Puslapio vaizdai

is opened up to settlement, and railroads are In the southern portions of the country, in built to supply the necessary means of trans- what may be called the Winnipeg region, there portation, it will become increasingly impor- exists the black prairie loam, of considerable tant. At Edmonton, on the North Saskatche- depth, so characteristic of the prairie areas of wan, seams of coal of a thickness of five or six Illinois and Iowa. Farther west and north, feet are known and worked. Coal from these about Regina, the present capital of the provstrata is used in the blacksmith's forge with ince, this friable, easily tilled soil changes to success. Seams of much greater thickness are a tough brown clay called “ gumbo.” In sumreported to exist nearer the foot-hills, but until mer it becomes nearly as hard as rock, dries recently the knowledge of them was confined and cracks into areas of perhaps a square yard to a few half-breed and Indian traders and each, between which deep fissures run, of a hunters.

breadth of two or three inches and a depth of The soil of the country is mainly a yellow a foot or more. In such a soil the grass is clay of unknown depth, of superior fertility pinched and scanty, and traveling over the surwhen exposed to the action of sun and frost, face either on horseback or on wheels is trying but difficult to cultivate. It abounds in alkali, to the last degree. A team of not less than four and this fact, together with the cool climate of horses is needed for breaking it up, and it turns the latitude, renders it the natural home of the up in great lumps containing several cubic feet. wheat-plant, of which no insect enemies are Fortunately it slacks upon exposure to the air here known. Grass is found everywhere, in the and the frost, and proves to be very fertile and swamps, on the slopes, and among the hills productive. When wet it adheres to vehicles even to their summits. It is of several varie- and implements with the utmost tenacity, and ties and of varied excellence. In the vicinity in grading railroad embankments on the Canaof the thriving settlement of Prince Albert, not dian Pacific Railway a man with a shovel was more than one or two hundred miles from the assigned to each scraper and each plow to junction of the two great streams already spoken remove the gummy mass. Where the ordinary of, on the slopes of a long hill, I remember that yellow clay is found, the surface becomes hard as I rode along the heads of the thick, nutri- in summer, and the grass suffers in times of tious grasses were on a level with the seats of drought; but wherever the badgers have thrown the wagon upon which we sat. Farther west up the earth about their burrows, the grasses there are large tracts well suited to cattle-rais- grow rank and tall. Where settlement has been ing, notwithstanding the severity and the length made, wheat is sown in the spring as soon as of the winters. A fine grass grows to the height the snow disappears and an inch of soil is reof about twenty inches, and as the season of leased from the grasp of the frost. It germinates growth closes, it cures as it stands into a natu- quickly in the clear, hot sunshine and the long, ral hay of great excellence; so that in winter, cloudless days of the high northem latitude, beneath snow a foot and a half in depth, there and sends its roots downward with the retreatis often found a layer of bright, well-cured hay ing cold, while the upward growth is astonishof a lively green color, and eight or ten inches in ing. The slowly unlocking ice-crystals furnish thickness, every particle of which animals eat a constant supply of moisture and the cool soil with avidity. In other localities a short buf- so congenial to the plant. In a period of about falo-grass mats the surface, and formerly fur- ninety days the crop matures, and with the most nished abundant pasturage for countless herds ordinary culture the farmer harvests from forty of buffalo, now unfortunately nearly extinct. to fifty bushels of wheat that weighs from sixtyIn marshy regions, besides the customary well- two to sixty-eight pounds to the bushel. Oats, known marsh-grasses, the “goose-grass,” more barley, and root-crops grow with equal luxuri. commonly known in this country as the scour- ance, heads of the first-named often measuring ing-rush (Equisetum, probably hiemale), is of- fourteen inches, and potatoes of two or more ten found, and, strange to say, it proves to be pounds weight being common. These crops most fattening to horses. Where it abounds, grow freely as far north as the Peace River the native ponies, after a long season's service country, in latitude 60°, but, of course, this in a trader's brigade of carts, turned out as val- whole region is unsuited to the growth of corn, ueless and abandoned to die, come out in the orof the commoner fruits of the temperate zone. spring with sleek coats of hair, every gall-mark Certain indigenous fruits, however, are abungone, and, as the traders say, “ rolling fat.” In dant and valuable, among which may be menwaterless tracts a small patch of “goose-grass” tioned the common strawberry, which in places furnishes both food and drink for the animals grows so thickly that the wheels of a cart in of an outfit, so that they fare better than the passing over the ground are speedily reddened. men, who, in the absence of water, can do no and the tracks resemble stripes of blood on the cooking, and do not care to eat ungarnished grass, while the fruity fragrance fills the air. A pilot-bread.

