RUSTLERS OF THE RANGE - THEFT OF MY BROTHERS' HORSES - THE WILLOW BUNCH GIANT - OUTLAW DAYS - KIDNAPPED - QU'APPELLE VALLEY FLOOD - LONG WALKS - THE LAWYER AND THE HORSE THIEF - MONTANA CONDITIONS - TRAGEDY OF THE MISSOURI - DEATH OF AN OUTLAW.
Towards the spring of 1903 we went to Montreal and visited my brother Pascal and his wife who had been passing the winter there. While we were at their home, Pascal received a wire from my brother Joe that greatly aroused his ire. It told of the wholesale larceny of a band of more than two hundred horses owned jointly by my two brothers.
About that time, our erstwhile peaceful Willow Bunch country was suffering from some raids carried out by "rustlers" from the American side. At first they confined their depredations to the people whom they could overawe and, until they made this raid upon my brothers horses, had left the larger "outfits" strictly alone. Pascal had large ranching interests in the south country and he proposed to do something to curb their activities. In this "horse lifting" affair it seemed that "Dutch" Henry, one of our former ranch hands, was a prime mover.
The previous fall Pascal had learned that there was a bunch of good range horses for sale near Williston on the American side and he sent Joe across the Line to negotiate a deal. Joe took Dutch Henry and another rider with him and purchased about two hundred and fifty head.
In the meantime our range had been swept by prairie fires and Joe, after moving the "bunch" up near the Boundary, decided to winter them in American territory. He established winter quarters there and left the horses in charge of Dutch Henry and the other cowboy. In the spring Joe returned to the winter camp to put the horses through the Customs and moved them north of the Line to our own range.
Dutch and his companion received him with a cordiality that Joe at the time thought somewhat forced. The horses were rounded up, camp struck and all was ready for a start. Joe was throwing his leg over his saddle when Dutch, who was close beside him, reached up and deftly pulled my brother's revolver from the holster. As Joe reached the saddle the Cowboy poked the gun in his back, and said: "Now ride, and keep on riding."
My brother thought at first that it was a rough kind of joke, but repeated prods from the hard and unfriendly muzzle of a "forty five", and a cold menacing light in Dutch Henry's eye convinced him that it was deadly earnest. Weaponless, there was nothing to do but take his departure. It was assumed afterwards that Dutch and his companion were making preparations to depart with the herd before Joe's arrival but he had arrived unexpectedly.
Joe went to Wood Mountain and reported to the Mounted Police, but the raiders were out of the jurisdiction of the Canadian authorities and before any co-operation could be obtained from the States the "rustlers" had disappeared from the scene with the horses.
Pascal returned West and commenced to put machinery in motion to apprehend the "reivers", and if possible recover his property. Nothing was accomplished that season. The horses had apparently been driven off to some hiding place in the hills and a careful search revealed no trace of them.
We tarried in Winnipeg for a few days on our way home from Montreal and while there encountered Edouard Beaupre from Willow Bunch, who was then obtaining some celebrity as a giant.
Edouard was the son of that Gaspard Beaupre whom I have previously mentioned as having been taken prisoner by Sitting Bull's Sioux at Wood Mountain, and a Metis woman. When he was about seven years old, he was an exceedingly lusty youngster. Before he was twelve, he was as big as a well sized man and shooting up at an astonishing rate. Joe said he was like one of father's melons on a hot day, you could just see him grow. When he was in his first "teens" he was towering above ordinary folk, and his parents were quite proud of their amazing progeny.
He worked for us at the ranch during his growing period, and I used to observe with wonder the manner in which he harnessed a team. He commenced with the "nigh" animal and then, without changing his position, leaned over and fixed up the horse on the "off" side.
Soon he got so big that when he mounted even a tall horse, his feet almost touched the ground, and the animal swayed under his weight. It took a whole deer skin to make him a pair of moccasins, the chairs in which he sat fell to pieces and there was not a bed in the settlement capable of containing his vast bulk. As he approached manhood he was eight feet tall and still growing.
This prodigy was not at all disproportionate, and was rather spare and broadly built with the shapely feet and hands of most of the western natives. He was very shy, and when in company used to cover his face with his hand, a habit which, persevered in from childhood, had forced his large and aquiline nose to one side, giving him a rather sinister appearance.
While in Winnipeg we stayed at the Queen's Hotel at the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street. The bar, the entrance of which was almost at the exact intersection of the two streets, had an international reputation for the quality and quantity of the liquor it purveyed. Of course I was never inside, but every time I passed throngs of business men were going in and coming out, many of them surreptitiously wiping their whiskers. My husband told me that at busy hours as many as seven barkeepers were on duty at their stations along an elevated and shining bar, and they were all kept busy. One of the barkeepers had a spectacular way of making change. He made every coin spin on the polished surface of the bar.
