed the functions of attendants. One jovial little Cree, whom we called " Fatty," used to clean the boots, and, with the advantages of tuition, he became a superior boot-black. The guard-room was connected with the small prison by two grated wickets. Each one of us acted as a flying sentry during the night for three hours each. When " rations" sounded in the afternoon we took one of the prisoners to the quartermaster's store; where a supply of tea, sugar, and bread was issued which we generally indulged in at the witching hour of midnight. A prisoner was escorted to the troop kitchen for our meals. When the week was completed, and other unfortunates took your places, what a blessed relief it was! To remove the spur-strap across the instep and draw off the boots was bliss! To cast aside your under-garment of cobwebs and assume a change of clothing was rapture! And to stretch your legs between clean sheets at night was simple ecstasy! No one who has not slept in uniform for a week can appreciate the luxury, though it was only the narrow couch of a soldier.

Two Sioux prisoners escaped very cleverly from the escort one dark night. He had taken them to the W.C., and thinking them, like the lad in the ballad, "lang a comin'," he kicked open the door. He found them gone, and the prison clothing provided by a paternal government disdainfully left lying upon the floor. They were never seen more, and the unfortunate escort was ordered to fill the place of one of them for a month. It is supposed they made for the Sioux camp at Moosejaw, a distance of forty miles. A party scoured the country as far as the Dirt Hills; but the untutored noblemen had left no trail. Shortly after this, a white man—a horse-thief—had the most elaborate arrangements made to elope through the silence of the night. His plan was discovered by the corporal of the guard, who had sentries posted around the prison, ready to drop him ; but he must have scented a rat, as he failed to come up to time. A number of articles were found secreted in his cell, and he was at once decorated with a ball and chain, and continued to wear that uncomfortable piece of jewellery until sent down to Stony Mountain Penitentiary, in Manitoba, for two years. All prisoners sentenced to terms exceeding twelve months are removed thither.

In the early part of November a number of remounts, young bronchos, were sent down from Calgary by rail. A party of us were marched down to bring them up to barracks. The broncho is a cross between the native cayeuse and the American horse or English thoroughbred. The majority of saddle-horses in use in the Mounted Police are of this class. They average about fifteen hands in height, and this is large enough. Indeed the standard might be lowered, as the smaller horses are better coupled. There is another point iu their favour; in travelling they are much easier on themselves, and require less food. The best bronchos come from British Columbia and Oregon, as the breeders in those countries have been using thorough-bred stallions with the native mares for a much greater length of time than the breeders in Montana and Alberta.

The entire nonchalance with which a young broncho will regard a railway train is one of those things which no fellow can understand. They have been bred and reared, on horse ranches, far away, amid the waving grass of the lone prairie, and amid the strange silence of these Western plains. The playground of their youth, where they scampered in joyous herds,

"Wild as the wild deer,"

was far distant from the puffing roar of the demon-like machine that glides swiftly along the iron rails. Yet, on their first introduction to this weird object, they will merely raise their winsome heads, and gaze at it with comic impassiveness.

Yet woe to any one who suddenly approaches one of these youthful steeds, in an overcoat of shaggy buffalo skin. They have a shuddering horror of this, and will snort and strike out in abject fear. I once saw a recruit nearly get his brains knocked out, by rushing into the stall of an unbroken broncho, in one of these comfortable but uncouth coverings. The broncho has a bad name, especially among a certain class of American humorists of the Bill Nye order of litterateurs. But nowhere is there a more docile animal, if he be properly broken. Of course there are exceptions ; and a bad broncho is bad and no mistake. After he has thrown his rider, he will go for the unfortunate being, lying prostrate on the ground, with his teeth. It is from such examples as these that much of the legendary lore surrounding the name of the animal has sprung. Light, active, and wiry, they combine the sterling, serviceable qualities of mustang and thorough-bred.

When we hear of men riding to Macleod and back to Calgary (200 miles) in four days, on ponies scarcely fourteen hands high, and know that they thrive and do well on prairie grass alone, even although severely worked, coming out after the hardest summer's work in the succeeding spring, after rustling all winter for a living, fat and sound, every one must agree I am writing of a notably tough and hardy race of animals. Such is the mustang, or cayeuse, or native horse, the exclusive mount of the Indian. The bronchos, bred from these, have immense powers of recuperation and endurance, and are able to travel long distances without water. In 1884, the horses in the Mounted Police consisted of a number of heavy teams from Ontario for transport requirements. There was so much trouble and risk in acclimatizing these that it was resolved to gradually supply their places with the larger specimens of bronchos, and the latter are universally driven in harness now.

