I am Ted Bartsch and many of you listening today I know personally and very well. I have been asked by several friends to write down the history of the thirty-six-horse team that was driven in the parade at the Calgary Stampede in 1925. At least to write down what I can remember before the story becomes lost completely, as there are only two of us left alive that took an active part in training and driving this outfit.
The other man is Walter Ward, who lives at Brooks, Alberta, where he and his brother Milt operate one of the biggest cattle feeding operations in Canada. I believe they feed about 20,000 head at one time. I think Walter is still around, though I haven’t heard of him for a long time now.
The entire operation of this team is very clear and simple in my mind, but to put on paper so that you folks can understand it is not so easy.
The reasons for its organization are quite simple. Slim Moorhouse, the driver of the team, was at the Calgary Stampede in the summer of 1924 and drove a 28-horse team of mixed colours, breeds and sizes, both horses and mules. This gave the Stampede Board a vision of an even larger team of all matched horses. They approached my father, Chris Bartsch, a former member of the Stampede Board, with the idea. I remember quite well the Board team offering him a limited amount of money to put this show on and that his quick answer to that was, “No”. But he said that he would put on an outfit that they would be proud of but they would pay the bill whatever it came to.
This they agreed to do, and the result was thirty-six all black horses — eighteen teams of two. Each horse weighed at least fifteen hundred pounds, which is a fair sized horse. I guess the reason for blacks was that that was my father’s favorite color for a horse, and he already had about twenty-four well-matched blacks that would be a good start. Altogether we had fifty-five all black horses and one pure white saddle horse — to always lead the way. This team consisted of thirty-six horses hooked to wagons with eight spares and four more on the chuck wagon as we carried our own camp. We had seven black saddle horses and the one white. The white horse was ridden by a mighty good cowboy and teamster in his own right — Jim Mooney. Jim came to this Peace country with me, but went back to Calgary that same fall. Jim passed away several years ago. Pete Lagrande, who was the world’s champion saddle bronc rider, also accompanied us on that trip.
Slim Moorhouse passed away two years ago — he ended his days somewhere in Kamloops area. The rest of the men with this team have all gone during the past twenty years, excepting Walter Ward and myself. That was the easy part of this story!
The actual hook-up is not so easy for me to put on paper or on tape, and be understandable, but first I will say that this team was not driven by means of a jerk-line, as so many people believe it was. Other long teams of history were, such as twenty mule and horse teams of the desert country and the Caribou country were, but not ours. Many people believe that this team was driven that way. It wasn’t. They were driven with four sets of lines, four lines in each hand. The four in the left hand, starting with the pole horse lines, were under the little finger, also lines between each other pair of fingers, with the lead horse lines coming between the third and fourth or index finger, and going up between the index finger and thumb. All four lines went up in that manner. Right hand just the opposite with the lead horse lines going over the index finger, with the other three lines going down each space between fingers, with pole horse lines between the little finger and second finger. This gave all left-hand lines going up and right hand lines going down, always the lead lines were on top. Pole horse lines were controlled by little fingers, this made it easy to throw lines from one hand to the other without getting them mixed up. Fingers would get awfully strong, mine still are. Lines were on the lead team, the sixth team from pole, and third team from pole. The third and sixth teams had to jump the main cable on all sharp turns. Of course they were cross-tied to the doubletrees on the team ahead. Each team carried the doubletrees ahead by means of a breast strap in their collars and a chain from doubletrees snapped to this breast strap. The lead lines were made of light quarter-inch cotton rope, excepting the last hundred feet that the driver had to handle, and this portion was regular size leather lines. These lines went over the heads of the third and sixth teams by means of arches or hames on teams in front and behind, as third and sixth teams had to jump the main cable. The third and sixth teams were attached to the main cable by a short cable, leaving them free to jump the main cable, and pull out in a fan shape, to pull the wagons out from corners whenever we turned sharp. Even with this advantage and others that I will try and explain, we quite often ran over the curb with the last wagons. The other advantage I said I would try and explain was this. Between the fifth and sixth wagons we were, by means of a lever, able to throw the stub tongues connecting the wagons about one foot in either direction, which would make the fifth to tenth wagons pull out and away from corners. This allowed us considerable room that we needed badly.
