LITTLE BUNDLES OF PLUCK
NO. VI. IN THE SERIES “CANADA REVISITED”
AGNES C. LAUT
TO USE the mechanism of the Soldier Settlement Board to widen immigration into a National Policy of colonization might necessitate changes in the original conception of thescheme. But isn’t it worth while? Isn’t it worth while making almost any changes to retain 800,000 settlers, who came to the country, and then left it? Isn’t it bad business—a short-sighted National Policy—to spend money to induce 800,000 people to come to this country, and then to lose them?
The Soldier Settlement under the careful selection of Dr. Black, who knows the prairie provinces from A to Z, now has a personnel of local men, who know every acre of the local ground, who know land from sand, gumbo from alkali, swamp that is hard to drain from brush that costs only $12 an acre to clear and break. Without disturbing the organization of immigration could not this staff be used in a new policy of Colonization? Our past has demonstrated that half the efforts of immigration are lost without the supplementary efforts of colonization.
I do not say that the general settler should be given the same terms of payment as the returned Canadian soldier, though that would be wiser than losing settlers at the rate of 800,000 in eighteen to twenty-two years, and though our terms to Soldier Settlers are no more generous than the Jewish Agricultural Society to its settlers in the United States, or the U.S. Federal Loan to farmers, both of which loan up to $10,000, where the Soldier Settlement Board loans only up to $7,500.
For instance, I think of the case of a young Imperial soldier. The Soldier Settlement Board requires that young Imperial soldiers shall have had experience farming, which is right. We have had enough young Imperialists with high hopes and no experience come to grief financially in Canada; but the Board also requires that Imperial soldiers shall have at least 200 l. to lay down in advance as a guarantee they will stick, not just buy land and re-sell if they get sick of it. But 200 l. is a lot more to an English boy than to a Canadian boy. Wages in the British Isles are lower, even to-day. It takes longer to get a grub-stake of $1,000 there than $2,000 here. The Imperial soldiers with a grub-stake of $1,000 may go elsewhere or drift into small business.
Elasticity Would Have Paid Here
THE boy in question drifted into one of the Western offices of the Soldier Settlement Board. He had had experience as a farmer; but he hadn’t the $1,000, not all of it; so the Soldier Settlement Board under an Ottawa ruling couldn’t handle him. They directed him to Dominion Land officials. The Dominion Land officials gave him the usual maps showing where lands could still be pre-empted for nothing but the fee and homestead duties; but these lands were either far out—and the boy did not wish to take his bride so far afield—or they were not good lands.
The boy knocked about wasting time and money. He was friendless and would have welcomed a chance to settle among other soldiers. The I.W.W. cockney agitators gathered round him and “knocked” the Soldier Settlement Board as “Civil Service graft.” A bit confused by his cold reception by the Soldier Settlement Board and the Dominion Land officials and the queer company, where he found himself, he finally drifted into the hands, or rather hungry maws, of the land sharks, who took the remainder of his money without a qualm and sold him land, which would never have passed muster with the Settlement
He now has to go deeper in debt for equipment and horses, which were also sold to him at too high figures. He may pull through by taking a road job, or lumber job at $8 a day; but if he does, he may abandon the farm for general jobbing or the lumber mill; and it is land settlers Canada needs.
I think of another case—an English girl of good birth and dairy training. She had done dairy work in England straight through the War She had heard of Canadian nurses being open for Soldier Settlement land, but found on reaching Canada that she was not qualified for such land. Nor could she homestead as in the United States. Not to be beaten, she advertised for a job on a dairy farm. She received only one answer— from an ancient and decrepit bachelor, who said he was paralyzed in his feet, but if she would milk his cows and care for the calves, he would go half and half on creamery receipts; but unfortunately he had only one room in his shanty; but he promised if she would come, he would “hang a curtain acrost it in the middle.” She posted the answer to her people in England as a sample of Canada’s ideas of propriety and took a job as chamber maid in a hotel at $35 a month until she earned enough to pay her passage back to England, with such a report of Canada as we may guess.
