What it takes to be a Mountie

Jiujitsu experts flatten him, instructors pound knowledge into him, horses bite him and he’s drilled till he’s dizzy. That’s how a recruit is finally hammered into the RCMP’s exacting and anonymous pattern

Alan Phillips July 15 1954

What it takes to be a Mountie

Jiujitsu experts flatten him, instructors pound knowledge into him, horses bite him and he’s drilled till he’s dizzy. That’s how a recruit is finally hammered into the RCMP’s exacting and anonymous pattern

Alan Phillips July 15 1954

What it takes to be a Mountie


Alan Phillips

The Mounties PART TWO

Jiujitsu experts flatten him, instructors pound knowledge into him, horses bite him and he’s drilled till he’s dizzy. That’s how a recruit is finally hammered into the RCMP’s exacting and anonymous pattern

STARING forthrightly from a current magazine advertisement of the Bank of America, “the world’s largest bank,” is the blank-faced picture of a man in uniform. There is nothing else in the picture except a suggestion of rugged country. Since the ad is for travelers’ cheques, the implication is that holidayers can rely on them as surely as they can rely on the figure which is unlabeled and unexplained. It is a figure that doesn’t need identification; people around the world will recognize the high boots, breeches, square-cut tunic and the broad-brimmed hat of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a symbol of Canadian stability.

The Mountie is a natural for a symbol. Wherever you see him on the street, in his patrol car, guarding the border he seldom stands out as an individual. One of the strange things about the myriad tales of the RCMP is that they all seem typical. The hero seems interchangeable with any other Mountie. When you know one, you think you know them all.

This is something more t han an impression. The Mounties do run to type. They’re usually trim, seldom very big, never small. Sitting, standing or walking, they carry themselves so erect they seem stiff. Their uniforms are immaculate, their speech direct. Their features are self-controlled to the point of immobility. Like the blank-faced man in the bank ad, they’ve an austere anonymity which has prompted one of their sténos to compare them with nuns.

How do they get that way? How does the RCMP take men from cit ies and farms from coast to coast and stamp them with characteristics in common?

The process begins with the kind of men they select. The RCMP is hard to get into and easy to

get out of. Before the war the force would not advertise for recruits. Afterward, strengt h was low and reluctantly these few lines of terse restrained prose were placed with local newspapers:

WEAR THIS BADGE AND UPHOLD TRADITIONS OK RCMP R' you are 5' 8” in height, unmarried, between 18 and 30, and are interested in a career in the RCMP you may apply for engagement immediately.

The ads have attracted 23,000 applicants since the war but the force has signed only 3,000. The figures don’t include such off-beat applications as this:

Dear Sir: I would like a job at detective work.

1 have plans that are my own in the line of detective plans ... I couldn’t tell you how J will work but ... I have some plans that has never been done before. I can pick out the guilty one every time, no foolin’.

Usually, this sort of applicant hastily screens himself after receiving an RCMP pamphlet called A Career in Scarlet. It informs the would-be Mountie that he must sign on for five years, that during this time he can’t marry (to keep part of the force mobile), can’t engage in a trade, can’t smoke or drink in uniform. It warns him bluntly of hardship, risk and hard work before it mentions starting pay ($203 a month, with free uniforms, medical and dental service), leave (21 days a year if a man can be spared), chances for travel and special training.

The first serious hurdle is a medical examination. If the applicant’s health seems first class, he’s cleared for character. A Mountie visits the applicant’s home town or neighborhood, talks to his

schoolteachers, former employers, minister or priest, and two references which the applicant must supply. Sometimes the fingerprint check turns up a criminal record t hat automatically washes him out .