I have talked mostly about horses, but I will add here that each horse wore a new harness, and wore rubber shoes. Their hooves were blackened and shined every morning. They pulled ten new McCormick-Deering wagons with ten new McCormick-Deering 125-bushel grain tanks, and hauled one carload of Marquis wheat. A thousand bushels was a small carload. The tenth wagon was loaded with one hundred bushels of first grade Marquis wheat grown at Gleichen, and sacked in individual sacks of approximately four ounces to the sack. On each sack was printed, “Marquis wheat grown at Gleichen, Alberta, and hauled by the longest team in the world”. These small sacks were thrown to the crowd by Slim Poorhouse’s young brother Jack as souvenirs. Many of these sacks are still in existence, and are considered real souvenirs.
We showed this team at Gleichen mostly as a practice run before taking them to the Calgary Parade. Every day in Calgary’s week-long stampede we made a trip from Mewata Barracks down Ninth Avenue West down past the Palliser Hotel and straight down Ninth Avenue to Eighth Street East, I believe. There we turned north one block and went west down Eighth Avenue across Calgary’s main corner, Eighth Avenue and First West, past the Hudson Bay store, and west back to Mewata Barracks, which I believe is about Tenth Street West.
In my opinion there were at least four of the out-riders that were just as good long-line skinners as Moorhouse, but none but Moorhouse would tackle the job, as they didn’t think that they could drive them alone. He figured that he could, but he did have
help unbeknown to him. Walter Ward and myself drove the leaders around corners by
means of a piece of stovepipe wire fastened from the lead lines between the second and third teams back of the leaders. We were out of sight of the wagons at times.
Many of these horses were first broken to work for this event. We were warned by many people of the disasters we would encounter taking these broncos into city traffic. Well, we did have our hands full when we first hit pavement and the noise of the steel shoes they were still wearing — ringing on the pavement — really scared them. I’d better add here that we did go to the centre field at the stampede grounds on the Saturday afternoon, the last day of the stampede, and made four figure eights in the enclosure — two to the right and two to the left. The arena area was a lot bigger at the time than it is now. This show went perfectly and I do believe it was quite a sight to see. Everybody was horse conscious at that time, for grain was all hauled by horses then.
Getting back to my story, when we first hit pavement we did have our hands full. The sound of these steel shoes made them all start trotting and when the steel-wheeled wagons hit pavement the noise was more than they could take. Then they started to run. Anyone that knew Calgary at that time knows those two blocks from the start of pavement in East Calgary by the Old Colonel Walker High School. Then came a subway at the old Cushing Mills. By the time the horses hit the subway they were on the dead run and by the time they got up the other side of the subway they were at a dead stop. The uncontrollable runaway was over, but the horses were tangled up so badly that we held up traffic for several hours. The traffic then was mostly streetcars. When we did get the horses out of the rigging and all on their feet, we had to unlock all but twelve, pulling the wagons to Mewata Barracks, and leading the rest. They were never hooked up again until all were shod with rubber shoes!
After a few hours in heavy traffic the horses were just struck dumb with new experiences and even streetcars could brush them and they wouldn’t look around. Our worries from that source were ended. We brought approximately twenty head of those horses to the Gundy Ranch here in this country. This included the pole team with which we won the world’s pulling championship, and also the lead team which, of necessity, had to be a mighty good team of horses. I guess I could think up many more stories concerning this team, their training, plus the possibility of other performances. I would say here that any old timers, or anyone wishing to hear more, would be welcome to call on me. I also have many good pictures of this outfit. Well time is running out on this program so ‘bye now. Ted G. Bartsch