A STORY OF PILGRIMS 11


This summer of 1880 slipped by quite rapidly with the busy farm life. During the summer Leonard struck up a friendship with a neighboring couple by the name of Cowan.
By  September he was missing his family and was quite homesick so he arranged for Jim Cowan to work for a week in his place. On Saturday morning, the eleventh, he boarded a train at Newcastle and was on his way to Quebec. He got to Bolton by mid-afternoon and that evening was happy to see his brother, Lem, and Lem’s wife, Lizzie. Lem and Lizzie, by this time, had a pair of twins, a boy and a girl, who were approaching the age of two. The next day was quite enjoyable as he and Lem loafed and visited. But then came Monday and Lem  had to go to work. Now, with time on his hands, Leonard began to feel a little disappointed with his visit and also to feel a certain longing to be back near Mrs. Cowan. So, Friday evening, Lem and a man named Sam, took him by team and wagon on the first part of his return to Port Hope. After traveling by horse and wagon all night, he boarded a train and rode to Bowmanville. From there he walked to Newcastle and went directly to the Cowan’s. During the rest of his stay at Port Hope he was a very frequent visitor at the Cowan home.
All through the year he corresponded regularly with his sister, Ida, at Brandon, Vermont and with Alden who was at Forestdale and Stockbridge in Vermont. He also exchanged letters with his father from time to time and with Lem quite often.
In the spring of 1881 he made a bold decision to abandon the life of a farmer and strike out in a new direction and a new career. He went to Toronto and, on the second of May, filed and application to serve with the Northwest Mounted Police. He may have been seeking the prestige and adventure that had become the reputation of the Mounties or perhaps he was interested in the grant of free land that was available to anyone who completed five years of service. At five feet, ten inches, he was well above the minimum requirement of five feet, six inches and his 158 pounds was a good deal less than the 175 pound maximum. Being otherwise in good health and physical condition, he was accepted and, on the seventh of June he reported to Fort Walsh to begin his five year enlistment in Division E and was assigned regimental number 529.
Fort Walsh was an isolated outpost in southwestern Saskatchewan right up against the Alberta border and not more than forty miles from Montana Territory. Fort Walsh met every requirement to be rated as a lonely place and it wasn’t long until this new constable was feeling the effects of the loneliness and the rigorous military style of discipline. By the end of July he felt that he couldn’t take any more of it and had made up his mind to desert. So he stashed some civilian clothing outside the stockade behind his barracks in preparation for his move. Then, on the second of August he got a few hours pass and was ready to make his get-away. But, apparently he had told someone of his plans or, in some way, aroused suspicion of his intentions because several non-commissioned officers and constables were assigned to watch him. He was arrested and charged with attempted desertion. At his trial two day later, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months imprisonment at hard labor. On February 2, 1882, having served his six months of imprisonment, he was released from the force. He had served 57 days as a constable in the Northwest Mounted Police.
Mr. Matthew Dale, Leonard’s former schoolteacher, back in Palgrave, Ontario had written a very complimentary letter of recommendation to help him get accepted by the Mounties. If Mr. Dale ever learned of Leonard’s deserting he was probably quite disappointed.
With that whole heartbreaking experience finally behind him, Leonard Fuller headed south and was soon in Montana Territory. When first arriving in Montana he drifted into the northern part of the territory, along the Marias river. This was in 1882 only 78 years after the Lewis and Clark expedition had explored the area and only two years after the first railroad had reached into the southern edge of Montana Territory. The entire population of Montana at that time was approximately 40,000 in number. In 1883 he had set up a camp near the river and not far from Fort Conrad. There were also a number of Blackfeet Indians camping along the  Marias and a raiding party of Cree Indians from Canada had stolen some horses from the Blackfeet. A dozen Blackfeet braves had set out to retaliate by getting some Cree horses. While the twelve braves were on their raid the rest of the tribe were dancing and making medicine to assure a successful raid. A group of Blackfeet children were off by themselves, playing at making medicine the way the grownups were doing. When Leonard happened upon this little group of children he decided to have some fun with them and so, giving a Cree  warhoop, he jumped into their midst. Well, the kids responded with great enthusiasm, throwing themselves upon him and pretending to do him every kind of bodily harm.

Excerpted from “Wool Trompers” by J. L. Fuller

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About authorjim

I grew up in the country near a small Montana town, I have spent a lot of time in the outdoors, working, fishing, hunting and camping but have always been interested in mechanical and electrical things. Most of my life has been spent in the use, care and repair of things mechanical, electrical an electronic. After being retired for several years, I began writing and published my first novel at the age of 79. Now, at the age of 82, I have recently published my fourth noveland it is available from me or from the pulisher or book distributor.
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2 Responses to A STORY OF PILGRIMS 11

  1. authorjim says:

    There are more waiting in the wings. Thanks for the encouragement

    Like

  2. bldodson says:

    I’ve been enjoying these. Keep ’em coming.

    Like

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