By Norman A. Rubin
In the early days of my youth I was thrilled with the fifteen minute weekly radio program, ‘Sergeant Renfrew of the Mounties’ and his favorite dog ‘Cuddles’; The program was all about the adventures of a Canadian Mounted Policeman as he searched for the outlaws through the Yukon and in the North West Territory of Canada through blizzards, blinding snowstorms and through all sorts of dangers; but somehow the programs never had him running about in good traveling weather. Yet he always got his man. I sat with baited breath when the announcer said…’Renfrew was sledding in an ambush set up by Dangerous Dan and his gang at the pass when his huskie growled the alarm’ with a symphonic piece playing the mood of the action. Then the sound effects man got really busy, but in the end Renfrew said ‘Throw down your guns, you are all under arrest!” Towards the end of the serial the producers submitted another cliff hanger… “tune in next week when Sergeant Refrew meets new danger on the trail….”
My mom with two or three other mothers of our neighborhood went one pleasant afternon to the Saturday matinee at the cinema – they saw a film with Nelson Eddy when he dressed as one of the Mounties in the film ‘Rose Marie’ with Jeanette MacDonald. When he crooned ‘When I am calling you oohoo…” they sighed and their hearts fluttered. Never knew if Jeanette ever got her man – I suppose she did.
Following the Cypress Hills Massacre of 1873, when a number of Assiniboine Natives, men, women and children were massacred by a drunken mob of white men calling themselves the Spitzee Cavalry, Canadian Prime Minister John A. MacDonald was forced to quickly organize a force of 275 men to ride west and establish the rule of law…The ‘Mounties’, as they were called, are the Northwest Mounted Police of Canada officially organized in the same year. They were a brave and fearless group of men, willing and able in upholding the law despite their small numbers. Their police work at that time was mainly to patrol the Northwest Territories and the Yukon on horseback and dog sled. Dog sled patrols over the frozen north were then a new aspect of Mounted Police life as the Force established remote outposts throughout the territory.
Canada’s wild untamed regions were a haven for smugglers and outlaws in the 1800’s and there was a constant need of patrols. There were many exciting stories told about the days when the Mounties rode through the wilderness in all adverse weather conditions tracking down outlaws and enforcing the law. They had a reputation that they always outwitted and apprehended the outlaw. They gained the confidence of the Indians, and soon their scarlet jackets were a familiar sight to the aboriginal tribes, whose help to the Mounties in tracking and providing shelter was quite invaluable.
“A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a rag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.”
‘The Shooting of Dangerous Dan McGrew’- Robert W. Service
The word ‘Royal’ was added to the name of the Mounted Police by King Edward VII in 1904 in honor of their outstanding service to the country and its citizens, but it wasn’t until 1920 that they came to be known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, when the Royal North West Mounted Police merged with the Dominion Police. Then their authority was extended to cover all the provinces of Canada.
Today, the Mounties are a modern police force with up-to-date crime laboratories with forensic facilities. Their regular uniform is a grey shirt with dark blue tie, dark blue trousers with gold strapping, regular patrol boots called “ankle boots”, regular duty equipment, and a regular policeman’s style cap. (Winter dress on top of their regular uniforms includes heavier boots, jackets and a fur cap.) They now travel in automobiles, boats, airplanes and helicopters, snowmobiles and in some instances dog sleds are called for. Their horses and scarlet uniforms are now reserved for ceremonial affairs and parades.
The RCMP, dedicated at the turn of the twentieth century to establishing a system of horseback patrols became, a half-century later when times had changed with new methods of law enforcement, a national enforcement agency with responsibilities ranging from counting migratory birds to uncovering foreign espionage, thwarting terrorist activities and other national security duties.
A visitor can learn more about the Royal Canadian Mountain Police, their duties, and the extraordinary police work in apprehending outlaws – ‘they always get their man’– by a tour of the artifacts and written records at the Mounted Police Heritage Centre, located in Regina, Saskatchewan. The permanent collection, comprising over 33,000 artifacts, displays the NWMP/RCMP from their beginnings in 1873 to the present. These artifacts depict not only the RCMP’s history, but also the story of the West, of First Nations and Northern Canada. Visit rcmpheritagecentre.com for more information.
Norman A. Rubin is a former correspondent for the Continental News Service. He has been a freelance writer for the past twenty years writing on various subjects – Near East culture and crafts, archaeology, coinage, religious history and rites, and politics. An American citizen, Norman studied writing at Wolsley Hall, England, and currently makes his home in Afula.