Tag Archives: negrych homestead

Reid’s 2013 Year-End Review

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Reid Dickie

The mighty Avenger (actually two different ones from Enterprise) and I logged over 25,000 kms again this summer, almost all of it in Manitoba. I got around and I’m so lucky to have an outlet to report what I saw, did and wondered along the road. The picture above, called Oh Susanna The Covered Wagon by R. Atkinson Fox, I found in the Carberry Plains Museum.

I drove a diversity of Manitoba highways this summer and can attest to the fact that there was a lot of highway infrastructure work being BRANDON 067done in all areas of the province.  Some of the work was more major ranging from seal coating to total reconstruction to replacement of bridges. Overall the condition and driveability of rural roads in summer is far superior to the streets of Winnipeg whose condition now approaches third-world status in all seasons.

In my travels this year, I was struck by the resilience of people and Nature to repair and recover from the 2011 flood, by the importance of local heritage which was celebrated in several places this summer but disdained or denied in others, by the generosity of people in sharing their stories, ideas and images with me and by the jolt a double homicide caused in a small village. For the view from Reid, read on…

Fresh Events

Carberry Heritage Festival

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On this blog I have long touted the glorious heritage examples that still exist in Carberry, MB, posting 51 times about some aspect of the town’s past. When I heard Carberry was organizing its first ever heritage festival I wanted to play a part. I met with the organizers, created and distributed a media release to help promote the event and documented all the days’ events. This is a picture of an old Linotype typesetter in the office of the Carberry News Express. Below members of the Manitoba Muzzleloaders show their weaponry at the Carberry Heritage Festival.

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Though the weather was cool, the festival drew a sizable crowd, enough to convince the organizers and business people of Carberry to make it an annual event. I am glad Carberry took the initiative and expanded on their unique heritage status. They have much to be proud of.

I did several reports on the heritage festival, a video of the events plus this post about how to load and fire muzzleloaders and the new video below of classic cars, trucks and farm implements at the festival. Heritage comes in many forms. I always love it when a new/old song enters my awareness. This happened on the Friday afternoon at the Carberry Heritage Festival when I was taping the events. An elderly lady sang and played guitar on the sidewalk for festival goers. I caught a snippet of her singing a great old song called Waltz Across Texas which I included in my video of the festival. The song echoed

tubbvery dimly in my memory but I couldn’t recall the original singer. Ernest Tubb was a 20-year country music veteran when he recorded this wistful, sentimental song in 1965. There is some confusion as to who wrote it. Ernest’s nephew B. Talmadge Tubb is usually credited sometimes with his uncle Ernest, sometimes not. Watch Ernest perform Waltz Across Texas, basically defining a whole generation of country music, one that even as the song rode the charts was passing from the public mind.

Yardfringe, Dauphin

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After I heard the term “Yardfringe” for the first time I went to Google and discovered the only reference to it was in Dauphin, MB. Something was abubble in Dauphin! Yardfringe is a variation on fringe festivals but the wrinkle is people bike from venue to venue which are in people’s backyards, people who have developed some sort of entertainment for the fringers to watch at no cost.  It’s an idea whose time has come, can be easily and cheaply promoted via social media, can apply to small cities or even big city neighbourhoods and has virtually no infrastructure. In October I wrote extensively about Yardfringe and interviewed one of the event’s co-founders.

Garland Airplane

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This is a picture of your humble scribbler posing with the Vickers Viscount aircraft parked in tiny Garland, Manitoba. The plane has been anchored there since 1982. One of the many helpful people I met this year was Don Fyk, the plane’s owner, who shared his fascinating story with me. Read the whole story and watch my video tour of the exterior of the plane.

Flood Recovery

Since I covered the 2011 Manitoba flood in depth, I feel compelled to follow-up with the latest news. This summer several of the places devastated by the flooding Assiniboine and Souris rivers made a recovery. Two stories dealt with crossing rivers but in different manners.

Stockton Ferry

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This is a picture of the Stockton ferry in 2011, beached by flood waters. The infrastructure for the Stockton Ferry, the last remaining river ferry in southern Manitoba, was destroyed by the flood, washed away leaving twisted metal and broken cable. This video shows what the ferry looked like after the 2011 flood. As of summer 2013 the ferry is back in operation, carrying local traffic across the Assiniboine eight hours a day.  This video shows a ride on the restored ferry this past summer. The Stockton ferry restoration is an appropriate and successful response to the flood damage, which I can’t say for the town of Souris.