Our rough-riding corporal at Regina was a very pleasant young Englishman. He now holds a commission. He possessed any amount of pluck, and many a bouncing toss he received in trying to subdue these fiery untamed youngsters, which we led up to barracks on a cold, bleak November day, the north wind piercing fur coat and woollen under-garment. About a dozen of us were picked out to ride these "desert-born" steeds. There was a pretty extensive circus at first. In fact one young chestnut had to be blindfolded before he would allow you to go near him with the saddle.

"In the full foam of wrath and dread" the angry colt would struggle and rear in the hands of his taskmasters. We were allowed to make our choice of mounts, and, as we went over to the stables, I thus soliloquized,—

"Women, pianos, cigars, razors, and horses are all, more or less, a lottery. Therefore, I shall go in for Hobson's choice."

So I pitched upon the first I came to, in the first stall to the left; a little mouse-coloured beggar with a quiet, slumbering eye. He turned out as tame as one of those towel-racks which are for hire, in the season, on Scarborough Sands. We used to take them out on the manege daily, where, at first, several were seized with a strong desire to explore the surrounding country, and visit the land of their birth. After a time they settled down to the fanciful manoeuvres of the school.

After having been about two months in the corps, I was able to form some idea of the class of comrades among whom my lot was cast. I discovered there were truly " all sorts and conditions of men." Many I found, in various troops, were related to English families in good position. There were three men at Regina who had held commissions in the British service. There was also an ex-officer of militia, and one of volunteers. There was an ex-midshipman, son of the Governor of one of our small Colonial dependencies. A son of a major-general, an ex-cadet of the Canadian Royal Military College at Kingston, a medical student from Dublin, two ex-troopers of the Scots Greys, a son of a captain in the line, an Oxford B.A., and several of the ubiquitous natives of Scotland comprised the mixture. In addition there were many Canadians belonging to families of influence, as well as several from the backwoods, who had never seen the light till their fathers had hewed a way through the bush to a concession road. They were none the worse fellows on that account, though. There were none of the questionable characters then, who crept in after the Rebellion, when recruiting parties went through the slums of Ontario towns. Several of our men sported medals won in South Africa, Egypt, and Afghanistan. There was one, brother of a Yorkshire baronet, formerly an officer of a certain regiment of foot, who as a contortionist and lion-comique was the best amateur I ever knew. There was only an ex-circus clown from Dublin who could beat him. These two would give gratuitous performances nightly, using the barrack-room furniture as acrobatic "properties."

A sergeant and a couple of constables rode into barracks one clear frosty morning, after an eventful trip. Some horses had been stolen from the celebrated Bell Farm, and this non-commissioned officer and his party were detailed to follow the thieves. These of course belonged to the marauding gentry, who have their haunts on the frontiers of Dakota and Montana, and in the wooded fringes of the Missouri. In the bluffs, among the lakes that nestle in the rounded hollows of the Moose Mountain, the sergeant—a smart fellow—took up the trail. Over the sparsely settled prairie, through swamp and coulee, by clumps of poplar balsam, by the tamarac-clad banks of sluggish creeks, over white patches of alkali deposit, and across desert spaces of cactus-plant and sand he followed up the hoof-marks, and ran his quarry to earth in a log shanty, standing in a gloomy thicket, a short distance from Miles City. The thieves were lodged in prison there by the United States Marshal ; whence a posse of free and independent citizens hauled them to the nearest convenient place of execution and hanged them. In those days this crime was indulged in to a great extent all along the border. The Moose Mountain district had to be garrisoned by small detachments of redcoats scattered about in the farmers' houses, for these freebooters were the terror of the pioneers. They went about like moving arsenals, armed with the most improved type of weapons. Making unexpected raids upon lonely stables at night, they would drive their booty over the line to wild fastnesses only known to such outlaws. They would even hold up the unprotected settler at the plough, and force him to unhitch his horses. The heinousness of the crime will be understood when the value of a team to the struggling pioneer is taken into consideration. He is cut off from the world, and his principal aid to life is taken from him. Even in Manitoba, where settlement was comparatively thick, the Provincial Government were obliged to ask for the services of the Mounted Police. The Turtle Mountain district was another nest of brigandage.

About the end of November all the scattered detachments were called in, and returned to headquarters. Thus the barracks became pretty well occupied once more. We had a recreation-room, which was very cosy and well looked after, and attached to this was a lending library. One of the buglers had his quarters here, and kept the place in order. Weekly we received Punch, the Illustrated London News, Graphic, and the Times; also the principal daily Canadian papers. There was a bagatelle-table in the room, and also draught-boards and cards. A large stove gave out ample heat. Pennsylvanian coal was at that time burnt at Regina.

