When Calls the Heart

By: Janette Oke

[Canadian West 01]


I would like to supply my readers with a few facts concerning the North West Mounted Police. The Force was founded in 1873 as an answer to the problem of illicit liquor trade and lawlessness in the West. It has been said that the Mountie was dressed in a red coat to readily set him apart from the U.S. Cavalry. The Mountie's job was to make peace with the Indians, not to defeat them; and many of the Indian tribes which he had to deal with had already had run-ins with the troops from south of the border. Whether for this reason, or some other, the scarlet tunic soon became distinctive, and set apart the man who was wearing it.

The uniform and the name both evolved. The title of Roval North West Mounted Police was granted by King Edward VII in 1904, in recognition of the Force's contribution to Canada. In 1920, the name was changed to Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Eventually, the red coat was adopted as the dress uniform of the Force, and a more practical brown coat was chosen for regular duty, because, said Superintendent Steele, it was "almost impossible for even a neat and tidy man to keep the red coat clean for three months on the trail." The hat also changed from the original pill-box, through various shapes and designs, to the Stetson that was approved in 1901.

It was the Yukon Gold Rush of 1895 that first brought the Mounties into the Far North. By 1898 there were twelve officers and 254 sergeants and constables in the Yukon. The Mounted Police by then were using a new form of transportation-the dog team. With the use of their huskies, they policed hundreds of square miles of snow-covered territory. Trappers, traders and Indian villages were scattered throughout their areas of patrol.

Although I try not to be too sentimental when I think of the Mounties and their part in the development of the Canadian West, to me, they are a living symbol of my Canadian homeland. To the people of the Lacombe area, may I assure you that among the names of Spruceville, Blackfalds, Brookfield, Turville and Iowalta; Woody Nook, Jones Valley, Canyon and Eclipse; Eureka, Spring Valley, Arbor Dale and Blindman; Central, West Branch, Birch Lake and Lincoln; Milton, Mt. Grove, Sunny Crest and Morningside: Gull Lake, Lakeside and Fairview; you will find no Pine Springs. Nor will you find a historic character that matches Pearlie's pa in the town of Lacombe itself. All of the characters in the story are fictional. with no intended likenesses to anyone either living or dead.

May I also assure you that having grown up in the Hoadley area and having spent my early school years in the little oneroom school at Harmonien, I have a great deal of love for and many fond memories of rural Alberta community life.

Chapter One


It came as a great surprise to me. Oh, not the letter itself'. We were all used to the arrival of letters from brother Jonathan. They came quite regularly and always caused a small stir in our household. No, it wasn't the letter. but rather what it contained that caught me completely off' guard. And Mother's response to it was even more astounding.

The day, April 12, 1910, had started out like every other day. I arose early, had a quiet prayer time in my room, cared for my grooming, breakfasted with the family. and left at 8:00 to walk the eleven blocks to the school where I taught. I had made it a habit to be there early so that I would have plenty of time to make my morning preparations before the students arrived. I was usually the first teacher to make an appearance, but I rather enjoyed the early morning quietness of the otherwise noisy building.

As I walked along on that delightful spring morning. the world appeared especially beautiful and alive. For some reason, the flower-scented air and the song of'the birds caused me to take a rare look at my inner self.

And how are you this delightful spring morning? I asked myself.

Why, I am just fine, thank you, I silently answered, and then almost blushed as I quickly looked around for fear that someone might be able to read my thoughts. It wasn't like me to talk to myself-even inwardly, especially when walking along this public, maple-sheltered street. But no one shared the sidewalk with me at the moment so the self-dialogue continued.

Are you now? And what is it that makes your day so glorious-your step so feather-light?

The morning; life itself; the very fragrance of the air I breathe.

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