Souris Swinging Bridge

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Unfortunately for Souris their old swinging bridge, the main tourist attraction to the place and a significant piece of local history, has been replaced by a bridge that doesn’t swing. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t budge the bridge. Boring! Too bad the engineers who designed this thing didn’t consult with any heritage people. To continue calling it a “swinging” bridge is dishonest at the very least. Not a success. This picture is the new unswinging bridge.

Spruce Woods Park

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Again this year Spruce Woods Park was one of my most frequently visited sites. I took this picture this summer from Hwy #5 in Spruce Woods Park. The row of grey dead trees in front of the verdant ones in back were drowned by the flooding Assiniboine in 2011. They stand as a stark reminder of how the park looked then. This year and last, man and nature collaborated to rebuild and renew one of Manitoba’s best parks. Visitor amenities – campgrounds, trails, services – are almost back to pre-flood standards. The covered wagon rides to the dunes are back. A new office and other buildings that were swept away still need to be replaced. Another success story. Two out of three isn’t bad, considering how much government must have been involved in all of them.

Special Places

Spirit Sands

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I hiked Spirit Sands half a dozen times this year from May to October. As I reported in my posts, every hike offered plenty of subtle changes in the open meadows, deep forest and wind-shaped dunes.

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Though not formally recognized as a desert, active sand dunes on the open prairie is enough of an anomaly to be called a “desert” at least as a hook to garner tourists. However, of late Nature hasn’t been playing along with this tourist game. At Spirit Sands the reverse of desertification is occurring. The dunes are becoming overgrown with native grasses, flowers and wolf willow, all hardy in dry places. The lure of open sand dunes is being rapidly dulled by the burgeoning plant growth on the sand.

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When Linda and I started visiting Spirit Sands in the mid 1990s, there were large open areas of sand with moving dunes fringed by some growth. Stepping off the top rung of the log ladder and seeing a desert spread out before you was truly a Manitoba “Wow” moment, right up there with polar bears. These days there is a more muted response to the first glimpse.

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While Nature proceeds apace, humans are responding rather predictably. Those for whom Spirit Sands plays a financial stake in their lives have started rattling some cages. Options being presented include a biotically-respectful plowing up of the overgrowth to open up the dunes to the prevailing north-westerlies, get the dunes moving again and restore their “Wow” value.  I expound further on this in my September hike report.  All the pictures in this item were taken on my September 2013 Spirit Sands hike showing the current state of the extensive overgrowth.

The Vondarosa

My cousin Vonda resides on her family farm on the northern edge of Riding Mountain about two miles from the park. I’ve been visiting the area since I was a child so the distinctive bulge on the horizon we call Riding Mountain is an indelible and pleasant shape threaded through my memory. I am grateful there is still close family on the land and to be a welcome visitor to the Vondarosa. Here’s an account of an early visit last spring.

An evening drive back across the rolling plains with the blue Duck Mountains bulging on the western horizon and deeper blue Riding Mountain looming in the south and growing larger as we approach. At the Vondarosa, we sat outside, drank wine and watched the five cats and three dogs at play, living their idyllic lives in the throws of a long dense valley with a spring stream that surges then trickles then disappears flowing through the yard. The throws are the wide mouths of valleys as they flatten and disappear into grain fields that stretch away. Vonda’s place is exactly at the edge of a throw, sheltered by the valley and mature trees. It feels perfect! For me, it’s one of those in-between places that shamans experience great joy inhabiting. There are several places on her land that have powerful spiritual energies, especially the plateaus above the farm yard and the vortex in her yard and on the western edge of her land.

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Birds sang and fluttered, dogs barked, distant trees sang on distant breezes, the sun poured red honey over the edges of the valley then set scarlet and hopeful between two granaries. Twilight ensued at its leisurely pace; the silence deepened. Sweeping down the valley toward me I felt the glorious wildness: the muscular lope of the cougar, the gnawing spring hunger of a bear, the spray of fear from startled deer, itches under the bark of a hundred million spruce trees, all aching along as evolution persisted around me, inside me on the brink of a mountain.

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Finnegan (cat) Rebel (dog) Reid (human) at the Vondarosa.

ALONG THE ROAD TO DAUPHIN 018One of my duties at the Vondarosa is gathering dead wood from the bush surrounding the yard, hauling it to the fire pit and assembling it as artistically as possible. The evening bonfire unites day and night in a ritual blaze that competes only slightly with the realms of stars overhead. Among the stars in the pitch black night travel satellites and, at dusk, when the light is just so, the International Space Station floats past. The embers glow, sleep.