If she had been piloted right, she would probably have homesteaded for herself, induced some relative or friend to join her, and ultimately have married a Canadian farmer “but,” she said naively, “I didn’t come out to marry a meal ticket. If I have to do that, I am going to do it at home.”
The Women Who are Making Good
AND yet nurses are making good on Soldier Settlement lands. Widows of soldiers are making good; and s million women like her could make good .and create Can adian homes in the West and add to those homes an atmosphere of comfort and permanency, which they sadly lack. They would transform shacks and shanties into homes, and home-sick English boys into contented Canadians.
I think of another young English girl, each of whose brothers got 160 acres, as they had served in the Canadian forces. In all, they had 960 acres; but last year, their area suffered drought. They could not subsist on milk checks; for thèy had not the feed for winter stock; so she hurried to town, took a job in a telephone office and becoming a local supervisor in Regina, earned enough to send home to the brothers and mother enough to keep the larder supplied for the lean year.
If that girl did not earn a Soldier Settlement farm, 1 don’t know who did. She loved the free Canadian life so heartily that she declared only starvation would drive them out; but that is the type that drought ought not to be permitted to drive out. I should like to see her 160 aeree next to her brothers’. You would anchor her and her children’s children forever.
I think of yet another case—a young English lad and hie wife. War taxes had compelled them to sell everything in England. They were frankly poor. They had bought » good 640 acres; but that young wife had two babies. The oldest was two years old. She had no help. It is a for*
gone conclusion if there are three babies next year, that young girl’s health may break. Yet if she could get an Imperial Veteran, who served in her husband’s regiment on a quarter section next to theirs, she would have the help needed; and they would stick; but her husband cannot afford to pay the $1,000 down required of an Imperial Veteran; and the Soldier Settlement does not permit the local directors latitude in such cases.
They’d all Make
Good Settlers T COULD give * you hundreds of such examples, where we are permitting good English settlers to drift through our hands, back to the Home Land disgruntled,
"Waacs,” men, women, young nobility, mechanics who want to own land, gentlemen, who are serving time in hotels, office people, who would be fruit farmers, or dairy farmers, or poultry raisers if they could ; and in British Columbia, you can build a small log cabin of four rooms for $100, and a chicken or cow-house for another $100; and that is a very small grub-stake to anchor down a family of settlers in a province that boasts a population of only 500,000 in an area twice as large as Germany.
Keep in mind the fact that every successful land settler is worth $700 a year in freight to our railroads, and $1,000 a year in output to the nation’s trade at wages of $3 a day.
Figures on the Soldier Settlement work are hard to give up to date, for they are changing every day with increased loans and increased applications for land, and changes in the plans of applicants, who may fulfill all qualifications required and then take up some other line of business pending clearing up of title; but at time of writing loans for land are limited to $4,500 on a quarter section, which must be approved by the local inspectors as worth the price to be paid and capable of producing crops to repay the loan.
This rules out all poor and bad land, all land on which there is faulty title owing to mortgages uncleared or defaulted interest. The Board also is averse to loaning on land not within fifteen miles of shipping points, though I do not think this ruling has affected Peace River lands up to the present.
In Peace River there are some fine Soldier Settlements, of which I shall tell later; for here the returned soldier can homestead 160 acres and buy an adjoining 160 acres, giving him a half section, so he can benefit from the increased value to lands from his own improvements. The soldier must pay down $400 in advance. This does not seem to me a hardship in a country where farm labor commands from $70 to $100 a month and board, and miners earn from $8 to $28 a day and track work is $5 a day and saw-mill men from $5 to $10 a day. If a boy cannot save $400 to pay down, there is something the matter with him. The $400 is a guarantee that he means business and is not just a temporary squatter intending to resell as soon as values go up. He must satisfy the Board that he intends to make fanning his life work, that he is physically fit, resourceful and thrifty. He must have had experience as a farmer, [f he lacks experience, he will be given training on a practical farm, and paid while he is taking his training; but his record in training must attest he is fit. He is taught to harness, hitch, drive, plow, seed and feed.
IN ADDITION to the $4,500 loan for land, he will be loaned $2,000 for stock and equipment; and when you consider that a team of horses in the West costs from $400 to $600, and a cow from $80 to $150, and a binder from $176 to $200, and a wagon from $100 up, and other machinery in proportion, this total of $2,000 does not seem to me excessive.
