FATHER LACOMBE - HIS INDIAN BLOOD - HIS SERVICES TO CANADA - R. B. BENNETT IN PERSONAL COMBAT - HIS AVERSION TO STRONG DRINK - ROYAL VISITORS - THE BEGINNING OF THE RUSH TO THE LAND - WILD GEESE SQUADRONS IN THE QU'APPELLE - A STALKING OX.
It was a pleasure to me to discover Dec. 1900, that the Nuns who had been my teachers at Prince Albert were then established in Calgary. Once while visiting at their convent a handsome old priest with long white hair and falcon face came in and I recognized Father Lacombe. My father had known him during the construction days on the Lake of the Woods, and later he had visited us in Regina.
My husband and I became friendly with this fine old missionary and we frequently had interesting talks with him. He had then just returned from a European journey, with Rome and Vienna in his itinerary. He told us of an audience granted him by the Pope, who displayed much interest in western missions.
Zack asked him if he found it difficult to converse with His Holiness.
"Not at all," he replied. "You see, priests are supposed to speak Latin when in Rome. When I knew I was to have the honour of an audience, I tried to polish up my Latin, but soon realized I was more at home speaking Blackfoot or Cree. "Anyhow," he added, "It was all right, for the Holy Father spoke French."
Father Lacombe wished to raise money to establish a mission in a large Galician settlement in northern Alberta. The Galicians had been subjects of the Emperor of Austria, and he determined to seek an interview with Franz Joseph with the object of soliciting aid for that purpose. He obtained credentials from Rome to the Austrian Court, through Cardinal Merry del Val, who had been Papal Legate to Canada, and thus equipped, was admitted to an audience with the Emperor. He carried away rather a melancholy picture of the ancient Ruler.
He told us the audience took place in the Royal Suite of a magnificent palace, where noble chambers and a sort of lifeless splendour testified to the past glories of the Hapsburg line. Franz Joseph, he described as the one mouldering pillar still standing amid the ruins of his Royal House. The present seemed to have no existence underneath the shell of the Majesty with which he was clothed, there was only a feeble old man.
"He spoke to me with a detached graciousness, as if his mind was elsewhere, "said Father Lacombe," and when he understood my mission gave orders that a handsome contribution should be made towards the object I had in view."
Among the missionaries who in the earliest days carried the message of the faith that was in them to the savage denizens of the far North West, there was none who dared more or had greater influence than Father Lacombe. If I am not mistaken he was the second member of the great Oblate order to engage in missionary work among the Indian tribes. Archbishop Tache of St. Boniface was the first. His life was one of danger, hardship and self-sacrifice, and so remarkable was his personality that he was a welcome visitor in Blackfoot camps at a time when these formidable Indians cherished a bitter hatred against the white man and all his works. He walked underneath the shell of the Majesty with which he was clothed, there was only a feeble old man.
"He spoke to me with a detached graciousness, as if his mind was elsewhere," said Father Lacombe," and when he understood my mission gave orders that a handsome contribution should be made towards the object I had in view."
Among the missionaries who in the earliest days carried the message of the faith that was in them to the savage denizens of the far North West, there was none who dared more or had greater influence than Father Lacombe. If I am not mistaken he was the second member of the great Oblate order to engage in missionary work among the Indian tribes. Archbishop Tache of St. Boniface was the first. His life was one of danger, hardship and self-sacrifice, and so remarkable was his personality that he was a welcome visitor in Blackfoot camps at a time when these formidable Indians cherished a bitter hatred against the white man and all his works. He walked unscathed where the life of the boldest fur-trader would not have been worth an hour's purchase, and all honoured him.
Once he was passing a night in a small Blackfoot camp when during the hours of darkness, it was attacked by a large Cree war party. Roused from midnight sleep and holding high his crucifix, he rushed out in the face of the bullets that were singing their deadly song through the night. He called out in their own tongue to the Crees to cease their attack. A bullet grazed his head and he fell in his tracks. A Blackfoot shouted through the darkness: "Dogs! You have killed the Black Robe."
