homesteading experiences (tragedies).
home page for alittlehistory.com1874 The Mounted Police Tame the Wild Westthe Metis half of the 1885 Northwest Rebellionthe Native half of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion1900-05 Diary of a student and young teacher1908-1920 homesteading experiences and lifestyle1920's farm and community lifestyle1954-56 diary of a boy, before the effects of televisionthe future: extending human limitations through technology (eg. computers and inline skating), presenting history with applets, a new family recreation program, etc.


Tragedies and Near Tragedies

One day the two men were out shooting and Tom raised his gun to fire at a prairie chicken, but the gun accidentally discharged and shot Mr. Gibson. We were in the garden and saw Tom come over the hill, waving his arms and shouting for someone to come. My husband went over at once and when he saw what had happened he drove to Drumheller in a hurry, for the doctor but Mr. Gibson died before the doctor arrived.

In 1919, our neighbour, Tom McKee made a trip to Ireland, leaving a young Austrian named Otto in charge of his farm. Our children always called him "Two Chances to One," because he used that expression in almost every sentence, sometimes more than once. He often visited us and I think of him with the deepest gratitude. That was the winter of the second flu epidemic and all seven of us had it at once. I was the last to go down. I had been waiting on the others and doing the chores. When I had to give up, we got "Two Chances to One" to come over and milk the cow and do the other outside chores each day. I don't know what we would have done without him. Most of the neighbours were sick too, and had their own troubles.

One day before I took sick, my husband suddenly got out of bed and was determined to go outside. I stood between him and the door and watched him trying to get dressed. He soon played out and was glad to be helped back to bed. He did not attempt to get up for a whole week . . . .   If he had gone out that day, it is very unlikely that he would have recovered, as we heard of many people who went outside, came in and went to bed and never got up again. It seems wonderful that all seven of us got over it with no doctor or nurse to take care of us.


There were many near tragedies in those days, some of them in our own family. One day my husband tried to ford the river . . . . He got into deep water and the horses started to swim. The wagon box floated off the running gear and he was out in the water . . . and, being fully clothed, with great difficulty he managed to swim a few yards till his feet touched bottom and he was able to walk to shore. The horses reached the other side, but one of them became entangled in the harness and was drowned. . . .

The loss of the horse was a serious blow to us. We had no money to buy another, so my husband and his brother Tom made a trip to Calgary to make arrangements for a loan . . . . That was the beginning of our experience with debt and it lasted till very recent years. The debt increased, largely through having a well drilled, and when the bank would no longer carry the note, we had to mortgage the farm to pay it off.


Then there was the ever present danger of fire. It was many years before we had a brick chimney. At first the stove pipe went straight up through the roof and the distance between the stove and the roof was far too short.

the shack - 39 kb
click to enlarge (39 kb)

This is what was left of the homestead shack in 1956.
This photo is part of an aerial photograph which was taken of the farm at that time.

One hot summer day I decided to do my washing out behind the shack in the shade. I made a wood fire in the stove to heat the water and was washing away when I heard a crackling noise . . . . I looked up and saw flames coming out under the roof . . . . I used the wash basin to throw the water up to the roof and finally got the fire out . . . .   After that, we fixed the stove pipe differently.


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