Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Friday, March 16, 2012

The Great Moor of Southern Alberta

How peaceful it all looks.
So deceptive . . .



The 'tree field' on the ranch was just that.
A field.
With trees.
Distinguished from all of the other fields by their lack of said trees.
Because it had trees, it also offered cover.
And ideal place for spring calving.
I was Dad's herdsman.
It was my duty to oversee the spring calving.
And make sure that all calves . . . and their mothers . . . survived.
Normally, thing went well.
Occasionally, they did not.
But that is another story.
Usually, when I rode out to check the cows, I rode.
On a horse.
One of a selection of bone-headed ex-racehorses, I will admit.
Also another story.
On this day, I was in a hurry.
So I fired up Dad's one-ton truck.
The one with the dual rear wheels.
And headed out to the field.
I should explain, here, that the tree field had trees because it was situated next to the irrigation ditch.
A wide trench that meandered through the country side
And with which I also have a history.
Moving on . . .
In the spring, the gates are opened and water from the Old Man River diverted into the canals for irrigating the dry land farms and ranches throughout Southern Alberta.
It is an effective system.
But the canals were getting old.
And water seeped from them into the adjacent land.
Great if your land was close by and needed water.
Which the tree field was.
And did.
Thus – trees.
But the land could also become quite saturated.
And boggy.
Particularly in the clearing in the centre of the trees.
We thought it was very entertaining.
One could stomp on the seemingly dry ground and the land all around would quiver.
Cool.
There was enough dry soil on top to hold up a cow.
Or my horses.
But remember, I was in the truck.
Considerably heavier than any horse or cow.
Back to my story.
I innocently drove out to check the herd.
The first pass, the one near the road, went well.
But there were no cows near the road, either.
Sigh.
I moved into the trees for a second pass.
Starting at the far east side of the field, I worked my way west.
Stopping now and then to walk into the trees to investigate a barely-seen patch of red hide.
I reached the far west side.
And started to turn.
It was then that I realized that I . . . and my truck . . . were sinking.
Here's something you don't see every day.
A truck, sinking out of sight in the middle of a dry land ranch in Southern Alberta.
I had two options.
  1. Holler for one of my parents.
  2. Mat that gas pedal and pray.
My parents were my parents. They lived to get me out of scrapes.
Right?
Ahem.
But both of them were at the ranch a mile away to the West.
I was on my own.
I went with my second option.
Mud and water sprayed from those dual tires as the truck struggled for purchase.
For a few, heart-stopping moments, it looked as though the bog would win.
Then, slowly, the truck started to climb up out of the hole.
Finally, I was flying along atop the bog.
I kept the gas pedal to the floor until I was through the tree line and solidly back on dry ground.
Then I stopped the truck and simply breathed.
I left the truck and walked (I may be a slow learner, but I do learn.) back to inspect the ruts I had left.
They were three feet deep and rapidly filling with water.
My brother told me later that I was a heartbeat away from losing the truck entirely.
“And the only thing that would have salvaged the situation would have been to call in a cherry-picker.”
I don't have to tell you that the 'cherry-picker' he is talking about had nothing to do with picking cherries.
And everything to do with being expensive.
Thank goodness for gas pedals.
And prayer.

12 comments:

  1. Yikes! My heart was beating fast just reading that.
    Yes.....thank goodness for prayer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ranching does keep you alert! At least that is what I'm going with . . .

      Delete
  2. I love your stories of working and living on a ranch. My father had a ranch for a while; I was too young to remember. However, my Uncle had one that we went over to visit often and this post brought back some sweet memories of Ranch life, horses,cow and fields.
    Thanks for the memories today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just love stories from the past. I'm so glad I can conjure up some good memories for you!

      Delete
  3. That would have stopped my heart. You were so fortunate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ranching either stops your heart . . . or gets it going! Or both!

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. I didn't realize just how close till I went back to look at the ruts. Yike!

      Delete
  5. Oh gosh!
    You were lucky.
    We had the same situation here in our bog.
    They sent in a tractor to dig and it sunk right under.
    This just isn't possible to even think could happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazing! Did they ever get it out? Hard to believe that something that big could sink out of sight!

      Delete
  6. Oh yes... bogs. We know all too well about bogs. I got stuck in one during our monsoon season several years ago driving the truck to honk the cows in for branding. I left some pretty good sized ruts in the road... I had to get pulled out with the backhoe, but I didn't come close to it sinking to no return though! yikes! I bet your heart was pounding pretty fast there! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. Backhoe. That says it all. We have all of this horsepower and then we add a bit of water and suddenly we're completely helpless. Pretty humbling! :)

      Delete

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