The next obstacle is an educational test on current affairs, history, mathematics and so on. It immediately screens out applicants who answer like this:

Q. What is your reason for joining the force?

A. I like to travel around the country from place to place.

Q. Who is the Chief Justice of Canada?

A. Don’t know him, never had the opportunity of being in court.

Q. Who is the chairman of the CBC?

A. Never heard that man’s name either.

Q. What is the difference between prorogation and dissolution of parliament?

A. It’s all the same to me . . .

This test is equivalent to Grade Ten but the minimum school certificate required is only Grade Eight. Insp. Frank S. Spalding, the RCMP’s senior personnel officer, explains that “In certain areas there may be good potential policemen who don’t have the chance to finish their education for many reasons poverty, sickness in the family, they’re needed to help at home or on the farm. We don’t want to exclude them —but they have to be exceptional.” The educational test is judged together with an intelligence test that weeds out the so-called “educated fools.”

Wrong motives for joining eliminate ot hers. The RCMP isn’t interested in the glamor-seekers who write in saying, “I saw Rose Marie last week. I sure go for those red coats and black horses.” They don’t want the exhibitionist Continued on pane 46

How the Mounties see themselves. In these cartoons from the RCMP Quarterly, amateur'

artists of the force poke fun at their unglamorous routine, rib their strict instructors

and the hush-hush around the counter-espionage squad. Their love of horses is obvious.

What It Takes To Be a Mountie


who writes: “I would like to devote my life to fighting crime.” One man wanted to join “because I look good in uniform.” The RCMP does consider how a man would look in uniform, but it’s scarcely a main prerequisite.

The word the force is looking for in these applications is “service.” Spalding says, “You’d be surprised at the number of letters that begin, ‘I’d like the chance to serve Canada . . .’ A sense of adventure and romance is fine, but it has to be balanced by maturity.”

After the written tests, comes the crucial trial: a soul-searching interview with one of the 15 RCMP divisional personnel officers. This man has been an outstanding policeman for years. He’s been schooled by the best Canadian psychologists. He sets the applicant at his ease and encourages him to talk, noting that his shoes have not been polished, that his hands show too much tension, or that his manner is too casual.

The applicant expresses his ambitions in his own terms. “How about pay?” he asks. “If I went to work in the factory at home I could make sixty a week. How’s that stack up with the Mounted Police?”

The personnel officer may make a mental note that the applicant thinks too well of himself. He may suspect frustration. “Got any hobbies?” he asks.

The applicant has collected stamps for six months, then he took up the trumpet, now he is playing around with photography. The personnel officer thinks he may lack persistence.

“Sports?” prods the officer.

The applicant lists a few sports none of which involve hodily contact. “No hockey?” asks the officer, “No football?”

Now the policeman bears down and extracts the essential point. The applicant dislikes physical violence. The officer takes over the conversation. He tells the applicant about the times policemen have been shot at, about men who get roaring drunk on Saturday night and try to beat up the Mountie. The applicant agrees another profession might be more suitable.

“Quite a few back out when they find what police work really is,” says Spalding. “Some of them have taken a correspondence course in detection. They thought they’d be natty, whitecollar detectives. A big bruiser in uniform would handle anything nasty. They’d just do the brain work.”

If the applicant gets past the personnel officer he’s as good as in—provided he can pass the final medical which probes for every hidden defect. It has taken a month or more to select him but the RGMP has a man who’s been checked for honesty, knowledge, intelligence, common sense, initiative, fortitude, courage, stability and physique.

Now the applicant has one more gantlet to run: one of the world’s toughest training courses. Every day for the next nine months he’ll have to prove himself. He’s called a recruit now but he’s not a Mountie yet. Serious injury, illness, lack of nerve or coordination can still wash him out.

He reports to his training centre at Ottawa, Regina or Vancouver. He’s assigned to a squad of thirty other recruits. From the 6 a.m. reveille to the 5 p.m. parade he’s marched in and out of the barracks, drill hall, classroom and gym. The routine follows the familiar, stringent pattern of army training—with extras. He spends many

hours on the shooting range, lying on his stomach, squinting along the barrel of a .303 service rifle. “Don’t pull that trigger,” orders an instructor, “Squeeze it!” He learns to strip and assemble his rifle until he can do it by touch. Standing erect, he raises a .38 service revolver eye-level and blazes away at a body target. “Group your shots,” the instructor shouts, “Don’t stiffen up.” The recruit’s clumsy draw smooths out, his fire becomes more accurate.

