Yet not one of the 379 mothers died who had their babies at the Outpost last year. No doubt this was partly due to the regular visits which each nurse finds time to make to all of her prospective mothers. She can not neglect this phase of her work for she dare not risk having a needlessly complicated case on her hands later. Often she can prevent such trouble but if it is apparent that she can not, she may at least be able to get the mother in advance to a more distant hospital, where there are doctors.
Keeping in touch with each case intimately the nurse knows when to expect the mother at the Outpost. And woe to the husband if he neglects to bring her in time! Sometimes, of course, the patient arrives only to find the little place full. Then there is nothing for the nurse to do but give up her own bed.
Although the nurse is sometimes on duty twenty-four hours a day caring for the sick, she manages, somehow, to hold an occasional clinic for physical inspection of all the babies in the community or to teach a class of mothers how to keep themselves and their families well.
As population becomes denser some of these nursing homes have developed into small general hospitals themselves. At Bengough, just fifteen miles above the United States boundary, a little one-room cottage with three beds, established as an Outpost in 1922, has been replaced by a small hospital with thirteen beds and a staff of three nurses. Most of these enlarged stations are in the prairie wheat belt, however. Several of the Outposts are in the southern part of the Province.
On the other hand, there is Carragana, in the untamed, unconquered bush land of the north. Carragana is twenty miles from Prairie River and the railroad, and sixty-five miles from the nearest doctor. A handful of ex-soldiers of the World War are there, trying to scratch a living from the soil despite a short growing season. Their wives are as true pioneers as any women who ventured west in prairie schooners three-fourths of a century ago.
Imagine what the Outpost means to them.
"I am certain that you saved my life when my baby was born," a Carragana mother recently wrote the Red Cross nurse. "You took me in when I had no one to help me. I would have written to thank you before but didn't have a cent for postage.
"I went harvesting last fall for seventy-five cents a day but it ruined my health and I can't do very much now. I spend all I can earn to buy food for my five children, for I can't bear to see them go hungry. They scarcely had bedding of any kind until we got the flannelette you sent us.
"The clamor from my little family now is all 'how soon will Santa Claus come?" But I am afraid he won't come at all as crops are frozen down here and times are so very hard."
This is reality is a cry in the wilderness. It is one of many. And it explains why, if you were to push through the bush land to Carragana today you would see a Red Cross flag flying above a little log cabin.