Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Monday, August 8, 2011

Irrigation 101 - An Introductory Course

Irrigation. So simple, a child could do it.

The Stringam Ranch sits in a bend of the south fork of the Milk River.
In the driest part of Southern Alberta.
The driest.
Now, I know that residents from Medicine Hat will try to argue the point but don't listen to them.
After all, they come from a place named 'Medicine Hat'.
Enough said.
Most of the land around the ranch is used as pasture.
Nothing else will grow there.
But the acres immediately beside the river, the 'hay flats', have much more potential.
They can be irrigated.
I'm sure you've seen the giant wheel-move irrigation systems capable of watering an entire quarter-section of land in one pivot. Enormous constructions that transport themselves in a wide arc from an end point and effectively bring the gift of life to whole crops at once.
All at the push of a button.
It's fascinating.
It's wondrous.
It wasn't what we Stringams had.
Our system was . . . erm . . . modest.
And connected, disconnected and moved by hand.
Twice a day.
Our favorite chore.
Morning and evening, the pump would be silenced. The 16 foot lengths of aluminum pipe disconnected and drained one-by-one. And then moved to the next position 40 feet away and reconnected.
It was Dad, Jerry and George's job, mainly.
But I helped.
And therein lies a tale.
So to speak.
Early one summer evening, because Dad and Jerry were busy doing other things, Dad asked me to go and help George move pipe.
I stared at him.
Me? Do you know what you're asking?
Dad turned away, so I shrugged and followed my brother into the lower hay flat.
He shut off the pump.
I watched.
He walked over to the line.
I followed.
He unhooked the first pipe.
Again I watched.
He unhooked the second pipe.
He was really good at this.
He unhooked the third pipe.
I noticed that my light-blue pants looked white in the fading light.
He unhooked the fourth pipe.
We were having a beautiful sunset. Wonderful shades of red and orange against the clear blue of the sky.
He unhooked the fifth pipe.
I stopped looking at the sky and noticed a gopher nearby. Cheeky little guy was just sitting there. Watching us.
He unhooked the sixth pipe.
I chased the gopher into its burrow.
He unhooked the seventh pipe.
I tripped over the sixth pipe on my way back.
He unhooked the eighth pipe.
"George, is this going to take much longer? I'm tired."
He unhooked the ninth pipe.
And beat me with it.
He didn't, really, but I'm sure he wanted to.
By the time 'we' were done moving pipe and had the pump going again, one of us was sweating profusely.
I'll give you a hint.
It wasn't me.
After that, George never allowed me to come with him to move pipe.
Something about me being worse than useless.
Go figure.


  1. Thanks so much for following our blog and leaving such great comments..following U back!

  2. I'm confused -- it was the gopher that was sweating, right???


  3. Reading this makes me very grateful for our ditches that get the water right out of the river and a backhoe to change it! :)


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