In the gym, he practices backflips over the vaulting horse. He punches another recruit in the boxing ring. He learns jiujitsu, more commonly called police holds. “Hit me!” the instructor calls, “Hit me as hard as you can.” The big recruit takes a hefty swing, feels a sudden yank on his arm and finds himself lying flat on his back. Slowly he gets to his feet. His face is pale. It’s a tough grind for an older man. The typical recruit is young, 18 or 19.

He takes short courses (one to 55 hours) in more than a hundred subjects. He learns to handle himself in dozens of hypothetical emergencies: how to

empty the water out of a capsized canoe, how thick ice should be before he can safely drive over it (four inches). He learns to swim—the odds are good it will save his life and possibly someone else’s. He learns to type—he’ll have to report in five copies on every case he investigates. He learns to use a camera, to read a map, to survey land, to give first aid.

Soapiest Salute in History

He is taught to classify different types of grain, wood and cattle brands. He’s instructed in the intricacies of counterfeit money and handwriting. He finds out how to cultivate informers, to shadow a suspect, question witnesses, organize a search party, throw a gas bomb, and use a mine detector (for finding hidden weapons).

He is drilled in the Criminal Code, customs and excise laws, banking procedures and Indians’ rights. He is taught to prepare a case for court and lectured on the causes of juvenile delinquency. He comes fresh from a lecture on public relations and is detailed off to scrub out the barracks block on his hands and knees.

Every week, the officer commanding the spick-and-span training school makes an inspection. Once, in Regina, a recruit finished scrubbing out for “rounds” and decided he had time to take a shower. In the middle of it, the OC stalked in. A thorough man, he pulled back the shower curtains. The naked recruit snapped to attention and presented his startled superior with the smartest, wettest, soapiesf salute in the history of the force.

If the OC spots one bed unmade the entire squad may be confined to barracks for a month. “Right from the start,” says Leonard Hanson Nicholson, the one-time farm hand who made the climb from constable to commissioner, “the young man learns it’s a disciplined force he’s in.”

This lesson is driven home over and over in the drill hall. The drill sergeant becomes an ogre with supernatural powers. He brings his squad to rigid attention, then turns his back upon them, apparently to dash tears of disgust from his eyes. Moments pass—a recruit decides to ease his aching back. With infallible timing the drill sergeanl wheels and withers the unlucky lad with a blast from his highly colored vocabulary.

In between learning the lore of poisons, bloodstains and how a bullet fractures glass, it’s drill, drill, drill. The recruit is shouted at till he’s dazed. He’s told to stand up straight, to say

“sir,” to salute. His first plunge into RCMP life is so confusing that a new recruit once summed it up in a nowclassic remark: “Everything that

moves is saluted. Everything that stands still is painted white.” The story has become so widespread that the navy also claims it.

In addition to six months of this, the recruit gets three months of equitation. Horses are part of the RCMP tradition. A notice posted at Regina barracks quotes Winston Churchill: “Don’t give your son money. Give him horses. No man ever came to grief—except honorable grief—through riding.”

If the recruit graduates, the odds are against his riding anything more lively than a motorcycle. The Mounties now keep only as many horses as they need for basic training (currently they have 178). If the recruit lacks fortitude, the horse will bring it out. “They’re good hardening,” says Com’r Nicholson, “They knock a man about in a way that’s hard to duplicate unless we go to an assault course.”

