Some Motorists Are Not as Popular with the Farmers as Many of Them Think

22 Oct. 1921
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Some Motorists Are Not as Popular with the Farmers as Many of Them Think


Some Motorists Are Not as Popular with the Farmers as Many of Them Think

The Farmers, However, Are Painfully Popular with the Motorists—Many Joy Riders Expect Much for Nothing And Believe It Is Conferring a Favor to Land a Hungry Carload Into a Farmer’s Dining Room—Some Very Magnificent “Tips” Are Offered, Even to the Extent of Fifty Cents—But the Freckle Faced Boy Refused tThe Dough with Scorn.

By Winnifred Reeve (Onoto Watanna)
They come with the first breath of spring, ploughing along the muddy, slippery roads, bent, so they assure us, on “making the grade” to Banff, but managing generally to get as far as our ranch, kill the engine, burst a tire or run dead out of gasoline.
As the roads dry and the sun of the advancing summer glows upon the land, they come shooting along the main road to Banff, with such alarming speed and frequency, that it is no wonder a number of them manage to spill themselves off at our gates.
Summer, with all its heat and dust, brings them literally by the hundreds. We like to see them roll by and disappear into the foothills of the Rockies, but an astonishing number of these hundreds roll no farther than our doors.
We are painfully popular at this time. The fishing season has opened.
Although the cars en route to Banff lessen in number with the passing of the summer days, they increase so far as those that stop abruptly at the ranch house goes, with no pr4tense now of “making the grade” to Banff. Lo! the hunter is at hand.

Where They Foregather

Down at the junction of the Ghost and Bow rivers, which bound two sides of our ranch, the motor hoboes love to foregather. Neither tightly closed gates or four lines of barbed wire, daunt these trespassers, who open (but never close) the gate at the bridge, park their cars on the Ghost side under the bridge, and disappear along the banks of that forbidden stream.
Sometimes tents and camping paraphernalia are set up, either down by the Ghost river or in the pasture above the Bow river, and our motor hobo squats upon the land indefinitely. Very ingenious are some of their camping devices, and when supplies are low and they tire of a fish diet, they beg, borrow and steal from their unwilling hosts. Some of them camp “de luxe” with electrical contrivances connected with their cars, thermos bottles and other luxurious articles dear to the heart of the modern camper; but for the most part they camp in the rough, and the smoke of their fires curl up from the river, apprizing us of the presence of our uninvited guests, and warning us to be on guard.

Soft Spot in His Heart

Our “hands” joke about the “paper collar dudes” in camp, but the boss has a soft spot for all would-be fishermen and hunters. As the days pass, however, and our stock strays forth through the open gates and are sometimes banged by joyriders on the highway; as incipient forest fires are barely nipped in the bud; we begin to feel a measure of irritation and alarm. So we wire the gates and stick up a “No Trespass” sign. We leave, however, a portion of the land by the bridge, where the aspiring fisherman may angle in peace, and where also, when the season opens, the hunter may have a shot or two at the coy partridge, grouse and prairie chicken that seem to vamp us from every bush. Our good nature meets with a poor reward, and our wrath rises to fever heat, when we discover the wanton cutting of the fences, and narrowly scape being hit by the crazy shooting in pastures and woods where our cattle are grazing.
So a bunch of husky “hands” are delegated to go down to the camp or camps as the case may be and read the riot act to our guests. There they are variously received, according to their size and number and the nature of the hoboes. Of course, each hobo protests his own personal innocence and “passes the buck” to “the fellow who just left before we go here.”

Delegation of One

If our delegation is represented by the small boy of the house (it’s not always convenient to spare “hands” to go three miles down the road) his reception is not always cordial by these well-meaning and perhaps unconscious incendiaries, bad shots and poor sports—for it is poor sport to fish in streams that a thoughtful government has closed for the best of reasons. Said one “big piece of cheese,” as the boy described him, when approached by said small boy, and warned that his “bonfire” was endangering the brush:
“Listen to who’s talking now. If you don’t shut your face, I’ll throw1

The Hobo Beats It

The boy, disdaining to answer, wrote down the number of the hoboe’s car, stuck his small spurred heels into his horse’s flank, and was off over the hill before the hobo awoke to a realization of possible danger to his precious outfit. From the top of the hill the boy saw him actively at work upon the cut fence and bonfire and before the boy could reach the ranch house the noise of the departing car of the motor hobo was heard loud in the land as he escaped along the road in a cloud of dust.
So much for the motor hoboes who bear a sort of relationship to sports. We feel for them a certain sympathy, and even liking at times, so long as they close our gates, do no wild shooting near the cattle, fish in the open streams, and do not set our woods on fire. They are part of the “game” of ranching in this part of the country, and we take their presence among us as philosophically as we do such visitors as the fish and game in season.

