When Calls the Heart(10)

By: Janette Oke



I could only nod my agreement, too spellbound to speak. I turned my head to glance hack over the way that we had just come. We had climbed steadily as we left downtown Calgary. Jonathan's home must be up on a hill rather than in the valley beside the river.

As I looked back down the street, I could see the buildings of Calgary stretched out across the flatness of the valley. Water sparkled in many places, reflecting the afternoon sun. I looked in awe at the scene and finally found my voice.

"The river-it seems to twist and turn all around. Everywhere I look, there seems to be another part of the stream."

Jonathan laughed. "There are two rivers that merge down there. They're called the Bow and the Elbow."

"Unusual names."

"Yes, I guess they are. You'll find a number of strange names in the West."

I smiled. "Well," I conceded, "I will admit that we have our share of strange names in the East, too."

Jonathan nodded, a grin spreading over his face, and I could almost see names like Trois-Rivieres and Cap-de-laMadelaine flitting across his mind.

"Tell me about Calgary." I just couldn't wait to learn something about this intriguing town.

Jonathan gave me an understanding smile.

"Where do I start?" he asked himself. "Calgary was founded as a fort for the North West Mounted Police in 1875-not so long ago, really. It was first named Fort Brisehois, but Macleod, the commander, didn't care much for that name. I guess. He renamed her Fort Calgary-this is a Gaelic word, meaning clear, running water-after his birthplace in Scotland."

"Clear, running water," I repeated. "I like it. It suits it well."

I looked again at the portions of the rivers that gleamed between the buildings and the thick tree growth of the valley.

Jonathan continued, "After the railroad was built in 1883, people began to take seriously the settling of the West. It was such easier to load one's belongings on a train than it had been to venture overland by wagon. And with the train, the women were even able to bring with them some of the finer things of life that previously had to remain behind.

"In the earlier days mostly adventurers or opportunists moved westward, and though a fair share of those still came, many dedicated men and women arrived each year hoping to make a home for themselves in this new land."

"It was still difficult, wasn't it?" I questioned.

"Fortunately for us, the Mounties got here before the bulk of the settlers. The new people at least had law to appeal to if the need arose-and the need often did. The Indians had already learned that the Red Coat could be trusted-that a lawbreaker, no matter the color of his skin, would be brought to justice. The Mounties helped to make Calgary, and the area around it, a safe place for women and children."

"That doesn't sound like the West which Julie told me about."

"Oh, we've had our skirmishes, to be sure, but they've been few and far between; and the North West Mounted Police have been able to restore control rather quickly."

"Have the Indians been that bothersome?" I asked, wondering if Julie had been right after all.

"Indians? Can't rightly blame the Indians. Most of the trouble comes from the makers of fire-water."

"Fire-water?"

"Whiskey. Well, I guess it can't really be called whiskey, either. It was known more often as-pardon me, please-as `rot-gut.' It had an alcohol base, but the brewers threw in about everything they could find to give it taste and colorpepper, chewing tobacco, almost anything. Don't know how anyone could drink the stuff, but some braves sold furs, their ponies-even at times a squaw-just to get hold of a few bottles."

"That's terrible!"

"It ruined many of the choicest young Indian men. Threatened whole tribes, at times. Some of the chiefs saw the danger and hated the rotten stuff, but they were hard put to control its evil. Wicked, horrible stuff! A real disgrace to the white men who peddled it at the expense of wasted, human lives." Jonathan shook his head, and I could tell that the previous trade of illegal liquor disturbed him greatly.

"Anyway," he continued, brightening, "the North West Mounted Police were organized, found their way west in spite of extreme hardship, and went right to work on the problem. Their first big job was to clean up Fort Whoop-Up."

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