The recruits ride about four hours a day. The rest of the time, from dawn to dusk, they’re cleaning the stables, polishing their saddles, feeding and watering the horses. There’s a saying that a man who grooms his horse properly needs no other exercise. Three times a day, the recruits groom their mounts. “Lean on that curry comb,” the sergeant will shout, “You won’t push him over.” A recruit rakes his tin comb too harshly across the tender belly of his horse. The animal’s long neck swivels and its yellow teeth raise an ugly welt on his arm. The irate sergeant’s reaction, according to the recruits, is, “Get that clumsy clown out of here and check that poor horse for injuries.”

On Monday morning, after a weekend’s rest, the horses are at their best,

or—from a recruit’s view—their worst.

A mare kicks the boards of the riding hall and the others follow suit till the hall reverberates like a giant drum, adding to the recruits’ nervousness. The instructor, a hard-bitten sergeant, I walks them around the hall in single I file. Suddenly, a horse takes the bit in ¡ his teeth and bolts. “Hold him!” the | instructor shouts. It is useless. The instructor rises in his stirrups and calls after him, “Send me a postcard when you get there.”

Instructors Suffer Too

Sometimes the wilful mood of one horse will sweep contagiously over all the others. Sunfishing and crowhopping, they buck their riders in all directions. Ina pall of dust, riderless horses gallop in wild confusion while the frightened bruised recruits scramble for safety. After one such melee in Regina the riding instructor lined up his squad and found that he had one empty saddle. A prolonged search revealed the missing recruit clinging to a stanchion high overhead, most reluctant to come down. A sorely tried instructor once dismounted, walked to a corner, laid down his riding crop, took off his cap and sank to his knees. “O Lord,” he cried, “How long? How long?”

The order “cross stirrups” will bring the most recalcitrant class to heel. The stirrups are folded over the horse’s withers; the recruit can no longer post - lift in his stirrups with the movement of the horse. After half an hour of trotting without stirrups his leg muscles are screaming. One man, after two and a half hours, toppled off his horse in a dead faint. “It’s like having a bad case of arthritis in both legs,” says one recruit, “As far as I’m concerned it’s the toughest training you can get.” No recruit disagrees.

When the budding Mounties have got the feel of their horses, the instructor takes them outside to a fencedin pathway called Suicide Lane, where five or six poles have been set up on trestles twenty or thirty feet apart. “Cross your stirrups and put a knot in your reins,” the instructor orders. “AH right, first man fold your arms and lean forward at the jump.”

Single file, holding on only with knees and thigh, the recruits thunder down the lane. A horse balks. The unlucky recruit goes on over his head. In a recent class there were two broken collarbones, a broken arm, two ruptured appendix and numerous sprains. No man was washed out. “They have tí» learn to forget about being hurt,” says an instructor. “A good man enjoys it.”

All this time, the recruit is toughening up. His intellect is sharpening. He’s imbibing the tales of courage, endurance and devotion to duty that make up the 81-year-old history of the force. Above all, he’s learning obedience.

And all the while he is being watched for flaws. His alertness, temper, tact, patience and perseverance are noted. Later, he may be tapped for the crime lab, or the Special Branch (counterespionage). He may be marked as a potential detective or make a seamanMountie on one of the 25 RCMP coastal craft, to which hundreds of shipwrecked sailors owe their lives. He may have the firm patience of a dogmaster and be assigned to train the German shepherds and Doberman pinschers that track down escaped criminals, lost valuables and children lost in t he hush. His temperament may seem suited to a lonely Arctic post, lit* may even bí« sent to university where four or five Mounties are now studying chemistry, physics anil law. By the time 16 instructors have appraised a recruit, the RCMP has a pretty shrewd idea what kind of policeman he’ll make.

Three out of the thirty-man squad on an average will flunk the course, and for them there’ll be no second chance. The others will don, for the first time, the famous scarlet and gold of a Mountie’s dress uniform, anil “pass out” on parade before the commissioner, while the RCMP bañil plays anil the flag flaps in the breeze.

