Which Tells of Pioneer Trails Along Which the Farmers of Western Canada Fought Their Way to Great Achievements in Co-Operation
TORONTO AND WINNIPEG
GEORGE J. McLEOD, LIMITED
COPYRIGHT, CANADA, 1918
BY GEORGE J. McLEOD, LIMITED
MEN AND WOMEN OF THE SOIL
Foreword I The Man on the Qu'Appelle Trail II A Call to Arms III The First Shot is Fired IV "That Man Partridge!" V "The House With the Closed Shutters" VI On a Card in the Window of Wilson's Old Store VII A Fight for Life VIII A Knock on the Door IX The Grain Exchange Again X Printers' Ink XI From the Red River Valley to the Foothills XII The Showdown XIII The Mysterious "Mr. Observer" XIV The Internal Elevator Campaign XV Concerning the Terminals XVI The Grip of the Pit XVII New Furrows XVIII A Final Test XIX Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan XX What Happened in Alberta XXI In the Drag of the Harrows XXII The Width of the Field XXIII The Depth of the Furrows XXIV And the End is Not Yet Appendix
Once in awhile, maybe, twenty-five or thirty years ago, they used to pack you off during the holidays for a visit on Somebody's Farm. Have you forgotten? You went with your little round head close clipped till all the scar places showed white and you came back with a mat of sunbleached hair, your face and hands and legs brown as a nut.
Probably you treasure recollections of those boyhood days when a raw field turnip, peeled with a "toad-stabber," was mighty good eatin'. You remember the cows and chickens, the horses, pigs and sheep, the old corn-crib where generally you could scare up a chipmunk, the gnarled old orchard—the Eastern rail-fenced farm of a hundred-acres-or-so. You remember Wilson's Emporium at the Corners where you went for the mail—the place where the overalled legs of the whole community drummed idly against the cracker boxes and where dried prunes, acquired with due caution, furnished the juvenile substitute for a chew of tobacco!
Or perhaps you did not know even this much about country life—you of the Big Cities. To you, it may be, the Farmer has been little more than the caricatures of the theatres. You have seen him wearing blue jeans or a long linen duster in "The Old Homestead," wiping his eyes with a big red bandana from his hip pocket. You have seen him dance eccentric steps in wrinkled cowhide boots, his hands beneath flapping coat-tails, his chewing jaws constantly moving "the little bunch of spinach on his chin!" You have heard him fiddle away like two-sixty at "Pop Goes the Weasel!" You have grinned while he sang through his nose about the great big hat with the great big brim, "All Ba-ound Ra-ound With a Woolen String!"
Yes, and you used to read about the Farmer, too—Will Carleton's farm ballads and legends; Riley's fine verses about the frost on the pumpkin and "Little Orphant Annie" and "Over the Hill to the Poorhouse!" And when Cousin Letty took you to the Harvest Home Supper and Grand Entertainment in the Town Hall you may have heard the village choir wail: "Oh, Shall We Mortgage the Farm?"
Perhaps even yet, now that you are man grown—business or professional man of the great cities—perhaps even yet, although you long have studied the market reports and faithfully have read the papers every day—perhaps that first impression of what a farmer was like still lingers in a more or less modified way. So that to you pretty much of an "Old Hayseed" he remains. Thus, while you have been busy with other things, the New Farmer has come striding along until he has "arrived in our midst" and to you he is a stranger.
Remember the old shiny black mohair sofa and the wheezy, yellow-keyed melodeon or the little roller hand-organ that used to play "Old Hundred"? They have given place to new styles of furniture, upright pianos and cabinet gramophones. Coffin-handles and wax flowers are not framed in walnut and hung in the Farmer's front parlor any more; you will find the grotesque crayon portrait superseded by photo enlargements and the up-to-date kodak. The automobile has widened the circle of the Farmer's neighbors and friends, while the telephone has wiped distance from the map.
In the modern farm kitchen hot and cold water gushes from bright nickel taps into a clean white enamel sink, thanks to the pneumatic water supply system. The house and other farm buildings are lighted by electricity and perhaps the little farm power plant manages to operate some machinery—to drive the washing machine, the cream separator, the churn and the fodder-cutter or tanning-mill. There is also a little blacksmith shop and a carpenter shop where repairs can be attended to without delay. True, all these desirable conveniences may not be possessed generally as yet; but the Farmer has seen them working on the model farmstead exhibited by the Government at the Big Fair or in the Farm Mechanics car of the Better Farming Special Trains that have toured the country, and he dreams about them.
More scientific methods of agriculture have been adopted. The Farmer has learned what may be accomplished by crop rotations and new methods of cultivation. He has learned to analyze the soil and grow upon his land those crops for which it is best suited. If he keeps a dairy herd he tests each cow and knows exactly how her yield is progressing so that it is impossible for her to "beat her board bill." No longer is it even considered good form to chop the head off the old rooster; the Farmer sticks him scientifically, painlessly, instantaneously dressing him for market in the manner that commands the highest price. So with the butter, the eggs and all the rest of the farm products.
Do you wonder that the great evolution of farming methods should lead to advanced thought upon the issues of the day? In the living room the Family Bible remains in its old place of honor, perhaps with the crocheted mat still doing duty; but it is not now almost the only book in the house. There is likely to be a sectional bookcase, filled with solid volumes on all manner of practical and economic subjects—these as well as the best literature, the latest magazines and two or three current newspapers.
Yes, a whole flock of tin roosters have rusted away on top of the barn since the Farmer first began to consider himself the Rag Doll of Commerce and to seek adjustments. It is the privilege of rag dolls to survive a lot of abuse; long after wax has melted and sawdust run the faithful things are still on hand. And along about crop time the Farmer finds himself attracting a little attention.
That is because this business of backbone farming is the backbone of Business In General. As long as money is circulating freely Business In General, being merely an exchange in values, wears a clean shirt and the latest cravat. But let some foreign substance clog the trade channels and at once everything tightens up and squeezes everybody.
Day by day the great mass of the toilers in the cities go to work without attempting to understand the fluctuations of supply and demand. They are but cogs on the rim, dependent for their little revolutions upon the power which drives the machinery. That power being Money Value, any wastage must be replaced by the creation of new wealth. So men turn to the soil for salvation—to the greatest manufacturing concern in the world, Nature Unlimited. This is the plant of which the Farmer is General Manager.
On state occasions, therefore, it has been the custom in the past to call him "the backbone of his country"—its "bone and sinew." Without him, as it were, the Commercial Fabric could not sit up in its High Chair and eat its bread and milk. Such fine speeches have been applauded loudly in the cities, too frequently without due thought—without it occurring to anyone, apparently, that perhaps the Farmer might prefer to be looked upon rather as an ordinary hard-working human being, entitled as such to "a square deal."
But all these years times have been changing. Gradually Agriculture has been assuming its proper place in the scheme of things. It is recognized now that successful farming is a business—a profession, if you like—requiring lifelong study, foresight, common sense, close application; that it carries with it all the satisfaction of honest work well done, all the dignity of practical learning, all the comforts of modern invention, all the wider benefits of clean living and right thinking in God's sunny places.
And with his increasing self-respect the New Farmer is learning to command his rights, not merely to ask and accept what crumbs may fall. He is learning that these are the days of Organization, of Co-Operation among units for the benefit of the Whole; that by pooling his resources he is able to reach the Common Objective with the least waste of effort.
He has become a power in the land.
These pages record a story of the Western Canadian farmer's upward struggle with market conditions—a story of the organized Grain Growers. No attempt is made to set forth the full details of the whole Farmer's Movement in Western Canada in all its ramifications; for the space limits of a single volume do not permit a task so ambitious.
The writer has endeavored merely to gather an authentic record of the earlier activities of the Grain Growers' Associations in the three Prairie Provinces—why and how they came to be organized, with what the farmers had to contend and something of their remarkable achievements in co-operative marketing during the past decade. It is a tale of strife, limned by high lights and some shadows. It is a record worthy of preservation and one which otherwise would pass in some of its details with the fading memories of the pathfinders.
If from these pages the reader is able to glean something of interest, something to broaden—be it ever so slightly—his understanding of the Western Canadian farmers' past viewpoint and present outlook, the undertaking will have found its justification and the long journeys and many interviews their reward.
For, under the alchemy of the Great War, many things are changing and in the wonderful days of reconstruction that lie ahead the Farmer is destined to play an upstanding part in the new greatness of our country. Because of this it behooves the humblest citizen of us to seek better understanding, to meet half way the hand of fellowship which he extends for a new conception of national life.
The writer is grateful to those farmers, grain men, government officials and others who have assisted him so kindly in gathering and verifying his material. Indebtedness is acknowledged also to sundry Dominion Government records, to the researches of Herbert N. Casson and to the press and various Provincial Departments of Agriculture for the use of their files.
WINNIPEG, March 1st, 1918.
THE MAN ON THE QU'APPELLE TRAIL
Among the lonely lakes I go no more, For she who made their beauty is not there; The paleface rears his tepee on the shore And says the vale is fairest of the fair. Full many years have vanished since, but still The voyageurs beside the camp-fire tell How, when the moon-rise tips the distant hill, They hear strange voices through the silence swell. —E. Pauline Johnson. The Legend of Qu'Appelle.
