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Ten Thousand Miles Through Canada
Chapter IX

Through prairies to Rockies—Portage le Prairie—Regina —Government offices and mounted police—Climate—Growth of railways—Saskatchewan Province — Census returns of industries — Moose Jaw — Alberta Province—Uncultivated millions—Picturesque forests and streams—The home of the buffalo—Four great rivers—Misconceptions of climate—The heat line—The “chinook”—Wild grasses—Cattle rearing— Cereal productions—Exhibition medal awards—Wheat returns —Clover—Sheep and wolves—Horse breeding—Champions at the World’s Fair—Calgary—Democratic principles—Ranching and lumbering—The Bow and Kananaskas Rivers.

JOURNEYING from Winnipeg by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the great plain stretches to the horizon. Its topographical features are varied by lakes and rivers, but the general sense of flatness is so great that the traveller is unconscious of the fact that in the first fifty miles there has been a gradual ascent of 100 feet.

For many miles westward Winnipeg leaves its impress on industrial life, repeating itself in agriculture and commercial enterprise. At Portage le Prairie a busy grain market is indicated by huge elevators and agricultural plant. Mills and factories show activity in other branches of trade. At Brandon there are large flour and planing mills, and a


Dominion experimental farm; it is a town of 13,000 inhabitants, in close touch with the markets.

Hegina, the capital of Saskatchewan, marks a further advance in trade and civilization, and is a connecting link between the northern and southern portions of the province. The Government offices are located there, and the Lieutenant-Governor’s residence is a conspicuous building on the right-hand side of the line. It Is in keeping with law and order that the mounted police should be stationed in the same place. The Government buildings are an imposing suite which cost £300,000.

Saskatchewan lies in the same latitude as the British Isles. Owing to the influence of the Gulf Stream our own climate is largely exempt from extremes. Saskatchewan is of equable temperature, but for other reasons. It has a dry, clear atmosphere owing to its elevation above the sea, and is free from destructive storms. Summer heat averages about ninety degrees, but the winter is cold and dry. Railway accommodation has kept pace with the rapid growth of the settlements.

The province of Saskatchewan covers nearly 230,000 square miles. The Northern division is traversed by the Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Railways. The South-Eastern portion is an extension of the grain lands of Manitoba, embracing the wheat plains of Regina and Moose Jaw. The part lying between the Alberta boundary and Swift Current

and stretching to the international boundary-line, is occupied chiefly by ranchers. It is especially suited to the rearing of cattle on account of the abundance of “buffalo grass.” This is a short herbage on which cattle can thrive all the year without any other fodder. The Cypress Hills constitute a sheltered area admirable for stock farming. What is known as the “chinook” wind, which blows from the Pacific ocean across the Rockies, prevails in that locality, and is advantageous.

Between the north and south branches of the Saskatchewan River lie vast prairie lands, which in due season are likely to yield extensive crops. So far it is only a vast area of possibilities. Its soil is rich in the ingredients which nourish wheat plants; the climate is dry, and there is an absence of insect pests. Flax cultivation is very profitable, and crops can be relied upon from the first year. One notices these all along the railway track. In the great forest belt beyond the Qu’appelle River, there are areas suited to the raising of live stock or mixed farming. In the central division of the province, cattle and sheep require sheltering for the winter months, and sheep succeed best in small flocks.

The official returns indicate the growth of these and other industries. The Dominion census for 1901 reports 217,053 cattle and in 1906, 472,854, an increase of 255,801 in five years ; 300,000 lbs. of wool are shipped every year.

There appears to have been no diminution in the yields of crops from the time of the earliest settlers. The soil is clay, covered with 18 inches of rich loam, constituting an excellent bed for seed, and producing No. i hard wheat, for which Western Canada is famous.

Regina is a rapidly growing city and has a population of about 32,000 people.

Moose Jaw is 40 miles beyond the Saskatchewan capital. The origin of the name is associated with a legend of an enterprising wagoner who mended his cart with a moose jaw-bone. It is rich in storehouses and stock-yards connected with the grain-growing area. The growth of the population and the prosperity of trade in this part of the province has resulted in the laying down of a branch line which takes a north-westerly course to meet the requirements of agriculture. The extension of this line to Lacombe in Alberta is already projected. As an example of rapid growth, Mountain Lake district in the vicinity may be cited. In 1901 its population was 256; in 1906 it grew to 23,553.

