Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Gone Bogging

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. An 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, things 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 brain-dead, bone-headed ex-racehorses, I will admit.
But 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 an irrigation canal. A wide trench that meandered through the country side. In the spring, the gates are opened and water from the Old Man River diverted into the various canals for irrigating the dry land farms and ranches throughout Southern Alberta. 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 on the higher ground 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.
A little side note here: The provincial government has updated all of the canals, lining them so they are much more efficient and less--for want of a better word--leaky. On a recent visit, I couldn't find the tree field. When the water supply dried up, so did the trees.
It was a sad, sad moment.
My steed.

3 comments:

  1. I just know my definition of a cherry picker is different from yours.. Okay, here goes,. My Mom always said of someone with a large nose, that they had, a 'cherry picker' for a nose. You know, hand the nose over the branch so you have both hands free to pick. Glad you didn't have to call for YOUR 'cherry picker'.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Losing trees is always sad.
    A friend bought a four wheel drive that the sales staff told her was 'unboggable'. So she had to experiment. They lied. And it cost her a pretty penny to be extricated.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Quick thinking - and brave. I don't want to even think about that bog; it makes me nervous and will probably give me bad dreams!

    ReplyDelete

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