To the rimming skyline, and beyond, the wheatlands of Assiniboia spread endlessly in the sunshine. It was early October in the year 1901—one of those clear bright days which contribute enchantment to that season of spun gold when harvest bounties are garnered on the Canadian prairies. Everywhere was the gleam of new yellow stubble. In serried ranks the wheat stocks stretched, dwindling to mere specks, merging as they lost identity in distance. Here and there stripes of plowed land elongated, the rich black freshly turned earth in sharp contrast to the prevailing gold, while in a tremendous deep blue arch overhead an unclouded sky swept to cup the circumference of vision. Many miles away, yet amazingly distinct in the rarefied air, the smoke of threshers hung in funnelled smudges above the horizon—like the black smoke of steamers, hull down, at sea.
On this particular autumn afternoon a certain black dot might have been observed, so lost in the immensity of landscape that it appeared to be stationary. It was well out upon the trail that wound northward from Indian Head into the country of the Fishing Lakes—the trail that forked also eastward to dip through the valley of the Qu'Appelle at Blackwood before striking north and east across the Kenlis plain towards the Pheasant Hills. In reality the well kept team which drew the big grain wagon was swinging steadily ahead at a smart pace; for their load of supplies, the heaviest item of which was a new plow, was comparatively light, they were homeward bound and the going in the earlier stages of the long journey was smooth.
The driver sat hunched in his seat, reins sagging. He was a man of powerful physique, his skin deep coppered by long exposure to prairie winds and sun. In repose the face that was shadowed by the wide felt hat would have appeared somewhat deceptive in its placidity owing to the fact that the strong jaw and firm mouth were partly hidden by a heavy moustache and a thick, black beard, trimmed short.
Just now it was evident that the big farmer's mood was far from pleasant. Forearm on knee, he had surrendered completely to his thoughts. His fists clenched spasmodically and there was an angry glint in his eyes. Occasionally he shook his head as if the matter in mind were almost too hopeless for consideration. A sudden surge of resentment made him lash his booted leg with the ends of the lines.
"Confound them!" he muttered aloud.
He had just delivered his first load of the season's new wheat. Three nights before, by lantern light, he had backed his horses to the wagon and hauled it twenty-five miles to the railway at Indian Head. His stay there had not been conducive to peace of mind.
To reach the rails with a heavy load in favorable weather was simple enough; it merely required time. But many such trips would be necessary before his crop was marketed. Some of the farmers from beyond the Qu'Appelle would be hauling all winter; it was in winter that the haul was long and cruel. Starting at one, two or three o'clock in the morning, it would be impossible to forecast the weather with any degree of accuracy, so that often they would be overtaken by blizzards. At such times the lack of stopping-places and shelter in the sparsely settled reaches of the trail encompassed the journey with risks every whit as real as pioneer perils of marauding Indians or trailing wolf-packs.
Snow and wind, however, had no place in the thoughts of the lonely farmer at the moment. Such things he had been used to ever since he first homesteaded; this long haul with the products of his toil he had been making for many years. What immediately concerned him was the discouraging prospect of another wheat blockade instead of any improvement in conditions which had become unbearable. With the country as full of wheat as it was this year it required no great gift of prophecy to foretell what would happen.
It was happening already. The railway people were ignoring completely the car-distribution clauses of the Grain Act and thereby playing in with the elevator interests, so that the farmers were going to be just where they were before—at the mercy of the buyers, their legitimate profits filched by excessive dockage, low grades, depressed prices, exorbitant storage charges, even short weights in some cases. All this in spite of the strong agitation which had led to Government action, in spite of the Royal Commission which had investigated the farmers' claims and had recommended the Grain Act, in spite of the legislation on the statutes! Law or no law, the farmer was still to be preyed upon, apparently, without a single weapon left with which——
The eyes of the man in the broad-brimmed hat grew grave. Scoff as he might among the men of the district when the serious ones voiced their fears to him, his own thoughts always came back to those fears. From the Red River Valley to the foothills long-smouldering indignation was glowing like a streak of fire in the prairie grass; a spark or two more and nothing could stop the conflagration that would sweep the plains country. If the law were to fail these red-blooded and long-suffering homesteaders there would be final weapons alright—real weapons! It was no use shutting one's eyes to the danger. Some fool would do something rash, and with the farmers already inflamed and embittered, there was no telling what desperate things might be attempted.
That was the fear which stirred and perplexed the solitary traveller; for he had heard things that afternoon—seen things that he did not like but could not ignore. He recognized an undercurrent of feeling, a silence more ominous than all the heated talk, and that was where the danger lay. Something would have to be done, and that soon. But what? What?
So engrossed was he that beyond an occasional flip of the reins or a word to the horses he paid no heed to his surroundings. A huge jack-rabbit sprang up, almost from beneath the noses of the team, and went flying off in great leaps over the stubble. A covey of prairie chicken, fat and fit, whirred into the air and rocketed away. But he scarcely saw them. Had he looked up he might have noticed a horseman loping down a cross trail with the evident intention of heading off the wagon. But the rider had pounded almost within hailing distance before the other was aware of his approach.
It was Bob McNair of the "Two-Bar Ranch," as he insisted upon calling his wheat farm. He waved an oil-spattered Stetson and came into the trail with a rush, pulling up the wiry broncho with a suddenness that would have unseated one less accustomed than McNair, former corporal, Royal North-West Mounted Police.
"Howdy, W. R. Thought 'twas your outfit. Good job I aint a Blackfoot on the warpath," he laughed. "I'd sure 'a' had your scalp sneaked before you could draw a bead!" He swung alongside, stepped into the wagon, looped the bridle-rein over the handle of the new plow and, climbing forward, shook hands heartily and sat down.
"You're looking fit, Bob," welcomed the other with evident pleasure. "What brings you over this way? Everything going alright?"
"So-so," nodded McNair. "Been over Sintaluta to see about gettin' a car, among other things."
"Of course you got it?"
"Sure! Oh, sure I got it—got it still to get!" and McNair burst into a flow of language that did even him justice. More or less vehement at all times, the one-time corporal exhibited so much vigor in his remarks that his good-natured auditor had to laugh. "I ain't tryin' to be funny!" finished McNair. "I mean every dashed word of it, Motherwell. If I don't get some of it out o' my system I'll bust to bits, that's what. Say, I met Sibbold. He told me some of you fellows was meetin' over at the Head to-day. What about it?"
"Why, yes, Johnny Millar got a few of us together to talk things over. Lot of talk alright. Some of the boys were feeling pretty hot, I can tell you! But I can't see that anything came of it except some resolutions—the usual sort, you know."
"Pshaw! I was hopin' it meant action of some kind." The ex-rancher was silent for a moment. Then his right fist went into his left palm with a smack. "The only kind o' resolution that'll get anythin' is made o' lead and fits in a rifle breech! And I want to tell you, old man, if there ain't some pretty quick right-about-facin' in certain quarters, I'll be dashed if I ain't for it! An' I won't be standin' alone, either!" he added grimly.
W. R. Motherwell glanced sharply at the tense face.
"Don't talk nonsense!" he reproved quietly.
"I ain't talkin' nonsense. Not on your life! If I am, then I reckon I know a hundred or so hard-headed farmers who're doin' the identical same. An' if I know that many in my territory, W. R., how many d'you suppose there are if we take in Manitoba and clean through to the mountains?"
"Then all I've got to say is: there are more and bigger fools in the country than I had any idea of."
"What d'you mean, talkin' like that?"
"That's just what I've got to say to you, McNair," retorted the big farmer with heat. "What do you mean, talking like that? If you're serious in what you say——"
"I said I was, didn't I?" snapped the other.
"Then you ought to be tied up on the Two-Bar and muzzled, for you're plumb mad, McNair! It's just that kind of firebrand talk that's hurting our cause. The farmers have got enough enemies now, God knows, without making a lot of new ones. Doggone your hide, Mac, what're you trying to do?—Stir up another rebellion like that of '85?"
"If it's necessary—you bet I am!" he brazened.
"You, of all men!"
"An' why not me? Just because I've worn the Queen's uniform, eh? Well, let me tell you, sir, I belonged to a body of men who stood for British justice an' a square deal to even the meanest Injun in the Territories." The ex-mounted policeman spoke with pride. "We'd never have handled the beggars if it hadn't been for that. Even the Injuns were men enough to recognize justice, an' that's more'n these commercial blood-suckers to-day can do! If our case was in the hands of the Force it'd rest on its merits an' us grain growers'd get justice. Instead, where is it?—in the hands of a pussy-footed, hifalutin' bunch o' political windbags in the East who don't care a damn about us hayseeds out West! An' what's more——"
"The Royal Mounted stood for law and order, Bob; but you'd class yourself with the half-breeds, would you? Have another little rebellion like that of '85 with all the——"
"Not like '85," interrupted the rancher. "No, sir, this one'll be bloodless; but it'll knock the spots off the 'breeds' little shindig all the samee!"
"You spoke of rifles, McNair. Guns go off," interpolated the other sententiously. "What'n the mischief do you expect to gain by that sort of thing?"