Instantly the firing ceased, and the Crees and Blackfeet ran forward together, all enmity for the moment forgotten, to render succour to the devoted and much-loved priest. Fortunately, he was only stunned and soon recovered, but the Indians, particularly the Blackfeet, never forgot his courage and devotion on that occasion.
He was a man of striking and picturesque appearance. He had an eagle face but had none of the predatory look which that description usually implies. His expression was open and benevolent, except when some account of injury, or injustice, called forth a righteous indignation. In later years, he had a long plume of white hair that gave a look of great dignity to his appearance.
He told us once that he had some Indian blood in his veins. Long ago in the days of the "Old Regime" in Canada, an Iroquois war party attacked an isolated settlement along the Richelieu River and killed the men and carried off the women. When the Indians reached their own village with their captives, the Chief took one of the young women as his wife and she was accorded the respect that went with that position.
After more than a year, word was brought to Quebec that the prisoners were still in the Indian camp and a military expedition was organized to go to their rescue. The Iroquois were defeated and the captives rescued and taken back. The child of the white woman and the Indian Chief was said to have been the ancestor of Father Lacombe. "No wonder I love the Indians," he told us with a laugh.
It was due to Father Lacombe more than to any other influence that the Blackfoot Confederacy took no part in the Rebellion of 1885. At that time these formidable Indians could have placed five thousand horsemen in the field and, had they gone on the warpath, their numbers probably would have been augmented by reinforcements from their kindred of the Montana reservations.
They were then excited and restless. The throb of their war drums sounded through many a lonely valley
and their armed parties were moving about the country. Most of the members of the North-West Mounted Police in southern Alberta had gone east along the North Saskatchewan with General Strange and "Sam" Steele; and Calgary, MacLeod, Lethbridge and the settlements south of the Red Deer River were practically defenceless. Ottawa was being subjected to a daily bombardment of wires asking for military protection; but General Middleton, with almost all the armed forces available in Canada, was on the way to the scene of actual hostilities in the North Saskatchewan country and, for the time, the Government was helpless.
Father Lacombe had long been a friend of the Blackfoot people. At this crisis, he rendered a service to his native Canada that can scarcely be over-estimated. He went out on the Plains alone and as he put it himself" with his crucifix as his credentials", met Crowfoot, the Head Chief of the Blackfoot Confederacy in council and made a treaty of peace with him on behalf of the Government of Canada. During the dangerous days of the Rebellion, none of the Blackfeet or their allies took the warpath.
No other individual approximated the part played by Father Lacombe in mediating between the Indian and white man during the early days of settlement. His services were recognized by the Government of Canada, and when he travelled on the Canadian Pacific Railway, he was treated as an honoured guest of the Company. His name will long be honoured in this wide and western land with which he was so long identified.
For a time we lived in a boarding-house that had some celebrity in the Calgary of the period. It had been the residence of the Lord Bishop of Calgary and Saskatchewan and was an imposing mansion. It was conducted by a lady named Mrs Moore, well known to that generation of Calgarians. A pleasant company of lawyers, bank officials and civil servants lived there.
The most notable partaker of Mrs. Moore's hospitality was Richard Bedford Bennett who, with his brother George of the staff of the bank of Montreal, and Gordon Edgar, Manager of the Hudson's Bay Company Stores at Calgary, occupied a large front room that in the days of the Bishop had been the state bedchamber. The two Bennett brothers slept in a canopied bed in an alcove, while Mr Edgar took repose (when he could get it) on a small couch as far away as possible from the somewhat stirring proximity of the Bennetts.
"R.B.", as we called him, was often late in coming in at night. He might have been working all day and half the night, but that never seemed to affect his chronic energy and high spirits. His chief diversion before retiring was to wake up his brother and the two of them would pull poor Edgar out of bed and dump him on the floor.
