Friday, October 7, 2011

Major Rogers Cusses a Blue Streak

Rogers.  Explorer and Cusser.  Train Web
Major Albert Bowman Rogers is deeply entrenched in Canadian history for the discovery of a railway route through the mountain pass that bears his name.  Pierre Berton's Last Spike characterizes Rogers as a hard travelling man who could survive on some hard tack and a plug of tobacco for long periods in the bush.  Rogers was no shrinking violet, and his demeanour could best be described as gruff.


An incident in 1881 serves to illuminate the colourful language spat when Rogers rode into a survey crew's Bow River camp. The top engineer, Hyndman, was the unfortunate recipient of Rogers' ire.  Rocky Mountain outfitter and guide Tom Wilson noted that he had the honour of leading Rogers, described as the "tattered creature on the scarecrow horse", to the man's tent.


"'What's your altitude?' [Rogers] shot at Hyndman.  The engineer stammered that he did not know. 'Blue Jesus!  Been here several days and don't know the altitude yet.  You _____!' There followed what Wilson described as 'wonderful exhibition of scientific cussing [which] busted wide all of Hyndman's 'Holy Commandments' and inspired delighted snickers and chuckles of admiration from the men who had quickly gathered around.'"


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Pierre Berton had to guess at what expletive came after the word "Blue", as Wilson had edited it out of his memoirs.  Berton explains that, "it is doubtful that he would have censored so mild a word as 'blazes' (and equally doubtful that the Major himself would have lapsed into such a euphemism), I have filled in the blank with the most obvious expletive." "Blue Jesus", seems to be a fitting 1880s epithet. One is left to wonder what term Rogers used to call Hyndman at the end of the statement.  There is so many options that Berton didn't even wager a guess and left the expletive blank.




"You _____!"




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