fine variety of the black cherry grows in thick


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ets in many places, and supplies large quanti- practical extinction of the bufialo, and to go ties of desirable fruit to the wandering bands of without fire for days together is no unusual Indians. Another berry which attracted atten- experience. When water also is not to be had, tion, and which, I think, would repay cultivation as often happens in traveling on these plains, as an agreeable substitute for the common cur- the plight of the traveler is by no means enrant, now nearly ruined by the currant-worm in viable. And sometimes when water is abunso many parts of this country, is what is known dant enough in lakes and ponds all about, it is among the half-breeds and Hudson's Bay em- not drinkable, and no boiling or other means ployees as the “red berry.” It is probably the of purification will render it serviceable. Or buffalo-berry of the upper Missouri, Elæag- the loveliest color, as blue as the sky, lakes by nacea Shepherdia argentea. At the elbow of the score may be counted from a single standthe South Saskatchewan River it is found grow- point, let into the surrounding hills at various ing in thickets, as also in many other localities. elevations like steps of lapis lazuli

, without conThe shrub sometimes attains á height of fifteen nection, inlet, or outlet; but so bitter are the feet, having a black bark, very hard wood, many waters that no animal, either horse or man. strong spines, and small, simple leaves. The would drink of them. In them and around berries are borne in the axils of the branchlets, them, within the reach of the alkaline waters and are usually three in number and of the di- when blown by the wind, no vegetation is mensions of a medium-sized pea. They are of found, and on them no wild fowl alights. As a bright scarlet color, though a yellow variety camping-time approaches, near nightfall, in is sometimes found, and in flavor they resemble traveling over these plains, it is a necessary the common red currant of the gardens. The preliminary to send out a guide to taste the hardiness of this fruit, its fine acid taste, and its water of some pond near which it is proposed freedom from insect enemies render it probably to make camp. Throwing himself prone upon a desirable addition to our list of known fruits. the ground, he takes a quantity into his mouth, But the most esteemed wild berry of the region and then usually ejects it with a shake of is that which is called by the poetical name the head and the emphatic utterance of the “Saskatoon.” It is the Amelanchier Canadensis single word “ Bad.” Since, however, the waters of the botanists, known by various common of a tract may be of quite different characters, names, as the shad-berry, the June-berry, and it is usual to find among the bitter lakes one or the service-berry. It is gathered in large quan- more whose waters may be drunk with passable tities, and one of its principal uses is in making satisfaction. berry pemmican, than which there is no more One day in summer, on leaving a river, misdelectable food to an Indian or a Hudson's led by the appearance of the country before Bay man.