Edgar, who was a hard-working individual, objected to having his repose disturbed in this fashion, and he remonstrated, but without avail. So one night he determined to make preparations to defend himself. He took a pair of stout boots to bed with him and concealed them under his pillow. When Mr Bennett came in after midnight, Edgar was apparently peacefully sleeping, and he said to his brother: "Wake up, George, and pull old Gordon out of his blankets."
Nothing loath the younger Bennett climbed out of bed, and blithely advanced to the assault, whilst "R.B." proceeded to toss off his outer garments in preparation for the strife sure to ensue.
Mr. Edgar was not so sound asleep as appearances indicated, and sitting up in bed, slung a wicked boot with such precision that George Bennett immediately became a casualty. The future member of the House of Lords could not stand idly by and see his side worsted and, believing that Edgar had now discharged his missile and was weaponless, bounded forward to the attack.
But the harassed Edgar still had another shot in the locker and, producing the other boot, discharged it against his new assailant. His aim was unerring, and it bounced off Mr Bennett's classic forehead, disappearing with a crash through a large front window. Immediately thereafter the house rocked to the shock of battle. Mrs Moore pounded on the door and implored the Bennetts to desist before the place was completely wrecked, while the boarders in various stages of undress huddled in the hall, and hearkened with awe to the clangour of the conflict and the shouts of the contestants. I do not know which side achieved victory, but the Bennett brothers for several days displayed some "honourable scars".
About this time Mr Bennett suffered an injury to one of his toes. It was frozen or something. It refused to heal and his doctor indicated that he would be better off without it. Always realistic in his religion, Mr Bennett decided to follow the Scriptural advice about "offending members", and the operation was duly performed. He told me it was a painful experience and I asked him if he did not have an anaesthetic: "No!" he replied. "Do you think I would allow anyone to carve away at me unless I could see what he was doing? When it was over the Doctor actually tried to make me swallow a drink of brandy, but I compromised on a cup of coffee."
Knowing his strong teetotal principles, I asked him if his aversion to spirituous liquor had a religious basis?
"Certainly not," he said. "There is nothing in Scripture to justify this attitude. With me, it is simply personal. The members of the Bennett family are so enthusiastic in everything they do, I have no intention of ever starting in that direction."
In the fall of 1901 Calgary was honoured by a Royal visit. The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, afterwards King and Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and the Dominions Overseas, were making a progress through Canada, and Calgary made preparations to receive them. The Herald issued a special edition printed in Royal purple, and my husband wrested for several nights in the preparation of verses of welcome.
The day before the arrival of the Royal party, Mr Niblock, the local Superintendent of the C.P.R. asked my husband if we would like to have the use of his office at the station from which to obtain a good view of our future King and Queen. The platform was to be kept clear for the Municipal Reception Committee and a few other notables, so we gladly accepted Mr Niblock's invitation.
We were early on hand on the morning of the great day and had just taken our position when the train which preceded the Royal one rolled into the station. Sir Wilfrid, looking like a grand Seigneur, was there escorting Lady Minto with a grace and dignity that might have belonged to another age. Lieutenant-Governor Forget, resplendent in his Windsor uniform, was a striking figure and there were A.D.Cs, Lords and Ladies-in-waiting, and of course, accredited Press Correspondents looking rather ridiculous in top hats and very unaccustomed garments.
A red carpet had been put down at the far end of the platform and members of the Local Reception Committee, looking exceedingly uncomfortable in their Sunday-go-meeting garments, ranged themselves in its proximity, while we were left in solitary possession of the space in front of Mr Niblock's office. We stood by the door fronting the platform and effaced ourselves with due modesty, hoping we might be lucky enough to catch a distant glimpse of Royalty. Then the line was cleared for the Royal train.