What They Require

We come now to those who chug up the hill to the ranch house, and proffer their various requests and demands. Experience forces us to regard with suspicion all applicants for shelter, meals, milk, eggs, tools, horses, vegetables, use of telephone, use of verandah for picnic, gasoline and berries. Now the man travelling from Calgary to Banff, knows just how much gasoline it takes to carry him that far. If he has put on insufficient gasoline, there is Cochrane midway between, where he can fill up. We have had one motor hobo after another, drive up to our door and casually demand gasoline. We’ve had them help themselves to gasoline from the drum outside our garage—the “boss” being away, and the women of the house uncertain how to measure out gasoline, and the motor hobo assuring us they would be very careful. We have had them procure the gasoline from our “hands” in our absence, omitting to pay for the same (at a time when gasoline was as high as 60 cents per gallon), but handing a tip to the “hand.” At 3 in the morning we have been awakened by a joyrider asking for gasoline, his car being stalled down the road, with a party which included girls and men, and if we would but get up and get him some of the desired fluid he would pay us a whole dollar per gallon.

Not a Garage

We do not run a public garage, but a cattle ranch. When the farmer hauls out to his ranch at considerable labor and cost, a drum of gasoline, he does it for his own especial use, because he is not near to the sources that supply the joyriders.
Often the motor hoboes are of the feminine persuasion, and very persuasive they are. With ingratiating smile, they tender their various requests, the commonest ones being a square meal, a harbor for the night, butter and eggs and “Could we go into your woods to get raspberries, saskatoons and gooseberries.” They have first scouted through said woods, and assured themselves of the presence there of the desired berries, before making the request, which is nearly always granted.

Here’s a Sweet Sister

One sunny day an especially blooming type of the female motor hobo species blew up the hill in a great giddy car, that was brim full of chattering and beveiled sister adventurers, and sought to induce us to give them a meal. She seemed to think the request to feed eight extra people on a ranch was a trifling matter, and, in fact, I suspect that at first she thought she was doing us a mighty favor by asking us. We politely returned that we were a private ranch, not a hotel; but if she kept on a bit further she would come to a place where, no doubt, they could get a meal. Our motor hobo, in this instance, was apparently one used to having her own way and would take no refusal. She first flattered (the looks of our ranch and of us); she then endowed us with most charming smiles; she then pathetically told how dogged tired and hot and hungry they all were, and wouldn’t we let them wash up and refresh themselves on the verandah before dinner, etc. she then, lowering her voice, descended to bribery, mentioning the alluring amount she was prepared to pay for a good fare dinner, and, finally, aggravated by our stubborness, she waxes indignant and extremely haughty, and her aside remarks anent “Rubes” were not good for us to hear. She stated further that she understood it was the custom of the country for the farmers to take in people who were on the road as they were, etc., and suggested that we were outside the breed of those kindly souls who lived according to said rule. We acquiesced in this, and apprized her of the fact that that rule applied to wayfarers, farmers like ourselves; people who were unavoidedly held up or had an accident, and included also the pedestrian tramp, but not the mere motor hobo. We also inquired whether if we drove up to the lady’s house in Calgary with a load of “Rubes” aboard our Lizzile if she would trouble even to parley with us on the subject of grub.
She left our premises in a fine huff, convinced, I am sure, that farmers were not all they aere cracked up to be, but a tight-fisted, mean lot—their women at all events.
I should not, however, be supposed that we turn such a stony front to all who apply to us for meals and shelter. Far from it. Scarcely a day passes that we do not have a stranger or strangers at our board, and on Sundays, what with our city friends, neighbors and wayfarers, whose request seems really legitimate, we sometimes have much ado to find room for all. Twenty-two and twenty-five at the table is no uncommon occurrence on a Saturday or Sunday.