"A hearing, by Jingo! That's more'n all your letters to the papers an' your meetin's an' resolutions have got us. We'll show 'em we mean business——"
"Rot! How did we get the Royal Commission except by those letters and meetings? That put the Manitoba Grain Act on the statutes, didn't it? Mean to say we're no farther ahead? We've got the whole grain trade under control and supervision——"
"Like ducks you have!" The former rancher threw back his head and laughed.
"We've got the privilege of loading our wheat direct on cars through the flat warehouses or any other way we like——"
"What's the good o' that if a man can't get a car when he wants it?" demanded McNair impatiently. "The elevator gang 've organized to grab everything in sight. I know it. You know it. Everybody knows it, by heaven! So what's the use o' talkin'?"
"We've got to be fair, though. The elevator people have put a lot of money—Say, why can't we organize, too?" suggested Motherwell with a flash of inspiration. "We haven't tried that yet. That's constitutional. That's what the livestock breeders have done," he said eagerly.
McNair shook his head.
"I tell you, Bill, it's too late for that sort o' thing," he objected. "Unless you mean organizin' to fight—"
"With guns, if necessary?"
"It won't be necessary."
"Possibly not to shoot anybody. The showin' mebbe'll turn the trick. Now, look here. My idea is that if a bunch of us fellows got together on the quiet some night an' seized a few elevators—Say, wouldn't it bring things to a head so quick we'd get action? The law's there, but these fellows are deliberately breakin' it an' we got to show 'em——"
"The action you'd get would be the wrong kind, Mac," protested W. R. Motherwell emphatically. "You'd land in jail!"
"Don't see it that way," persisted McNair. "Wouldn't give a continental if I did so long's it woke a few people up."
"I tell you you're on the wrong trail unless you want to get it where the chicken got the axe!"
"Doggone it, man! Ain't that where we're gettin' it now?"
"Whereas with the right kind of organization——"
"Don't believe it," grunted McNair, starting to climb back to his horse. "The time for any more o' these here granny tea-parties is past to my way o' thinkin' an' if we can't agree on it, we'd better shut up before we get mad." He vaulted easily into the saddle. "But I'll tell you one thing, W. R.—there's the sweetest little flare-up you ever saw on its way. I was talkin' the other day to Ed. Partridge, the Railton boys, Al. Quigley, Billy Bonner and some more——"
"And I'll bet they gave you a lot of sound advice, Mac!" laughed Motherwell confidently.
"That's alright," resented McNair, the tan of his cheek deepening a trifle. "They're a pretty sore bunch an' a fellow from down Turtle Mountain way in Manitoba told me——"
"That the mud-turtle and the jack-rabbit finally agreed that slow and steady——"
"Bah! You're sure hopeless," grinned the owner of the Two-Bar, giving his horse the rein.
"Hopeful," corrected W. R. Motherwell with a laugh. "Tell Wilson, if you see him, that Peter Dayman and I are expecting him over next week, will you? And I say, Mac, don't kill too many before you get home!" he called in final jocularity.
The flying horseman waved his hat and his "S'long" came back faintly. The other watched till horse and rider lost themselves among the distant wheat stocks. The twinkle died out of his eyes as he watched.
So McNair was another of them, eh? After all, that was only to be expected of an old Indian fighter and cow-puncher like him. Poor Bob! He had his reputation to sustain among the newcomers—hard rider, hard fighter, hard drinker; to do it under the changed conditions naturally required some hard talking on occasion. While Mac had become civilized enough to keep one foot in a cowhide boot planted in the practical present, the other foot was still moccasined and loath to forget the days of war-paint and whiskey-traders, feathers and fears. Over the crudities and hardships, the dirt and poverty, the years between had hung a kindly curtain of glamor; so that McNair with his big soft kerchiefs, his ranger's hat, his cow-puncher's saddle and trappings and his "Two-Bar" brand was a figure to crane an Eastern neck.
Likeable enough chap—too much of a man to be treated as a joke to his face, but by no means to be taken seriously—not on most occasions. In the present instance, with feeling running as high as it was in some quarters, that crazy idea of seizing a few elevators at the point of a gun—! What in heaven's name would they do with them after they got them? Nevertheless, McNair might find rattle-brained listeners enough to cause a heap of trouble. There were always a few fellows ready for excitement; they might go in for the fun of it, then before they knew it the thing would curdle over night like a pan of milk in a thunder-storm.
"He's just darn fool enough to try some funny work," muttered the anxious driver of the grain wagon. "Jailing him only makes a hero of him and that's the kind of thing the beggar glories in. The son-of-a-gun!"
One by one throughout the afternoon the miles crept tediously beneath the wagon. The sun which had steeped the stubble in gold all day had turned the sky and was poising for its nightly dip below the horizon by the time the long misty blue line of the Qu'Appelle hills began to creep from the prairie. When the lone traveller at last could count the deep shadowy coulees the sun had disappeared, but the riot of after-fires still burned brightly in the west. He had passed his own place hours before, but had stopped there only for a change of horses and a brief rest; a parcel and an important message which he wished to deliver in person at Fort Qu'Appelle without delay was extending his day's journey.
Six hundred feet below the level of the plain the grassy slopes of the Qu'Appelle Valley bowled to the blue lakes. Hugging the water's edge, the buildings of the romantic old fort scattered in the twilight. The winding trail stood out like a white thread that reached down the valley towards the Catholic Mission of Lebret.
Before heading into the steep descent the farmer from over Abernethy way slipped on his heavy cardigan jacket; for behind the rim of the hills the sunset fires were dying and already the coolness of the October night was making itself felt. At the mouth of a coulee he spoke to a solitary Indian, standing motionless before a camp fire. The appetizing odor of roasting wild fowl reminded him that he was more than ready for the "bite to eat" which he would enjoy with the good Father Hugonard at the Indian Mission—he of the dark, gentle eyes, the quick understanding, the quiet tones. There would be much to talk about.
So it proved. The hour was growing late when finally he bade good-bye to his pleasant host and resumed his journey in the starlight, refreshed and encouraged. For here in the seclusion of this peaceful valley, since the days of the great buffalo herds, Father Hugonard had ministered to the Indians, starved with them, worked patiently with them through many seasons of flowers and snows. Nevertheless, out of many discouragements and privations had this sterling man retained an abiding faith in the triumph of righteousness in all things.
In the quiet beauty of the wonderful October night was little place for the anxious thoughts of the day. Bitterness of spirit, the bickerings of men, commercial Oppression and injustice—these were things far removed from the planets of the Ages that sparkled like jewels in the vault of Night. A vagrant breeze whispered in the valley sedges to the placid lake. High in the air, invisible, migrating wavies winged into the south, the distant gabble of their passing falling weirdly earthward.
The trail began to ascend sharply. Off to the right the sky was growing rapidly lighter behind a distant hill and presently a lop of yellow moon crept slowly over the edge and rose into the air like a broken chalice, chasing the shadows to their retreats.
As he watched it the driver of the grain wagon recalled again the old Indian legend that haunted this valley and had given it its name—how, long ago, a young Indian chieftain was paddling his canoe through these waters on his way to win a bride when suddenly above "the night wind's melancholy song" he heard a voice calling him through the twilight. "Qu'appelle? Qu'appelle?" he answered in French. "Who calls?" But only his own voice came back in echoes while the gloom of night deepened and a wan moon rose silently behind the distant hill. Then when he reached the Indian encampment it was only to see the death fires lighted on the shore, to hear the wail of women and to learn that just before her lips had closed forever, his beloved had called for him—just at the moon-rise. Thus, ever since, the Indians claimed, strange spirit voices spoke through the lone valley at every rising of the moon.
Thrilled by the beauty of the valley scene, misty in the moonlight, the big farmer half unconsciously drew rein and listened. All he could hear at first was the impatient stamp of his horses' feet, the mouthing of the bits as the animals tossed their heads restlessly, the clink of the trace-chains; but presently he sensed a subdued undertone of night noises that wafted mysteriously over the silver water. It was nothing that could be recognized definitely; rather was it an impression of strangely merged minor sounds that grew upon him as imagination was given play under the influence of time and place. It was easy to supply interpretations of that faint medley, even while one knew that it was merely the murmur of night airs in the dry grasses, the whisper of the water-edges, the stirring of restless water-fowl in the dying reeds.
The man who had ridden all day with his thoughts began unconsciously to apply other meanings to the sound, to people the night with dim faces and shapes that came trooping over the edge of the tablelands above—toil-bent figures of old pioneer farmers, care-worn faces of women and bright eager faces of little children who were holding out their hands trustfully to the future. There seemed to be a never-ending procession—faces that were apathetic from repeated disappointments, faces that scowled threateningly, brave faces tense with determination and sad faces on which was written the story of struggle hidden within many a lonely wind-buffeted shack on the great bosom of the prairie.
Was it, then, that all the years of toil and hardship were to come to naught for this great company of honest workers, these brave pioneer men and women of the soil? Was all their striving forward to find them merely marking time, shouldered into the backwater while the currents of organized commercialism swept away their opportunities? Were not these producers of the world's bread themselves to partake of the fruits of their labor?