Pitter Patter

Percy Criddle’s Telescope

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Regular readers of my blog will recognize the name Percy Criddle as a Manitoba pioneer from England, eccentric as the day is long. Percy fathered a brood of exceptional children whose talents and efforts gave science its first serious glimpse of prairie flora and fauna, provided decades of accurate weather data and left behind a true Canadian story as yet untold but deserving of a movie.

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Percy had some training as a medical doctor so his talents were put to use on the virtually doctorless prairie of the late 1800s, early 1900s. I posted about Percy’s medicine chest, showing some of the foibles of early medicine. Check out the ingredients in Hypno-Sedative. Chloral was basically knock-out drops.

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On a day trip with old friend Mark, we visited the Sipiweske (sip-a-whisky) Museum in Wawanesa which has many relics from the Criddle-Vane homestead. Among his fancies, Percy included astronomy. His dear friend J. A. Tulk back in England bought a telescope for Percy and shipped it to him in 1886, four years after the family arrived in Canada. Now in the collection at Sipiweske Museum, Percy’s telescope – it’s blue! – stands in a place of honour among the artifacts.

MCC Thrift Shop of the Year

I know, Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores don’t compete with each other; they all do good work making things better locally and globally. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the stores. You can read more on their background in this post.

As a veteran thrifter, I visit rural MCC stores regularly every summer. Manitoba is gifted with a dozen of them outside Winnipeg. I visited all but one of them at least once this summer, usually finding a few neat/strange things along the way.

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Using the criteria of interesting and unpredictable stock, reasonable prices, friendly staff and general cleanliness of the store, I proclaim that the MCC thrift shop in Portage la Prairie is my personal MCC Thrift Store of the Year. I visited it over three dozen times last summer and walked out without buying something maybe three times. The large PLP store, which opened in 1983, is located on Saskatchewan Avenue, handy on my many visits westward.

The store is well managed in the new era sense of thrift stores. The manager, Kevin, wears a headset phone, his staff are kind, helpful and enthusiastic, the store is clean and very well organized. While jumbles are fun for a few minutes, you can’t beat a nicely presented display of similar items which the PLP store excels at. All day this store rolls out racks and racks full of their latest donations. They usually have sales on certain categories of items. They keep a large stock of costumes which are available year round plus they offer a silent auction which can be viewed in-store and online. There is a large parking at the rear of the store.

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This life-size mask is a handmade, hand-painted souvenir from Venice, Italy, a city known for its elaborate masks. The Carnival of Venice which ends when Lent begins, is an annual affair where masks are worn, each mask representing a certain aspect of Venetian history. I bought this mask at the PLP MCC for $5, making it one of my best buys of the summer.

Steinbach and Brandon both have large MCC Thrifts but they are runners-up to PLP. All the MCC stores in Canada and the United States are listed here.

PLP has two other thrift stores which I occasionally stop at: United Church’s McKenzie Thrift Shop on Saskatchewan Ave, and St. Mary’s Anglican Thrift on 2nd St SW.

Clinker Bricks in Edmonton

I visited my cousin Barb and hubby Larry in Edmonton over the summer and they introduced me to a building material I had never heard of before – clinker brick! Huh? That’s what I said.

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This is hundred-year-old Holy Trinity Anglican Church made with clinker bricks – misshapen bricks  cured too close to the fire. They were a trendy item in Edmonton for awhile; ritzy houses often had clinker features. Read my post all about clinker bricks.

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Lyons Mansion

It’s a pile next to a busy highway whose only job is to disintegrate brick by brick, bird’s nest by bird’s nest, lath by lath into the prairie. My video tour of the inside of the old Lyons mansion near Carberry garnered plenty of YouTube views this year. So did my tour inside and out of the old stone house along Highway 21. If you haven’t seen either, click the pics to watch.

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This is the big old barn caving in on itself behind the Lyons mansion.

So God Made a Farmer

Dodge Ram used part of Paul Harvey’s touching tribute to farmers in a Super Bowl ad. Originally read to a gathering of the Future Farmers of America in 1978, Harvey’s speech was edited to fit into the two-minute commercial. Here is his entire tribute to farmers including the two sections omitted in the ad.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.

Heritage Breakdowns

Negrych Family Homestead, north of Gilbert Plains

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This building, a long-shingle bunkhouse in the vernacular style of the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, is the iconic image of Negrych Family Homestead, the best preserved, most complete Ukrainian homestead in North America. Built between 1897 and 1910 by the Negrych family using materials found on their land, the place is a heritage treasure that is tended with much local love and pride. In 2012 my cousin Vonda and I visited the homestead and were given a full tour by Madison, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic DAUPHIN AUGUST WIGO RUH 037young woman from the area. It was a summer job that she found very fulfilling. The buildings, relics and background information combined to create a unique experience. We came away with greater appreciation for how pioneers survived and thrived on the raw prairie and new respect for their resourcefulness.

