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Catharine Of The "Crow’s Nest"
by [?]

The great transcontinental railway had been in running order for years before the managers thereof decided to build a second line across the Rocky Mountains. But “passes” are few and far between in those gigantic fastnesses, and the fearless explorers, followed by the equally fearless surveyors, were many a toilsome month conquering the heights, depths and dangers of the “Crow’s Nest Pass.”

Eastward stretched the gloriously fertile plains of southern “Sunny Alberta,” westward lay the limpid blue of the vast and indescribably beautiful Kootenay Lakes, but between these two arose a barrier of miles and miles of granite and stone and rock, over and through which a railway must be constructed. Tunnels, bridges, grades must be bored, built and blasted out. It was the work of science, endurance and indomitable courage. The summers in the canyons were seething hot, the winters in the mountains perishingly cold, with apparently inexhaustible snow clouds circling forever about the rugged peaks–snows in which many a good, honest laborer was lost until the eagles and vultures came with the April thaws, and wheeled slowly above the pulseless sleeper, if indeed the wolves and mountain lions had permitted him to lie thus long unmolested. Those were rough and rugged days, through which equally rough and rugged men served and suffered to find foundations whereon to lay those two threads of steel that now cling like a cobweb to the walls of the wonderful “gap” known as Crow’s Nest Pass.

Work progressed steadily, and before winter set in construction camps were built far into “the gap,” the furthermost one being close to the base of a majestic mountain, which was also named “The Crow’s Nest.” It arose beyond the camp with almost overwhelming immensity. Dense forests of Douglas fir and bull pines shouldered their way up one-third of its height, but above the timber line the shaggy, bald rock reared itself thousands of feet skyward, desolate, austere and deserted by all living things; not even the sure-footed mountain goat travelled up those frowning, precipitous heights; no bird rested its wing in that frozen altitude. The mountain arose, distinct, alone, isolated, the most imperial monarch of all that regal Pass.

The construction gang called it “Old Baldy,” for after working some months around its base, it began to grow into their lives. Not so, however, with the head engineer from Montreal, who regarded it always with baleful eye, and half laughingly, half seriously, called it his “Jonah.”

“Not a thing has gone right since we worked in sight of that old monster,” he was heard to say frequently; and it did seem as if there were some truth in it. There had been deaths, accidents and illness among the men. Once, owing to transportation difficulties, the rations were short for days, and the men were in rebellious spirit in consequence. Twice whiskey had been smuggled in, to the utter demoralization of the camp; and one morning, as a last straw, “Cookee” had nearly severed his left hand from his arm with a meat axe. Young Wingate, the head engineer, and Mr. Brown, the foreman, took counsel together. For the three meals of that day they tried three different men out of the gang as “cookees.” No one could eat the atrocious food they manufactured. Then Brown bethought himself. “There’s an Indian woman living up the canyon that can cook like a French chef,” he announced, after a day of unspeakable gnawing beneath his belt. “How about getting her? I’ve tasted pork and beans at her shack, and flapjacks, and–“

“Get her! get her!” clamored Wingate. “Even if she poisons us, it’s better than starving. I’ll ride over to-night and offer her big wages.”

“How about her staying here?” asked Brown. “The boys are pretty rough and lawless at times, you know.”

“Get the axe men to build her a good, roomy shack–the best logs in the place. We’ll give her a lock and key for it, and you, Brown, report the very first incivility to her that you hear of,” said Wingate crisply.