One day when we were in our room I saw from the window a crowd that seemed to converge upon our hotel. Then we heard the trampling of feet, and a knock came to our door. I opened it, and there was Edouard Beaupre, nearly reaching to the ceiling and followed by what seemed about half the population of Winnipeg. He had heard we were there, and came to pay his respects.
Not long afterwards my husband was in the Eastern Townships Bank, then recently established in Winnipeg. The Bank President, Mr. Farwell, was there, as well as Mr. Ball, the local Manager, who had lately arrived from Quebec. There was some talk of the Bank expanding in the West, and my husband with the true "booster" spirit was urging the officials to open a branch in Regina. He enlarged on the fertility of the region and painted a glowing future for the prairie Capital. Mr. Farwell seemed favourable, but Mr. Ball took the typical banker's attitude and made some objections.
While Zack was making his declamation, he looked out the window and saw the gigantic Edouard looking in at "Jerry" Robinson's big store across the street, and towering like a monument above the crowd. My husband turned to Mr. Ball and said: "You Easterners have not yet got a proper perspective of the West. You must realize it is a country of big enterprises and big men, both physically and mentally."
Mr. Ball replied: "I agree with you about the big enterprises but I have not observed that the men here are any larger than those of the Eastern Townships or elsewhere."
"Well then," said Zack, "you are very unobservant. Do you mean to tell me you have been here several months and taken no notice of the big men of Winnipeg ?"
Mr. Ball replied rather sharply that he did not understand what he was talking about. "Very well," said my husband. "Those fellows are about every day. Why there is one now, over on the other side of the street. I do not know where your eyes have been."
Mr. Ball walked to the window and looked out. Instantly he stiffened into astonishment. He rubbed his eyes, and ejaculated: "In the name of High Heaven what do you call that?"
In a moment the whole staff of the bank was looking across the street with wonder and amaze. Edouard was so big that he looked as if he had come out of "Jack the Giant Killer" or some other fairy tale. Once we were discussing his proportions with a friend from Willow Bunch, and we looked up some of the giants of history. Our friend discovered that according to the Bible, Goliath of Gath was a remarkable number of cubits longitudinally. In calculating his height, he had made some error, and figured that the Philistine champion must have towered a tremendous distance into the air.
"Why," he cried, "I don't believe a word of it. He was as high as the Union Bank. I never did have much faith in the Protestant Bible anyway, and when I see a story like that in it, I have less than ever. A man as high as the Union Bank building in Winnipeg. What nonsense," he concluded with a snort of incredulity.
Edouard was the eldest of twenty children who had been born to his mother before she was forty. She was exceedingly proud of the quantity of her offspring, and once confided to me that the fact that she had never had twins was a real disappointment.
This giant died at St. Louis at the time of the big fair, of a haemorrhage of the lungs. Pascal went down South to settle his affairs, and brought some of his personal effects back to Regina. He gave us one of his boots, an enormous affair.
Once, when my husband was going away and I was apprehensive at being left with only a little German maid, he told me to leave Edouard's boot at the door, and it would scare away any burglar who might effect an entrance.
One morning a plumber or a carpenter arrived to do some fixing about the house. We were at breakfast, and we heard him give a startled ejaculation. Then he came into the room with Beaupre's boot in his hand saying in a tone of entreaty, "Say, Missis, will you tell me, honest and truly, if the fellow who wears this boot really lives here?"
During the fall of 1903 my husband was summoned to Eastern Canada on business. When he left, my brother Treifie was in Regina, and suggested that I go back to Willow Bunch with him for a visit. I had not been there since my marriage and liked the idea. Accordingly, we took the train to Moose Jaw where my brother had left a caravan of Metis freighters with whom we were to travel.
The wagons were heavily laden and the journey took several days. It was clear fall weather with the invigorating tang in the air so characteristic of the Prairies at that season. After breakfast each morning, Treffle and I started on foot ahead of the wagon train. He had a small calibre rifle and shot ducks and prairie chickens along the way. The wagons would catch up with us some time during the forenoon. We would then drive with them until the midday halt, and in the afternoon we went through the same routine. The evening of our first day I saw one of the freighters pluck and prepare some of the prairie chicken and toss them into a pot.
I said to my brother: "Surely they will wash them before cooking."
"It is not the habit of the trail," he replied. "The potatoes get the same treatment."
