How fantastic is this first photo? I know I’ve seen it in other publications, and probably read the story behind it, but I’d forgotten until my uncle told it again at Christmas. Margy Buckley – the only person left standing during the 1918 flu pandemic. There she is out feeding cows and looking more stylish than I will look at any point today.
“John told about the Indian Sun-Dance. It was about the time of the Frog Lake Massacre and the Indians were pretty touchy. He had given out rations of print etc to be made into clothing. Instead they tore it up into little pieces and stuck it on the tree tops long before the Sun Dance. He described the Sun Dance much as you read about it today but the braves cut holes in their shoulders, put thongs through the muscles, and dragged poles, and sometimes ponies around and around the lodge, always yelling at the top of their voices, until they would faint.
“Well he got a job with the Indian department as farm instructor at Crooked Lakes near Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan and then he followed the railway to Sarcee. You remember they were issuing rations to the Indians in 1886 and 1887 and that’s what John was doing and running freight from Sarcee to the Stones. He used to drive a bull team; took him two days to make the journey.
“He had to stay overnight at the home of Napoleon Blanche; that was the only house between the two reserves. Nearly always John had an Indian guide.
“There is a story that Mr. Blanche trie to raise hogs just like cattle. He would turn the sows out on the range in the spring. It would be nothing to jump a bunch of razor-back hogs during the summer as one rode across the country. In the fall the hogs, as many as could be found, were gathered in. The next problem was the slaughter and dressing of these porkers. Apparently Mr. Blanche was not very skillful at the job for when scalding and shaving off their hair failed he decided to skin them. After all were skinned they looked such a gory and disturbing sight that he decided to put them up in the hay loft. He stood the frozen carcasses on their feet and covered them with hay so that nobody could see them. However, a neighbour made a friendly call one evening and went to the loft to get feed for his horse. Uncovering one of the skinned hogs gave him such a start that he backed up and fell down through the hole in the floor to the manger below. He wasn’t injured but certainly had a good fright.
“It was a mighty different life to what my folks had planned for him. He’d taken the civil service examinations in Ireland and he’d passed. But he just wouldn’t take a job. That’s what my father wanted for me too, but I wanted to go farming. I was going to go to Australia, but I came out to my brothers’s place instead.
“Anyway, Dick was the next one to come to Canada. He got here in 1887 and first of all he got a job in Calgary working on the old Mission Bridge so that he’d have enough money to buy a team and wagon.
“Then they started looking for land; the country wasn’t surveyed then, and they passed through Springbank to Jumping Pound. So John and Richard were in partnership from 1888 go around 1900.
‘If a man had an axe and a hammer and a saw, he could build anything. So John and Dick built a log house with a sod roof, and stables, also of logs and with a sod roof.
“The house had just one room, one window and the door was right in the centre of the front wall. The second house Richard built was nearby; it had two windows and a lean-to for a kitchen. That was on the hill. John built his house at the foot of the hill on the river bank. He got married in 1887 to Susan Toone. She was jut out from Ireland. She’s 86 now and living in Victoria BC.