No matter where the young Mountie ends up, he’ll begin his career on detachment,. This means police service at some rural point, for the Mounties are provincial police everywhere except in Quebec and Ontario. Occasionally it means pounding a beat and checking parking meters in one of the 120 communities where the Mounties, by request, are the town cops. Or the rookie might start out in a big-city divisional headquarters, where 20 to 30 men enforce the federal laws on narcotics anil customs.

But the rookie won’t be tracking down drug peddlers for some time yet. For a few weeks he’ll accompany an experienced corporal or sergeant, one of the world’s most flexible policemen. He’ll watch him issue gun permits, give out relief, inoculate a dog for rabies, check on amusement taxes, prosecute a case in court and interview people who want to adopt a child. He’ll learn to handle a drunk, a mental patient, a traffic accident, a grain theft, possibly even how to take a package of nitroglycerine from an itinerant safe-blower.

The rookie’s first job alone will be routine: night highway patrol, escorting prisoners, working as telephone orderly or desk clerk. Nevertheless, from the moment he patrols alone, this young Mountie carries responsibility for the safety anti property of his fellow citizens. One Saturday night last

year in Lloydminster, Alta., a young constable, Joseph M. McCarthy, had just completed one of the dullest RCMP chores—“polishing doorknobs” i>n a town beat— anti was having a late snack in the National Cafe when a man hurried in to say there was trouble at the pool hall.

The pool hall was locked but a small group of men had gathered outside. “What’s the trouble?” McCarthy asked. No one answered. But the atmosphere was tense. The men seemed frightened. Looking them over sharply, the constable spotted an exconvict whose name was Donald Graves. When he questioned Graves the man was belligerent and evasive. The Mountie started to search him. In Graves’ right overcoat pocket he found a live .303 bullet. Suddenly Graves whipped out a knife with an open blade. McCarthy managed to knock it out of his hand. Graves jumped back, snatched a stockless rifle from under his coat, leveled it at the constable’s belt and swore hi' would “fill him full of lead.”

The men looking on were too frightened to come to the young Mountie’s aid. McCarthy began to edge closer to Graves, talking calmly, placat ingly. But the ex-convict kept backing up. mouthing threats, nerving himself to

shoot. Suddenly the Mountie lunged, knocking the gun barrel upward.

Then the ex-con reached in his pocket, snarling, “A .38 will do as well.” McCarthy spun him around, twisting his left arm behind him. The walking arsenal pulled another openbladed knife and began to slash at McCarthy over his shoulder. By the time other detachment men arrived, summoned by a spectator, Graves’ knife was cutting vicious but impotent arcs in the air as t he Mountie dragged him slowly off to cells. Graves is now in Prince Albert Penitentiary.

Before long the young Mountie has confidence in his ability to meet any situation. There’s a danger that this confidence may lead to cockiness and then to arrogance. But a small-detachment Mountie has three chastening influences: the law, the force anil the public. Under our laws, a policeman has unlimited responsibility but we place some sharp restraints on his authority. One of the RCMP’s most distinguished detectives, Asst. Com’r Melville (Tony) Anthony, illustrates the point:

“A policeman sees a man running down the street. He may be running to a date with his wife or away from a crime. If the policeman is one of my men and he passes up a man who should be arrested and I find out about it he’ll be out of a job. If he arrests the man wrongly, he’s responsible, not the force.” Any damages for false arrest would have to come out of the Mountie’s pocket.

In Winnipeg some years ago a bank messenger was robbed of several thousand dollars. The only lead was vague; the suspects had escaped in “a large black car.” All RCMP border detachments were alerted and, soon after-

ward, two Mounties cruising in a patrol car on the highway south of Winnipeg saw a large black car bearing down on them at eighty or ninety miles an hour. They flagged it down but if obviously had ni) intention of stopping.

They had a second or so to decidi' what to do. Should they use their submachine gun? How much force were they justified in using to stop the car? They decided not to open fire, gave chase instead and were stopped a mile from the border by a handful of roofing nails flung from the car ahead.