Yes! Surely the answer was Yes! It was their Right. Wrong could not endure forever in the face of Right; else were the world a poor place, Life itself a failure, the mystic beauty of God's calm night a mockery.
The man from Abernethy roused himself. It would be nearly dawn before his team would reach their home stalls. He whistled to the horses and they plunged into the black shadows of the coulee up which the trail rose in steep ascent from the valley. When they emerged into the moonlight he drew rein for a moment.
Somewhere back in a forgotten arroyo a coyote yapped lonesomely. Around through the night were flung the distant glow-dots of the burning straw piles, and as he filled his lungs with the fresh sweet air the hope of better days warmed the heart of the belated traveller. The Hand which set the orbits of the universe created the laws of Truth and Justice and these never could be gainsaid. Everything would come out aright if only men were steadfast in faith and duty.
He gave the horses their heads and they were off once more through the cool night upon the wheatland sea that was bounded only by far purple shadows.
 The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, Western Canada, were not created until 1906. Prior to that the entire country west of the Province of Manitoba was known as the North-West Territories, of which the District of Assiniboia was a part, the part which subsequently formed the southern portion of the Province of Saskatchewan.
 Hon. W. R. Motherwell, Minister of Agriculture, Province of Saskatchewan.
A CALL TO ARMS
And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth.—Isaiah 10:14.
For five thousand years Man has grown wheat for food. Archaeologists have found it buried with the mummies of Egypt; the pictured stones of the Pyramids record it. But it was the food of princes, not of peasants—of the aristocracy, not of the people; for no man could harvest enough of it with his sickle to create a supply which would place it within the reach of the poor. While century after century has passed since wheat was first recognized as the premier nourishment for the human body, it is only of recent times that it has become the food of the nations.
The swift development of grain growing into the world's greatest industry goes back for a small beginning to 1831. It was in that year that a young American-born farm boy of Irish-Scotch extraction was jeered and laughed at as he attempted to cut wheat with the first crude reaper; but out of Cyrus Hall McCormick's invention soon grew the wonderful harvesting machinery which made possible the production of wheat for export. Close on heel the railways and water-carriers began competing for the transportation of the grain, the railways pushing eagerly in every direction where new wheat lands could be tapped. In 1856 wheat was leaving Chicago for Europe and four years later grain vessels from California were rounding Cape Horn. The nine years that followed saw the conquest of the vast prairies of the American West which were crossed by the hissing, iron monsters that stampeded the frightened bison, out-ran the wild horses and out-stayed the lurking Indian.
No sooner had the railways pushed back the frontier than wheat began to trickle steadily upon the market, to flow with increased volume, then to pour in by train-loads. Sacks were discarded for quicker shipment in bulk; barns and warehouses filled and spilled till adequate storage facilities became the vital problem and, the need mothering invention, F. H. Peavey came forward with an idea—an endless chain of metal cups for elevating grain. From this the huge modern elevator evolved to take its place as the grain's own particular storehouse. With the establishment of exchanges for conducting international buying and selling the universalizing of wheat was complete.
These things had come to pass while that great region which is now Western Canada was still known as a Great Lone Land. Pioneer settlers, however, were beginning to venture westward to the newly organized Province of Manitoba and beyond. The nearest railroad was at St. Paul, Minnesota, from which point a "prairie schooner" trail led north for 450 miles to Winnipeg at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers; the alternative to this overland tented-wagon route was a tedious trip by Red River steamer. It was not until 1878 that a railway was built north into Manitoba from St. Paul; but it was followed shortly after by the projection of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which reached Vancouver in 1886.
Then began what has been called the greatest wheat-rush ever known. Land, land without end, to be had for the asking—rich land that would grow wheat, forty bushels to the acre, millions of acres of it! Fabulous tales, winging east and south, brought settlers pouring into the new country. They came to grow wheat and they grew it, the finest wheat in the world. They grew it in ever increasing volume.
Successful operation of new railroads—even ordinary railroads—is not all glistening varnish and bright new signal flags. The Canadian Pacific was no ordinary railway. It was a young giant, reaching for the western skyline with temerity, and it knew Trouble as it knew sun and wind and snow. The very grain which was its life-blood gorged the embryo system till it choked. The few elevators and other facilities provided could not begin to handle the crop, even of 1887, the heavy yield upsetting all calculations. The season for harvesting and marketing being necessarily short, the railroad became the focus of a sudden belch of wheat; it required to be rushed to the head of the lakes in a race with the advancing cold which threatened to congeal the harbor waters about the anxiously waiting grain boats before they could clear. With every wheel turning night and day no ordinary rolling stock could cope with the demands; for the grain was coming in over the trails to the shipping points faster than it could be hauled out and the railroad was in a fix for storage accommodation.
It was easy to see that such seasonal rushes would be a permanent condition in Western Canada, vital but unavoidable; so the Canadian Pacific Railway Company cast about for alleviations. They hit upon the plan of increasing storage facilities rapidly by announcing that the Company would make special concessions to anyone who would build elevators along the line with a capacity of not less than 26,000 bushels and equipped with cleaning machinery, steam or gasoline power—in short, "standard" elevators. The special inducement offered was nothing more nor less than an agreement that at points where such elevators were erected the railway company would not allow cars to be loaded with grain through flat warehouses, direct from farmers' vehicles or in any other way than through such elevators; the only "condition" was that the elevator owners would furnish storage and shipping facilities, of course, for those wishing to store or ship grain.
At once the noise of hammer and saw resounded along the right-of-way. Persons and corporations whose business it was to mill grain, to buy and export it, were quick to take advantage of the opportunity; for the protection offered by the railway meant that here was shipping control of the grain handed out on a silver platter, garnished with all the delectable prospects of satisfying the keenest money hunger.
On all sides protests arose from the few owners of ordinary warehouses who found their buildings useless, once the overtopping elevator went up alongside—from small buyers who found themselves being driven out of the market with the flat warehouses. But these voices were drowned in the swish of grain in the chutes and the staccato of the elevator engines—lost in the larger exigencies of the wheat. The railway company held to their promises and the tall grain boxes reared their castor tops against the sky in increasing clusters.
To operate a standard elevator at a country point with profit it was considered necessary in the early days to fill it three times in a season unless the owner proposed to deal in grain himself and make a buyer's profit in addition to handling grain for others. The cost of building and operating the class of elevator demanded by the railway company was partly responsible for this. Before long the number of elevators in Manitoba and the North-West Territories increased till it was impossible for all of them to obtain the three fillings per season even had their owners been inclined to perform merely a handling service.
But those who had taken up the railway's offer with such avidity and had invested large sums of shareholders' capital in building the elevator accommodation were mostly shrewd grain dealers whose primary object was to buy and sell. These interested corporations were not constructing elevators in order to admire their silhouettes against the beautiful prairie sunsets! In every corner of the earth the Dollar Almighty, or its equivalent, was being stalked by all sorts and conditions of men, some of whom chased it noisily and openly while others hunted with their boots in one hand. Properly enough, the grain men were out for all that their investment could earn and for all the wheat which they could buy at one price and sell at another. That was their business, just as it was the business of the railway company to transport the grain at a freight rate which would net a profit, just as it was the farmer's business—
But to the farmer it seemed that he had no business! He merely grew the grain. Apparently a farmer was a pair of pants, a shirt and a slouch hat that sat on a wagon-load of wheat, drove it up the incline into the elevator and rattled away again for another load! To farm was an occupation easily parsed—subjunctive mood, past tense, passive voice! The farmer was third person, singular! He came and went in single file like an Indian or a Chinaman—John Doe, Yon Yonson and Johann X (his mark)—every kind of Johnny on no spot but his own! As soon as his grain was dumped each of him went back to the land among the dumb animals where the pomp and vanity of this wicked world would not interfere with preparations for next year's crop!
Wheat was bought upon the grading system—so much per bushel for this grade, so much for that, according to the fluctuations of supply and demand upon the world's markets. But the average farmer at that time knew little or nothing about what went on in the great exchanges of the cities; there was no means of learning the intricacies of the grain business and many farmers even did not know what a grain exchange was. All such a man knew was that his wheat was graded and he received a certain price for it.
The railway company's refusal to furnish cars for loading direct from the farmer's wagon compelled the shipper to sell to the elevator operator for whatever price he could get, accepting whatever weights the operator allowed and whatever "dockage" he chose to decree. The latter represented that portion of the farmer's delivery which was supposed to come through the cleaning sieves as waste material such as dirt, weed seeds, broken wheat kernels, etc. To determine the percentage of dockage in any given load of wheat the ordinary human being would require to weigh and clean a pound of it at least; but so expert were many of the elevator operators of those days that they had no trouble at all in arriving at the dockage by a single glance. Nor were they disconcerted by the fact that the country was new and grain frequently came from the thresher in a remarkably clean condition.
With everything thus fallow for seeds of discord the Big Trouble was not long in making itself manifest. All over the country the Bumping of the Bumpkins apparently became the favorite pastime of elevator men. Certain persons with most of their calluses on the inside cracked the whip and the three-ring circus began. Excessive dockage, short weights, depressed prices! The farmers grew more and more bitter as time passed. To begin with, they resented being compelled by the railway to deal with the elevators; it was a violation of that liberty which they had a right to enjoy as British citizens. The grain was theirs to sell where they liked, and when on top of the refusal to let them do it came this bleeding of their crops, their indignation was fanned to white heat.