It came to a long sliding halt with the rear coach exactly opposite our position. We observed a stir amongst the little crowd by the carpet, but strain our eyes as we would, we could not see anyone who looked the least like the Prince or Princess. Then I saw a lady come to the rear door of the last car and look out expectantly. I said to my husband: "Why there is the Princess !"
"Nonsense," he replied: "It must be one of the ladies of her suite."
"No," I insisted. "I am sure it is she; I have seen her picture too often to be mistaken."
And indeed it was no other. Any doubt soon vanished, when she was joined by the Prince in the uniform of an officer of a guards regiment. There had been some error in placing the train, and thus we, in all our insignificance, were the only persons in the immediate foreground when our future King and Queen arrived in their City of Calgary. Only a few feet separated us, and I am afraid we gaped like rustics.
However, something had to be done, and Zack took off his hat and gave his version of a respectful bow. I also made my obeisance, which took something of the form of the genuflection which the nuns had taught us in saluting a dignitary of the Church.
The Prince and Princess gave us courteous acknowledgement, and Her Royal Highness said in her clear English voice: "Lady Minto! I wonder where Lady Minto can be found ?"
At once my husband started off to find her and I was left alone in the presence of Royalty, feeling about the smallest and most insignificant thing in all Calgary.
In a moment Lady Minto came hurrying down the platform. I would not like to say she was running, but she had gathered up her skirts and was not losing much time. When she reached His Royal Highness, she dropped on one knee, and I was encouraged to observe that my curtsy had been de rigueur after all.
After a few presentations, the Prince mounted a horse, and rode off escorted by a detachment of Mounted Police, while the Princess, accompanied by Lady Minto, drove away in a carriage.
I remember thinking that the most remarkable figure in the Royal entourage was the Duke of Roxburgh in the jackboots, steel cuirass, and plumed helmet of the Life Guards. I asked my husband if British soldiers still went in armour. He told me not to be silly.
The chief feature of the Calgary visit was a great Indian gathering at which the important chiefs were presented to the Heir to the Throne. This took place at Shagganappi Point, an elevation overlooking the Bow River just beyond the western outskirts of the City.
The Indians presented a barbaric and vivid picture. Many of them were dressed in the ceremonial garments so dear to the Indian heart. There were magnificent war bonnets of eagle feathers, shirts and leggings of the finest deerskin sewn with sinews and ornamented with dyed porcupine quills and beautiful beadwork. Some of them wore headdresses of otter, marten and beaver, and dusky faces were painted red or vermilion in accordance with individual taste. These decorations extended to their mounts, and I noticed a black horse, ridden by an almost naked warrior, garnished with yellow bands.
The women and children and some of the older Indians sat in circles on the ground, but the majority of the men were mounted on good-looking horses. Many of the riders carried weapons such as Winchester rifles, the butts of which were studded with brass tacks; revolvers, lances and even bows and arrows. Most of them were Blackfeet from the nearby reserves, easily identified by their lofty stature and dignified bearing. There were Sarcees of short and sturdy build, as well as Assiniboines, locally known as "Rocky Mountain Stonies". Some Crees from the northern reserves were also in the gathering.
The Mounted Police formed a circle in the centre of which the Prince took his stand. The Reverend John McDougall, noted Wesleyan missionary, who had spent a lifetime among the Indians, stood by his side to act as Interpreter. His Royal Highness presented to his Indian subjects the greetings of the King, which were translated into the Indian tongue by Mr McDougall. Then came the ceremony of presenting the chiefs and headmen, most of whom made short speeches in their native tongue.
I think the Prince must have been pretty weary that afternoon. There was an unending procession of chiefs and headsmen, some in the barbaric habiliments of the days of the war party, and others dressed in the blue coats and brass buttons issued by the Government to certain native dignitaries.