I then told the men to get some water and I would wash the viands; but they seemed to think it quite superfluous. I could not bring myself to eat any of the food thus prepared. The next day, however, the supper smelled appetizing after our long walk in the fresh air and I gingerly picked at the leg of a bird. The following day I had developed a tremendous appetite; my scruples vanished and I did full justice to every meal until our arrival at Willow Bunch.
When we arrived there was a good deal of excitement about the "Outlaws". Tales were current about an "outfit" that went under the name of the "Nelson and Jones Gang". Some of those yarns were no doubt true, others certainly exaggerations. Nelson had the reputation of a prairie "Robin Hood" of sorts. Indeed, not long afterwards he abandoned the role of "outlaw" and, making his peace with the American authorities, went back to the States. Jones must have been a person of an entirely different character. After the departure of Nelson he gathered some new adherents, including Dutch Henry.
At first they robbed only the smaller settlers the Metis with herds of cattle, and some of the small ranchers. They did not care to try conclusions with cowboys or experienced frontiersmen who were well able to look after themselves. They did make some attempts to harry "Jim" Marshall, whose place was in a lonely district far down the Big Muddy, but "Jim" had seen considerable service in the Mounted Police, and carried a "303" carbine in a scabbard under his stirrup. After a few demonstrations in his direction the freebooters apparently decided he was "bad medicine", and left him severely alone.
They encountered "Cachot" McGillis, one of the best of the Metis ranchers, out on the plains and, to use a frontier expression, "set him afoot". When his mother told me about it she spoke in a whisper, looking apprehensively over her shoulder as if afraid they might be listening.
During the absence of the owner, the gang looted a small ranch among the broken lands of the Big Muddy. The rancher, a young fellow who had recently come to the country, rode to Wood Mountain and complained to the Mounted Police. When returning home he was intercepted by the "outlaws" and taken prisoner. He was blindfolded and led to their "hideout" among the hills. They had a cunningly concealed camp, and were "holding" a big band of horses. The captive was placed at work building a corral under the direction of a ruffian who menaced him with his gun if he slackened at his work. He was cuffed about and given a "dog's life".
One day, after being duly warned that if he said a word of his experiences or held any communication with the Mounted Police his life would not be worth a day's purchase, he was "turned loose" to find his way as best he could to the settlement. Just before he departed one of the best disposed of the men whispered to him to avoid trail and sky line.
"Bluff" in the vernacular of the plains, means a clump of trees.
All day he plodded through the hills. Evening found him following a faint cart track through a little valley wooded with small poplars and walled in by high and tumbled hills. He had walked since morning and, being tired, decided to rest. Then the warning given him came to his mind and leaving the trail he concealed himself in the heart of a bluff, intending to sleep a while and continue his journey on the rising of the moon.
The sun had passed out of sight beyond the hills; the buttes and eroded pinnacles were casting long fantastic shadows; a chill air was stirring. Something dark and sinister seemed to be brooding over the place. He could not rest and thought of resuming his way.
Then, as he looked apprehensively about, he saw a man on horseback appear on the sky line and come down the trail. He lay close in his concealment, warily watching the approaching rider.
Soon he was able to identify him as the Leader of the "Gang", whose prisoner he had been. The bandit came down the slope with loose held reins. his Winchester at the ready in the crook of his arm. He was quartering the ground like a questing dog, and his appearance was so menacing that his purpose appeared plain. He was apparently following to shoot the young man down in a place where no one, not even his associates, could bear witness against him, and far enough away from the robbers' hiding place to prevent attention being directed to it in the unlikely event of anyone finding the body before the wolves and coyotes had divested it of all means of recognition. The rider passed on down the trail.
Darkness came. The frightened youth still crouched in the bush, not daring to stir until he heard the sound of horses' feet returning. Then he took to the hills, and by daylight succeeded in reaching Willow Bunch. His experience had so unnerved him that he left the country.
The Members of the Mounted Police were constantly on the move, but the wild and broken country of the Bad Lands afforded many a secret lurking place, and the few settlers on the verge of the region were afraid to furnish information useful to the authorities.
My brother Pascal was very active in his efforts to drive the unwelcome visitors from the country. He went to Regina and interviewed the Mounted Police, with the result that the number of men at the Wood Mountain Post was increased, and Inspector D'Arcy Strickland, an experienced officer, who had done excellent service in the Yukon, was placed in charge. Pascal received several anonymous and ill-spelt letters, threatening him with all manner of evil things if he persisted in his activities. He was furious. His dominating character, his great herds and his thorough understanding of the native people had made him the leading man of the district. Many of the Metis were in his employ, he had friendly and business relations with most of the white ranchers, and, I think, rather cherished the idea that his word was law in quite an extensive region. He paid little attention to the threats, except that when he rode abroad, he "packed" a heavy automatic pistol and carried a carbine on the saddle. He was afraid of nothing, and perhaps the outlaws, with all their threatening, were not particularly anxious to meddle with him at close quarters. After some weeks at Willow Bunch I was joined by my husband, and we passed a pleasant time visiting together the scenes which many a happy memory of my youth had endeared to me.
