Monthly Archives: September 2012

House on a Hill Along MB Hwy 21

Reid Dickie

Since childhood I remember driving past this old, long-abandoned stone farmhouse set humbly but with a certain majesty at the top of a rise next to the highway south of Hartney, MB. My grandparents homesteaded in the area so I often saw the old house up there, lonesome and vulnerable.

It is constructed from the most readily available material on the prairie in this part of the province: field stones. The mason who collected the stones and created the patchwork hues had a special eye for colour and size. Now tumbling down, the stones are returning to their fields, the patchwork disassembling in the wind, snow and heat.

The Mansard roof is cut with six gabled dormers. Lightening rods puncture the roof fending off the electric storms that sweep across the land. Swallows find excellent nesting sites under the eaves. The sky scowls down.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to investigate this house but this summer I spent a cloudy afternoon capturing it. Combining still and live images of the exterior and interior of the house with some whimsical sound I created a two-minute video. Click on any picture to start the video.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Family, Heritage Buildings, Houses, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers, Video

Frozen Moments

This amazing image is one of many dazzling captures in the 2012 National Geographic Photography Contest. Photographer Ashley Vincent captured, Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand, enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. View more of the award winners at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2205906/The-world-Sublime-images-nature-best-vie-prize-2012-National-Geographic-photography-competition.html

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The Hobo Code Video

 Reid Dickie

A set of very specific communication symbols developed in the late 1800s among the homeless of that time: hoboes, tramps, drifters. Innocent looking chalk marks on a gatepost or a piece of equipment next to the railroad tracks could mean life or death to a passing hobo new to the area. The Hobo Code became the language of the transients, a kind of tramp telegraph that was used for over fifty years. Fans of Mad Men will recognize the term from the first season, episode eight titled The Hobo Code. I have posted previously about the Hobo Code.

In my video I draw some of the symbols of the Hobo Code and explain their meanings and also update the Code with its modern usage. Click the pic to watch the video. Enjoy!

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Faces

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Look What I Found While Driving Around

Reid Dickie

“I’ll be driven, eyes always moving, riveted to the task…” 

– Gordie Downie

My list of heritage sites to visit and record all over Manitoba has largely been satisfied. More organized than ever, it was a highly productive summer of “working the list.” I just calculated my mileage for the season and the mighty Avenger and I, well, myself and three mighty Avengers, have logged almost 23,000 kms, all but 1,000 of them in Manitoba. I got to see amazing country this year, discover special places that few Manitobans know about then report them here on my blog. Thanks for reading my blog, by the way. I am grateful every day for your attention.

With my trusty, battery-sucking digital camera by my side, I’ve captured some odd, surprising and occasionally astonishing images along my path. Here are a dozen of them with brief commentary about each one.

Old Cook Stove in Abandoned Stone House

Sure, I haunt the occasional tumbledown farmhouse out in the middle of now here, sure I do. I’m not usually the first to satisfy their curiosity about what’s inside the old place. A little stone house sits atop a small rise along Hwy #21 south of Hartney. I’ve seen this old house most of my life since my grandparents homesteaded nearby. This summer I stopped at it for the first time for pictures and video. Beyond the Keep Out sign, this old wood stove was the first thing I saw through the door. I took a few shots of the interior, largely wrecked. The inset is a shot of the house. Expect more about this place on my blog and YouTube channel.

Stillborn Graves at Camp Hughes Cemetery

The little cemetery at Camp Hughes has but 26 graves in it dating from 1916. Sadly, more than half are the graves of children. Some died in infancy, others stillborn and unnamed. Several graves are simply unknown.

Strange Cloud on Prairie Horizon

No, it’s not an atomic bomb test. It’s a gigantic cloud of smoke slowly rising from a field of burning stubble. This is a common sight in late summer, ominous and beautiful at once, most are not this spectacular. I shot this traveling south out of Winnipeg along Hwy #75 in late August. I watched it for miles as the cloud grew and changed shape.