While the Prince was in Calgary he reviewed a large body of the North-West Mounted Police that had been mobilized for the occasion under the command of Superintendent Burton Dean. They put on a fine show and were complimented by the Prince. Later in the afternoon, a miniature rodeo was staged and there was some of the finest rough riding I have ever seen. If I am not mistaken, the prize for the best horseman went to a young man named Pearson from the Chipman Ranch up the Elbow. His Royal Highness remarked that he had seen some magnificent riding in South America but nothing to equal the Calgary display.
There was also some steer roping. A bunch of range bred three-year-olds as wild as deer and much more dangerous were turned loose in the outfield in the Exhibition grounds, and the cowboy who could rope, throw and tie one of these animals in the shortest time was proclaimed the winner. At the commencement of that part of the programme, a sleety shower came driving across the prairie and wet lariats made roping indifferent. Two or three big horned brutes came charging among the spectators. We were there and did a very quick scattering. I remember seeing a dignified Calgary citizen scaling a high board fence with great agility just ahead of the horns of one big brute. It was rather remarkable that no one was hurt.
In the summer of 1901, the movement of new settlers to the North West became pronounced. The large area which lay between Calgary and Edmonton was receiving the chief attention of the immigrants, most of whom were coming from the American Middle West.
A few stations north of Calgary the country changed from wide treeless plains to a region of wood and meadow, lake and river. The contour of the land remained level, except in the vicinity of the rivers and creeks, but there was a vigorous growth of poplar, some of which had to be cleared before cultivation could be commenced. The soil had been fertilized during countless years by the mould formed from the leaves of these deciduous trees. This land responded amazingly to tillage and the new settlers began to reap bountiful harvests.
At that time the chief crops grown were oats, barley and fodder. Although the soil was well adapted for wheat, that cereal often suffered from late summer frosts and at first, there was not much of it grown in the Alberta park region. Oats did particularly well and yields of upwards of eighty bushels to the acre were not uncommon. Of late years this region has become renowned for its wheat-producing qualities. The clearing of the land has reduced the tendency to summer frosts, and the substitution of "Marquis" wheat and other early maturing varieties for the "Red Fife" in universal use in the early days, has practically removed this danger.
The movement to the land was making itself felt in Calgary and houses were scarce. After some difficulty in obtaining permanent quarters, we made arrangements to have a cottage built and, during the late fall while it was in the course of erection, I went to the Qu'Appelle Valley to visit my husband's people.
It was the time of our Indian summer and the Valley, which for hundreds of miles intersects the southern plains, was at its loveliest. The brown hillsides blended with the autumn foliage; in places stubble fields gave a golden gleam to the flats; herds of cattle browsed contentedly on the meadows, and the air was so clear that we could hear from miles away from the slow rumble of wagons carrying grain to swell the store in the Lumsden elevators. The maple groves by the River were gorgeous masses of colour, and nature in its noblest garments seemed to be marching forward to meet impending winter.
Overhead we could hear the trumpet note of the wild geese, which from their resting place on Last Mountain Lake, made the aerial passage of the Valley night and morning to feed on the stubble fields of the southern plain. The vast numbers of these splendid birds were a source of wonder to me. It seemed that sometimes there were millions in the air at one time, and the clangour of their strident notes and the rushing sound of their wings made a tumult that could only be likened to the sound of the ocean upon a distant shore.
Last Mountain Lake, a fine body of water some sixty miles long and more than a mile wide, lay six miles north of the Qu'Appelle. There was little settlement along its northern extension and numbers of wild geese nested there. Towards the middle of September, flocks from the breeding grounds of the far north used the Lake as a resting place on their annual migration to winter quarters among the bays and lagoons of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast. Sometimes these visitors remained at the Lake for a month or more, and during that period their numbers were constantly augmented by new arrivals. When the birds that nested locally are also taken into consideration, some idea may be formed of the mighty flocks that gathered there in the late fall each year.