It was late in the fall before we left Willow Bunch. We travelled north with a Metis named Louison LaRocque, who was a fine campaigner of the trail. He was one of the happiest, most easy-going of men and good looking. One night when we were sitting by the camp fire he was lamenting the passing of the old free life of another day.
He said: "When I first saw dis contrie she was black wid buffalo from La Montagne de Bois to La Riviere du Lait. Den de buffalo go away, but antelope still ron among de butte, and ducks and prairie chicken partout. Now de farmer is coming wid his plough and wire fence, and pretty soon de gopher all go too and we will have to buy our meat from de butcher."
Poor Louison He has gone down the last trail and there are still some gophers in the country.
The winter of 1903-4 was a severe one. The snow lay deep on the prairie, and there was a succession of blizzards.
The previous summer, Pascal had brought in two large shipments of yearling cattle, or "Dogies" as they were called. One lot consisted of farmers' stock from Ontario, and the other of "grade" Herefords from Old Mexico. I think the two bunches amounted to about three thousand head. His winter losses were heavy; indeed, the largest he ever experienced all the time he was in the cattle business. The Eastern bred stock suffered the most. There was some mortality amongst the Mexicans, but, being well bred"rustling" stock,
The spring was late that year and when at last the snow went, every creek, slough and rivulet was brimming. That was the year of the famous Qu'Appelle Valley Flood. The river burst its banks and spread out on the flats until they were completely inundated.
The little town of Lumsden in the Valley presented a remarkable spectacle. The water flowed through the streets and only the upper stories of many of the buildings showed above the flood. Railway communication with the North was interrupted for weeks ; a steamboat was brought in on flat cars, and it puffed about the Valley, in some cases passing over the tops of submerged trees. When the waters abated, there was a marvelous growth of wild grass and hay, and the settlers had abundance of fodder that season.
I had not been well during the winter, and when the fine weather came I went out to the Hamilton place in the Valley, while my husband remained in Regina to attend to his real estate business. He came out every weekend. Automobiles were not yet generally available and horses and vehicles were expensive. Zack did not feel like spending the money for either, and each Saturday afternoon walked the twenty five miles to the Valley and back to Regina again on Sunday. Sometimes it was late when he came, but he never failed, and I often watched the sun go down over the hills while waiting for him.
It was there one lovely morning in July, 1904, that our eldest son was born... Zack, summoned by wire from Regina, arrived, it seemed to me on the wings of the wind. That day he did not count the cost of a fast-stepping horse, He sat by me, and we both looked wonderingly at the queer little atom of humanity that had come to us.
Three days after the birth of our little lad, a wire came from my brother Pascal stating that the Mounted Police had apprehended a man named Shufelt, found in possession of some of the stolen horses, and the preliminary trial would take place in Willow Bunch within a few days. He asked Zack to meet him at Moose Jaw the following day, prepared to go back with him.
At any other time my husband would have hailed this adventure with delight, but now I had to urge him on his way. He met Pascal and accompanied him and the late Hon. W. B. Willoughby, the prosecuting lawyer, to Willow Bunch.
Pascal explained that Shufelt had tried to justify himself by putting up the well-known defence of the "innocent third party". He had produced a duly executed bill of sale from Dutch Henry, and stood upon his rights. He professed to have paid in the neighbourhood of twelve thousand dollars for the horses, although he did not then explain how he obtained the money. His reputation was not of the best, and he was held in a considerable sum to stand his preliminary examination before the local magistrate at Willow Bunch. Accordingly he drove into Regina to seek legal assistance.
It was the Long Vacation and most of the Regina lawyers were out of town. Someone directed him to the law office of Balfour and Martin, and there he met W. Melville Martin, afterwards Federal Member of Parliament, Premier of the Province, and now in 1952, Chief Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, but then recently arrived in the country from Ontario.
To Mr. Martin, Shufelt told a tale of wrong and persecution, and backed up his story with a retaining fee. Mr. Martin agreed to accompany him to Willow Bunch and defend him before the magistrate. Bright and early the following morning they took the long south trail.
After they passed the "Soo" Line, some thirty miles south of Regina, the country took on a wild and desolate appearance. Habitation there was none, and to Mr. Martin, unfamiliar as yet with the distances and scanty settlement of the West, it seemed as if they had left civilization far behind.
