Safety simply wasn’t a priority in Canada’s pioneer days

From our January 2014 issue

By Wilf Miller – Keremeos, B.C.

My father came west in 1903. Childhood memories of dad telling stories of the Old West were as if we were there too. When he came searching for his Alberta homestead, he only had a number to go by on that large expanse of prairie. He had to find his homestead out of the thousands of quarter sections.

While earning money to pay for the homestead, he spent the winters in B.C. logging camps. Sometimes, he worked all winter for just $25. He witnesses several people get killed as safety was not a priority then.

When he was hauling coal for Lane & Climie ranch near Castor, Alta., a loaded wagon ran over his upper leg and broke the bone. He was with another teamster who also had a load of coal. He helped dad back on his load. Dad had to drive his own team, with broken leg, the 12 miles to the Lane & Climie ranch.

When he arrived, they took him off his load of coal and put him to bed. In the morning they put straw in the bottom of an empty wagon, laid him on that, and took him 40 miles to Stettler, Alta., for treatment.

There was no hospital at the time – only a nurse and a travelling doctor and a solid board bed. They had to cut his clothes off because his leg was so swollen. It was over a month before he could get around at all. A minister went around the aread and took up a collection to help him.

With a start like that, dad worked hard all his life. He and my mother raised four boys and four girls and we all grew up to be successful, thanks in no small part to our father’s early hardship and struggles.

Sign up to our free email digest for more great stories!