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family and the home was getting a little crowded. Pat and his brother John decided to leave their home of Kirkfield, northwest of Peterborough, Ontario, and make the long trek out west. Finances were needed to make the trip so he and his brother spent the winter working in the bush and accepted two oxen in lieu of wages.
The ancient animals were slaughtered and Pat peddled the beef, thus receiving his baptism in the meat business. More important however, he had collected just enough resources to head for Manitoba.
Once in Winnipeg the two brothers heard reports of good soil around Minnedosa, or Tanner's Crossing, as it was then known. So for six days they trudged out to the area, spending their nights in the open air.
They selected quarter sections and filed them at the local land office. Pat chose N.W. 18-16-17W, then in the Rural Municipality of Clanwilliam. But without a wagon, plow and oxen, there was nothing they could do to develop their property and their supply of money had drained away.
So there was no alternative but to walk the 160 miles back to Winnipeg where they found jobs at $25.00 a month building the Canadian Pacific Railway east of Winnipeg.
A year later Pat Burns was on his way back to Min-
|nedosa||this time with all the equipment a homesteader|
|needed||a team of oxen, a wagon and a plow.|
It was not too long before the young man lost his enthusiasm for the mundane life of a homesteader ... conquering the Prairie sod, building a cabin and living on a bachelor's fare.
With the right mixture of stamina, determination, and Irish impatience he began to broaden his horizons. Any opportunity for work that would return a dollar was snatched up. Neighbours who had helped him build his log shack and stable watched with rare interest. "He's hardly ever at home" went the local gossip.
And it was true. He would haul hay from his quarter section N.W. 18-16-17W beside the present day village of Clanwilliam, north of Minnedosa, to Brandon, on a rough trail that would later become a good provincial highway ... He would also haul freight from Winnipeg 160 miles away.
But it was not all work and no play. Pat Burns had a reservoir of Irish good humor and within the homestead community was universally well-liked.
For all that, he was now serving the apprenticeship that would ultimately lead to an achievement many people still regard as impossible ... , making a million dollars without losing a friend. Through his infectious get-up and-go spirit it did not take long for the word to spread that he would buy and sell pretty well anything.
1886 was a significant year for Pat Burns. At that time the Mackenzie-Mann railroad team was engaged in major construction in the State of Maine, and Burns won a contract to supply meat for the building crews. In short order a larger contract followed for construction camps along the railroad being built from Regina to Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
By then a machine was practically unstoppable, although business was expanding so rapidly that financing was sometimes difficult, and he was obliged to
ask for a month to pay when he bought cattle from homesteaders. At the end of the month he would have settlement for the beef delivered to the construction gangs, and then he would go back and make payment to those from whom he bought the cattle.
Burns never forgot the trust people placed in him and by Christmastime 1886, when he was on his feet finan cially, he remembered one family in particular who had helped him through problem periods. But the gift he sent wasn't exactly the kind that sits at the foot of a Christmas tree in bright wrapping paper ... it was a purebred Shorthorn bull.
Mr. Burns carried this goodwill with him at all times, even when he had become a figure of world-standing in the beef industry.
It seems a young farmer wanted to buy 50 sows on credit, so Mr. Burns sent him to one of his yardmen. An hour later the young farmer was still waiting. Upon enquiry, Mr. Burns was told the delay was due to the time needed to draw up the chattel mortgage.
"Give him the sows and take a promissory note" said Canada's genial Cattle King. "If he's going to cheat us he'll do it whether it's on paper or not".
Now Pat Burns was supplying not only the railroads but mining, construction and lumbering camps, and unlike today, there were seldom any complaints about the freshness or quality of his meat. The cattle were delivered on the hoof and slaughtered on the spot.
In the course of buying cattle he purchased some hogs