When the grey of the dawn was touching the eastern sky, we could hear the trumpet notes of a solitary goose flying high above the Valley, apparently, a scout sent to spy out any danger that might menace the coming flocks. It circled high in the air and as if in response to its invocation, the great mass of the birds commenced to leave the Lake in a clangour of sound that came to us down the wind. When the sun rose red over the skyline the flocks were in full flight across the Valley, their numbers defying computation.
It was remarkable how they kept within their wedge-like alignment. If one bird fell out of rank, another instantly took its place, and the formation was unimpaired. If the morning was still and clear, they passed high in the Heavens, but in tempestuous weather, they barely skimmed the low range of hills that lay near the northern verge of the Valley. Once on the southern plain, they spread out on the stubbles, remaining there for perhaps two hours; then they flew back to the Lake where they spent most of the day, returning to the feeding grounds about half-past four in the afternoon. By nightfall, they were back at the Lake once more.
Most of the flocks consisted of Canada geese, with black necks and handsome symmetrical bodies, but occasionally other varieties were seen. There were geese with barred breasts, that had a curious dancing motion in their flight, and "laughing" geese that went cackling overhead like a company of feathered lunatics. Sometimes, but not often, the white "wavies", so common in portions of Manitoba, joined the procession, and one morning Mr Hamilton brought in a handsome grey goose, that he said was identical with the variety known as the "grey Lag" in the far-away Shetland Islands. Occasionally when a flight was on, we heard the wild and melancholy cry of wild swans and caught a glimpse of these magnificent birds passing high overhead.
While on the stubble the wild geese were almost impossible to approach. The feeding grounds were level, with no shelter that might conceal a lurking enemy. On a flock alighting, sentinels immediately took their positions on the outskirts and, while the main body was feeding, walked about, the personification of alertness and vigilance. At the first indication of the danger they raised their long necks, giving vent to sharp warning cries, and usually, in a moment the flock would be in full flight.
It was noted that, while the geese took instant wing at the first appearance of anything in human form, they seemed to have no fear of grazing cattle or even horses. Sometimes, therefore, the "pot-hunter" took a "nigh" ox, usually a handy tractable beast, and, concealing himself behind it, succeeded in getting quite close to a feeding flock. The geese were seldom alarmed by what must have appeared to be a six-legged animal, angling across the field in their direction The hunter, however, had to hug closely to the side of his stalking beast, for the glimpse of a human face or the flash of a gun barrel was sufficient to alarm all the geese in the neighbourhood.
Once when Zack was a lad, threshing was in progress at the big farm of Charles Sheriffs on the South Plain. It was late in October, a blustery day with occasional sleety showers driving across the prairie. Winter was coming on, and the geese were gathering in large flocks preparatory to their southward journey. From his vantage point on a sheaf stack Zack observed a tremendous flock rising and settling about a depression in a field less than a mile from the farm.
The threshing machine broke down, and Mr Sheriffs suggested to Zack that he take his gun and try to get a goose for dinner. He was quite willing to exchange the pitchfork for the gun and, taking an ox with him, started off.
The wind was blowing strongly towards the geese, and Zack and his trusty animal came down with it in their direction. Contrary to some ideas, this is the best manner in which to approach big birds like geese on their feeding grounds. When the wind is strong they cannot rise with it; they have to run a few steps against it before they can take wing.
Zack got fairly close before the birds became uneasy. He angled his ox across their front and then stopped to make a survey of the position. Very carefully he peered under the neck of the animal. He told me there must have been acres of geese, the main body packed closely together and the sentinels walking about, honking in evident alarm. With his heart in his mouth at the sight of so many splendid game birds well within range, he pushed the ox directly forward on the flock. Still, they did not rise and realizing he was within twenty-five yards of them, he turned the ox loose and ran in on the flock. They rose all about him with a hurricane of wings. He fired both barrels. For a moment it seemed to rain geese. Some members of the threshing gang came out to help him carry in the "bag". Eight birds had fallen to the two shots. Zack was never very proud of this achievement. This, of course, was not sport and its only justification if there was any, was to secure a number of fat birds with which to feed a large gang of hungry threshermen.