There is just one point here that does not show on paper records but does in fact. Having loaned $2,000 for stock and equipment, the Board requires the man to use his stock and equipment on his farm, and not for working off his farm. This seems wise, but does not always work out.
For instance, in the mining sections of Alberta—where the public roads are notoriously bad and in need of teamaters at $8.60 to $10 a day—I know eight soldier settlers, who got their land too late to crop this year. The Board insisted the men should prepare their land for cropping next year. It was brush land and would require $10 to $12 an acre to clear. The men didn’t see how clearing that land would pay this year’s instalments due to the Board, or Indeed, how they would pay for the tractor brush work.
The Board practically said: “Clear it yourselves with your own teams;” but team work on brush lands would hardly clear 30 to 40 acres a year. Whereas a good tractor with a break beam plow clears out 3 to 4 acres a day, or a whole quarter section in two months at a cost of $ 1,600 to $1,800. The eight men answered that by road work at $10 a day
they could earn enough for clearing their land and make their first payment in six to seven months.
The Board on the other hand had had experience of some men, who did that in the Lake Winnipeg region, Manitoba, who got so deeply in debt to the tractor-clearer they could not get out. The eight boys in Alberta had gone on the road with their teams in defiance of the ruling; and the Board was threatening to take back their land and place other men on it.
It seems to me this is a case where the ruling ought to be left to the discretion of the local supervisor on the , spot. He knows the bona fide intentions and circumstances of his men. The Board at Ottawa can’t. In the Manitoba case, the men were rash spenders and had gone heedlessly ahead. In the Alberta case, the men were a thrifty, hard-working lot, all' friends out of one regiment, who wanted to keep their settlement together. If they had not gone out to earn the money to meet their payment, they would have had to chance two contingencies: (1) the revocation of their land; (2) the Board carrying them for the default of their first year’s payment.
Personally, I think defaulted payments are a bad beginning for any farm.
What to do in a Pinch
IN ADDITION to land and equipment, the Board grants a man $1,000 for buildings. In British Columbia, where log cabins can be got for the cutting, this is ample. In the prairie provinces, where lumber costs up to $120 a thousand this is scant enough. The interest charge is 5 per cent. The term for repayment is twenty-six years, the instalments running $326.19 for the second and third years, $551.79 for the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh years, then $326.19 to the twenty-sixth year—exceedingly easy if the settler has cows and crops, not so easy if he gets located on dry land, that fails of feed as some areas did last year, or if the frost or drought plays tricks with his yield as they have in several sections this year. The hopeful feature is, of course, that there is not a section in Canada to-day, where a settler at a pinch—and who in Canada has not known a pinch in the past ten years?—cannot turn out and earn from $5 to $10 a day teaming, chopping, railroading, lumbering, in order to meet his payments.
If it is a case of the Board carrying a settler through a bad year for defaulted payments, or letting him turn out and earn money to meet them by outside work, it seems to me the latter policy would be the wise one. I know families in Manitoba to-day, whose net returns are more than $10,000 a year, who would have been frosted out, or droughted out, or hailed out in the early years, if they and their sons had not turned in on C.P.R. navvy work at $1.50 a day. To-day navvy work runs at $5 to $10.
Up to April, 1921, 25,000 men will have actually been placed on land; 42,000 applicants have already been approved and will be placed as fast as good land can be found and titles cleared up, and some 65 millions has been disbursed. By October of 1921, 30,000 will probably have been placed on land, and by 1922, 35,000. Estimate freight returns at $700 a farm, and productive returns in labor and crops at $1,000 a year, and the Soldier Settlement Board is one of the best national investments Canada ever made.
It is going to return to the country each year as much as Canada has spent in capital investment. Canada can’t lose; but how much is the overhead costing? There are 17 Soldier Settlement officers, 914 employees, 613 men, 301 women. The salaries up to April ran $928,070.11; less than .02 per cent. Ten per cent, would be a cheap overhead for such work. Canada is'paying .02. But I think it will be a penny-wise, pound-foolish policy to continue to pay as low an overhead for such a remunerative National investment. There is not a man in the Soldier Settlement Board to-day, who could not make many times his present income by going out and farming for himself, and this applies just as much to the director at $6,000 a year as to the local farm agents at $1,500.