Alberta is one of the two provinces that sprang out of the great plain lying between the Rockies and the great lakes. In extent it is greater than Germany or France, and Texas is the only one of the United States which exceeds it in size. It lies in the same zone as northern and central Europe, and its climate is similar to that of the countries within those latitudes.

During its short existence, its wealth and population have made rapid strides, and it is an example of young Canada growing with the advantages of the training of the Mother Country, and applying the experience to the new opportunity which the province affords.

Alberta contains over 160,000,000 acres of land, 100.000.000 of which are available for settlement. In 1909 only one per cent, was under cultivation. It is a vast undulating tableland, gently inclining towards east and north, and picturesquely set out with forest, hills and streams. Everywhere there are lovely lakes, yielding an abundant revenue of white fish. It was once the feeding-ground of the countless herds of buffalo, which were attracted to that region by the rich pastures. Alberta is well watered by great rivers. The Saskatchewan, with eleven tributaries t which form two branches, one irrigating the south, the other the north and central plains. The Peace River and the Athabasca, two huge watercourses of the Mackenzie basin, drain between them an area of 1.000.000 square miles. The Hay River forms the quartette of this combined watershed.

The climate has been depreciated, especially in English literature, by an erroneous notion that a rich fur trade was associated with Arctic conditions, and that Alberta, lying so far north, must be a region of ice and snow. When the Canadian Government dispatched its explorers they discovered that the

habitat of the fur-bearing animals was thousands of miles removed from the wheatfields of Alberta. The heat during the summer is equally distributed throughout the province. The rainfall takes place in May, June and July; and during the harvesting months dry weather may be reckoned on unhesitatingly. It is a common mistake to judge climate by latitude. Other forces materially affect it. Wind currents from land and sea, and thousands of square miles of high barren plains have a modifying effect over the entire province as far as the Arctic Circle. The line of greatest heat passes over Port Vermillion, 500 miles north of Edmonton, and 800 miles from the States boundary-line.

The chinook, a delightful breeze from the sea, is said to have a beneficial effect on the crops. In proof of the friendly climatic conditions, the official reports pointed out that the Indians lived for ages in these northern regions, and pitched their wigwams on the banks of the Athabasca and Saskatchewan, and wintered their horses on the unsheltered plains.

The North-West Mounted Police, which were organized in 1874, and are intimately acquainted with the province, confirm these reports. Two members of the force, whom I met on my homeward journey, described it as the finest climate in the Dominion. From the first of June to the first of August there are only two hours of darkness in the twenty-four. Wild grass is so good that there is no need to cultivate it. In the autumn, thousands of stacks may be seen. There is no rain to spoil the making. A variety of blue grass highly valued by cattle owners, grows in many districts, and the well-known Kentucky species is said to flourish better there than in its native soil.

The ingredients of the land consist of marly clay of great depth, overlaid with rich black absorbent soil, which chemical analysis has shown to possess all the plant foods, with almost a complete absence of stones. The latter feature greatly reduces the cost of breaking up the soil, and the steam plough effects the process at a cost of 15J. to 25s. per acre. Cattle grazing is carried on under favourable conditions, as there is no winter slush, and the animals thrive and grow fat. In April the snow clears, and spring opens, often with a breath of the chinook winds, which raises the temperature almost to summer heat.

It is as a cereal-producing province that Alberta is likely to be distinguished in the future. The British Association meeting at Winnipeg, August, 1909, pointed out that it is par excellence the wheat belt of the continent, and just as other areas of the United States have become celebrated as the corn belt of the continent, the provinces of the Canadian West will become the great wheat-producers for the United States and Great Britain. At the exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876, a medal was taken for wheat grown 750 miles north of the international boundary

line; and at the World’s Columbian Exhibition, 1893, the highest award was given for wheat grown in the Peace River valley.

The following returns show the progress made between 1900 and 1909 :—

Alberta also grows a fine quality of oats. Fifty to sixty bushels an acre are a general yield, sometimes running up to 100 bushels. Thirty-four pounds is the standard weight for a bushel of oats. At the Provincial Seed Fair in 1909, a bushel weighing 50 lb. took the first prize. Alberta invaded Paris, and took the highest award for oats at the last exhibition. The increase in the production of this important cereal has been from 3,000,000 to 24,000,000 bushels in nine years.

