Looking for Country: A Norwegian Immigrant's Alberta Memoir

By Ellenor Ranghild Merriken | Go to book overview

Chapter XVIII

The cattlemen and horse ranchers held sway until the homesteaders closed in on them and began to put up fences. This is the period that I like to remember; nothing but rolling prairie dotted here and there with herds of cattle and horses. Sometimes an occasional rider could be seen sauntering toward some bunch to read the brand and find out what ranch they belonged to. Quite often a rancher owned only the quarter section where his buildings and corrals were and utilized the rest of the territory around him for grazing and feed for his stock, at no expense. Until the land was settled there were no taxes and no boundaries to the grazing privileges; this however did not help the government and they were anxious to get settlers on the land. When we first homesteaded, the tax on our one hundred and sixty acres was two dollars per year; later on it was raised to five. This kind of revenue did not enable the government to do much, consequently it was many years before we got any improvements such as roads.

As long as we could follow a trail across the prairie, we got along fine but, when fences began to appear and cut off the trails, we had to follow the road allowance according to geographical surveys; then roads became a necessity. It is interesting to compare the methods used, then and now, in road construction. In the early days, a road crew consisted of the boss, three four-horse teams on fresnos and one plow team that was also responsible for floating the road or grade to smooth it off before it could pass inspection. A man with a four-horse team earned seventy-five cents an hour, or seven dollars and fifty cents for a ten hour day, which was applied on back taxes. When one man had earned enough to clear up his tax bill, another taxpayer took his place and so it went on until the small allotment for this section was used up. Each district was designated a certain territory to work.

Roy was road boss in our district for a number of years. After completing the assignment, there was a certain amount of grading to be done. It took twelve horses to pull the big grader and my brother, Martin, was the teamster. It took real skill and know-how to handle three fourhorse teams strung out and to be able to turn that outfit around time and again on a grade, to say nothing about manipulating a grader under such circumstances. It was surprising the amount of road work that was accomplished with almost no money and the limited amount of machinery to work with. This was the beginning of better roads in our community.

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Looking for Country: A Norwegian Immigrant's Alberta Memoir
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Series Preface 3
  • Introduction 5
  • Looking for Country 45
  • Chapter I 49
  • Chapter II 59
  • Chapter III 64
  • Chapter IV 76
  • Chapter V 81
  • Chapter VI 88
  • Chapter VII 97
  • Chapter VIII 100
  • Chapter IX 103
  • Chapter X 109
  • Chapter XI 112
  • Chapter XII 115
  • Chapter XIII 118
  • Chapter XIV 122
  • Chapter XV 126
  • Chapter XVI 129
  • Chapter XVII 132
  • Chapter XVIII 136
  • Chapter XIX 140
  • Chapter XX 143
  • Chapter XXI 146
  • Chapter XXII 150
  • Chapter XXIII 156
  • Epilogue 159
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