My big brother, Frank, wrote a lot in his diary when we were in Saskatoon. Here is how he described the village: It is a peculiar looking place dumped down facing the railway line, all the buildings but one are of wood & all have a new look. The one exception to the wooden rule is the Windsor Hotel which is built of stone. Where they got the stone from & how they got it set up is a mystery to me but there it is, one solitary stone building among the wooden ones.
Every day the train brought a fresh shipment of horses but they sold out before Frank and Dad could buy any. That’s why we were stuck in Saskatoon for two weeks. Frank describes how we finally got horses: After waiting about for a day or two we hear of a car load of horses which Mr.Barr has had sent up & we run to go & inspect them & the result is that we buy two chestnuts for 375 dollar the two….We next go down to the harness man to get them fitted & find that he will not have any harness ready for three days so that we are still further delayed. Finally after wasting nearly a fortnight at Saskatoon we start our trek westward of 220 miles.
Oh, my goodness, I was so excited to leave on Monday April 27 but the adults decided not to go. Frank explains: The weather was so very cold that we thought it would be foolhardy to heat the horses with working them & then have them standing out all night with the thermometer anything between 10 & 20 degrees below zero. And it was cold! I froze in bed that night even wrapped in my eiderdown with all my winter clothes on.
Luckily it was much warmer the next day. I skipped along happily beside the wagon. I didn’t know until I read the diary that Frank and Dad were already worried: We have heard some very bad reports about the road. There have been two or three smashes with waggons being stuck in sloughs then getting their horses frightened & the waggon upset & all their things turned into the muddy water. And these were just the rumors that came back to Saskatoon. It got much worse than this!
In fact we had a terrifying experience our first night on the trek – my first night ever sleeping in the wilderness! I was sound asleep but Frank woke up: About 12 o’clock one of my uncle’s horses got loose and started cantering round among the tents. Oliver and I heard a swish of a hoof close to our heads and then there was a crash & a sound of tearing of linen. We go outside & find that it (the horse) had passed between our tent and the one next to ours & had caught its shoe in the ropes of the other tent, falling nearly on the occupants thereof. I was asleep in the other tent with Lydia and the horse almost trampled on my head!
The next evening we found a beautiful place to camp. Although this really happened my author did not include it in the book. Frank did record it in his diary and I’m sharing just part of his entry: After driving over a lovely plain we came to a village in a valley and found that it was a Doukhobour village. These Doukhobours are a Russian religious body … and have left their native country because of the persecution they have been subjected to… the people have a reputation of being honest, kind-hearted people…It was a lovely evening…the peaceful little village in the valley with its houses of logs and thatch roofs making a pretty picture with the setting sun as a background.