Hay-cutting began on the 20th (afterwards 25th) July, and the scene of operations was the wild prairie. The outer two miles of each river frontage belonged, for hay purposes, to the frontage owner up to a certain date, but for the most part cutting was done on prairie that was free as air to everybody. The best hay meadows were located in good time before the above date, and on the night before people were camped all around them. Each one knew pretty well just the spot he was going to strike next morning, and if more than one had their eyes on the same spot, it became the property of the one who reached there first and made a “circle” by cutting around the field he wished to claim. There was sometimes (in dry years when hay was scarce) great rivalry, and we have seen camps all ready to start on the stroke of midnight, and actually starting to mark out circles in a thunderstorm. We have seen a circle entered by another than the one who made it, but it was in the case of someone who had tried to circle the whole prairie for himself, and in such case the unwritten law of the camp said that it served him right. There was rarely any trouble to speak of, and we look back to the camp on the prairie with its many tents like a white village as a most delightful and health-giving experience.
Posts Tagged ‘The Rev. R. G. MacBeth’
Marriages, were as a rule celebrated in the church, and all the guests drove there often to the accompaniment of shot-gun salutes of honor by the way. This drive to and fro was par excellence the time for displaying fast horses, whose decking in gay ribbons called “wedding favors,” took up more attention than the adornment of the person. The speediest horses were secured for such occasions. We have known men go long distances to secure some noted horse, and consternation reigned when it leaked out that some one had secured so and so’s “Charlie” or “Tom.” for the wedding. On the way home speeding could be indulged in to any extent, with one well-defined limitation, namely, that no one was to pass the bridal party on pain of social ostracism. On the Sabbath succeeding the wedding the “kirking” took place, the bridal party and “best young people” in all their wedding bravery of millinery driving together with their gaily decked horses to church and there occupying a special pew. When the groom brought his bride to his ancestral mansion, a “home wedding” was given with practically the same amount of social function as had attended the ceremony of the marriage. As a general thing the dowry was not large when the people were poor, but in addition to the outfitting such as the custom required a few choice cows were driven over to the bridegroom’s farm as a nucleus for future wealth in flocks and herds.
A special dance known as the “Red River jig” we have never seen any one but a native of the country do to perfection. The music was always the violin played to the vigorous accompaniment of the foot, and we have known men carry with them an extra pair of moccasins, so that when one pair was worn out on the rough floor they might not be at a loss.
by Elizabeth Campbell
I just recently finished reading this little gem of a book. I’ve had it tucked away on my bookshelf for years. About a year ago, a TLSARL friend sent me a URL that led me to a site where I could read it online if I cared to, and his thoughtfulness reminded me that mine was buried somewhere. I dug it out, but still didn’t read it for some time.
I have yet to find mention of the monetary value of a dog at Red River, but there is plenty of evidence that people placed a high value on their dogs.
There were other purposes for dogs. In August of 1812, Miles Macdonell writes about Fort Alexander that, although it was on a river (the Winnipeg) key to commerce, the river “was a scarce place for provisions. The Canadians killed two dogs for their supper.”
The winter of 1825-6 was a bitter winter. The Bison disappeared, and travel across the massive drifts of snow was nearly impossible. Dogs became a part of the diet of the starving colonists.