It was useless for the farmers to build elevators of their own; for these had to conform to the requirements of the railway and, as already stated, it was impossible to run them profitably without making a buyer's profit in addition to the commission for handling and storage. The farmers were not buyers but sellers of grain and with very few exceptions, where conditions were specially favorable, the farmers' elevators that were attempted were soon in difficulties.
Leading farmers began to write strong letters to the newspapers and it was not long before the agitation became so widespread that it reached the floor of Parliament. Mr. James M. Douglas, member for East Assiniboia, during two successive sessions introduced Bills to regulate the shipping and transportation of grain in Manitoba and the North-West Territories and these were discussed in the House of Commons. A Special Committee of the House was appointed finally to investigate the merits of the case and as considerable difference of opinion was expressed as to the actual facts, the appointment of a Royal Commission to make a full and impartial investigation of the whole subject in the public interest was recommended.
This Royal Commission accordingly was appointed on October 7th, 1899, and consisted of three Manitoba farmers—W. F. Sirett, of Glendale; William Lothian, of Pipestone, and Charles C. Castle, of Foxton—with His Honor E. J. Senkler, of St. Catharines, Ontario, as Chairman; Charles N. Bell, of Winnipeg, acted as Secretary. Owing to the illness and death of Judge Senkler, Albert Elswood Richards (afterwards the late Hon. Mr. Justice Richards, of Winnipeg), succeeded as Chairman in February, 1900.
Sittings were held at many places throughout Manitoba and the North-West Territories and much evidence was taken as to the grievances complained of, these being mainly: (1) That vendors of grain were being subjected to unfair and excessive dockage at the time of sale; (2) That doubt existed as to the fairness of the weights allowed or used by owners of elevators; (3) That the owners of elevators enjoyed a monopoly in the purchase of grain by refusing to permit the erection of flat warehouses where standard elevators were situated and were thus able to keep prices of grain below true value to their own benefit and the disadvantage of the public generally as well as others who were specially interested in the grain trade.
Meanwhile the railway companies had hastened to announce that they would furnish cars to farmers who wished to ship direct and do their own loading. This concession, made in 1898-9, resulted in somewhat better prices and better treatment from the elevator operators. But farmers who lived more than four or five miles from the shipping points could not draw in their grain fast enough to load a car within the time allowed by the railway; so that the situation, so far as these farmers were concerned, remained practically unchanged.
In March, 1900, the Royal Commission made a complete report. They had done their work thoroughly. They found that so long as any farmer was hampered in shipping to terminal markets himself he would be more or less at the mercy of elevator operators and that the only proper relief from the possibility of undue dockage and price depression was to be found in the utmost freedom of shipping and selling. To this end they considered that the railroads should be compelled by law to furnish farmers with cars for shipping their own grain and that flat warehouses should be allowed so that the farmer could have a bin in which to accumulate a carload of grain, if he so wished. This, the commissioners thought, should be the farmer's legal right rather than his privilege. Loading platforms for the free use of shippers were also recommended.
It was the further opinion of the Commission that the law should compel elevator and warehouse owners to guarantee the grades and weights of a farmer's grain and to do this the adoption of a uniform grain ticket system was suggested. At the same time, the commissioners pointed out, these guarantees might lead to such careful grading and docking by the elevator operator as might appear to the farmer to be undergrading or overdocking; so that the farmer's right to load direct on cars was a necessary supplementary protection.
The annual shortage of cars during the rush season following harvest was found to be a direct cause of depression in prices. When cars were not available for immediate shipments the grain soon piled up on the elevator companies who were thereby forced to miss the cheaper transportation by boat from the head of the lakes or assume the risk of carrying over the grain until the following spring; in buying, therefore, they naturally allowed a wide margin to cover all possible contingencies. Increase of transportation facilities during October and November accordingly was imperative.
With no rules to regulate the grain trade except those laid down by the railways and the elevator owners, the need was great for definite legislation similar to that which obtained in the State of Minnesota and, as a result of the Royal Commission's recommendations, the Manitoba Grain Act was placed upon the statutes and became operative in 1900. To supervise the carrying out of the law in connection with the grain trade a Warehouse Commissioner was appointed, Mr. C. C. Castle who acted on the Royal Commission being selected for this responsible office.
A sigh of relief went up from many intelligent farmers who had begun to worry over the conditions developing; for they looked upon the Manitoba Grain Act as a sort of Magna Charta. With the grain trade under official control and supervision along the lines laid down by the Royal Commission, they felt that everything would be alright now. It was like calling in a policeman to investigate suspicious noises in the house; like welcoming the doctor's arrival upon an occasion of sudden and severe illness. Unfortunately, the patient's alarming symptoms sometimes continue; sometimes the thief makes a clean get-away; King John had no sooner left Runnymede than he proceeded to ignore the Great Charter and plan new and heavier scutages upon the people!
Up till now the elevator owners had been operating with nothing more definite than a fellowship of interests to hold them together; but upon appearance of the Grain Act they proceeded to organize the North West Elevator Association, afterwards called the North West Grain Dealers' Association. By agreeing on the prices which they would pay for wheat out in the country and by pooling receipts the members of such an organization, the farmers suspected, would be in a position to strangle competition in buying.
The new Act was aiming point blank at these very things by affording the farmer an opportunity of loading his grain direct into cars through flat warehouses, if he chose, and shipping where he liked. But because many farmers did not know with just what the new weapon was loaded or how to pull the trigger, the railways and elevators merely stepped up and smilingly brushed the whole thing aside as something which were better hanging on a high peg out of harm's way.
The crop of 1900 being comparatively light, the ignoring of the car-distribution clauses of the Act did not obtrude as brazenly as it did the year following. But when grain began to pour in to the shipping points in 1901 and the farmers found the railway unheeding their requests for cars their disgust and disappointment were as complete as their anger was swift. It was the rankling disappointment of men whose rights have been officially decreed only to be unofficially annulled; it was the hot anger of a slap in the face—the anger that makes men fight with every ounce of their strength.
The quick welling of it planted anxiety in the minds of such level-headed farmers as W. R. Motherwell and Peter Dayman, of Abernethy; Williams, of Balcarres; Snow, of Wolseley; Sibbold and Millar, of Indian Head. While the two latter were riding into town with wheat one day John Sibbold suggested to John Millar that, as secretary of the local Agricultural Society, it might be a good thing if he called a meeting to talk things over. It was the high state of feeling manifested at this meeting which furnished W. R. Motherwell with food for thought on the lonely Qu'Appelle trail. And it was the idea that it might be advisable to hold similar mass meetings throughout the country that brought Peter Dayman driving over to the Motherwell place, not long after, to discuss it.
These two men had been friends and neighbors since 1883. Each of them felt that the time had come for definite action of some kind and they spent the greater part of the day in talking over the situation in search of the most practical plan of campaign. There was little use in the farmers attempting to organize in defence of their own interests unless the effort were absolutely united and along broader lines than those of any previous farmers' organization. Politics, they both agreed, would have to be kept out of the movement at all costs or it would land on the rocks of defeat in the same way that the Farmers' Union and Patrons of Industry had been wrecked.
It was in the middle eighties when the West was settled but sparsely that the farmers had attempted to improve their lot by the formation of "Farmers' Unions." The movement had had a brief and not very brilliant career and as the offspring of this attempt at organization some progressives with headquarters at Brandon, Manitoba, had tried to enter the grain trade as an open company. When one of the chief officers of this concern defected in an attempt to get rich the failure dragged down the earnest promoters to deep financial losses.
Again in the early nineties the farmers had rebelled at their pioneer hardships by organizing the "Patrons of Industry," a movement which had gained strength and for a while looked healthy. It had got strong enough to elect friends to the Legislature and was sowing good seed when again temptation appeared, centred in the lure of commercial success and politics. Some of the chief officers began to misuse the organization for selfish ends and away went the whole thing.
There was no use in repeating these defeats. Couldn't some way be devised of sidestepping such pitfalls? The great weakness of the farmers was their individual independence; if they could be taught to stand together for their common interests there was hope that something might be accomplished.
The sitting-room clock ticked away the hours unheeded as these two far-sighted and conscientious farmers lost themselves in earnest discussion. The lamps were lighted, but still they planned.
Finally W. R. Motherwell reached across the table for a pad of note-paper and drafted the call to arms—a letter which summoned the men of Wolseley, Sintaluta and Indian Head, of Qu'Appelle, Wideawake and other places to gather for action. There and then copies were written out for every leading farmer within reach, and in order that no political significance might be attached to the call, both men signed the letters.
When Peter Dayman drove away from the Motherwell place that night perhaps he scarcely realized that he carried in his pocket the fate of the farmers of Western Canada. Neither he, W. R. Motherwell, nor any other man could have foretold the bitter struggles which those letters were destined to unleash—the stirring events that were impending.
 Wheat was first grown in Canada in 1606 at Port Royal (now Annapolis) in Nova Scotia, where Champlain and Pourtincourt built a fort and established a small colony. A plot of ground was made ready and wheat planted. "It grew under the snow," said Pourtincourt, "and in the following midsummer it was harvested."