Evening found them apparently mazed in the monotonous tangle of the Dirt Hills. Shufelt was taciturn and wary and had no small talk to beguile the tedium of the way. He replied to questions, but that was about all. At sundown, he unhitched the horses and after hobbling them turned them out to forage for themselves.
The travellers ate a frugal supper washed down with water from a spring by the trail, and then Shufelt made a couch conspicuous for its simplicity. It consisted of one grimy horse blanket spread on the ground and another to serve as a coverlet, with a sack half full of oats for a pillow. Shufelt lay down and invited the future Premier to share his somewhat sketchy bed. Mr. Martin crawled in with some trepidation.
The situation was not an inspiring one. As far as he knew there was not another human soul within fifty miles. The darkness seemed vocal with night sounds. A night wind was rustling through the prairie grass, and a coyote on a nearby hill burst into horrid sound. Mr. Martin began to have some doubts as to his companion who, now that he was in his native wilds, appeared to have completely changed from the soft spoken individual who had come to the Regina law office.
Just before composing himself to sleep, Mr. Martin saw Shufelt raise himself upon his knees. The lawyer, himself the son of a Presbyterian Manse, was greatly reassured. He thought to himself: "This is certainly a worthy young man; he is about to say his prayers." But prayers were probably the last thing in Shufelt's mind at that moment. He reached into his hip pocket and produced a revolver. He opened the breech and spun the cylinder to be sure it was loaded in all the chambers. He then placed it under the sack which served as a pillow, and lay down with his hand on the butt.
"What are you doing with that thing?" queried Mr. Martin. "Are there any dangerous animals about?"
Shufelt intimated that there was not much danger from that source.
"Well," persisted the young lawyer, "is it men of whom you are afraid?"
"You never know what you will run up against in them hills," answered Shufelt; and Mr. Martin had to leave it at that. He did not sleep much. The mosquitoes assailed his long legs, which were inadequately protected by the horse blanket, and whenever he stirred Shufelt was on the alert, his hand on his weapon.
Before they reached Willow Bunch the following day, Shufelt handed Mr. Martin his revolver and asked him to keep it in his bag; otherwise he said the Mounted Police would take possession of it. Mr. Martin made him "spill" the shells and then bestowed it gingerly among his pyjamas and hair brushes. Owing to subsequent developments, Shufelt was never in a position to reclaim his weapon, and Mr. Martin did not know what to do with it. It remained in his possession for a number of years.
When they reached Willow Bunch they found a considerable gathering of Shufelt's sympathizers, who had ridden in from the "Bad Lands" to give him aid and encouragement. They were camped about the spring, and Mr. Martin was rather appalled at their appearance. Zack, Pascal and Mr. Willoughby had arrived the same day, having come by the Moose Jaw trail. Zack walked over to the camp of Shufelt's friends and invited the lawyer to Treffie's comfortable home. Mr. Martin declined politely, thinking his client might regard it as hob-nobbing with the enemy. However, the Mounted Police looked after him and he passed the night at the Willow Bunch Detachment.
That night the Police officer in charge suggested it might be well to round up Shufelt's adherents and relieve them of their artillery. Pascal thought it would be a good idea, but Treffie said: "I would not bother with them tonight; tomorrow they will give up their guns without any trouble."
The "Mountie" officer asked him how he figured it out that way. Treffie replied: "You see they are camped by the Willow Bunch spring, and not being accustomed to the water, they will be in a pretty subdued condition in the morning." And that was the way it turned out.
After the court was convened, it was not long until Mr. Martin realized that the evidence was strongly against his client and, after hearing the case, the two Justices committed Shufelt to stand his trial at the next Court of competent jurisdiction. He was sent off to Regina in charge of a police escort. Before the prisoner was driven away, Mr. Martin rather anxiously questioned him about arrangements for his own return to Regina.
Shufelt said: "Just take my team and buggy, and follow that wheel track over the south hill. If you keep going for thirty miles, you will come to a shack where you will find my wife. Tell her I said she was to send a Half breed to show you the way to Moose Jaw and you will be all right."
Rather dispiritedly Mr. Martin followed the directions. He said afterwards that thirty miles, when it was mentioned, seemed a considerable distance, but when it was actually traversed, it appeared interminable. After he had almost given up hope of getting anywhere, the tired ponies pricked up their ears and started to trot with renewed energy, and eventually pulled up beside a shack of rather primitive construction. A person whom Mr. Martin took for a boy emerged from the door, and asked him truculently what he wanted. He then realized it was a young woman in overalls who was addressing him. He explained who he was and his mission.
"What did they do to Ed?" she demanded.
The lawyer explained he had been committed for trial and sent to Regina.
"Serve him right," she said. "He ought to have had better sense than to get mixed up in things like that."
