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Macleod Letter 1875/01 - Transcript
Letter from Fort Macleod
April 21, 1875
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Fort Macleod
April 21. 1875

My dearest Mary,

I suppose you will have commenced to think that I am getting as bad as ever and the most incorrigible villainous individual you ever had any dealings with. Well Mary I know I am very bad but then I know that you are very good and the most patient most long-suffering girl in the world - you will say that one has to be who has anything to do with me.

I have been out of sorts about no end of things. When I wrote you that letter last December I thought that surely every arrangement for the payment, clothing, feeding and posting of the force here for next summer would be made before and that I would have heard that everything had been arranged and that I would have nothing to do but to carry out what was required, get my leave and start for Manitoba.

The mail arrived on the 8th of last month and I received no intelligence whatever and from what I can learn there has nothing been going on but squabbling between Col. French and the Department. So off I had to go to Helena to communicate with Head Quarters. I had a most frightful journey. It commenced to storm the day I left and never ceased till the day we struck a house on the Marias River.

The first night we slept at Whoop Up and though it was blowing and snowing hard, next day we started in the afternoon determined to push through. We found the snow very deep in places, the horses plunging in the coulee's up to their girths. I was mounted on a horse I had just bought before leaving - a white - a very good animal. I thought I would try if he knew anything about running buffalo so off I set after a buffalo which kept alongside of us for a time. I got up to him quite easily and was close to his tail when like a flash he stopped and turned to charge. My horse took no notice of him whatever but would, I believe, have jumped over him if I had let him. You would have laughed till you were tired if you had seen the remainder of the chase. The rascal was chasing me and I was going as fast as my horse could go. He followed me about 50 yards and then turned and gave me up. I had no intention of shooting the old villain so he need not have got so mad. The episode furnished subject for a good laugh at my expense for a long time afterwards.

That night we worked on till about 11 o'clock when we lay down in the snow having, after a great deal of trouble managed to boil a kettle with sage brush. Next night we made Milk River and such a night it was - awfully cold. We broke up an old wagon box and managed to boil water but could not keep the shivers off. I was pretty well off when I turned in but the rest suffered very much. You must know that every night we had to guard our horses as the country thereabouts is filled with Indian horse thieves. In the morning it had got up a perfect storm and our guide was afraid to start so we went to work and dug out a hole in the snow bank sufficiently deep to hold us all. I never spent such a night as I spent in that hole. Every now and again I woke up in a perspiration chilled to the very marrow.

In the morning the wind was blowing a perfect hurricane from the south. Our snow house was no longer any protection and there was nothing for it but to start right in the face of the wind and driving snow. 30 miles over the bleakest and most exposed portion of the whole country. About 6 o'clock the cloud rose and we found ourselves just where we wanted to be, our guide [Jerry Potts] had taken us as straight as an arrow.

That evening things looked better but before we were in bed an hour the wind changed to the north and when I got up in the morning there was a covering of icicles of snow all over us. We started without any breakfast and were too cold to eat and when we were about half way to the Marias the sun came out and we were soon as much scorched with the heat as we had been nearly frozen with the cold. We found some kind soldiers at a post on the Marias and after that got in all right but that my horse broke down about ten miles from the last [?] station.

Mr. Denny who accompanied me got his toes badly frozen. He lost about half an inch off the ends of three. I got off with the tips of my fingers nipped, the skin all peeled off and both my hands were badly swollen. You ought to have seen my face. I was almost a nigger and there was a red scar right across my nose. I am alright now. My servant was very nearly coming to grief. He got off his horse to warm himself but could not get on again and did not appear to care whether he did or not.

The people at Fort Shaw and Helena were extremely attentive to me. Indeed a little too much so. I could not get a moment to myself. Dined with the Chief Justice and the Surveyor General. The latter and I became the greatest friends. He drove me back to Fort Shaw - about 90 miles. He is a fine jolly gentlemanly fellow full of fun and frolic.

I communicated with Ottawa direct. What do you think of their saying in one of their telegrams that every action generally was approved!!!! Everything here has been left to me to settle, indeed they have given me I might almost say a "carte blanche" and as things are I don't see when I shall get away. And now that I have come back to these miserable quarters, I think it is the best after all for I hope to be able now to make this place more habitable. The only thing fixed is that this post is to be my headquarters.

Just fancy they gave me authority to draw money to pay the men up to the last of February. I drew $30,000 and brought $15,000 out here with me. There is no doubt I ran a very great risk but I was bound to get the men paid and I have succeeded. I don't think I shall ever run such a risk again. I have been awfully busy all day since my return.

I will write you very soon again. I expect a mail the end of next week which I hope will contain something certain and will immediately send in a mail in reply. ... Give love to Mrs. P. [Pinkham] and Christian and Mrs. Drever my love and remember me to your father, Mr. P. [Pinkham] and your brother.

With endless love, ever yours,

Jim

P.S. I had your letter with the tintype the other day. Sorry to say it is all blotched and not flattering.

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