Criddle Vane in the Rain

One hot afternoon during one of my dozen visits to the Criddle Vane homestead this summer, a prairie thunderstorm came over with plenty of lightning and thunder, a little rain but no wind, just a smooth calm passing. I took this picture of the Criddle Vane house through the rain-spattered windshield of the Avenger. Percy Criddle was very wary of storms and prided himself on the lightning rods, imported from England, that adorned the roof of this house. The inset shows the house after the rain.

Wind Sculpted Formation at Spirit Sands

During a hike on Spirit Sands with my dear friend Chris Scholl, we came upon this beautifully sculpted arch on the upslope of a dune. We’d had variable winds, that is, winds from directions other than the prevailing northwesterlies, which may have accounted for this small miracle in sand.

Assessment Roll Information for Negrych Farm 1901-1930

If there was one site I visited this summer that left me in awe of how our ancestors lived and survived on the harsh prairie, it was the Negrych Homestead north of Gilbert Plains. Its ten original log buildings date from the late 1890s when the family arrived there, most of them in Ukrainian vernacular style. Each building houses materials the family improvised and used for decades. This assessment roll information traces the family’s assets for thirty years from 1901 until 1930. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Old Headstone in Wawanesa Cemetery 

Humble and plain, corroding against the weather and the years, this little stone caught my camera’s eye in the cemetery at Wawanesa. What story could this stone tell?

Gathering of the Clans Picture

Being a full-blood Scotsman, this nicely framed illustration of the Gathering of the Clans had special meaning when I discovered it in one of the buildings at the Fort la Reine Museum in Portage la Prairie. Click pic to see entire image.

Herald Angels at Immaculate Conception, Cook’s Creek 

This isn’t my photograph. My friend Kevin Uddenberg took this picture using his smart phone which has HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology. The quality of the colours and the definition of the images is almost three-dimensional. By contrast look at the inset which is my picture of the same angels taken on the same day and time as Kevin’s picture.  The difference is obvious and substantial.

The Hemp’s as High as an Elephant’s Eye and… 

Rewilding W. C. Fields for smartass purposes with bashful aplomb. During my summer travels, I noticed that the only area of the province that concentrated on growing hemp in any quantity is north of Riding Mountain around Dauphin. This verdant crop you see was growing directly behind my hotel and stretched for acres to the horizon. Besides being easy to grow and low maintenance chemicalwise, there is another sound reason why so much hemp is grown in the area: the Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers Coop is headquartered in Dauphin.

The Staircase That Killed Percy Criddle

We return to Criddle Vane homestead to wind up this odd excursion. Insufferably brilliant or brilliantly insufferable, whoever Percy Criddle was, the beginning of his exit from this life was a tumble down the stairs you see here. After moving both his families from London, England to a patch of sandy soil south of present-day Shilo in 1882, Percy spent 35 years eking out a living largely due to the true genius of his children. During a severe blinding case of Erysipelas that Percy acquired in the spring of 1918, he groped his way to the top of these stairs and tumbled the full length of them, injuring himself terribly. He died ten days later at age 73 and is buried in the family cemetery a couple hundred yards from his house. This is Percy’s headstone.

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Filed under Blog Life, Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Heritage Buildings, Humour, Manitoba Heritage, Manitobans of Note, Pioneers, spirit sands

Manitoba Heritage – Tenby School, Tenby, MB

Reid Dickie

Most one-room schoolhouses built in rural Manitoba were small, modest and unassuming affairs, usually of wood construction, occasionally made of brick. Tenby School, located in the R.M. of Lansdowne, is the exception, in fact, a unique exception. Two factors contribute to the school’s uniqueness: its design and its building materials.

Rather than a small rectangular box, the usual design for country schools, Tenby School is larger, almost square and features a pyramidal roof. Windows along the south side brought light into the classroom as did the two gabled dormers which open into the room. The north and west walls are without openings to protect the room against our prevailing northwesterly winds.

The school’s facade, with the peaked dormers and extended vestibule, is dramatic despite the small size of the building. The gabled entrance and dormers suggest the unbuilt portion of the pyramid roof.

In 1904, the year the school was built, a popular construction material was employed: concrete blocks. Before you could buy blocks ready-made, itinerant crews traveled the province with portable block-making moulds that created the materials onsite and in the exact quantity, quality and with the features required. In the case of Tenby School, the blocks are long and rectangular and sport several finishes.