However, she made the necessary arrangements, and Mr. Martin was soon on the trail to Moose Jaw, which lay a good hundred miles away.
Some strange and forbidding characters turned up in Regina for Shufelt's trial, and the back seats in the Court Room were given a disreputable appearance by their presence. They made their whispered comments on the proceedings from the corners of tobacco stained lips and seemed sadly out of place in the Halls of Justice. They had drifted in from the Big Muddy, the Little Woody, the West Poplar and other remote places on both sides of the Boundary. For the most part they played "jackal" to the bolder thieves. They knew how to change a brand, and there were usually many more calves than cows in their scrubby herds.
During the trial a strenuous attempt was made on behalf of the prisoner to prove that he had bought the horses from Dutch Henry in good faith, and had made the money paid for them while operating a saloon in Saco, a little frontier Montana town.
The prosecution counter claimed that he had never possessed the sum mentioned in the transaction. It was alleged that he had shot a man in Saco, known as "Long Henry" and had been arrested and tried for murder by a Montana jury. The plea was the usual one of self-defence and despite the evidence he was acquitted. In any case, it was stated that Shufelt told several of his intimates that it had cost all the money he had made in the saloon business to "fix" the jury.
When Sam Briggs, a rancher from Wood Mountain, was called to the Witness Box, he asked for the protection of the Court. This created rather a sensation because Sam was a decent, hard working man with the speech of his native Yorkshire on his tongue, and honest as the day. Such protection usually was invoked only by a witness whose evidence might incriminate himself. He explained, however, that he had no fear of the law, but the protection he desired was from bodily harm at the hands of some of the friends of the accused.
The Judge assured him that persons who attempted to intimidate or injure him as the result of his evidence would do so at their peril. Mr. Briggs then said that he had been visited the previous evening by a man who informed him that if he testified against the prisoner his ranch buildings would be burned, his stock driven off and he himself, to use a western expression, "set afoot".
After this information had been given to the Court, proceedings were stopped while the Judge and the Crown Prosecutor, T. C. Johnstone, K.C., consulted. It was plain intimidation and called for action.
Previous to making his announcement Mr. Briggs had given Mr. Johnstone the name of the man who had threatened him, and the Crown Prosecutor handed it to Sergeant Wilkinson of the North West Mounted Police with instructions to have the man taken into custody as soon as the jury reached a verdict.
The Sheriff retired to his office to prepare the necessary warrant while Briggs continued his testimony. The Sheriff was called back to the Court Room and he told the Sergeant that the warrant had been left on the table in his office and he could pick it up there.
It was noticed during this interruption that one of the unsavoury visitors from the South was restless and uneasy. He was heavy set and shambled as he walked and his large nose had been moved to one side, likely in some fight or brawl. He was unbelievably dirty and even his own colleagues displayed some aversion to his proximity.
After the testimony of Briggs the case galloped to its conclusion. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty. Shufelt was sentenced to several years in the Penitentiary, and Sergeant Wilkinson started to put into action the machinery for the arrest indicated by the Crown Prosecutor.
'When Shufelt was led from the dock by the "Mounties", he turned to my brother Joe who was standing nearby and said in a quiet voice, but with a deadly intensity: "Joe Bonneau, when I get out I will kill you!" Joe's evidence had done much to convict him. He never had a chance to carry out his threat, for he died in prison.
Before the Court was cleared, Wilkinson went to the Sheriff's office for the warrant, but found the door locked. As he hurried back to the Court Room for the key, he met the wanted man coming down two steps at a time. It was only a matter of minutes until he had the warrant in his possession and went outside to make the arrest. The man was standing on the sidewalk, but before the Sergeant could reach him, a lad leading a saddled horse and riding another appeared upon the scene. With a single bound the fugitive was in the saddle and the two of them were off at the gallop.
For once, the "Mounties" did not get their man. He was not seen around Regina again.
Years later we learned that he was a member of a family well known and respected in Eastern Canada about Confederation time. As a lad he had been educated at a famous Canadian college but, drifting to the Montana range country, had fallen among bad companions and "drink and the devil" had done the rest.
Two of his former schoolmates were well-known Regina business men and, for the sake of the "Old School Tie", they financed his escape; at least that was the story told us years later by the lad who rode the other horse.
A number of officials from Montana deputy sheriffs, marshalls, and the like had come to Regina for the trial. One of them, George Hall, a well known frontiersman with a reputation for cool fearlessness, was brought to our house by Pascal. He told us one tale, typical of conditions in Montana at that time. He said the patience of an exceedingly tolerant Montana citizenry had been exhausted by the depredations of a man whom we shall call Brown. He had been very careless of human life, and was tried for murder and sentenced to death. His time was short, and the scaffold actually in the course of erection in the County town.
