Father built a log house on his quarter; it was lined with fir and in one of Mother’s letters we read incorrectly and thought it was lined with fur. When we were prepared to come out, we had with us a huge packing case of the very warmest clothing, for which we never had a use. We cut and braided them for the beautiful rugs my mother fashioned. Father still hob-nobbed with “Johnny’s” relations but Mother was a wonderful woman. While they were at the XC, Clem Gardner, then a boy, and his two sisters used to all get on one horse and jump over barrels, hence Clem’s great horsemanship.
For months on end, Mother never saw a white woman. The Indians [sic] came, and Mother fed them; always they wrapped up the food they couldn’t consume and said, “Squaw [sic], papoose.”
Water was carried from the spring and woodcut in the bush and chopped for firewood. Mother made furniture from apple and orange boxes or whatever was around; made drapes from bleached flour sacks and embroidered them. Later she advanced in her carpenter work and made the most beautiful and durable furniture from lumber, painted it with a green heart stain, and varnished it. She made a buffet, china cabinet and even a table with extension leaves. Mother also made upholstered chairs from apple barrels. The windows were draped with embroidered flour sacks. There were lots of flour sacks around because Mother did all her own baking, including bread.
My brother had no little playmates but he did have his little dog, “Curly.” She pulled his sleigh in winter and a play hayrack with his favourite rag doll in summer. When he later went to school, he had to ride nine miles, regardless of the weather, and Curly used to meet him one mile from home at the exact time of his return.
My sister and I came to Canada in 1906. The ocean trip onboard the Corinthian was exciting to us because it took fourteen days. We ran into icebergs and fog and the Captain lost control of the ship; for three days we were on our homeward journey, as the ship had about turned. We ran out of food, were given ship’s biscuits, life jackets, and we were shut off the decks. Upon arriving at Quebec, we were free to go ashore for the day as the ship had to have repairs. There were billboards telling of the loss of the Corinthian, with so many lives lost.
We arrived in Calgary, May 23, 1906, where Mother and Father met us. They boarded the train and travelled to Cochrane with us and that was to be our first shock. What a transformation! We had made our home in Scotland with our grandmother Park in all luxury. We had to stay overnight at the Murphy Hotel. The next day the ground was white with snow, a great experience to us. We drove to Joe Clemens’ ranch for lunch. He was a bachelor and had tin plates and enamelled mugs, more fun to us. Finally, we arrived at the little log house which was to be our home for a few years. It was a picture, I would say a “dream house” from a storybook and so sweet and spotless. Father and Mother had almost been burned out by a prairie fire on May 4th.
We could ride horseback, having had our own stables and ponies in Scotland. Then came the fun of learning to milk. Mother used to read from the “Home Preacher” (which I now possess) because there was no way of going to church other than driving to Cochrane 14 miles.
The roundup used to be held on the water reserve of section 16. My brother and I used to ride the range, too, in search of our lost animals.
Frank Ricks’ ranch adjoined Father’s and Frank was a wonderful neighbour. He built a lovely house and a covered passage to a new hayloft. We had many wonderful dances up there. The Masonic Ball and that of the Old Timers were the social events of the winter, held in Cochrane of course, and believe it or not there was a band with drums, otherwise, we danced to a mouth organ and fiddle. We really had a good time and arrived home usually in time for the a.m. milking, then off to bed until lunchtime. We always drove in a democrat as there were no cars. I remember the first car to come out there, and how the horses in the field stampeded and snorted when it was visible on a hill four or five miles away.
Of course, we all rode horseback, and at first, I used Mother’s sidesaddle, but one day Father weakened and brought home a lovely Australian saddle for me. Previously he had said it was unladylike for a girl to ride astride. I also rode a little racing saddle. I learned to break the odd horse and one day my brother dared me to break a cow to ride. The cow was a stray and simply wouldn’t stay away. She was unbranded and we named her Emily Jane. One day down at the water hole Andrew dared me to spring from my horse onto her back and that’s how it all started.
At one time we milked 31 cows by hand and I have milked all 31 by myself. We drove about 12 miles to Batemans with milk and cream. When we made butter in hot weather, I arose at four a.m. to get the churning done and butter made into pounds before the heat of the day. Yes, I also made bread, and Mr. Bateman sold it at his store. I was really making money. I think I realized about two dollars after making up 100 pounds of flour. I made bread for Stanley Cope and then I could really study Eaton’s Catalogue, known as the “Prairie Bible.” What fun! It was a very valuable book.
In winter we used to fill ticking with hay and put these under our mattresses because the wood stoves usually burned out by morning and the temperature in the a.m. was just about that of outdoors, sometimes 30 degrees below. We also put flat stones in the oven before going on any trip, then wrapped them in old blankets to keep our feet from freezing. We needed the warmth in spite of wearing felt boots and overshoes. The good old flat irons were heated at night and again wrapped in old pieces of a blanket to keep our beds warm during the cold nights.