“I have a gauze bag over my head, and a short pipe puffing to try and
keep the ‘squitors off’. Washing is a perfect torture, they settle
en masse upon you perfectly covering every portion of the body exposed.
None of us have had any sleep for the last two nights and we can
scarcely eat, exposing the face is such a painful operation. One’s
hands are literally covered with them when writing and even when wearing
kid gloves, they bite through the needle holes in the seams.”
noted two of the mules had been blinded and six horses rendered unfit
for work, their hides "one mass of sores."
If the mosquitoes were maddening, other hazards of the job could be
deadly. Building the wagon
roads needed to link the capital to the goldfields of the interior was
an especially risky undertaking. Three
sappers drowned in the Harrison River when their boat capsized.
Sapper James Duffy froze to death west of Lillooet on the route
still known as the Duffy Lake Road.
In all fifteen of the men died during the Detachment’s five
years of service.
popular ways to court disaster included rockslides and tree-falling
mishaps. A sapper working
in the Fraser Canyon north of Yale survived an avalanche but lost part
of his hand. Captain Grant reported a tree had fallen on a tent occupied
by seven of his men, and that "2 or 3 of the men had been seriously
injured getting their legs and arms broken." Another
sapper crushed by a falling tree east of Hope had a unique problem –
the pious soldier complained no one would read the Bible to him, his
fellow soldiers being addicted to "trashing novels" instead.
Williams Lake, Corporal Woodcock took it into his head to leave his
loaded revolver in a bag full of spare clothes. Not surprisingly, it went off and shot an unfortunate packer
through the thigh. His
sergeant commented that same summer on the need to bury dead labourers
quickly, as they soon began to smell in the heat of the Cariboo summer.