It was sometimes possible to decoy the geese on the stubbles. The plan was to dig a pit on some well-known feeding ground and set out decoys. The sportsman concealed himself in the pit before dawn, and often the geese would swing down in their flight to investigate the apparent members of their species that stood around in such a stilted manner.
But my father-in-law, who was a fine sportsman and excellent shot, rather despised these tactics. He considered it the best sport to intercept the flocks in their passage to and from the Lake when it required all the skill of the hunter to stop them in full career. He made a careful study of their habits and came to know their aerial lanes. He could predict their line of flight according to the weather.
Late in the fall, when it became stormy, we often heard him stirring before daylight, snatching some hasty breakfast before going out to the Valley hillsides to meet the flocks coming from the Lake. It was seldom he returned without several birds.
One gusty afternoon, when he thought the geese would be flying low, I walked up among the hills with him. He was a slight, rather frail elderly man, not in the best of health, but I saw that his gun fell smoothly to his hand like the tool of a skilled craftsman. At the first clear note that proclaimed the flight, weariness and infirmity dropped from him like a discarded garment and he became the alert and experienced sportsman.
It was blowing strongly on the uplands, and as we rounded an acclivity, a small flock, flying downwind at tremendous speed, swung past. On becoming aware of our presence they commenced climbing. Before I could exclaim, I heard the double shot, and the foremost goose leading the squadron to the higher air, collapsed as if hit by a thunderbolt, while another bird swinging away low and fast, came down on a knoll with such force that its breast was split by the impact.
I sheltered in the lea of a hill with my father-in-law that afternoon, and obtained some insight into the true spirit of the sport that lured men away from their business or avocations, from the comforts of home and the ease of ordered living, to face hardships and sometimes even danger in places beyond the boundaries where the hunter's dawn comes in with tempest, and the call of the wild game stirs the blood.
Mr. Hamilton told me that geese were big birds, and for that reason, they did not seem to be flying as fast as they really were; consequently, even good shots, when first engaging in the sport, were not likely to make sufficient allowance for their speed. He said that owing to their feathered armour, it was almost useless to fire at oncoming birds unless they were quite close, and when the shot was heard rattling against their feathers, it was usually an indication that little damage was done. When a bird was past, particularly if going down the wind with its feathers open it could often be killed at long range. He declared that almost every gunner shot too far behind a passing bird, and the mistake of shooting too far ahead scarcely ever occurred. He explained there were two methods of shooting passing birds. One was to swing the gun with the moving object, and then to give it a lead according to the distance. The other was to shoot quickly for the spot where long experience had shown the bird would likely be by the time the shot reached it. Whatever method he followed it was certainly effective, as I do not think I ever saw him miss.
When we were returning down the hills, dragging four fat geese with us, two prairie chickens rose from a small patch of weeds, each going a different direction. He killed them one after the other with two shots so close together that there seemed scarcely an interval between the explosions. He then walked through the little field and shot a few more from the same covey.
I remarked that his birds always seemed stone dead. There were none of the maimed flutterings I had seen in the birds of other sportsmen. I asked him about this, and he explained that his gun was heavily chocked in both barrels, and carried the shot with little spread for some distance.
He took great care of his gun, a handsome one made by an Edinburgh gun maker. I mention this because, while recently reading an account of some of the adventures in South Africa of F. C. Selous, the famous big game hunter, I noticed he referred with appreciation to an express rifle made by the same gunsmith.
I have often looked back with pleasure on that afternoon on the uplands of the Qu'Appelle. The strong fall wind, still tempered by the backward breath of summer, the flight of the fine game birds, the acrid tang of the burnt powder mingling with the tobacco smoke of the hunter's pipe, the companionship and conversation of a fine old sportsman, all united in an experience that will always remain in my memory.