Snippets 138 / Guest Post 11. At the time the following story took place, the author was eighteen years of age. He had been working as an assistant to a surveyor on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As a typical teenager, he was more interested in exploring and in explosives than actually working. Fearing for his life and that of his men, the exasperated surveyor sacked him, leaving the youngster with a little money to fend for himself in Ontario Canada near Lake Superior. He eventually arrived at Port Arthur, Thunder Bay…
…After the long tramp to Port Arthur, the New Year of 1884 found me adrift in the street, enjoying a bracing wind at forty degrees below zero.
Without being exactly tempted with any wages, I was presently engaged as “boots” at an hotel for navvies, to clean the spittoons, to wait at table, buck firewood, and chop out the water-hole daily through five or six feet of ice. Then I must carry forty buckets a day and an extra forty buckets whenever the house was on fire, the average being one large conflagration every fortnight. Also, when the lady of the house was drunk, and had to be quenched in the tub, there would be complaints as to the flavour of the coffee, and extra water to haul. Spare time was devoted to running errands, making beds, scrubbing floors, tending the stable, and assisting to quiet the boarders when they wanted to shoot the landlord; but all these delights came to a sudden end. The house had been three times on fire, so the date would have been on or about 15th February, when the Boss called me up to the loft where a boarder was loudly complaining of the wild game which frequented his bed. “Jack”, said the Boss, for that was my name at the time, “change beds with this gentleman.” I resigned.
Taken from “A Frontiersman” by Roger Pocock (1904), p.17. When the author died in 1941, his “Times” obituary said that “life to him was, and had always been, a splendid adventure.” For the full story of his life see “Outrider of Empire: the life and adventures of Roger Pocock”, by Geoffrey A. Pocock, (University of Alberta Press (2008).