"A SUMMER ON THE CANADIAN PRAIRIE"
BELL AND COCKBURN
In that first year against my harvest receipts was the sum for harvest labour, binder twine, threshing bill, daily expenses attached to hauling; and the only addition stock offered was through the sale of seven small pigs, which cost twenty-two dollars fifty and sold for thirty-five dollars. Also in the light of the year that followed I must acknowledge my housekeeping bills to be of extraordinary amount, the sum total between August 23 and December 31 standing at five hundred and nineteen dollars thirty. Many a woman has come to me within the last two years with a proposal to start farming in Canada on less than that amount. It must be remembered that for harvest and threshing seasons, and during the visit of the carpenters, the provisions account was heavy, and nothing is cheap in Canada if one has to buy it; but it is possible to provide oneself with almost everything but groceries from the farm, and with even two good milch cows grocery bill and dairy sales should balance accounts. Indeed, I remember in looking over the ready-made farms in the Shaugnessy colonies I came across an able man and woman who assured me they were able to pay total expenses of their living-barring, of course, the land payments-from the produce of three milch cows.|
Also my housekeeping bill included some articles of furniture and a few expensive necessities such as cook-stove, fifteen dollars; wood for fuel, twenty-four dollars; second-hand box-stove with bedroom heater, eight dollars. Two bedsteads, two tables, half a dozen chairs, post and pans, &c. Then there was a suite of bedroom furniture from Eaton's of Winnipeg, which cost eight dollars, and a bath which cost twelve dollars. The "suite" was a really consolation through the years that followed. The dressing-table consisted of two big drawers and a bevelled mirror, eighteen inches by twenty-four; and none can fully appreciate a mirror of those dimensions so truly as the one who has shared a hand-glass for three months with two bachelor men on the prairie.
The bath I had taken out from England sprung a hopeless leak on the journey, so that directly we left the shelter of canvas for four walls and a roof we sent for one. On the day it arrived we stood like pilgrims round a shrine whilst the twelve-dollar masterpiece from Eaton's was safely delivered from its wrappings, and carefully placed upon the floor of the veranda. It was a thing of joy, and long enough even for us. At last in perfect accord we marvelled at its lustre, its convenience, its cheapness. Hilaria, with the professional air which she reserved as an effect from a voluntarily curtailed season of hospital training, affirmed that the ingenious and most convenient contrivance for letting out the water alone was worth the money, and in the delightful enthusiasm and anticipation of the moment the matter of letting in the water entirely escaped consideration. It struck my brother first.
"How in the name of the prophets and all holy wonders are we to fill it?" he demanded. "The well is three hundred yards off, and will run dry at the very sight of it!"
I felt it my duty to support the reputation of the well-which my predecessor assured me had cost him a hundred dollars and had never been known to run dry-and I announced that the two stookers would of course, haul the water.
I should like to meet the Canadian who would haul water for an Englishman's bath, or an Englishwoman's either! He would be the rarest bird I have yet encountered in Canada. However, as you have bought the thing, I suppose we must see what can be done. There are four pails, two lard containers which leak, and the potato boiler. I think we might make a faint impression in three journeys."
We ran lightly to the well with our empty pails, but my sister and I returned slowly enough beneath the burden, which in those days was new to us. My brother swung along in front, reciting "More servants wait on man" with fine sarcasm, which I fell sure "the beautiful psalmist of the seventeenth century" would have been the first to pardon if he found himself within kicking distance of a like circumstance. At the end of the third journey we agreed to draw lots for the bath, which had been conveyed with much difficulty to the kitchen. Afterwards, it took our combined force to carry it to the veranda, which was the only place from which the water could pass through the ingeniously contrived exit without disaster. Within the month we unanimously decided to abandon it in favour of some less imposing vessel of ablution, and I agreed to sell it at its original price to a friend who embraced me at the mere suggestion of the deal. I let her have it with an easy conscience as she lived on the Lake shore. It was not my fault, but the irony of fate, that within six months her husband built a bungalow at the top of the Western Hills, to which water had to be hauled from a distance of two miles. The last time I caught sight of it was in the spring of 1910, when I went to buy seed oats of its owner. It was still a bath, but dedicated to the pickling of seed grain, and for the first time I honestly wished I hadn't parted with it."
taken from pages 62 and 63
Wheat and Woman
Chapter: Wheat Sales - The Fall - Le Bret
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