At the same time there was a somewhat stupid ne'er-do-well, whom I shall call Smith, who did odd jobs around the town. He was not a native of the West, but had drifted out from one of the eastern States, and was a great reader of foolish "wild west" tales. His heroes were the "Younger Brothers", "Billy the Kid" and other similar characters. He had some ambition to be a "bad man", but had neither the intelligence nor the initiative to acquire distinction in that or any other role. He conceived the idea that if he could accomplish the escape of the desperado awaiting execution it would bring him into prominence.
Accordingly he committed some trivial offence for which he was sentenced to the local jail. The authorities regarded him rather contemptuously; he was treated as a "trusty" and allowed considerable liberty. He established contact with Brown, and succeeded in smuggling weapons to him.
One evening when the Sheriff, or his Deputy, came to the cell of the condemned man, Brown beat him nearly to death with a revolver and, after releasing another desperado, made his escape in his company. The two fugitives obtained horses and made for the wild and broken country along the Missouri.
The alarm was raised. A posse organized under the leadership of Hall rode hard on their trail. Their tracks were followed to the River, but there was some doubt as to whether the fugitives had crossed or concealed themselves in the bush of the near bank. Hall, accompanied by a deputy sheriff, forded the River and continued the search on that side, while the remainder of the party beat the country in another direction.
Dusk was coming on as the two men rode towards a clump of poplars that bordered the trail.
They were chatting together when a shot sounded from the trees and the Deputy fell from his horse with a bullet through his head.
Hall slid from his saddle, jerking his Winchester from its scabbard as he reached the ground, while the two horses, startled by the shot leaped clear and, after running a little distance slowed up and presently began quietly to crop the grass. Hall squirmed into a depression and commenced to pump bullets into the bluff. A glance at his fallen companion indicated he had been killed instantly.
Hall remained there all night. At first the bandits returned his fire; but the bullets could not reach him in the shelter. As the night wore on his shots brought no response.
When dawn came he carefully approached the bush that had concealed the outlaws, but there was no sign of life. Scouting around, he found the body of Brown's companion, apparently killed by a stray shot. Then the undaunted official gathered in the two horses and riding one and leading the other, took up the trail of the remaining fugitive. He traced Brown to the edge of the River, and there was joined by some of the other members of the posse, who had heard the firing during the night. It was obvious the fugitive had recrossed the River, and they breasted the flood in pursuit.
Not far from the bank they saw a comfortable ranch house, with a curl of smoke rising from the chimney. Here was a promise of breakfast and some rest and feed for the horses.
They were met at the corral bars by the Rancher, an elderly man with a mahogany face and long white moustache in tall "Stetson" and high-heeled boots. At the door of the house, Hall observed a handsome, sturdy girl watching with interest the arrival of the rather formidable cavalcade.
The old man, without asking their business, received them hospitably. He showed them where to put their horses, threw down some hay, pointed out the oat bin, and then bade them to the house for breakfast.
After the little bustle of arrival was over, Hall described the fugitive and asked if the Rancher had seen him.
"Yes !" replied the old man, "he is here now."
The members of the posse were accustomed to startling situations but at this announcement the hand of every man sought the butt of his six-shooter.
"Where is he?" ejaculated Hall, when he could get his breath.
"Oh!" answered the Rancher quite composedly. "He is over there in the yard; he is not in any shape to bother you."
He led the members of the posse to the place indicated, where Brown was lying quite bereft of life. While they were eating an excellent breakfast, cooked and served by the daughter of the house, they learned what had happened.
The old man had just risen when his daughter, who had been out at the buildings to gather some fresh eggs for breakfast, came in and told him that a tough looking man was hiding in the hay. He went to investigate and saw the outlaw coming in the direction of the house, cocking his rifle.
The Rancher called to his daughter to bring the Winchester from the house. Instantly the stranger covered the girl and forbade her to stir. But she was frontier bred and not easily frightened. She darted into the house, returning in a moment bearing the weapon, which she placed in the hand of her father. While she was thus engaged, Brown twice snapped his rifle at her without effect. It was found afterwards that the mechanism of the weapon had jammed. The old man shot him down in his tracks; and that was the end of Brown.
When the posse returned to the County town and told their story, there was great indignation against Smith who, by his criminal folly in enabling Brown to escape, had been responsible for so much tragedy. He was heavily ironed and placed in close confinement. Convictions were still difficult to obtain in Montana and the citizens were determined that this embryo "bad man" should not be left to the slow process of the law.