THE FIRST SHOT IS FIRED
Let us have faith that Right makes Might, and in that faith let us dare to do our duty as we understand it.—Abraham Lincoln.
The eighteenth of December, 1901, was a memorable day in the little prairie town of Indian Head. Strangers from East and West had begun to arrive the night before and early in the day the accommodations were taxed to the limit while the livery stables were overflowing with the teams of farmers from every direction. All forenoon the trails were dotted with incoming sleighs and the groups which began to congregate on Main Street grew rapidly in size and number. The shop-keepers had stayed up half the night to put the final touches to their holiday decorations and make their final preparations for the promised rush of Christmas buying.
Many prominent men would grace the town with their presence before nightfall. The Premier of the North-West Territories, Hon. F. W. G. Haultain, would be on hand, as well as Hon. G. H. V. Bulyea and Senator William D. Perley; coming to meet them here would be Premier R. P. Roblin and other gentlemen of Manitoba. Certain boundary matters, involving the addition of a part of Assiniboia to the Province of Manitoba, were to be discussed at a public meeting in the Town Hall at night.
Messrs. Motherwell and Dayman had chosen their date well, many farmers having planned already to be at Indian Head on the 18th. The grain growers' meeting was announced for the afternoon and so keen was the interest that when order was called the chairman faced between sixty and seventy-five farmers, as well as a number of public men, instead of the dozen-or-so whom W. R. Motherwell had ventured to expect.
Although it was December out of doors, the temperature of that meeting was about one hundred in the shade! As the discussion expanded feeling ran high. Farmer after farmer got to his feet and told the facts as he knew them, his own personal experiences and those of his neighbors. There was no denying the evidence that it was full time the farmers bestirred themselves.
W. R. Motherwell and Peter Dayman spoke earnestly in favor of immediate organization along strong, sane lines. The farmer was always referred to as the most independent man on earth, and so he was; but it was individual independence only. He had come lumbering into the country behind his own oxen with his family and all his worldly goods in his own wagon; had built a roof over their heads with his own hands. Alone on the prairie, he had sweated and wrestled with the problem of getting enough to eat. One of the very first things the pioneer learned was to stand on his own two feet—to do things by himself. His isolation, the obstacles he had overcome by his own planning, the hardships he had endured and survived—these were the excuses for his assertiveness, his individualism, his hostility to the restrictions of organization. He was a horse for work; but it was an effort for him to do team work because he was not used to it.
This was the big barrier which would have to be surmounted in the beginning if battle were to be waged successfully against present oppressive conditions. The right kind of organization was the key that would unlock a happier future. The farmer was as much a producer as any manufacturer who made finished articles out of raw material; but his was the only business in which full energies were expended upon production of goods to sell while the marketing end was left for the "other fellow" to organize. That was why he was obliged to do as he was told, take what was given him or haul his wheat home and eat it himself.
Like all such meetings, it was not without its few pails of cold water. These were emptied by some who hinted dark things about "political reasons," and it was easy to make the trite statement that history repeats itself and to predict that the formation of such a farmers' association as was proposed would be riding only for the same fall which had overtaken former attempts. The enthusiasm refused to be dampened and it broke out in unmistakable accents when without waste of words Angus McKay nominated W. R. Motherwell as provisional President of the "Territorial Grain Growers' Association." John Millar as provisional Secretary and a board of directors were quickly chosen.
When it was all over and Senator William D. Perley rose slowly to his feet, it was to deliver a parting message of confidence that the farmers were taking the right step in the right manner. There were few men who could be listened to with greater respect than the elderly Senator and as the silence of his audience deepened it was almost as if the white-haired gentleman's dignified words were prophetic. He had been familiar with a somewhat similar movement in New Brunswick, he said, and back there by the Atlantic this movement was still very much alive and doing good work. Long after those who were present at this meeting had passed away, it was his prediction that this newborn organization of prairie farmers would be living still, still expanding and still performing a useful service to the farmers generally.
The meeting adjourned with the general feeling that at last matters were advancing beyond mere talk. The sixth of January was set as the date for a second meeting to draft a constitution and prepare a definite plan of campaign. Emphasis was laid upon the importance of a good attendance; but when the date arrived the leaders of the new movement were disappointed to find that, including themselves, there were just eleven farmers present. While this did not look very promising, they proceeded with their plans and it is a tribute to the careful thought expended at that time that the constitution then framed has stood the test of many years, even much of the exact phraseology remaining to-day. The idea of having local associations scattered throughout the country, each with its own officers, governed by a central organization with its special officers, was adopted from the first.
Among those present was C. W. Peterson, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture for the North-West Territories. He freely offered his services in the capacity of secretary; but the offer was turned down so flat and so quickly that it was breath-taking. The incident reflected very vividly the jealousy with which the farmers were guarding the new movement rather than any depreciation of the Deputy Commissioner's ability; every man of them was on the alert to deflect the thinnest political wedge, imagined or otherwise, that might come along. They would trust nobody with an official connection and the appointment of John Millar, who was one of themselves, was confirmed without loss of time. There was no salary attached to any office, of course; nobody thought of salaries. The farmers who knew the feel of spare cash in those days were seventh sons of seventh sons.
Winter and all as it was, the leaders of the young organization did not let the snow pack under their feet. No sooner were the preliminaries over than they set about preparing for the first convention of the Association by hitching up and travelling the country, organizing local associations. W. R. Motherwell, John Millar and Matt. Snow, of Wolseley, tucked the robes around them and jingled away in different directions. Wherever they went they were listened to eagerly and the resulting action was instantaneous. The movement took hold of the farmers like wildfire; so that by February thirty-eight local grain growers' associations had been formed, each sending enthusiastic delegates to the first Annual Convention, which was held at Indian Head in February, 1902.
All that summer, pacing the rapidly growing wheat, the Territorial Grain Growers' Association spread and took root till by harvest time it was standing everywhere in the field, a thrifty and full-headed champion of farmers' rights, lacking only the ripening of experience. There had been as yet no particular opportunity to demonstrate its usefulness in dollars and cents; but with the approach of the fall and market season the whole organization grew tense with expectancy. There seemed little reason to believe that the railway people would do other than attempt to continue their old methods of distributing cars where and when they chose and to disregard, as before, those provisions of the Grain Act which aimed to protect the farmer in getting his fair share of cars in which to load direct.
Thus it soon turned out. The officers of the Association at once warned the Canadian Pacific Railway Company that if they persisted in such practice the farmers would be compelled to take legal action against them. It looked so much like the attack of a toddling child against a man full grown that the big fellow laughed good-naturedly. Who, pray, were the "Territorial Grain Growers' Association"?
"We represent the farmers of Western Canada," retorted the unabashed officers of the little organization "and we want what the law allows us as our right. What's more, we propose to get it!"
That was about the message which W. R. Motherwell and Peter Dayman went down to Winnipeg to deliver in person to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The official whom they interviewed manipulated the necessary levers to start the matter on its way through the "proper channels" towards that "serious consideration" into which all good politicians and corporation officials take everything that comes unexpectedly before them. W. R. Motherwell could not wait for the unfolding of this hardy perennial and left Peter Dayman at Winnipeg to follow up developments.
When the latter got back home he brought with him a bagful of promises. The practical improvement in the situation which was to support these promises, however, evidently got wrapped up in somebody else's order and delivered to another address. As soon as the Association were satisfied that relief was not to be forthcoming they promptly filled out a standard form of information and complaint and notified the railway that they were going to take legal action at Sintaluta against the Company's station agent; if no results were forthcoming there, they assured the Company, they would take action against every railway agent in the Territories who was guilty of distributing cars contrary to the provisions of the Grain Act. The complaint went before Mr. C. C. Castle, the official Warehouse Commissioner; the information was laid before Magistrate H. O. Partridge at Sintaluta.
All over the country the newspapers began to devote valuable space to the impending trial. It was talked about in bar-rooms and barber-shops. Some anti-railroaders declared at once that the farmers hadn't a minute's chance to win against the C. P. R. The news percolated eastward, its significance getting lighter till it became merely: "a bunch of fool hayseeds out West in some kind of trouble with the C. P. R.—cows run over, or something." At Ottawa, however, were those who saw handwriting on the wall and they awaited the outcome with considerable interest. Several public men, especially from Regina, made ready to be in actual attendance at the preliminary trial.
The farmers were out in force, for they realized the importance of this test case. It was not the agent at Sintaluta they were fighting, but the railway itself; it was not this specific instance of unjust car distribution that would be settled, but all other like infringements along the line. The very efficacy of the Grain Act itself was challenged.
Two hours before the Magistrate's Court sat to consider the case, J. A. M. Aikins (now Sir James Aikins, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba), who was there as the legal representative of the C. P. R., tapped the President of the farmers' Association on the elbow.
"Let's make a real case of it while we're at it," he smiled, and proceeded to suggest that instead of laying information against the railway company on two charges, the Association should charge them also with violating some five or six other sections of the Act. "Then we'll have a decision on them, too, you see. For the purpose of this case the Company will plead guilty to the offences. What do you say?"
