THIS IS the story of ray life in Canada. I shall begin it in Winnipeg, where I arrived—a war-bride— with my husband and my baby-boy, at the end of August, 1919.
I was agreeably surprised at the reception my new re-
sisters-in-law—gave me. My mother-in-law had used my husband's allowance. which, before his marriage, had been paid to her. to furnish a small two-roomed suite for us.
This, with the addition of a few wedding presents. made a cozy little home and I was very pleased with their thoughtfulness and grateful to them.
Mac. that’s my husband procured work at $15.00 per week with the firm by whom he was employed when he enlisted. Not being accustomed to Canadian money, three pounds seemed to me a great deal. I was proud of my man and. in spite of the strange surround• gs and inevitable home-sickness, I was happy, but. after a few days I became worried, for I found I my money go far enough. My baby’s food cost $3.75 a week. There was no convenience for laundry and I had to send it out. My husband had to have car-fare and lunch-money every day. To add to my troubles my relations came in at least once a day for a meal. I was always glad to see them—but how I wished that they would eat before they camel
However. I said nothing until my youngest brother-inlaw came into town and my mother-in-law arranged that he should live with us and board free of charge. This was too much, especially as I had not been consulted about it at all. the plans having been made through Mac. I had always been brought up to be straightforward about lings, so I told my relations just what I thougnt about it. Then the fat was in the fire. They said I was mean, that I must be extravagant not to be able to manage on the sum Mac. was getting and a lot of other unfair things. Frcm that day to this they have never forgiven me. One of Mac’s sisters took my part and declared that I was justified in taking the stand I did. Since, I have tried manv times to he friendly with the rest of the family, but they would never meet me half-way.
After this incident, on my mother-in-law’s advice, Mac. gave up his job and went to visit one of his five brothers for three days. He left me without any food in 'he place and with only fifty cents to provide for the baby ar.d myself. I had not been in Canada three weeks then and did not know a soul except my relations, who left me strictly alone during that time. Imagine how onely I was! When Mac. did come home he was “broke.” I was not able to give him anything to eat and we were forced to borrow enough money from his friendly sister, until our gratuity money came.
Decide to Homestead
r HAT night we talked things over and decided that it was quite obvious that we were not going to get anywhere in Winnipeg. We decided to go homesteading, so Mac. went out to get land. He got a homestead and a soldier’s grant 120 miles north of Winnipeg. It ivas a good half section, but lay twenty miles from a railway.
I had r.o notion of farming and I was scared to death of a cow. but I felt that we would be happier by ourselves; so in the middle of October, 1919, we packed up and went out.
Of course we had no house, but another soldier, who had the section opposite to us, kindly offered to let us have his house, as he was to be away for the wdnter. He said we would find furniture and food there. We decided to go right out, as the hotel accommodation was not good in the little town where we should have had to stay, at the end of the railway. The place.was small and dirty and I did not think very much of Canadian towns just then. The only conveyance we could get that would go out that night, was a hay-rack, driven by an Indian. I had neither seen a hay-rack nor an Indian before in my life and I thought that if, by any chance, we were able to stay on the weird-looking hay-wagon we would surely be scalped by the Indian, as soon as we were out of sight of the town. Everyone in the town, however, came down to see us off, so I set my teeth and away we went.
Never will I forget that ride. It was certainly a nightmare. Half-way up the reserve, we managed to get a democrat, but in spite of this more comfortable conveyance, it was a terrible trip. The roads, which ran through the brush and bog, were bad but, in spite of them, about
two o’clock in the morning we arrived at our destination. We found it was a shack, built of single ply lumber and open to the weather. The floor was full of cracks and holes—and so dirty! There was no ceiling and most of the floor space was covered with lumber, building materials and barrels. The furniture consisted of a bed, minus bedclothes, a side-board, a table, four chairs and a stove. The food was a small pack of beans, a little flour, tea, salt and oat-meal. There were plenty of plates and saucers, but not a single cup. Five spoons, three forks and an old bread-knife, a sauce-pan and a frying-pan completed the “furnishings.”
I was so cold and tired that I did not care whether I lived or died, but the Indian wanted something to eat, so I just had to scurry around and find him something. Fortunately, we had some sandwiches left, so we ate those. We made tea and drank it out of the baby’s bottle. The Indian decided to go back right after he had eaten, and, believe me, I felt that I would like to have gone with him.
Sleep Under Mattress
WE HAD the baby’s folding buggy and his blankets, so he was all right. After making him happy, Mac. and I lay down on the springs of the bed, with all our clothes on, a suit-case for a pillow and the mattress over us. I was dead tired and I slept.
By day-light the shack looked even worse and, to add to our troubles, there were about two inches of snow outside. After a very scanty breakfast, we talked things over and decided to see it through.