One night when the law officers were out of town a number of men invaded the lock up, and taking the prisoner to an upstairs room placed the running noose of a lariat round his neck. Attaching the other end to a bed post they tossed him out of the window.
This private execution took place so quietly that it did not disturb a church lawn social in progress across the street where girls in white dresses were flitting about beneath Chinese lanterns dispensing ice cream.
I cannot of course confirm the details of this incident, but I have given it exactly as it was related to us by George Hall, and from my knowledge of Montana conditions at the time, and of Mr. Hall himself, I have little reason to doubt its truth.
Montana folk for many years displayed remarkable tolerance towards those accused of crimes against the person. A certain cowboy had been rather hilarious in his cups and was brought before a local justice at Scobie. He was given some hours in the lock up. He regarded this as a dreadful affront, and on being released, sought the Justice, a bearded and respectable gentleman, in his office. He seized him by the whiskers and, forcing his head down on the desk, bit off a portion of his ear. After he had performed this operation, he spat out the fragment and remarked: "Maybe this will hold you for a while from sending decent cowpunchers to jail for a little harmless fun."
The Magistrate staunched the blood flowing from his mutilated member and, being of a methodical nature, picked up the segment of his ear and filed it away in an envelope for evidence. He then laid a charge of grievous assault against his assailant, who was again locked up, and committed for trial.
A Federal Judge with a reputation for fearlessness came from Helena to try the case. The evidence was clear; the prisoner did not deny his guilt; the piece of flesh fitted the mutilated ear, and the Judge charged the jury to bring in a verdict of "guilty". It was felt that a conviction was at last about to be obtained in Montana.
The jury, despite the evidence, brought in a verdict of "not guilty". The Judge scrutinized the face of each juror carefully, and took a note of their names.
"You are discharged," he said ; "but you had better all go carefully in your daily walk and conversation; if any of you ever come before me, God help you, for you won't get any mercy from me."
Then turning to the Sheriff in charge of the prisoner in the dock, he said: "Take that cursed cannibal out of my sight."
In time the activities of the Mounted Police on the Canadian side, with some collaboration from the Montana authorities, made our hills, lonely and remote as they were, untenable for the outlaws. They were constantly harried and hunted and most of them eventually left the country.
Mystery shrouds the fate of Dutch Henry. It was rumoured he had been killed in a gun fight in western Montana, but some cowboys who knew him well told us he had left the country and gone to South America.
One of the outlaws, with a few kindred spirits, for some time kept up their lawless activities. During an ensuing winter, he and his associates made their "hideout" in a wild desolate portion of the "Bad Lands" just south of the International Boundary. They were well equipped with provisions, but had neglected to stock up with salt. They put up with this deprivation until late winter, when the outlaw leader undertook to ride the twenty odd miles to the nearest neighbour to buy or borrow some.
On the very day of his journey two American deputy sheriffs, out on business entirely unconnected with him or his followers, had arrived at the ranch which was his objective. When he rode up he was given the customary hospitable welcome, but while putting his horse up some sense of danger was stirred by the presence of two tired horses in the stalls and the excellent and well kept saddle gear from which they had been relieved. Consequently, when he entered the house, he was not unprepared for the presence of strangers and was as alert and wary as a wild thing.
The visitors were seated at supper when he entered, and relaxing after a hard day in the saddle, had placed their weapons and cartridge belts in a corner of the room. The desperado, his wits sharpened by the presence of danger, took strategic advantage of the situation. When invited to the table, he placed his chair against the corner where the weapons were deposited, thus cutting off access to it, while he kept on his own belt and gun.
He was not known by sight to the American officials, but his attitude engendered suspicion. Then, too, it was noticed he wore his gun on the left side, and as one of the outlaws was reputed to be a left-handed shooter, this probably caused them to suspect his identity. After finishing the meal, he pushed his chair back into the corner, still covering the guns. Later, when blankets were spread on the floor he lay down across the same corner.
In the morning the rancher prepared breakfast and summoned everyone to the table. The outlaw took his place, still maintaining his advantage. The porridge had been prepared without salt. At the first spoonful he spat it out and exasperated, forgot for the moment his watchful attitude, breaking into expressions of annoyance and disgust. Swiftly, one of the officers got behind him and, picking up a Winchester, poked the muzzle against the back of his head with an order to throw up his hands. Determined to the last, the outlaw made a lightning pass for his gun. The Deputy pressed the trigger; a deafening volume of sound filled the room and the bandit fell over among the dishes muttering:
"They shot me like a dog."
He was dead in a few minutes.
Today the South country is as peaceful as any Eastern rural community. Cultivated farms have taken the place of wild prairie pastures on both sides of the Line, and it is only in the most remote places that herds and cowboys still linger.