If these men can produce returns to Canada of $65,000,000 a year on a primary investment of $50,000,000, or
even $100,000,000, you can wager the big corporations, the trust and loans, the farm loans, the industrial bureaus of the big railroads, the big private farm land companies are not going to leave them in their present jobs. It will be the story of Sir Thomas White and McAdoo and Gouin over again. Sir Thomas White’s grateful country paid him $7,000 a year. I know one private corporation that, wanted him at $40,000. McAdoo got $12,000 a year from his country. A private corporation got him at $100,000. Franklin Lane served the United States, though he was an ex-Canadian, at $12,000 a year. An oil corporation wooed him away at $50,000 a year.
Conscript Brainiest Men?
' I 'HERE comes a time, as I have said elsewhere, when patriotism won’t pay debts, or satisfy a sheriff’s warrants.
It would pay Canada to conscript her brainiest men for National Service just now—her Shaughnessys, her Whites, her Siftons, her Gouins — pay them all they are worth, then court-martial and shoot them if they fail; but big men, who make good on their own job, don’t fail on National jobs; and little men, who do fail on their own jobs, are poor chaps to entrust Canada’s $2,000,000,000 a year National job to. Am I wrong in that deduction? Don’t we get in life just what we pay for? And if we pay our biggest men in National Life a clerk’s salary and cesspool slime, don’t we just get back from them what we pay them?
I do not think even MacKenzie King or the most ardent economy man on the Cross Benches will answer this argument; for was it not one of the ablest farmers among the Cross Benchers, who resigned a $7,000 a year Cabinet job to take a $15,000 a year grain growers’ job? The curse of American politics to-day is cheap men. I hope it will never be the curse of Canadian polities. Canada to-day has as big Imperial problems to solve as imperial statesmen; and the Imperial Cabinet ministers draw remuneration of $25,000 to $50,000 a year. They have no temptations to graft and they have no temptation to desert public service for private.
I have always held that when Canada lost her Jim Hills and her Graham Bells and her Franklin Lanes to the United States, the loss was hers, not theirs. They built up the land to which they were forced to go. We needed them to build up here; and never did we need men more— than we do now; men, who have vision to foresee the future, and translate that vision into fact. Keep your big men; but don’t attach sheriff warrants to their doors, and then publish broadcast that they have not had money to pay their income tax.
One of the tenderest and best memories I shall carry ’ away of the Soldier Settlement is of the War Brides Who Are Making Good—largely thanks to Jean Muldrew, of the Domestic Branch, whose work deserves a series all by itself some time. Such a funny sunny series, it would be, too. Have you ever thought what it would mean to have the Stork coming along, sixty miles from a doctor, or a hospital? Pretty nearly enough to discourage the Stork business, if either the woman, or the child, must come maimed through the process. Have you ever thought what it would mean to have a bunch of kiddies, whom you loved so hard it gave you a pain from sheer'joy, with no food to fill those kiddies or clothes to cover them? Have you ever thought what it means to go out and try to bake bread that wouldn’t kill a cat at long-range throw, when you didn’t know as much ' about baking bread as making a Mexican tamale?
Civilization with its factory ready-mades for food and
clothes has bred a whole generation of people—both men
and women—who are terribly helpless, when thrown back
Continued, on page 47
Little Bundles of Pluck
Continued from page 23
on primitive requirements of stomachs and bodies 100 miles away from clothing and food shops.
That has been Jean Muldrew’s job on the Soldier Settlement Board; and she ought to be compelled to tell some of her experiences herself. They are so shot through and through with the gold sheen of hope and love conquering all difficulties —even the hardest dullest difficulty of all— loneliness, ennui, blue grey eventless days.
Break Neck or Bust “'\X/^HA.T in the world did you ride that
»V bicycle down hill at such breakneck speed for?” a husband asked a woman friend of mine, in the early lonely days on the prairie, when the trails were narrow as a footpath and lumpy as a hard boiled egg-
“Because I am so dead sick of sameness,
[ had to do something, break my neck, or bust,” she answered quite truthfully.