Over on the prairie beside the railway line was a frame building of the bungalow style of architecture, painted white, with a slate-coloured roof of shingles, This was the canteen, the presiding deity being a swarthy civilian from " down East." There was a billiard-table, of uneven tendencies, in the saloon. All sorts, of canned goods, such as lobster, sardines, and salmon, were dispensed here at visionary prices. I call them visionary, as they were so seldom realized. Pies of quartz-like solidity and granitic cakes also adorned the counter. There was a flash bar, gorgeous with mirrors, and photographs of American danseuses with elephantine legs and busts, surpassing in development the wildest imagination. These seductive creatures grinned hideously at you while you imbibed flat cider or hop beer. These latter beverages were non-intoxicating, and were not calculated to tickle the palate.

We "ran" a mess in barracks. Each man contributed ten cents per diem towards messing, and we appointed a caterer, who laid out the aggregate sum to the best advantage. Thus, in addition to our rations, we had milk and butter, and pies, and plum pudding, and other luxuries. The pay of a trooper on joining was fifty cents (two shillings) per diem, free from all stoppages. This was increased annually by five cents, till in the fifth year of service it amounted to seventy cents. A man on re-engagement received seventy-five cents as his daily pay. Certain men for special services received extra pay at the rate of fifteen cents, while a corporal's pay was eighty-five cents, or three shillings and sixpence, daily. During the winter, letters only arrived at Regina three times a week.

We had a muster parade, at the end of November, both of horses and men. The sky was overcast, and a merciless wind swept across the plains, and through the open square. It is indeed a very rare occurrence to enjoy a calm day upon the prairie. At night, when I went to bed, I did not feel very well, and could not get to sleep. I was hot and feverish, and my mouth was parched. " Sick call" sounds at 8.30, and, after having my name put down on the sick report, I was marched up to the hospital. The doctor stuck a clinical thermometer into the corner of my mouth, and suddenly jerking it out, laconically ejaculated, "Fever." Thereupon I was bundled into a large airy ward, the walls of which were hung with pleasant pictures; put into bed, given a dose of calomel, and handed a bundle of illustrated papers.

I shall never take calomel again, if I know it. Balls of lead seemed to be moving about all over my body, poking their way all through my interior economy, making a rush from my mesenteric region, and trying to get out under my ribs and between my shoulder blades. I complained to the hospital sergeant about this internal disorganization, and he gave me castor oil! Oh, delicious mixture

This fever is known all over the world by various titles, and is just as sweet under any other name. The Principal Medical Officer, in his annual report, speaks of it as " endemic fever," and one of the assistant-sun geons says it is an anomalous form of fever peculiar to the tract of country indicated by him. But there is also recorded the fact that it is of" malarious origin." In fact it is the typho-malarial scourge; known as Red River fever in Manitoba, jungle fever in India, rock fever at Gib, Maltese fever at the other shop, West Coast fever among the rotten fens of Africa, and Rocky Mountain fever in British Columbia. It is of an intermittent type, and the doctor at Regina used to treat it very successfully by giving fluid extract of eucalyptus when the thermometer was above 98°; but when the fever was off duty he used to ram in quinine, in big doses. No doubt the causes of this outbreak at Regina were the poisonous miasma from the standing pools that represented the course of the mysterious Wascana. The water for washing purposes was carried to the barracks from the creek, and kept in barrels in the lavatory.

I read in a Government pamphlet, published at Ottawa, the following unblushing assertion :—"There is no malaria, and there are no diseases arising out of, or peculiar to, either the climate or territory." The climate is healthy enough, but there is no need to publish a deliberate mis-statement. This sort of thing only damages the value of any truths which may appear in emigration literature.

Suddenly there arose a violent storm in matters medical at Regina. A big sacrilege was committed in the eyes of the P.M.O. His sanctuary was desecrated. A young civilian was stricken by fever in the town, and the people with whom he was residing and for whom he had been working, in their inhuman selfishness, turned him to the door. The capital city did not then possess a hospital, and it was decreed by the Colonel, after representations from the Mayor, that the youth should be placed in the police hospital. Thereupon our AEscula-pius was roused to fury, and he took to writing protests and despatches all over the shop. He showed his lofty contempt for the elite of the capital, by withdrawing his name from the club. He cleared the hospital of police patients, and sent them into a barrack-room. I must say he treated the primary cause of this disturbance with the utmost attention, tenderness, and skill. I was convalescent at the time, and was allowed to roam at large around the wards. When we were removed to our new sanatorium, he ordered me to lie down on a stretcher, and I was thus borne away by a fatigue party of four strapping troopers.

"I would rather walk, sir," I feebly protested.

"You are not to walk, I tell you."

So I reclined upon my litter, amid the jokes of my comrades: "The coroner's waiting, old man;" "The firing party is ready under old Mahogany," and other ghastly sallies of the same kind of wit. There were about half a dozen of us in this temporary infirmary, and we had a high old time of it. One young fellow was carried in after a slight difference of opinion with a broncho as to which was to have his own way. The quadruped conquered, and the biped was laid by the heels for a spell.

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