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Sometimes on these long trips they would have trouble getting feed and water for the oxen. The oxen only got what grass they could find along the way. No feed was carried for them, and at night they would have to camp where grass, wood and water were to be had, and you can imagine the tired travellers staying up half the night baking their bannock before a camp-fire, frying the salt pork and making their tea. Often travelling without a tent, they would just pull the ox-carts together and sleep under the carts, their only protection from rain. It was up to the rider on the pony to go ahead and select a camping place for each night.
The old ox-carts were not much good after making one of those long trips from Winnipeg and return. And the toes of the ox would get worn off and bleed from going through the sandy districts where they would grind off at the points of the hoof. Young oxen were selected for these trips. Very seldom was an ox taken out on a second trip, and many did not live to return from the first trip. Sometimes a half-breed or an ox would get sick and die on the trail and another would have to be secured. On hot summer days the oxen's tongues would be out and the oxen panting. The saliva would dampen the trail by the time the last ox-cart of the train had passed.
On these trips they had a hard time crossing the big rivers, such as the Assiniboine and the Saskatchewan. This necessitated unloading each cart and taking the wheels off, putting each cart and its contents in a boat and then the half-breeds would row the boat across the river, letting the ox swim behind on the end of a rope. The ox was simply pushed into the river to swim across. He had to swim if he had never swam before. I t was a case of swim ox or drown. They took only one cart at a time. Often the current of the river carried them downstream about a mile before they landed on the other side.
Many times have I forded the Assiniboine River at Smart's Landing (N.B. - Mr. Eadie might have meant Pratt's Landing and have forgotten the name) and Indian Ford at low water season when the depth of the water and the current would nearly take the old ox off his feet, his toes just touching the river bed. There was not much of the ox or cart visible above the water.
Strange to say, the first railway built west from Winnipeg to Calgary and Edmonton followed the old ox-cart trails very closely. There were no barbed wire fences or gates to let down in those days, just 1000 miles of open ox-cart trails.