The first thing we did was to hunt up our nearest neighbors, half a mile away. With their help we fixed up the house as warmly as possible and partitioned it off into three rooms. When our own furniture came we were really quite comfortable. But it was cold, with a vengeance, that year. Some days it was so cold that even with two stoves red-hot the water froze in the pail. Nevertheless, we were happy and healthy too.
It was very difficult to get supplies from Winnipeg, and if our relations had so chosen they might have helped us here a great deal. But they did not bother about us, so Mac. had to make several trips into Winnipeg and during these times I was left alone on the homestead. I used to be so frightened that I would not even go as far as the well in day light. I used to imagine that the woods were full of bears and wolves, which were just waiting to pounce on me as soon as I went out.
I shall never forget one nignt. Mac. had been in Winnipeg four days and I was expecting him back and was waiting up for him. About eleven o’clock I heard something prowling outside and was quite sure that the longexpected bear had arrived. I had no gun and the axe was outside, so I just sat still and shook. I endured it as long as I could but finally I got quite desperate, got up and opened the door. There over by the well stood—not a bear—a cow! I was so glad to see that old cow that I could have rushed right out and kissed her. Mac. came home soon after and we had a good laugh over my fright. I soon got used to all this and am not in the least afraid to stay alone now.
LATER on in the year we bought a team of oxen, a J wagon and two cows. Mac. hauled logs and in the early Spring we built our own house. I expect it would look very poor in the eyes of “city folk” but, to me, it was the best little home on earth when it was finished, and I was very proud of it. My part in the building was to help lay the floor and to kalsomine all the walls. We got along well that year. One of my husband’s brothers came out with his wife and little boy and took up land near us. This brother is a nice fellow and his wife a good sort, too. That would have been all right if Mac’s sister bad not come out to live with them. Then our troubles began again.
She had always been very nasty to me and again he made a lot of trouble, which caused Mac. and me absolute misery. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that we needed some extra money for the farm and that the only way to get it was to go to the city for a time. We ^, got on well at first and
then Mac. got mixed up with his relations again, speculated very foolishly and lost all his money. We decided to make another move and this time went to Saskatchewan where Mac. got a job on a railway section, laying ties. We lived in a box-car and I boarded seven men to make more money, for Mac. was only getting $2.75 per day. By July we had saved $135 and Mac. got restless again and thought that we would do better in a town. We moved to Regina. Inside of three weeks, he had lost all our money, by investing it in stocks which we could not sell. I persuaded him to return to our section; he stayed there until the middle of August, when he again decided to leave. His wages had been raised and he was getting $4.00 a day, but he thought that he could make more money threshing.
Wet weather came and for nearly a month he did not make a cent. I took my baby and went to cook for a threshing gang, but the work was too hard for me and I fell sick and had to go to the hospital. By that time our money was all gone and I was compelled to cable my parents in the old country, for money enough to pay hospital bills. My father sent me enough money to pay all the expenses and enough more so that we did not need to worry about things for a little while.
Back to the Farm
BEFORE I left the hospital I made Mac. promise to take me back to our homestead. We could always make a living in spite of Mac’s sister. But we got only as far as Winnipeg. Mac. went to see his mother and she persuaded him to stay there and try to get work. In five months he had earned $53.00. I took in sewing and tried to make ends meet that way, but it was no use. My health gave way again and this time I insisted on returning to the homestead.
We came back here and up to the present have done very well. May it be God’s will that we continue to do well!
I found that my sister-in-law had married and moved away, three miles from us. They then went to the city and, I must confess, I hope they will stay there. We get along so much better when our relations don’t bother us that I really can not help but be glad when they leave us alone.
I have grown to love Canada. Of course I shall alivays think that England is the best country in the world, but I have made my home here in Canada and have some very sincere friends among the Canadians. I intend to see this through until we succeed in making our homestead a fruitful farm. If we can do that I will feel that my life has not been in vain, for it is a “man’s job” to turn wild land into a successful farm. It entails a tremendous amount of real, hard work, a great deal of hardship and, of course, a certain amount of isolation.
The greatest excitement we have is going for the mail, behind our slow oxen. I love the life and I thoroughly enjoy our ride through the brush, especially in the Fall. The woods are so beautiful! I feel I want to go down on my knees and thank God for such wonderful beauty. I certainly believe that this is the life we were intended to live. It is healthy and big and fine. All we ever hear is the tinkle of the cow bells, the chatter of the squirrels, the scream of the blue-jays. There are no noisy street cars to disturb our sleep and shatter our nerves.
Yes, I have, indeed, a lot for which to thank God. I have my man, my son, my own little home and. in spite of some hard times and other objectionable things, I ama very happy war-bride.
SHE. HAS “her man, hason and her Utile home" and, despite trials that would break the courage of all but the stoutest hearts, she avers: "1 am a Very happy warbride.” Of such stuff are good Canadians made. “Homesteader” is co-winner, with Mrs. Muir, of the third prize in the “War-bride” Contest. The fifth will appear in the March 1 issue.
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