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Across the Canadian Prairies
At Calgary — and en route to Edmonton

In a previous letter it was mentioned that in ordinary circumstances the Rocky Mountains are distinctly visible from Calgary, although they are more than 60 miles away. The air is so clear, and the altitude is so considerable—about 3,000 feet above the sea level—that the mountains, with their snowy peaks, seem to be but a few miles away; and, if the stories one hears are to be believed, a good many people have from time to time jumped to the conclusion that the mountains were as near as they appeared to be. In Calgary one is always told of the young man who started out, as he said, to walk to the mountains and back again before lunch, and no one interfered with his good intentions. As he did not return in the course of the day, a search party went out to look for him, and found him stripped by the side of a small stream over which he could have easily jumped. When asked what he was doing, he replied that appearances in that country were so deceptive that ho did not intend to be taken in any more. It was all very fine for his friends to state that he could jump over the stream, but, for all he knew, it might be a mile across, and ho had therefore prepared for the swim, not intending in any case to return to Calgary until he had accomplished his journey! There is another story of a man who had tried the same trip, and who on his return, at dinner, was asked by a near neighbour to pass the salt, but he begged to be excused, for although, he said, the salt appeared to be near, he was not sure, in view of his other experiences, that it was not far beyond his reach. Stories of this kind increase in number, and possibly in potency, the longer one stays in the town, but one can to a certain extent appreciate the feelings of a new and innocent arrival on first catching a glimpse of the magnificent wall of mountains which divides tho North-West Territories from British Columbia.

The immediate neighbourhood of Calgary is not especially interesting. There are a few small farms here and there, and many cattle and horse ranches may be visited in the course of a comparatively short drive. Last year (1804), the effect of the drought was very perceptible, but the energetic inhabitants of Calgary intend, if possible, to make themselves independent of the rainfall, and to utilise the waters of the rivers, which descend at a rapid rate from the Rocky Mountains, for the purpose of irrigating the district.

Hardly anyone will go to Calgary now without making the trip to Edmonton on the north, and to Fort McLeod on the south. The distance from Calgary to Edmonton is about 190 miles, and the trains run three times a week. There is comparatively little settlement for the first 40 or 60 miles, the intermediate country being considered at present only suitable for sheep ranching. As soon, however, as we approach Olds, the country begins to improve—the grass is greener, the soil appears to be more fertile, there is more wood and more water; and the same remarks apply to the country thence to Edmonton. When we made our trip we travelled on the same train with the Hon. Wilfrid Laurice, the leader of the Liberal party in Canada, who, with a number of friends, was travelling through the country addressing his supporters in different places. Of course there were the usual deputations at all the stations, and a certain amount of speech-making. Whether it was in honour of Mr. Laurice, or whether to show to people generally the attractions of the country, is not certain, but all the station buildings were converted for the time being into miniature agricultural shows, and no one could wish to see better samples of wheat, oats, barley and vegetables than those which decorated the railway offices. The movements of Mr. Laurier attracted a good many farmers to the different stations, and we therefore had an opportunity of talking with them, of learning their experiences and their views of the country. We hardly came across any grumblers. Everyone appeared to be satisfied with the country, and with the year’s experiences, and looked forward with much cheerfulness to his future prospects.

The country between Calgary and Edmonton has only been opened up within the last two or three years, and in that time there has been a large inrush of people. Many settlers are from the Old Country, and tho names of such places as Olds, Inrisfail, Red Door, and Wetaskiwin will be familiar in many parts of the United Kingdom. The great feature, however, of the immigration into this district has been the largo number of persons from the United States who have settled there. Hundreds of delegations have visited the country in the last year or two from different parts of tho States, and in almost every case the result has been the immigration of numbers of American farmers, on the strength of the reports they received from their representatives. No bettor tribute could be paid to the excellence of the country than this immigration.

We left the train at Wetaskiwin with the view of driving thence to Edmonton, a distance of about 40 miles. We spent the evening in driving round the neighbourhood of Wetaskiwin, which is fairly well settled, and bids fair to become a populous and prosperous district. The town consists of a few stores; the hotel is not quite so comfortable or palatial as the Motropole or Victoria, but at the same time it was perfectly clean, and our host and hostess did everything they could to make us comfortable for the night. We had an experience on this occasion of the manner in which the North-Westers spend their long winter evenings. After supper, several of the young men of the future “city” came in with their musical instruments, and discoursed more or less sweet music for the next two or three hours—not only instrumental, but vocal, and one or two of the men gave some excellent specimens of step dancing.

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