The province yields two or three different kinds of clover, which command a high price. The timothy species yields from two to three tons an acre, and is sold at from £2 10s. to £3. Alfalfa commands the highest price.

The fertility of the soil, singularly enough, is attributed to the climate, which at one time was regarded as inimical to agricultural interests. Prof. Macoun, of the Canadian Geological Survey, points out that as long as the West is blessed with winter frosts and summer rains, so long will teeming crops be the product of her soil. The frosts help to crumble it; the rain and sunshine do the rest. Artificial means of nourishing are unnecessary, the grain entrusted to its keeping has eighteen inches to feed on.

It naturally follows that the conditions that prevail in Alberta supply the best advantages for the rearing of live-stock. The breaking up of the soil has also been instrumental in disbanding the enormous herds of cattle belonging to the old ranching days. Cattle-feeding on a smaller, and from the farmers’ point of view more efficient, scale is carried on as a remunerative industry. The demand for home-grown beef is exceeding the supply.

Sheep are kept nearer home, and are no longer the prey of the destructive coyote. A good wolfhound or two are a sufficient provision against that. The reward given by the Government for the wolfs head has tended to put a check on the depredations of the thief.

Success in horse-breeding has been marked of recent years. The heavy draught teams seen in the towns and cities indicate this. At the Pan-American Exhibition, and the New York Horse Show, the champion hackney came from Calgary. At the

World’s Fair at St. Louis in 1904, the champion stallion and mare were raised in Alberta.

From Calgary to Saskatoon a new branch of the Canadian Northern Railway is about to be opened. It traverses a tract of rich fertile prairie on which towns are clustering with great rapidity. The laying down of rails and the growth of towns follow as cause and effect. The traveller who found nothing but the most primitive railway station on this newly-constructed track one year, and passing the same way a year later, would fine a population of one thousand people and all the bustle of a thriving town. This is precisely the case of Kindersley.

Saskatoon, the starting point of this branch, in 1903 consisted of 113 souls. In seven years it developed into a population of 13,000, and possesses all the advantages of a university, an agricultural college, and five schools.

From Swift Current to Medicine Hat the Canadian Pacific line skirts hills rising to a considerable altitude. The route leads through the valley of the South Saskatchewan River. Fruit-farming, for which the district is particularly adapted, is carried on there. The industry is fostered by the Government, which works a model farm in the district. All along the journey to Calgary the great plains hold the monopoly. Rivers, lakes, and occasional distant rising slopes are passing incidents. It is prairie, prairie, boundless prairie on both sides of the train for days.

Great plains roll away before the eyes, untouched by human hand, unbroken by agricultural implement, as virgin as when the primeval light fell on them. Here and there a solitary homestead comes into sight, but the lonely pioneer of civilization only emphasizes the awful sense of detachment. Herds of cattle raise their startled heads in mute surprise at the invader. Horses swish their long tails and with ears erect make ready for a stampede. At intervals a golden cornfield flashes into sight, and a wagon drawn by a team of horses, carts sheaves for threshing. A crow, whose solitary habits were in keeping with the loneliness, idly flitted across the scene. Of other signs of animal life there were few. Prairie chickens found sufficient covering in the standing corn or sheaves to hide themselves from view. Gophers, po-ta-chi-pin-gwa-si, “the thing that blows up the loose earth,” as the Saltaux Indians call them, were seen close to the railway cutting, reared on their hind legs and gazing in curiosity, as if daily intercourse with the new order of things had blunted their timidity. We were on the look-out for larger game, but saw nothing but a badger, which dodged behind loose stones and soon disappeared.

Calgary takes a place second only to Winnipeg. It has a population of over 60,000, and has progressed so far in democratic principles as to municipalize its

tram cars and electric lighting. It is an active centre of ranching and lumbering.

The railway journey takes the course of the Bow River, and a gradual ascent is made towards the mountain region. The Kananaskas River mingles its waters with that of the Bow a little further on, and the united force is concentrated in the roar of the Kananaskas Falls.

This waterway is drafted into service for purposes of irrigation as well as serving Calgary for the transportation of its lumber. Through the Gap there is a splendid view of the Bow River up-stream. The mountains on both sides lean across as if they were about to form a natural rock bridge, but stop abruptly as if they had suddenly changed their mind. A vulture flitted between them as our train sped by.

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