Sam Steele and the N.W.M.P. Great March out west....continued...
Adversity struck again, as clouds of perceived hail storms were looming.
But it is NOT a hail storm. It is in fact hundreds, of thousands of locust. They are stripping the land bare by devouring most everything, in the lower mainland of Manitoba.
As the locust swarm, the cattle and horses are “spooked”. Another challenge before them, getting control and demanding task under the circumstances.
At dusk, camp is assembled. However, the intense noise of beating wings and the perpetual pelting, is difficult to endure.
Additionally, men are assigned to herd the animals. as many have a tendency to “bolt” at any moment.
The locust eventually change direction, but they leave behind their mark. The intensity was so strong that even the paint on the carts and wagons, were showing wear.
The men, live stock, carts and wagons carry on, even though many are getting overwhelmed by the arduous trek.
The water supply was inadequately planned, no water bottles or barrels of supply, so consequently many were getting dehydrated and very sick.
Dysentery was affecting many, as they had no choice but to drink water heavily tainted with alkaline, or otherwise contaminated.
The animal's food supply was basically gone, and that combined with sheer exhaustion, caused many of the livestock to just topple to the ground.
Yep...just toppled to the ground, with men struggling to get them back up on to their feet.
Consequently 55 men and numerous livestock, who were weak and sick were left behind to recover.
In late July, “A” Division, of which Sam Steele was a part, of were to head to Ft. Edmonton, some 875 miles away by trail.
The “A” Division was smaller in numbers, and they experienced a much more enduring time than in the previous 30 days.
You mean it gets worse? How much worse?
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Finally at Fort Alice, they had a place to rest for 3 days with good grazing, and food for the men.
However, this was not enough time for even a partial recovery, so half of the livestock were left behind, and some men were too weak and sick to carry on.
Enough is Enough!!
So the trek continued, with the trail laden with large rocks and tree trunks. This combined with bog, mud and quicksand from the heavy rains exhausted the livestock, and split their hooves.
And finally.... after 8 very long weeks they eventually reach......
NO!! If you are thinking Fort Edmonton. It was actually Fort Carlton.
Thankfully, food is plentiful and rest was an absolute must.
After five days of rest they moved north west, where they were about to experience further adversity.
What could get worse?
Well now it was late September/October, and getting cold at night.
The horses were freezing as they lay at night for sleep, and soon they were stiff, tired and couldn't get up on their own.
Throughout the night, Sam Steele and others were rubbing limbs of the suffering horses, and by brute strength lifting them up.
A few horses fall asleep due to fatigue, never to wake up.
The remaining horses are so weak, they can’t hold a rider.
So, EVERYONE walked. Adversity to the extent that EVERYONE walked. But how far to Fort Edmonton?
Finally one more Post is reached.
The Settlement Victoria.
A couple days of rest, and then Steele and the men move on, again leaving behind more cattle and calves along with Oxen that were too weak to go on.
Now at this point men were desperate and basically just trying to survive, and the orders given by Steele are refuted over and over again.
Subordination is constant.
Calm and understanding is fragile at best, and they who can, move on.
Endurance, strength and mental toughness was tested to the maximum, as they moved through black mud and slough water up to the knees.
Such terrain was before them, every few hundred yards.
Frequently the wagons were getting stuck, and had to be unloaded to lighten the weight. They were then dragged by rope, to get over the black sticky mud .
All this was done by hand, and then they reloaded the wagons again and again.
Now, to put things in perspective.
It was cold, wet and shallow ice was forming on the edge of the trail as well as the sloughs.
The trail was extremely slippery and men were sliding, some falling down.
Could they get up? Would they get up? Should they get up?
Now, a few days earlier one of the men forged ahead to Fort Edmonton.
Help was desperately needed.
Upon his return, with limited assistance, it was determined that there was 12 miles left to Fort Edmonton.
Steele indicated that the men could NOT go on.
Too much! Is Too much!
As a result, further help was seconded from Fort Edmonton, resulting in a successful end.
Or was it a success?
Many questions are still being asked.