us, we took no water with us, arguing from Of the forests of the northwest plains little the appearance of a distant forest on our line can be said. From Lake Winnipeg on the of advance that water must be discoverable. east to the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains When we reached the belt of poplar woods, on the west, and from below the international the sun was about setting, and we made all boundary to the far northern regions inhabited haste, leaving the carts still loaded, to find by the “Huskies,” or Eskimos, no forests of some creek or pond before the long, lingering large area and commercial value are to be twilight of the north should turn to darkness. found. Indeed, the scarcity of trees and water Not a drop of water could be found in any constitutes the most surprising and prominent direction, and we were forced to make camp characteristic of this wide region. For more in a hollow where the goose-grass afforded than two weeks at a time one may travel con- sustenance for our horses. Without water no stantly and not find so much as a twig or a cooking could be done, and a fire was unshrub of any kind. Even the willow is not necessary. Thirsty as well as weary, we lay found, and nothing but grass and sky meet down to sleep. In the early dawn, my halfthe view in any direction. I have crossed great breed guide declared that in a certain direcrivers, skirted considerable lakes, and traversed tion, at the distance of a mile or two, a body hilly tracts for hundreds of miles at a stretch, of water could be found. During the night he and have had to depend for cooking purposes had heard wild geese flying over, and from upon an oil-stove, which I had taken the pre- their cries as they alighted he was informed of caution to carry with me. In the absence of the existence of water not far away as certainly such provision, the only resource is to carry as if he had seen it. We broke camp, and, a few dry poplar poles upon one of the carts, moving in the direction designated, within an to be used with such economy as only a half- hour came to a lake the waters of which, albreed or an Indian knows for cooking his though not sweet, were drinkable. Here we scanty food and for boiling tea. Even the took breakfast. “ buffalo-chips" have disappeared since the About Lake Winnipeg, and also on the head

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waters of the rivers near the mountains, are try would be considerably changed as to aridfound some considerable forests of spruce; but ity, exposure to extreme cold, and vegetable the trees are not large or tall, and the lumber products. Considerable forests of this wood they are capable of affording is of no great value have been ravaged by the fires, and the trees yet or amount. The oak is not found above lati- stand branchless, dry, and rotting in the wind. tude 500, or, say, one hundred miles north of In other parts the woodland is still green and the southern boundary-line, and even further vigorous, and is liable to flourish for many south than that line it is mostly of the variety years longer, unless it too encounters the usual known as the bur-oak, and it is dwarfed and fate. As a proof of the tendency toward forest valueless. Along the streams the box-elder development seen in these regions, it is enough (Negundo aceroides) is sometimes seen, but it to say that the traveler finds now and then conrarely exceeds a thickness of six inches and a siderable plantations of aspens of one, two, or height of thirty feet. With the exception of a few three years' growth, which have already been specimens of the ash, it is practically the only swept by the fires, like their more mature comhard wood known. The characteristic wood panions; while again a forest of seedlings has of the country is the aspen (Populus tremu- just set out upon a precarious existence. When loides), the most widely dispersed deciduous dry, the wood of this tree is light, stiff, and tree of the northern parts of the continent of sufficiently hard for most uses, although not which I have any knowledge. From below the very tough. Of it the half-breed and the Hudlatitude of Washington as far north as I have son's Bay hunter or trapper build their rude ever been, where other varieties of deciduous cabins, the logs rarely exceeding eight or ten trees diminish and disappear, the aspen poplar inches in diameter. These houses are generally maintains its existence, and I have found it small, perhaps sixteen or eighteen feet square, growing in sheltered depressions along the hills and rarely more than six feet high at the corfar up toward latitude 600, hundreds of miles ners. Each consists of a single room, which north of any other deciduous forest-tree. Prob- serves for all the purposes of family life, havably the aspen and the willow are the two forms ing one low, battened door turning on wooden of deciduous forest vegetation which endure hinges. It is roofed with alternate layers of successfully the widest variety of climatic con- prairie-grass and mud to the thickness of half ditions. Were it not for the prairie fires which a foot or more, resting on a layer of the poplar sweep over the plains in autumn and spring, poles placed close together. A single small it is probable that in a few years vast tracts now window, generally unglazed, serves the usual covered only with grass would become aspen purposes of such an opening. The floor is of forests, and the present conditions of the coun- puncheons of the same wood as the rest of the


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house, or is simply the clay tramped hard and which on trading days — never Sundays— the smooth. The chimney and fireplace are made motley crowd of Indians, half-breeds, and reneof mud molded upon a rude structure of sticks gade white trappers and hunters are allowed to give it form and stability. The fireplace, un- to enter with their packs of furs. At Edmonton, like the openings in the chimneys of our own through openings in the blockhouses, there backwoods, are not low and wide, but nar- peer down in grim silence what appear to be row and tall

