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Canadian Life as I Found It
Chapter XXXV January, 1907

OUR Christmas and New Year's festivities are over. On Christmas Day we had eleven men to dinner; all our bachelor neighbours, in fact. After dinner we had selections on the gramophone a neighbour brought over, and after supper we had songs, and smoked till midnight; luckily my wife does not object to the fumes of tobacco.

On New Year's Day we went to our Scotch friends, four miles north of us, to dinner. We had a very pleasant time, but it came on to snow, so we had to stay there all night, which was rather a tax on a bachelor's establishment; but with wife and child I could not risk losing our way on the prairie. The weather moderated next day, and we were able to get home early, and found our animals none the worse for their master's absence; but it is, as I said before, always a risk in winter to go any distance from home, especially accompanied by one's womenfolk. `Wood is giving out, and it is doubtful when I shall be able to get to the bush for any more. This is turning out a terrible winter, storm after storm, and we are now almost snowed up; we have 3 feet of snow on the prairie, and some drifts are over 6 feet deep. It is hard work, both for men and horses, to get about; the cold is intense, and somehow we seem to feel it more this year than the last two winters.

For three days past the thermometer has been at 45 below zero, only I am thankful to say there has not been much wind; had there been it would have touched us up pretty sharply, when looking after the stock night and morning.

I am afraid that we shall hear of a lot of misery this winter; the bad weather came on so suddenly that people had no time to prepare for it. We have come through so far none the worse; very cold at times, for our heater is nearly played out, and I must get another when I can go into Saskatoon.

You ask about steam ploughs; well, we can get them out here, but it is really no economy having them to work your land; you have to disc and backset and harrow the land after them. Three dollars an acre is charged for breaking alone, and one has to supply fuel, food, and water. Fifty acres would cost me 150 dollars, so you see it is cheaper to buy another horse, with which I could do not only my breaking, but all the work that follows as well. As for the cost of keeping horses out here, you cannot judge by what they cost at home; hay costs nothing but the trouble of cutting it, nor more does straw; we grow our own oats, and look after our animals mostly ourselves.

I bought a binder, and I am going to cut several neighbours' crops to help repay the cost of it, but I must have sufficient horse power to draw it, as it is a heavy implement.

The weather is getting much colder; it is at 58 below zero to-day. It certainly makes one feel inclined to sell and seek a warmer climate. We had to go off, notwithstanding the snow and cold, to struggle into town, for the coal and wood were giving out. W---- went with me. We had a terrible time, We waited two days for coal, and then had to go home without any; lines all blocked, trains snowed up, and the town quite out of coal. Several families were living together so as to keep warm, economize fuel, and share stores. No mails had got through for some time.

Here in the country we are nearly as badly off, only I managed to secure a load of dry wood, a neighbour let me have a half ton of coal, and I bought another heater stove, only it was a hard time, we both got frost-bitten; I got my nose and eyelids, and W--- his ears. For days we were a picture to look at, but we are getting all right again now; still my nose is very tender.

I went on the way home to inquire how the S--- 's were. Poor S--- has had seven toes amputated; on one foot there is only the little toe left. He intends to go home with his wife and children next winter before, as he quaintly said, "I lose any more of myself."

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