Many different finishes were available to the block makers and Tenby School is an excellent example of the building method, featuring four types of block detailing. Smooth blocks, rough blocks, striated blocks and floral blocks combine to create a delightful exterior. The elegant floral design is used on the corner quoins to fine effect.

Around the time this school was built, Tenby was a going concern. Named after a town in Wales by the community’s founder James Griffiths, Tenby had many businesses, a water tower that serviced steam locomotives as well as a grain elevator. Today little remains of the town but for a house or two and this remarkable little schoolhouse. The local residents have done an excellent job preserving this unique Manitoba relic. I would suggest they get a new Canadian flag to fly, replacing the rag that flapped in the breeze during my visit. Tenby is located NNE of Neepawa with access off Provincial Roads 260 and 575.

Find many more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.

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Orion has returned to hunt in the northern skies.

Reid Dickie

I’ve covered lots of Manitoba ground over the last ten days and the signs of change are everywhere, not just in the fields where the harvest progresses apace sending plumes of chaff and dust into the air. The red maples flame as loud as our flag. Always the leaders in changing colour, cottonwoods burn yellow in the dry dusty sun of late summer. Greens start to fade as russet and pumpkin shades emerge. An especially good summer for poison ivy, now its scarlet and orange leaves form bright carpets in the understory of shallow forests and along the ditches of the TCH. This year mountain ash are laden with large clusters of hot red berries awaiting the first frosts to sweeten up for the jays and waxwings.

Murmurations of blackbirds weave and dive across the highway coordinating their aerial sonar for the long flight ahead. Tiny flocks of LGBs (little grey birds, thank you Ed Abbey) polka along with the Tragically Hip on the mighty Avenger’s CD player. Vs of geese broadcast their lonesome message across the land. Red-tailed hawks populate telephone poles keen-eyed for their next meal, an easier feat now those nice farmers have cut down all the long crops making the yummy wee critters more vulnerable.

Generally critters get more mobile at this time of year in anticipation of winter. They plan ahead like the garter snakes who are now heading toward the nearest karst that’ll take them down below the frost line where they can overwinter thus many flattened snakes on the highways. Night critters like skunks, raccoons, porcupines and badgers populate the shoulders in larger numbers now than during the hot weather. Ravens tug at the carcasses. Nature bats last.

I caught this cluster of wild bees and several of their honeycombs over the entrance to Zoria Hall, a popular dance hall now and ago. There was honey dripping down the wall! It was a cool windy day so the bees were inactive.

 

In the cemetery next to the Zoria church was this beautiful white angel turning black with time.

Still driving around…

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, BEAUTY, Blog Life, Critters, Natural Places, Parks, PRAIRIES, shaman, Spirit

Tibetan Book of the Dead – A Map of Dying – Repost

As I was sifting through the number of hits various posts have received, I was rather shocked to find very few hits, under 100, for this distillation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead into an easy-to-follow flow chart of events. I was inspired by Ken Wilber to follow his distinctive interpretation of the Book and post it in a orderly form. I repost it so more people will know what lies ahead for all of us and to help us make informed choices about our actions today.

You might want to read about the Contraction of Being in my FAQs.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Deathday, ken wilber, Soul Building

Manitoba Heritage That Is Gone, Gone, Gone!

Reid Dickie

During my travels this summer working through my list of heritage places to visit, I came across several heritage sites that no longer exist. Although most of these sites have been designated as municipal and federal heritage sites, for various reasons they are now gone, gone, gone.

Designated a municipal heritage site in 1987 and included in the federal Canadian Register of Historic Places, Bethlehem Lutheran Church manse, which sat on Queen Elizabeth Road in Erickson, MB for a number of years after being moved from Scandinavia, MB, was demolished a couple of years ago. Used for a time as a museum, it deteriorated significantly and was becoming as public danger. It succumbed to old age.

The little village of Sifton, MB had a rare heritage site that was deemed municipally significant and designated as such in 2005. Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1926 in the Lemko style, underwent extensive rehabilitation after designation, returning it to its beautiful original colour and condition, as you can see in the above picture. In 2010 the church burned down, probably arson. This isn’t the first fire on this site. Two buildings connected to the parish were also destroyed by fire. A 1905 orphanage burned in 1924 and a 1926 monastery went up in flames in the 1980s.