This year was a much different story. For reasons I don’t know, no funds were available to hire summer students to give tours and help maintain the site. The only opportunity for a guided tour this year was if you happened to arrive when one of the volunteers was mowing the grass. It is disgraceful for a site like this not to be available which is why I uploaded an eight-minute tour of the Negrych Homestead.

Dalnavert, Winnipeg

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Built in 1895 Dalnavert still stands at 61 Carlton Street as one of Winnipeg’s finest Queen Anne Revival houses in a neighbourhood once richly endowed with houses in the style. Beyond the sheer grandiosity of the building, lovingly restored, maintained and run as a museum by the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS), is the provenance of its occupants. Sir John A Macdonald’s son, Sir Hugh John Macdonald, prominent Winnipeg lawyer, lived with his family in the house giving it an aura of importance and justifying its national treasure status.

But Dalnavert is in trouble. Closed since September 2013, the house/museum has run into financial difficulties prompting the MHS, the site’s owner, to ask for sound doable proposals for the future of Dalnavert. The deadline is January 17, 2014.

Shaver House, near Killarney

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I included the historic Shaver house in last year’s 12 Days of Christmas. Built in 1901 and located just north of Killarney MB it’s a unique example of prairie brickwork and style. Recently the house has been a bed and breakfast run by the personable Pam and Paul La Pierre. Sadly the house burned down on May 8, 2013. Heritage lost. Watch my short video of the Shaver house.

The Dollhouse, formerly way out MB Hwy #2

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Among the most popular videos on my YouTube channel is my report on Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning’s Dollhouse, a poignant work of art out on Highway #2 almost at the Saskatchewan border. At least it was a poignant work of art until Heather decided to burn it down which she did in April 2013. Artist’s prerogative. This is heritage lost in a way but I’m sure Heather will creatively built on it so its statement did not die in the flames. Watch the video and read the updated story. 

Murder House

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I grew up in a small town of about 800 people in western Manitoba. Crime of any kind, other than the occasional bootlegger, was rare and usually committed by drifters. Most small communities aim to maintain a state of grace – an often-fragile balance between people and their individual and collective needs and expectations based on fellowship, caring and tolerance. Sometimes one person can upset the balance to such an extreme the whole community falls from grace.

ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 007In August I reported on events in Ethelbert, MB (pop. 312) as a short intro to pictures of a house and yard where a double homicide occurred in January 2013.  Elsie Steppa, 81 and her nephew Clarence Thornton aka Harry Jones aka Jesus Christ, 50 died of “blunt force trauma” in a little white stucco house next to abandoned railroad tracks. For me, the event has an irresistible bouquet of surrounding elements and, as it turns out, images.ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 010

On two occasions this past summer I took video and stills of the murder house in Ethelbert which, though padlocked, hadn’t been touched since the investigation. These images comprised my August post and received a variety of responses.

Thornton aka Jones aka Jesus Christ was a violent unpredictable man who was banned from most area churches due to his erratic and threatening behavior. He couldn’t get along with anybody. Still needing a church to preach in, Jones secretly adopted as his own several long- abandoned churches out in the ETHELBERT JONESbush. He stole plastic flowers from cemeteries to decorate his church and altar. He wore vestments stolen from churches and set up his own altar lit with candles. Jones preached for hours, sometimes days from his lonely pulpit, all the time to an empty room with the prairie wind whistling between collapsing walls and roofs.

This summer the details of this story have come to me in often CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 027serendipitous ways. One such example is gaining access to two of the abandoned churches Jones decorated and preached in. I took dozens of pictures of the churches and evidence of Jones’s using them. Some of the pictures are quite shocking.

Combining the pictures of the house, yard and churches into a little movie I offer you Murder House in the Rain, 4:50 of visual CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 025reportage. I aim to creates moods, atmospheres in my videos work and Murder House in the Rain is all mood! Jones kept two large dogs to guard his paranoia. The dogs on the soundtrack fulfill their role, sudden and near. Click this pic to watch the video.

Ethelbert mayor Mitch Michaluk told me that the murder house (my terminology) and property went up for tax sale on December 9, 2013. It has back taxes of $1200 owing on it. Though it sits on a serviced lot, it’s unlikely anyone will buy it. Its fate? Probably demolition by the village.