In less than a minute, the U.S. boî -tier police had the same dilemma—they didn’t know about the roofing nails. They too decided to follow the speeding car. Their police car had a full gas tank and sooner or later the car ahead would have to stop for gas. One hour later the car did stop. The brakes screamed, two men jumped out, opened up with machine guns, smashed the police car’s windshield, ripped open the radiator, tore holes in the U.S. policemen’s clothing but by a miracle didn’f kill them. Then the bank robbers forced the police to lie face down in the ditch while they made their getawayand they never were caught.

“The responsibility of decision is the biggest responsibility a human can assume,” says Anthony. “The policeman must mentally weigh the facts and act instantly. Afterward, if it comes to trial, the defense counsel will have three months to prepare his case and it’s easy to blast the policeman for making a mistake and we all do. But the policeman can’t walk away and consider how it should be done. All we can do is train our minds to observe anti remember and learn to make the link instantly between our knowledge of law and the facts we observe.”

In a few years most young Mounties think they’re as hot as Philo Vance, a conceit which a veteran knows how to deflate. A murder occurs which the young Mountie thinks only he can solve. “Here, my lad,” says the sergeant. “take this common assault. Constable Brown here will handle the murder.”

The young Mountie’s attitude is also shaped by the public. His rural constituents expect service, even to delivering a packet of pills when a farmer’s not feeling well. When a new man comes on detachment they quickly size him up. If he walks down the street as if he were on parade, a few bars of Rose Marie whistled behind his back soon takes the edge off his pride.

The public is also quick to complain. When a zealous hard-working young constable, Lloyd Bingham, was running a backwoods detachment during the Thirties, a storekeeper charged that a farmer had stolen his car. Bingham investigated. The storekeeper, lie found, had traded his old car to the farmer for twenty bushels of potatoes. A month later, he wanted the potatoes. The busy farmer asked him to wait another week. During that week, the price of potatoes dropped to 25 cents a bushel and the storekeeper was outraged.

The Mountie told the storekeeper he couldn’t lay a charge. “There must be intent to steal,” he said. “This is a civil matter.”

The storekeeper drove to a larger town, saw a magistrate and came back with a summons for Bingham to serve on the farmer. Bingham served it, studied the facts and in court presented the best case he could for the prosecution. But when he had finished he said, “Your Worship, I don’t think we have a case. It’s really too bad to waste your time like this.” The case was dismissed.

Three weeks later, while escorting a prisoner, Constable Bingham stopped off at a neighboring detachment. “I’ve

got something to show you,” the sergeant said. An elderly friend of the storekeeper, a chronic troublemaker who had studied at Harvard, had written three pages of rhetorical invective, accusing the farmer of making home brew and saying that Bingham, “a disgrace to the uniform,” had refused to prosecute him.

Bingham’s sergeant knew the writer’s reputation, nevertheless he investigated thoroughly. The charge, he reported, was groundless. Again, the man wrote to the agent of the provincial attorneygeneral saying that the sergeant had “whitewashed” Bingham. An officer from the provincial subdivision investigated. A third complaint brought a third investigation by a disciplinarian patrol sergeant from headquarters. Bach time Bingham was cleared. But each time-wasting investigation added fuel to his indignation.

If Can Be Frustrating

Next time in headquarters, Bingham requested to see the OC, the top-ranking Mountie of the province. The veteran listened benevolently to his story. “Well, my boy,” he said, “if there’s one reason we’ve got a reputation it’s because we take action on complaints. Go back and forget it. There never was a good Mounted Policeman that hadn’t been investigated three or four times.” The constable is now Supt. Bingham, adjutant of the force.

Often, the young Mountie puts in a lot of miles and hours only to have the complainant refuse to go through with I he process of law. In one case, a man’s hose had been stolen. When a Mountie investigated and discovered that his neighbor had stolen it, he backed out of laying a charge. As Asst. Com’r Anthony says, “You can’t get the facts

on any case unless people co-operate.”