In the village of Garland, I went looking for Andrew Kowalewich General Store, an example of modest country stores, this one built in 1913 and clad in pressed tin. Although having municipal designation, the building was torn down by the owner about ten years ago.

In Dominion City, MB a timber truss bridge spanning the Roseau River was given heritage designation by the municipality in 2000. Unique in Manitoba because, though most truss bridges are made of steel, this one was made of wood. I use the past tense because the bridge was washed away by flood waters recently.

These aren’t the only Manitoba heritage sites that have vanished but they do give a fair overview of reasons why heritage sites disappear. Natural causes like weather, indifference to heritage significance in succeeding generations, deterioration of materials from age and firebugs are a few causes of heritage loss. Designation by various levels of government, while giving heritage sites prestige and importance, doesn’t assure the continued existence of places that, though once integral to the community, now search for new meaning in the 21st century.

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Filed under Bridges, Churches, Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings

Manitoba Telephone System Building, 121 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Strolling along the main drag now we encounter a rare delight!

Reid Dickie

Before the days of dial telephones, which was long before the days of cell phones for anyone under 40, you turned a crank on your telephone and an actual human being asked what number you wanted to reach, dialed it for you and waited until you either got an answer or didn’t. Actual humans!! We called them “operators.” This happened daily in this building in Carberry and in others like it in most every little Manitoba town and village.

Plus, among the somber but elegant brick buildings along the street, this eye-catching pile served its purpose: to remind people to use the telephone because inside women you likely knew were waiting to connect you up. And, as they sat hunched over their switchboards, or switchboreds, listen in on your conversation as likely as not.

The Spanish Colonial Revival detail of the red adobe tile false roofs on three sides accentuates the compactness of the massing and the sweet roofline, one step, pilasters telling us when, all plain as plain can be. Yet it catches the eye and the ear, makes me want to call someone up, tell a few lies and see how quickly they get around town. Small town telephone roulette, let ‘er spin!!

Contrasting with the stucco cladding is the red soldier course of standing brick around the windows and door. The chunky wide brackets under each fake roof give the roofs principle.

MTS built lots of these little buildings all over Manitoba in the late 1930s and during the war years. Carberry’s was likely built in 1941, one of the few that I can think of remaining in southern Manitoba. Precious, spaced nicely between its neighbours to allow full access to all facades and a familiar landmark in downtown Carberry, the last telephone office before dial phones continues to be used as offices and still acts as a fanciful exclamation point along the street.

Pa Tuckett was twenty-three years old when he first talked on a telephone. He never owned a telephone until he was thirty-eight years old. His number in Carberry was 87.

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Carberry – North Cypress Library, 115 Main St., Carberry, MB

Our amble down Carberry’s Main Street takes us past one of the town’s most symbolic buildings. 

Reid Dickie

While most of the buildings along Main Street have been used for numerous purposes, often overlapping, this compact little structure has served but two high-profile uses since it was built in 1938: federal post office and regional library.

The original building was the basic cube on the left of the picture. The addition complements the original building in style and materials. Overall, Art Deco describes the building’s architecture. Popular into the 1940s for federal government buildings, the style easily adapted to small town requirements of size and functionality.

Elements defining Art Deco here are the boxy massing, flat roofline, well-defined geometric lines and the low-relief ornamentation. Tall windows surrounded by soldier courses of bricks and limestone sills, the limestone surround of the main entrance contrasting with the red-brown brick and the stepped pavilion of the entrance all exude simplicity and durability, modern practicality at its highest…for 1938.

Now used as a book return, the brass mail chute is original as is the date stone and frontispiece lamps. This little building continues its symbolic role in the Carberry community, not just as a library, but because of its intergenerational contribution to the heritage district.

For the first 25 years he lived in Carberry, Pa Tuckett got his mail through General Delivery. But in 1938 he acquired his first and only post office box: #123. Pa joked, “I asked for a harder number to remember but this is all they had.”

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