I recall a little, square, box-like home near Saskatoon. It was trim as a doll’s house. Newly-painted and not much larger, it was built by their own hands, the Scotch bride and the Canadian soldier boy.
“There is a War Bride in there,” said my motor guide.
War Bride? I called up pictures portrayed chiefly by city writers, who had not gone out afield to see how it worked. She would have a chalky face—lavender powder—trenched with tears of self pity. She would have tawdry Street finery; for had we not been told the wrong kind of girls roped our innocent farm boys in, both on the highways and in the by-ways of wicked European cities; though when one Canadian mother I know got the fidgets over such dire fears for her darling of twenty-two and took it to the Lord in prayer, the first verse she turned up in the Bible after an agony on her knees for fear a Parisian flapper had “got” him, was to the effect. “Why should ye think evil of the young man?” and she at once cabled him $200 as a conscience gift to square her suspicions with her own soul. (It turned out he had wanted the $200 to add to the government allowance for officer’s uniform—he had just got a promotion.)
“Let us go in and see the War Bride,” I suggested.
“You bet,” answered the local supervisor, “if all the Canadians made as good as the plucky War Brides, I’d have no fear of the Soldier Settlement Board. It’s the girl who married a no-good ‘dud’ in uniform I’m sorry for. A uniform didn’t necessarily mean a man; and some of the girls married uniforms.”
•So in we went; but the couple were nowhere to be seen. The house was as spick and span inside as out—not a chair, not a dish-towel out of order. The horses came nosing up to the back door for us to pet them. So did a Guernsey cow; and the calf insisted on cultivating intimate terms with one of my fingers. Then a puppy collie smelt the odor of my pet dog on my clothes and insisted on being picked up, when he nearly wagged all the tail he had off, and insisted on kissing me.
Lonely? Not a Bit!
THIS couple are evidently newly married,” I said, “but I draw the line at the moist love of this pup. Anyhow, you can safely wager your job this couple are good to animals. Even the hens—’’ but just then we spied them. It was strawberry season and just at sunset. They were out berrying together and he was passing her his handfuls; and they were laughing with the sheer fun of life at full tide before they saw us.
“Lonely?” she answered. “What would I be lonely for? I was never so happy and free in my life. I never knew what it was to live before. I only existed. I can do anything on the farm now, and even if the heat this week has cut our wheat crop in half, we’ll have oats and hay enough for the stock; and the milk check gives us $20 a week. That will carry us ‘over the top’; and next year, perhaps, we can afford the next quarter section.” You see their idea was to have a big farm for a future family.
She told me her husband had been teaching her to shoot so she would never be nervous and could protect the stock from coyotes if ever he were away and she was left alone. There were about ten soldier settlers in this settlement, and they had arranged weekly community meetings for the year.
In another settlement, I found a little French bride. Her husband had just died, “gassed” lungs and a hemorrhage. Rather than lose this plucky little soul to the community—she was expecting an heir—the other Soldier Settlement boys had promised the supervisor they would care for her crops of hay and oats till a brother came out from France to work for her, if the Board would leave her on the land. She had the money ready for the first payment and, what is more, the money ready to pay for the charges at the local hospital, when her illness would come on— good luck to her, the little bundle of pluck!
I think of another case of an English doctor and his wife, who had always craved outdoor life and never had it till they came to Canada. They had their crops all in. They had had money enough to buy 640 acres as well as the 160 under the Soldier Settlement Board; and had tractor cleared 300 or 400 acres in wheat. Machinery was all ready for the harvest; and they were out wolf hunting together. She could ride as a young elk runs. Was she happy? Was she? You couldn’t drag them to town. Her uniform has housed a man all right.
Wainwright and the Bob Tail Indian Reserve, the former east of Edmonton, the latter south—had not had one single case of salvage or failure. That is a good record. I doubt if that is equalled in any other colonization scheme in Canada from the imported brides of Old Quebec in the 1600’s, to Colonel Talbot in Western Ontario, or John Galt, down to modern colonization plans in the West.