"Don't you do it, W. R.! Not on your life, Mister!"
The farmers within earshot crowded about the two. They suspected trickery in such a last-minute suggestion; either the railway people were very sure they had the case in their pocket or they were up to some smooth dodge, you bet!
President Motherwell shook his head dubiously.
"How can we change the information on such short notice?" he objected. "It would mean risking an adjournment of the court."
"That's what they're after! Stick to him, Motherwell!"
But it did seem very advisable to have the meaning of those other doubtful sections of the Act cleared up, and as C. P. R. counsel went more fully into the matter the desirability of it for both sides became even more apparent.
"Tell you what we'll do, Mr. Aikins," said W. R. Motherwell, finally turning to him after consulting the others, "if you'll give your pledged word before this assembled crowd of farmers that you won't take any technical advantage of the change you've suggested us making in the information—by raising objections when court opens, I mean—why, we'll make the change."
"Certainly," agreed Mr. Aikins without hesitation, and in solemn silence he and the President of the Association shook hands.
This alteration in the information made the issue even more far-reaching and it was a tense moment for the farmers who packed the little court room when the Magistrate opened proceedings and on behalf of the Warehouse Commissioner, Mr. T. Q. Mathers (now Chief Justice Mathers, of Winnipeg), rose to his feet for argument. After the evidence was complete and the Magistrate at last handed down his decision—fifty dollars fine and costs, to be paid by the defendant—the victorious grain growers were jubilant and especially were the officers of the young Association proud of the outcome.
The case was carried to the Supreme Court by the Railway Company, which made every effort to have the decision of the lower court reversed. When the appeal case came to trial, much to the disgust and chagrin of the railway authorities and the corresponding elation of the farmers, the Magistrate's decision was sustained. At once the newspapers all over the country were full of it. Oracles of bar-room and barber-shop nodded their heads wisely; hadn't they said that even the C. P. R. couldn't win against organized farmers, backed up by the law of the land? Away East the news was magnified till it became: "The farmers out West have licked the C. P. R. in court and are threatening to tear up the tracks!" At Ottawa Members of Parliament dug into Hansard to see if they had said anything when the Manitoba Grain Act was passed.
Empty cars began to roll into Western sidings and they were not all spotted to suit the elevators but were for farmers who had signified a desire to load direct. It was unnecessary to carry out the threat of proceeding against every delinquent railway agent in the Territories; for the delinquencies were no longer deliberate. The book in which by turn the orders for cars were listed began to be a more honest record of precedence in distribution, as all good car-order books should be.
For the railway authorities were men of wide experience and ability, who knew when they were defeated and how to accept such defeat gracefully. It meant merely that the time had come to recognize the fact that there was a man inside the soil-grimed shirt. The farmer had won his spurs. While the railway people did not like the action of the Association in hauling them into court, in all fairness they were ready to admit that they had received full warning before such drastic action was taken.
If the railway officials began to regard the farmer in a new light, the latter on his part began to appreciate somewhat more fully the task which faced these energetic men in successfully handling the giant organization for which they assumed responsibility. After the tilt, therefore, instead of the leaders of the grain growers and the railway looking at each other with less friendly eyes, their relations became more kindly as each began to entertain for the other a greater respect.
Best of all, applications were beginning to pour in upon the Secretary of the Territorial Grain Growers' Association—applications from farmers everywhere for admission to the organization. Skeptics who had been holding out now enrolled with their local association and, as fast as they could be handled, new locals were being formed.
And at this very time, over in the hotel at Sintaluta, a grain grower of great ability and discernment was warning an interested group of farmers against the dangers of over-confidence.
"At present we are but pygmies attacking giants," declared E. A. Partridge. "Giants may compete with giants, pygmies with pygmies, but pygmies with giants, never. We are not denizens of a hamlet but citizens of a world and we are facing the interlocking financial, commercial and industrial interests of a thousand million people. If we are to create a fighting force by co-operation of the workers to meet the giants created by the commercial co-operation of the owners, we have scarcely started. If we seek permanent improvement in our financial position and thereby an increase of comfort, opportunity and sense of security in our lives and the lives of our families, the fight will be long and hard.
"And we are going to need every man we can muster."
 See Appendix—Par. 1.
"THAT MAN PARTRIDGE!"
Any man can work when every stroke of his hand brings down the fruit rattling from the tree to the ground; but to labor in season and out of season, under every discouragement, by the power of faith . . . that requires a heroism which is transcendent. And no man, I think, ever puts the plow into the furrow and does not look back, and sows good seed therein, that a harvest does not follow.—Henry Ward Beecher.
It was a handy place to live, that little tar-paper shanty around which the prairie wind whooed and whiffed with such disdain. So small was it that it was possible to wash oneself, dress oneself and get breakfast without getting out of bed. On the wall was a shelf which did duty as a table. There were also a little box stove and some odds and ends. When the roof leaked, which was every time it rained, it was necessary to put pans on the bed to catch the drip.
But it was better than the tent in which E. A. Partridge and his brother slept through their first star-strewn winter nights on the open prairie—more pretentious than the tent and assuredly not so cold. The two boys were proud of it, even though they were fresh from civilization—from Simcoe County, Ontario, where holly-hocks topped the fences of old-fashioned flower gardens in summer and the houses had shingles on top to keep out the weather, and where there were no coyotes to howl lonesomely at night, where—Well, never mind. Those houses belonged to other people; the shanty was theirs. All around stretched acres and acres of snow; but there was land under that snow—rich, new land—and that was theirs, too, by right of homesteading.
It was about Christmas time in 1883 when E. A. Partridge was twenty-one. The place was near Sintaluta, District of Assiniboia, North-West Territories, and homesteading there in the days before the Rebellion was no feather bed for those who tackled it. A piece of actual money was a thing to take out and look at every little while, to show to one's friends and talk about.
Season after season the half starved agricultural pathfinders lost their hard-earned crops by drouth and what was not burned out by the sun was eaten by ubiquitous gophers. The drouth was due, no doubt, to the frequent prairie fires which swept the country; these found birth in the camp-fire coals left by ignorant or careless settlers on their way in. Under the rays of the summer sun the blackened ground became so hot that from it ascended a column of scorching air which interfered with the condensation of vapor preceding the falling of rain. Clouds would bank up above the prairie horizon, eagerly watched by anxious homesteaders; but over the burned area the clouds seemed to thin out without a drop falling upon the parching crops.
Forty-three acres, sown to wheat, was the first crop which the Partridge brothers put in. The total yield was seven bushels, obtained from around the edges of a slough!
One by one discouraged settlers gathered together their few belongings and sought fresh trails. Lone men trudged by, pack on back, silent and grim. Swearing at his horses, wheels squealing for axle-grease, tin pans rattling and flashing in the hot morning sun, a settler with a family stopped one day to ask questions of the two young men. He was on his way—somewhere—no place in particular.
"I tell ye, boys, this country ain't no place fer a white man," he volunteered. "When y'ain't freezin' ye're burnin' up, an' that's what happens in hell!" He spat a stream of tobacco juice over the wagon wheel and clawed his beard, his brown face twisted quizzically. "God A'mighty ain't nowheres near here! He didn't come this fur West—stopped down to Rat Portage! Well, anyways, good luck to ye both; but ef ye don't git it, young fellers, don't ye go blamin' me, by Jupiter!" He cracked his whip. "Come up out o' that, ye God-forsaken old skates!" And, mud-caked wheels screeching, tin pans banging and glaring, he jolted back to the trail that led away in distance to No Place In Particular.
But along with some others who confessed to being poor walkers, the Partridge boys stuck right where they were. They set about the building of a more permanent and comfortable shack—a sod house this time. It took more than seven thousand sods, one foot by three, three inches thick; but when it was finished it was a precocious raindrop or a mendacious wind that could find its way in.
About thirteen miles distant was a little mud schoolhouse, and one day E. A. Partridge was asked to go over and teach in it. It was known that back East, besides working on his father's farm, he had taught school for awhile. Learning was a truant for the younger generation on the prairies at that time, there being only a few private schools scattered here and there. Though it was not much of an opportunity for anything but something to do, the offer was accepted, and every morning, after sucking a couple of eggs for a breakfast, E. A. Partridge took to loping across the prairie on a "Shag" pony.
But the little school put an idea into his head. He wondered if it might be worth while starting a private school of his own, and in 1885 he thought the Broadview locality offered profitable prospects. He decided to go down there and look over the situation.
By this time the occupants of the sod house numbered four—three Partridge brothers and a friend. The problem of fitting out the school-teacher for his Broadview trip so that he would create the necessary impression among strangers was one which called for corrugated brows. The solution of it was not to be found in any of the teacher's few text-books; it quite upset Euclid's idea that things which were equal to the same thing were equal to one another—when it came to finding enough parts to make a respectable whole! For among the four bachelors was not one whole suit of clothes sufficiently presentable for social events. Everything was rough and ready in those days and in spite of the hardships the friendly pioneer settlers had some good times together; but the sod house quartette had never been seen at any of these gatherings—not all four at one time! Three of them were always so busy with this or that work that they had to stay home, you know; it would have been embarrassing to admit that it was only by pooling their clothes they could take turns in exhibiting a neighborly spirit. As it was, there was often a secret fear of exhibiting even more—an anxiety which led the visitor to keep the wall at his back like a man expecting general excitement to break loose at any moment!