, perhaps one foot and a half by mounted cannon of small caliber and ancient four feet in dimensions ;

construction, but their moral effect alone is and in them the half-breed

relied upon, for they too, like the rest of the sets up the billets of fuel

structures, are of wood only. on end, having cut them

By preference, and from lack of other timin the half-breed fashion.

ber, of this same poplar the half-breed of the His ax is of light weight,

northwestern plains constructs his cart — the and is always used in one

characteristic vehicle for all purposes in sumhand as an American uses

mer, and his sledge or jumper for winter use. a hatchet, the other hand

With his ax, an auger, and his buffalo-knife being employed in sup

for tools, in a short time he builds a light, stout porting the slender log

cart singularly well adapted to his circumhe is chopping. Instead

stances. As ordinarily constructed, it contains, of notching the logs which IRON COLLAR," like the harness with which it is attached to the make the walls of his

draft-animal, not a particle of iron. The wheels abode upon one another at the corners, as is are well framed together, and are about five customary in the new parts of this country, the feet in diameter. The spokes are well driven dweller in the Northwest squares large posts for into the nave, the pieces of the felly are dowthe corners and for the sides of the door, and in eled together, and the structure dishes after the these makes longitudinal channels two or three most approved fashion. The pony or the bulinches wide and deep to receive corresponding lock which is to supply the motive power is flat tenons wrought on the ends of the logs. harnessed between two large, light shafts, and The cracks and openings between the logs are upon the axle of the cart a light framework is stopped with clay, and thus after a few days' built to contain the packages which are to form work, with an ax as his only implement, he the load. It is lined and floored with thin constructs a house which makes up for all its boards wrought out of trees with the ax, or, deficiencies, from an architectural point of view, more recently, the whip-saw. On such a cart by its inexpensiveness and its comfort in a hy- a load of eight hundred pounds can be carried perborean climate. Like other primitive struc- with safety, and its strength is such that repairs tures of man, it seems to have been suggested are rarely necessary. When a break does octo the builder by the abodes of birds and ani- cur a ready resource is found in the bundle mals in nature, like the dugout of Dakota ; of “shaganappy," or strips of tanned buffaloand I could never come upon a cluster of hide, which the native traveler always carries these cabins without observing their resem- with him. Applied wet and flexible by wrapblance to the nests of the mud-wasps. ping around the broken shaft, felly, or axle,

The so-called forts of the Hudson's Bay it soon dries in the wind of the plains and Company are in reality nothing more than hardens like bone, and no second fracture can trading-posts, and little reliance could ever occur at the mended place. The harness also, have been placed on the strength and solidity made of the same tanned hide, can easily be of their construction against determined hos- mended with the same material. It is an amustile attacks, even from Indians. A palisade of ing sight to observe the method of effecting split logs of poplar twelve or fifteen feet high, such repairs. By some sudden wrenching ocsometimes with blockhouses at the corners casioned by a deep rut, a long-used shaft is somewhat higher than the palisade itself, some- splintered, and must be mended. The strip of times without, incloses an area in which are hide is softened in water, and two men wrap it placed the log structures used as storehouses, closely about the broken part. Bracing their blacksmith-shops, and other necessary offices, feet, they draw the bandage with all the strength together with the residence of the factor,orchief of their hands and the muscles of their backs trader. Naturally these are of better construc- until you would say it could be drawn no more; tion and more commodious than the single but the process is not yet completed to the houses of the few settlers outside the stockade, satisfaction of the dusky workmen. They now and they are generally two low stories in height; take the free ends in their teeth, and, using but all are made of logs of the poplar. The their hands as additional braces, they pull backblockhouses are pierced for rifles, and com- ward with such a strain as only iron jaws and mand the approaches to the stout gates by steel teeth can withstand. The ends are now

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