Our Indians’ Fat Credits
' I 'HE Bob Tail Indian Reserve had practically been abandoned by the Indians. They have moved North to hunting grounds that yielded them bigger pay in trapping than farming the Reserve did in crops and stock; for the Indian is primarily a hunter and will always remain one if he can; and the prices of furs to-day—though Canada gets only one-third of the price for her furs that she should—give a good hunter from $1,000 to $2,000 a year, which is big money to an Indian with his primitive wants. There is no poverty, no want, ho raggedness, among Canadian Indians to-day. If they don’t own motor cars, it is because there are not motor trails to the hunting grounds. And they do own bank accounts, and fat credits with the old fur companies, who no longer monopolize the field but bid prices up against one another.
Anyway, the Bob Tail Indian Reserve had been practically abandoned when the Soldier Settlement Board took it over. It is the richest of rich prairie land, slightly brush grown, which acts as a shelter for stock, with big timber on the bank of the amber waters of a river that never goes dry. Park-like areas are all ready for the plow; and clearing here will cost not more than $5 to $7 an acre, where heavier brush lands cost $10 to $12. Also, to the east slightly, are towns and a railroad, giving a market for milk, butter, eggs, poultry.
If this land had been thrown open for general settlement, it would have been raided by the speculators and resold in a few years at $60 to $100 an acre; for the crops are waist high and run 40 bushels to the acre for wheat, 60 to 80 for oats. The dollar can deflate all it likes; when land produces those averages, it is going to stay high£in value. The winters are severe in
spots but the Chinook winds temper the winters and the hills shelter from cold winds. I could tell of many such Soldier Settlements; but the Bob Tail is a good type; and I predict the men, who have gone in there, will be worth $10,000 to $30,000 clear in a few years, which equals the best professional and business returns of the towns. The returned men were permitted to buy this land at $8 to $18 an acre, in all 6,500 acres of it. In a few months from the opening not a quarter section was left unfiled.
One settler’s home will give a fairly good idea of all.
A Typical Winner
' I 'HE man had been an English carpenter before the War. He had always craved home acres of his own, but lacked the nerve to take the leap till he came back from the War with a shattered elbow and a leg full of shrapnel wounds. His wife was that type of thrifty English woman, who acts as manufacturer in the home. She could cook. She could make jam. She could raise chickens and turkeys and can vegetables and meat. They had a boy of thirteen, whom they wished to leave in life better than they had begun. With their combined savings, wounded allowance and wife’s allowance during the War, they bought 160 acres at $8 an acre. With the Soldier Settlement Board loan, they bought another 160 acres. The river frontage ran along the face of the farm. They had hand-seeded two acres to vegetables and set families of young chickens, geese and turkeys enough going to feed the family for the winter. Then they were fattening five bogs for winter cash, and depended on the milk checks of five cows to meet their payments. The milk checks would average $20 a week year in and year out.
While the crops were ripening, they had built a sanitary barn, cement foundations, for fourteen cows, and four horses. They were living in a shanty and a tent for the summer, realizing a log cabin would be rushed up for the winter; but stock to keep up the milk checks had to have warm housing by October. Food they will have in plenty for a year. The milk checks will give them $700 more than their payments; and that $700 will build their winter house.
When the crop came on, payments were met. Last year, it was a small erop; for the settlers did not come on the Bob Tail Reserve until April and May; and the hot weather was hard on growth of late planting. Nothing short of death can defeat this settlement’s success and prosperity. Where the shattered elbow could not hoist the scantling for building, the wife and son helped. This land will sell for $100 an acre in five years. Do you know any way in which a returned soldier could earn a permanent competency of $30,000 in five years? And yet, I could tell of such successes, with an average of perhaps 2 per cent, failures.
Could the Soldier Settlement Scheme of colonization be applied to all Canadian immigration, we would not have lost 800,000 potential settlers in eighteen to twenty-two years. We would have no rail deficit. We would have no fear of our dollar ever deflating; for even if our currency is over-expanded by three times,—as all the world’s currency is to-day, our trade output would equal our money in circulation and when trade equals money, there is no deflation.