Nine-year-old Boy Carries 200 lb Organ 17 Miles Across the Prairie
Arthur’s dad had been a gentleman back in merry old England. Had his branch of the family fallen on hard times or had he just decided to try making his fortune on the prairies? There was so much advertising in the early days about how wonderful the prairies were, how easy to work the land, how quickly you could build up a sizable farm. The reality was an ice-cold bucket of water many times over.
Whatever brought them here, the family came to Saskatchewan and his father took out a homestead north of Crane Lake, where Arthur was born in 1896. And because there were no doctors around, Dad delivered the baby boy himself and weighed him on a trout scale.
Art’s father got his own little farm started: his 160 acres plus a bunch of cows and wild horses. It turned out to be a lot harder and dirtier work than he’d seen in his life. He also went to work for a group of like-minded Englishmen who did their best to set up an English manor on the prairies and live like gentry. It didn’t work in the long run, too unrealistic, but they pretended as best they could.
Perhaps that’s why he was so irritable, or maybe he was brought up in the Oliver Twist mind-set. Arthur soon learned to walk carefully around his Dad or he’d get his ears boxed.
Being of the educated class back home, Art’s father was eager to keep up with the London papers such as “Punch”, so when Arthur was about nine his dad started sending him over the old rutted trail down to Maple Creek, about 18 miles away, to get the mail.
This was no small adventure; Arthur would hike into town once a week, get the mail in a sack, and sleep in the livery barn that night. The next morning the old man who ran the stable would give him a cup of tea and a hard biscuit, and that meagre meal would see him home again.
One day there was a slip in their box from the postmaster, telling Arthur to go over to the freight shed to receive a parcel. This “parcel” turned out to be a Foster pedal organ, made of beautiful cherry wood–about a metre long and the same in height, maybe 200 lbs. in weight. Of course his first thought was, “How am I ever going to get that home?!”
He pondered the problem for awhile, then borrowed a screwdriver and began to take the thing apart. What a job! An organ has dozens of parts: pipes, valves, tubes, dowels, pedals, bellows, etc. “I must have been crazy!” he later admits, remembering what a mess it made when it was all laid out on the floor of the station!
The station agent would come around from time to time, fascinated, to watch him. He would shake his head and say every now and then, “You’ve got one big whopper by the tail!”
When Arthur was finished, he put a few parts in his sack and headed off home again. Then, for the next three months, each time he went for the mail he brought back a few more bits until finally he had hauled every last piece of the organ home. The last stick was a big glued piece which he trailed home on a travois like the Indians used.
Though Art had never seen an organ before, he began to put the thing all together again. It took quite awhile but wasn’t as hard a job as he had feared. When it was all together his mother sat down beside it. She played a hymn, then “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the King”, then she got up and kissed Arthur on both cheeks. The organ worked quite well!
They never did tell his dad how he’d gotten the organ home. Art was thinking his dad would have given him a good clout for all his pains; he was just that type of fellow.