The young Mountie looking for information learns not to hurry a farmer in the slack season and not to waste his time in the fall. He develops self-control when pestered by women with persecution complexes, reformers who want a local movie banned or farmers who want advice in civil problems which would tax the wisdom of a Supreme Court judge. Every day the public exercises his self-control. A Mountie in a large prairie detachment, for example, stopped a prominent citizen who’d been driving his car in a manner that showed quite clearly he’d been drinking.

“Do you know who I am?” the man demanded.

“Yes, Mr. —,” he said. “Will you come with me, please?”

The man broke into a tiradè of abuse. He had influential friends. He would speak to his MP. He’d break the blank-blank Mountie.

The Mountie listened patiently until he was through. “If you’ve nothing more to say,” he said, “would you mind coming with me?”

“This is a common occurrence,” says Bingham. “You catch a man breaking the law. He’s embarrassed, humiliated. He fights against it, and you’re the person he takes his resent ment out on. A policeman must understand this and not take it personally. You can’t look the other way when you see this man again and think, ‘This man doesn’t like me.’ You have to take the objective view of everything.”

During a wart ime raid on a Montreal plant that was making alcohol illegally, the inspector in charge of the RCMP searching squad noticed that one undersized young fellow scarcely seemed to know what was going on.

“How much are you making here, son?” he asked, sizing him up.

“Seventeen dollars a week,” the lad replied.

The inspector got him a job in a factory where he made three times as much as he’d ever made illegally. When the factory closed, the inspector found him work in a department store. Stories like these are told proudly in every detachment. “The more you know about people,” says Bingham, “the less you want to take them into court. But there’s got to be a point where sympathy leaves off and justice takes over.”

In a typical case, a Mountie came across a green deerskin which he traced to a bush worker with four children and a sick wife. He was sympathetic; nevertheless he brought the man in, took him before the justice of the peace, a local farmer, and explained the facts of the case, concluding, “This man can’t afford a fine.” The JP fined him, gave him six weeks to pay and in the meantime wrote the attorney-general of the province suggesting that the man be let off.

Even Midwife Duty

“The other way,” says Bingham, “is to close your eyes. But that’s not right. Where do you stop? The first thing you know a drunk drives by and you say, ‘That’s old Joe, he’s only had one drink too many.’ But if you didn’t know him you’d say, ‘That man’s a bloody menace to the community.’ The only way you can meet your responsibility to the community and still live with yourself is to be absolutely fair.”

With words like “objective” and “impartial” every veteran Mountie, rank and file, confirms this point. “You’ve got to be fair” is the Mountie’s working translation of the RCMP motto Maintien le Droit (Maintain the Right).

Imperceptibly, this impersonal selfless ideal begins to obscure the young Mounted Policeman’s individuality. At the same time, the pressures of his job are transforming his rigid discipline into a self-control that frees his initiative. An excellent example occurred before dawn one morning when the young constable at Green Lake detachment in Saskatchewan was awakened by a telephone call from a woman resident. She was pregnant and she wanted to be taken to the nearest hospital, 35 miles away in Meadow Lake.

The Mountie suggested a midwife. “No,” she insisted. “The baby’s premature. I’m afraid of complications.”

It was too early in the morning to get anyone else to drive her. The Mountie dutifully dressed, got in his car and picked up the woman. Sixteen miles out of Meadow Lake, she told him the baby was coming. He pulled off the road, examined her, and found that she was right. She had also been right about complications. It developed into a breech birth which the constable had to cope with from his knowledge of first aid and the sole aid of a razor blade. When the situation was under control he finished the trip to the hospital and handed over mother and child, both completely normal, except that the baby’s umbilical cord was tied with the constable’s shoe lace.

For this impressive feat Com’r Nicholson himself commended the young constable. But when the incident was told in the RCMP Quarterly the constable was not mentioned by name. The somewhat untypical story illustrates the typical Mountie: steady, resourceful and slightly anonymous. if

Next Issue: The Mounties Part Three The Public's Own Private Eyes