Sergeant Ralph Kendall

Amongst groups of men on the prairies - whether they be cowboys, railroad workers or Mounties the man who could tell a good story was always popular and in great demand. You only have to look at the recent resurgence in the popularity of "cowboy poetry" to know that this is still the case. A lot of Mounties and former Mounties turned their talents to writing and Sgt. Kendall was one of them.

After serving in the Boer War in South Africa, Kendall found his way to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan in 1902. He joined the RNWMP in 1905 and served under Col. Sanders here at Calgary. He left the force in 1910 after serving in Banff and Lake Louise.

He joined the Calgary City Police Force mounted unit in 1911, was promoted to Sergeant and was in charge of the unit until it was disbanded in 1924.

His first novel, "Benton of the Mounted" was number 3 on the Canadian best seller list in 1918. His second novel, "Luck of the Mounted", published in 1920, was also quite popular. As far as I know, both are out of print, but are available at the University Library ("Luck of the Mounted" is in Special Collections so you can't take it out).

The hero of "Benton of the Mounted " is a young Sergeant named Ellis Benton. Although the story is fiction, Kendall drew heavily on his own life experiences when writing of his main character. The story is a typical "Duster" from the 20's and I would be neglecting my duty if I didn't quote a short passage. To set the scene, our hero, Sergeant Benton and his friend, a local ranch-hand, arrest a cattle rustler by the name of "Big George".

"Ellis, his powerful right arm swinging free,
ranged up alongside as if to have speech with the
other. Then suddenly, and with an uncanny swiftness,
he silently and viciously struck for the angle
of the big man's jaw.

The blow crashed home, and the great body went
lurching sideways out of the saddle. Like a flash
the Sergeant swung down off his horse and jumped
for the rustler, dragging out another pair of handcuffs
as he did so.

His haste was his undoing, for he got wedged in
between the frightened, jostling horses and was knocked
sprawling. The next instant a huge, bear-like shape
that made horrible, beast-like noises in its throat,
fell upon him and clutched his arms. Frenziedly he
writhed under that terrible grip.

"Barney! " he yelled. " Oh, Bar-! "

But his cry changed to a gurgle as the other's hold
shifted to his throat with desperate efforts he
fought off the choking clasp and, wriggling somehow
from under his enemy's smothering weight, scrambled
with reeling brain to his feet.

Big George had arisen also, snorting and grinding
his teeth with mad, demoniacal passion, and
Ellis instinctively guessed that he was fumbling for
his gun. Entirely forgetful of his own weapon in
the Berserker rage that possessed him, the Sergeant
sprang at the giant rustler, hitting out with great
smashing punches to the jaw and stomach, that sent
Fisk staggering back and gave him no Opportunity
to draw. With a snarl like a wild beast, he closed
again with his slighter antagonist and, as the two
men swayed hither and thither, Benton became dimly
conscious of Gallagher's form and voice added to
the melee.

Stumbling and tripping, the struggling, cursing
trio came headlong to the ground. Suddenly, with
a gurgling yell of pain, Fisk released his grip on
Ellis, who was the under dog and, clutching at his
own throat, fell backwards; his head, meanwhile,
giving curious, spasmodic jerks. Uncomprehending,
but quick to follow up his advantage, the Sergeant
rolled over upon him; and as he did so, his
hands, seeking the other's neck, encountered a rope,
and he instantly realised what had happened.
"Steady, Barney! " he panted. " Ease up a bit.
Yu'll choke him."

Roughly, and with the swift celerity of men ac-
customed to throwing and hog-tying steers, they
trussed up their late formidable antagonist, winding
the forty-foot riata around him as he kicked and
raved, with a maze of knots that left him as helpless
as a child. Then, utterly spent with their exertions,
they lay back, gasping for air and sweating."

And like any good "Duster" , Benton of the Royal Mounted is also a romance and the book ends as any good romance should; with our hero and the love of his life, locked in each other's arms, their trusty mounts whinnying their approval.

From the literary references contained in his novels, Kendall was very well read, as were a lot of the men of the Mounted, including the hero, Sgt. Benton. One thing that struck me with Kendall's novel is the characterisations. Unlike his American counterparts, Kendall chose to make Benton's romantic interest not a raving beauty but quite plain; in fact larger in stature than Benton. He described strong, independent women and tough (but sensitive) Mounties who were as comfortable at the piano as they were in the saddle.

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