Offered a Quarter

The tipping motor hobo is one of our pet aversions. Perhaps I should say, rather, the hobo who offers to tip. Very often when put to the test, said tip calls forth explosive chuckles from all hands on the ranch, as for instance: Tendered a whole quarter for his dinner by a dapper young “hobo,” who had rolled up to our gates with a henna-haired product of our fair city of Calgary, we smilingly rejected the same, but suggested that he might tip our cook as he made his exit through the kitchen. Did he follow our suggestion? He did not. And he is only one instance.
On another occasion, a couple of “Yanks,” touring en route to Banff and Lake Louise, buzzed up noisily in their big Cadillac, and spent an hour or so in our garage overhauling their car. They were departing, waving a friendly farewell, when one, apparently taking pity on us, whispered something to the tother’s ear. Actually those fine men turned back. They hailed us as:
“Hi there,” which is not our name at all.
Ignorant of their purpose, we approached the big shining car. With the gracious and benevolent smile of one bestowing a kingdom, one of them leaned out of the car and proffered us a fifty-cent bit. Overcome by this unexpected act of generosity, we grinned and shook our head.
“No, thank you. It’s all right.”
At that moment, around the side of the garage appeared our son, aged 12 years old. With the cynical, suspicious and guying eye peculiar to a freckle-faced, red -haired country lad, who in some way or other has imbibed a wholesale disdain for merely “city guys,” he was watching that transaction, and I knew by his diabolical expression that he purposed, should I take that fifty cents, forever afterwards to make me the scornful butt of his gibes and jeers. It so happened that this fine motor hobo perceived our son as soon as we did, and his face clearing, and still benevolent, he held up that coin between thumb and forefinger. The boy, ignoring his suggestive motion, that man descended from his car, and approached said red-headed, freckle-faced overall-clad farmer’s boy.
“Here, little boy,” said he cheerily, “is 50 cents. Your mamma won’t take it. So you run along and buy her a big box of candy and a stick of candy for yourself.”
(I don’t know what kind of candy he expected to buy in such quantity for 50 cents.)
Now, if there is one mortal insult that a 12-year-old boy cannot endure, it is to be addressed as “Here, little boy,” such language, in his opinion, being more fitted for one of his sex ten years younger.
The red that spread hotly over our boy’s freckle face forewarned us of what followed, and furthermore an audience had arrived in the shape of sundry fellows who had sauntered over from the corral and the bunk house.
Said the boy:
“I don’t want your d—m dough. Blow it on yourself.”
The man, surprised at this unexpected rejection, pressed the bit of money into the boy’s hand and hastily jumped into his car. The boy, however, pursued him, wrathfully demanding:
“Say, do you take me for a bell hop? Here’s your dirty d—m dough back.”
Normally that boy can hit straight and that 50-cent piece should have landed where it was aimed, at the car, but the car was moving with increasing speed, and the coin flew wide of its mark and disappeared into the grass.
Several hours later, I saw the boy on hands and knees, carefully going over the ground, inch by inch. Quite late in the afternoon he came to the house, with a glowing face, and held up triumphantly the scorned piece of money .
“I found it I found it. Hey, mom, can I go over to Morley after the mail? I gotta get something at the store.”
Of other tippers, I might write considerably, especially the ones we pull out of sloughs or up slippery hills. They are fine fellows when our horses are hauling them out of their trouble: but they get down to grim business when the job is done, and hand rattling the small change in pocket, they inquire:
“How much for that little distance?” ignoring the distance the horses have come from the field, and often the trouble of getting them in, harnessing, etc. Our men charge variously for such jobs, it being the rule of the ranch that they can keep what they get. We had an Irishman who was always satisfied with:
“A bit of tobacco, sor.”
And we were overwhelmed with mirth by the canny dealings of a Scotch “Yank” in our employ. When charged with usury by an indignant complainant, he sulkily justified himself by telling us of a friend of his who made a regular trade of pulling “guys” out of a muddy hole, that he himself kept greased and well watered. Close at hand, his friend was always there to bargain with the unfortunate motorist when the latter’s car sped heedlessly into the trap set for him. In this special case, however, the biter was finally bitten. A victim having agreed to pay him the exorbitant price of $10 to pull him out of the muddy hole, once on dry land, turned on full speed, tooted his horn and made off merrily and swiftly, returning, however, the following day with a squad that not only patched up that hole efficiently, but pumped the fear of retribution into the soul of the fellow who thought he had secured a corner on this dubious trade. Which all goes to show that there are indeed two sides to every question, and no doubt the “motor hobo” could tell a story on the farmer that would be better than mine.


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People Mentioned

Sijia Cheng

Sijia Cheng completed an MA student in English Language and Literatures at the University of British Columbia and was a research assistant for The Winnifred Eaton Archive. Her research focuses primarily on Asian Canadian literature and queer theory.
Sijia Cheng is an MA student in English Language and Literatures at the University of British Columbia and a research assistant for The Winnifred Eaton Archive. Her research focuses primarily on Asian Canadian literature and queer theory.

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonyms used in this text

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see
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