On reaching Broadview the prospects for the new school looked bright, so the hopeful pedagogue sent back word to the sod house to this effect.
"And don't you fellows forget to send my linen," he wrote jokingly. "Make the trunk heavy, too. I don't know how long it will have to represent my credit!"
When the trunk arrived it was so heavy that it took two men to carry it into the hotel. When in the secrecy of his own room E. A. Partridge ventured to look inside he found his few books, a pair of "jumper" socks—and a lot of stones! Also there was an old duster with a piece of paper pinned to it, advising: "Here's your linen!"
The Broadview school did not last long for the reason that the second North-West Rebellion broke out that year and the teacher joined the Yorkton Rangers. Fifty cents a day and grub was an alluring prospect; many a poor homesteader would have joined the ranks on active service for the grub alone, especially when the time of his absence was being allowed by the Government to apply on the term set for homestead duties before he could come into full possession of his land. Many farmers earned money, also, teaming supplies from the railway north to Battleford and Prince Albert.
In common with his fellow grain growers, the five years that followed were years of continuous struggle for E. A. Partridge. The railway came and the country commenced to settle quickly. The days of prairie fires that ran amuck gave way to thriving crops; but at thirty and forty cents per bushel the thriving of those who sowed them was another matter.
This man with the snappy blue eyes and caustic tongue was among the first to foresee "the rising colossus," the shadow of which was creeping slowly across the farmer's path, and he watched the "brewing menace" with growing concern. With every ounce of his tremendous energy he resented the encroachment of Capital upon the liberties of Labor. Being of the people and temperamentally a democrat, he had a great yearning for the reorganization of society in the general interest. His championship in this direction earned him the reputation in some quarters of being full of "fads," a visionary. But his neighbors, who had toiled and suffered beside him through the years, knew "Ed." Partridge, man to man, and held him in high regard; they admired him for his human qualities, respected him for his abilities, and wondered at his theories. On occasion they, too, shook their heads doubtfully. They could not know the big part in their emancipation which this friend and neighbor of theirs was destined to play through many days of crisis. Not yet had the talley begun.
But events even now slowly were shaping. With the winning of their first clash the farmers' movement was achieving momentum. In the latter part of December, 1902, down in the town of Virden, Manitoba, a committee was appointed at a meeting of the Virden Agricultural Society, to arrange a district meeting for the purpose of organizing the first Grain Growers' Association in Manitoba. As soon as the date was set J. W. Scallion wrote to W. R. Motherwell, urgently asking him to assist in the organization. Although roads and weather were rough, the President of the Territorial Grain Growers' Association at considerable inconvenience went down to Virden, taking with him Matt. Snow and copies of the constitution and by-laws upon which the Territorial Association was founded, With this assistance a strong local association was formed at Virden on January 9th, 1903, with capable officers and a first-year membership of one hundred and twenty-five.
The same difficulties that faced the farmers farther West were being experienced in Manitoba and the newspapers were full of protesting letters from country points. As President of the Virden Grain Growers' Association, J. W. Scallion wrote letters to every place where complaints were being voiced and urged organization. At every opportunity it was advocated through the press that from the eastern boundary of Manitoba to the Rocky Mountains the farmers should organize themselves for self-defence against oppression, present or possible, by "the interests." In about six weeks over fifteen local associations had been formed in Manitoba and Virden began calling for a Provincial association. Accordingly, on March 3rd and 4th, 1903, the Manitoba grain growers held their first convention at Brandon with one hundred delegates present, representing twenty-six local associations. Great enthusiasm marked the event and the officers chosen were all men of initiative.
The members of the parent organization watched the rapid expansion on all sides with sparkling eyes. Their own second annual convention at Indian Head revealed considerable progress and the promise of greater things to come. On the invitation of the delegates from the Regina district it was decided to hold the third annual convention at the capital and the rousing gathering which met there in due course was productive of such stimulus and publicity that its effect was felt long afterward.
At every convention the farmers found some additional weak spot in the Grain Act and suggested remedial legislation. Records are lacking to show in what order the various changes came; but step by step the farmers were gaining their rights. It all seemed so wonderful—to get together thus and frame requests of the Government at Ottawa, to find their very wording incorporated in the Act. The farmers scarcely had dared to think of such a thing before. To them the ear of a government was a delicate organism beyond reach, attuned to the acoustics of High Places only; that it was an ear to hear, an ear to the ground to catch the voice of the people was a discovery. At any rate when W. R. Motherwell and J. B. Gillespie, of the Territories, D. W. McCuaig and R. C. Henders, of Manitoba, went to Ottawa for the first time they were received with every consideration and many of their requests on behalf of the farmers granted.
With such recognition and the recurring evidence of advantageous results the jeering grins of a certain section of the onlooking public began to sober down to a less disrespectful mien. Those who talked glibly at first of the other farmers' organizations which they had seen go to pieces became less free with their forebodings.
In 1904 the farmers began to press for something more than the proper distribution of cars and the freedom of shipment. They were dissatisfied with the grading system and the re-inspection machinery. Some of them claimed that the grading system did not classify wheat according to its milling value. Some wanted a change in the Government's staff at the office of the Chief Grain Inspector where the official grading was done. Some wanted a sample market; some didn't. The farmers were about evenly divided.
The Department of Agriculture for the Territories commissioned Professor Robert Harcourt, Chemist of the Ontario Agricultural College, to conduct tests as to the comparative values of the different grades of wheat. E. A. Partridge, of Sintaluta, and A. A. Perley, of Wolseley, undertook to secure eight-bushel samples of the various grades from their districts. These were carefully sacked and shipped to the Chief Grain Inspector at Winnipeg, where he graded them and forwarded them to Professor Harcourt, sealed in such a way that any tampering with the shipment would be detected readily.
These samples were all of 1903 crop. There had been a bad snowstorm in September of that year and much wheat had been standing in stook. The farmers believed that the grain was not frozen or injured in any way and that they were defrauded to some extent in the grading of their wheat. The samples represented all grades from "No. 1 Hard" to "Feed." They were milled with exceptional care to prevent mixing of the various lots and the flours obtained were put through three different baking tests.
The conclusion reached was that there did not appear to be much difference in the value of the different grades of wheat. Even the "Feed" sample proved by no means useless for bread-making purposes, either in yield or quality; the only thing that rendered it less available for bakers' use was its darker color. All who saw the loaves were surprised at the quality of this bread.
The tests on these 1903 samples confirmed the farmers in their opinion that on 1903 wheat the spread in price between No. 1 Hard and No. 4 was not in harmony with the milling quality. From No. 1 Hard the amount of flour obtained was 70.8 per cent. as against 68 per cent. from the No. 4 grade. The large percentage of stook-frozen grain that went into the lower grades because it was technically debarred from the higher ones no doubt raised the milling value, it was thought, of all the grades that year.
The Department of Agriculture for the Territories therefore decided to repeat the tests with 1904 wheat. The samples with which Professor Harcourt was furnished represented the grain just as it was sold by the farmer and graded either at the elevator or by the Chief Grain Inspector; it was not a composite sample of the commercial grades. The second tests practically confirmed the work done the previous year. The milling, chemical and baking tests failed to show very wide differences in the composition and milling value of the grades submitted. The conclusion reached was that the difference in composition and milling value was nearly as great between samples of any one grade as between the various grades.
The farmers began to feel that it would be a good thing to have a representative at Winnipeg to watch the grading of their cars and to look after their interests generally. The Department of Agriculture for the Territories was asked by the Sintaluta grain growers to appoint a man and W. H. Gaddes was commissioned to act for two weeks. Then the farmers began to wonder if they could not send down a man of their own; at one of their meetings the question was put and those present subscribed five dollars apiece for the purpose.
Thus it came about that on the 7th of January, 1905, there stepped from the train at the C. P. R. depot in Winnipeg a man who looked no different from any one of a dozen other farmers who daily reached the city, tanned of cheek and bright of eye. But his business in town was of a very special nature. In his pocket was a hundred dollars and the grip in his hand was packed for a month's stay.
It was a month of "cold shoulders" and patronizing manners for E. A. Partridge. No band music was played in his honor, no festive board was spread, nor was he taken around and shown the sights of the city. On the contrary, he was made to feel like a spy in the camp of an enemy; for he found himself entirely without status, the grain dealers recognizing him merely as a farmers' representative, whatever that was. Even at the office of the Chief Grain Inspector he was looked upon as a man who was meddling with something which he wasn't supposed to know anything about.
Nevertheless, the Chief Inspector himself gave him information at times and there were one or two others who took the trouble to explain some things about which he asked questions. Among the latter was a grain man by the name of Tom Coulter. For the most part, however, the presence of the "farmers' representative" at Winnipeg was looked upon as a joke; so that information as to the grain business became for him largely a still hunt. He visited offices, listened to how interviews were conducted over the telephone and picked up whatever loose ends he could find to follow up.
"Who is that fellow, anyway?" asked a grain man who had just got back to the city. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder.