Friday, April 04, 2008

The Canadian Wild West and the Kate Bridges

I write Westerns. Some of them are set in the American West, but since I live in Canada, a lot of them are set here, with Mounties as the heroes. This is a photo I took when I visited the Yukon, on the road to Alaska.

Last year, I was interviewed by a German magazine called LoveLetter. They wanted me to tell their European readers about Canada’s history and the Mounties. These are some of my notes from that discussion, which were later translated into German.

Dressed in crisp red uniforms with wide brown Stetsons, the Mounties galloped across the prairies and symbolized everything romantic about how Canada’s West was tamed. These were resourceful men, quick to make decisions, respectful, handsome and daring.

Because of the sheer volume of population, America’s West was settled fifty years before Canada’s. The U.S. had sheriffs and marshals, whereas Canada had the North-West Mounted Police. They were formed in 1873 by the government in order to settle the prairies, rid the land of whisky traders, make peace with the Indians, and maintain a lawful border with the States. In 1904, King Edward VII renamed them the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—bestowing the title of ‘royal’ because they fought so bravely in the Boer War for England.

At that time in Canada’s history, anyone from a commonwealth country was allowed to join the Force. Many signed on from the United Kingdom and the United States. Marriage was restricted. These men were expected to lead solitary lives, policing great distances on horseback, months away from home and sacrificing personal lives to serve their country. It was argued that if a Mountie constable had a wife and family, his duties would be diminished in order to protect his own homestead and family. Officers, on the other hand, weren’t so restricted.

The photos you see were taken in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. That's me in front of an actual Mountie cabin that was used during the Klondike Gold Rush. Inside the cabin, check out that ball and chain!

My current novel, out now, Klondike Fever, takes place in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s a reversal of fortune story when the heroine, the richest woman in the Klondike, is robbed on a stagecoach headed to Alaska and chained to a man she used to work for as a servant. He’s a Mountie, disguised as a drifter and alcoholic, working incognito.

In May, I’ve got another Mountie story in the anthology Western Weddings, which I share with fellow authors Charlene Sands and Jillian Hart. If you’ve been following my Gold Rush series, you’ll recognize the heroine, Milly, and her family, the Thornbottoms as they go through the unfortunate circumstance of “Shotgun Vows.”

I hope you enjoy the stories! Feel free to visit my website and drop me a line.


Carol Townend said...

Interesting post, Kate, and what gorgeous pictures! But that ball and chain is creepy...

They used to show a great Mountie TV series in the UK called Due South, I am sure you will know it. The hero of that was a real Mr Dudley Do Right. I loved it.
Best wishes

Kate Bridges said...

Thanks for your comments, Carol! Yes, I do remember that TV series. It was quite a hit here, too. The Mountie was squeaky clean. :-)

I keep forgetting they used ball and chains back then. It would be hard to get away, tied to something like that. Must put that in one of my books, sometime!

BTW, I love the cover of your latest!

Take care,

CherylStJohn said...

I love your stories, Kate!

Kate Bridges said...

Thanks, Cheryl, very kind of you! I love your books, too. The very first one I read of yours was THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, when I didn't even know you yet!:-)