Payton Saari, 20, of Ethelbert was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. He has yet to enter a plea.

Ten Manitoba Sights in Two Minutes

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Though I have created several dozen videos and over 100 blog posts this year, there is still a wealth of bit and pieces that I want to share. In this new video see ten Manitoba sights in two minutes. Click the pic to start the tour.

Schools Page

This year’s best new page is my Schools page (at the top above the header picture). Included on the page are articles and pictures of ten Winnipeg schools that have been demolished, features on spiral fire escapes, the origins of junior high, my memories of attending a one-room schoolhouse, educational innovators like William Sisler and J. B. Mitchell, heritage schools in rural Manitoba and my mom’s Grade 11 exams from 1930 plus much more.

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This is now-demolished Somerset School, constructed 1901, demolished 2005. I offer it because in the last few months I have met two people, both in their mid 30s, who attended Somerset when it was temporarily part of nearby Sacre Coeur School. Though I have extensive pictures of its exterior I wasn’t able to get access to photograph inside before it was torn down. A chain drugstore stands in its place on Sherbrook Street.  

I have researched and written extensively about most of Winnipeg’s grand old schools from the early 1900s, many still in use today. You can expect features on them to begin appearing on my blog in early 2014.

Culture Bound

In the final episode of Breaking Bad in the shot-up clubhouse, Walt answers dead Todd’s cellphone whose ringtone is a male voice singing, “Lydia, O Lydia, Say have you met Lydia? Lydia the tattooed lady.” It’s Groucho Marx singing a song from the Marx Brothers movie At the Circus (1939) in one of their wackier musical scenes with nuthouse choreography and Groucho the biggest ham in the room, no small feat.

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The zany tune was written by Harold Arlen (Over the Rainbow, Stormy Weather, That Old Black Magic), with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, April in Paris, It’s Only a Paper Moon). The lyrics are a hoot! As an example he rhymes Amazon with pajamas on. Click Groucho for the song from At the Circus.

I watched plenty of movies this year but have just two to recommend: Stoker and Let Him Be.

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Stoker is South Korean writer/director Chan-wook Park’s twisting tale of changes in an American family. Mia Wasikowska gives another seamless performance. Park should be listed with the actors as his presence as a director is never far from evident. Beautifully rendered, well-crafted yarn and a perfectly tacky use of Summer Wine by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood (1967).

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Let Him Be is a docudrama in which a bright young filmmaker has evidence that John Lennon is still alive and living in a village north of Toronto. He goes exploring for answers with startling results. There are two moments, including the ending, that sent shivers up my spine. That’s all I will tell you. It came out in 2009. I found it in the Winnipeg Library System. Find it.

New Friends

Michele and Larry, Karen, Don Fyk, Amber, Jeremy, Jesse, David, Jim, Sylvia, Johnny, Larry, Cathy and Pat. Great to know you!

Wrapped. Rapt.

Thank you for reading my blog. The year sailed by with joy and gratitude and, when I forgot, appropriate reminders to be joyful and thankful. Thank you Great Spirit for all this perfection in which are utterly immersed and to which we are inextricably bound. Joy and Gratitude.

I will end the year with two pictures of my namesake, Ezra Reid Scholl, who is now 14 moons old. Happy New Year!

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Filed under Carberry, Dauphin, Death and Dying, Education, Family, Festivals, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Heritage Festival, Hope, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Old Souls, Parks, Pioneers, Prairie People, Schools, Soul Building, spirit sands, video art, Year-End Review 2013

Curiosity and Gratitude – 2012 Year-End Review

Reid Dickie

If I had to choose two words that describe my year, curiosity and gratitude come to mind. Regular readers of this blog know I have an insatiable curiosity that lures me to out-of-the-way, little-known places on the prairies and causes me to investigate and report on what I find there. Whatever form the journey takes and whatever I find at its end, expected and unexpected, are always causes for gratitude.

The Road

Once again I rented an Avenger from Enterprise Car Rental and followed my summer wanderlust, all 23,000 kms of it. My friend Troy and I ventured into Saskatchewan for a couple of days exploring sacred sites. The rest of my travel was done in Manitoba, mostly Blooming pincushion cactus at Spirit Sandschasing my heritage geekness, rooting out heritage sites and doing documentation. Southeastern Manitoba and north of Dauphin, two areas of the province I wasn’t familiar with, supplied a wealth of new heritage sites. This is my picture of a pincushion cactus in bloom on the trail to Spirit Sands.

I was more prepared than ever for my heritage tours, doing thorough pre-travel research, planning itineraries and making arrangements for access and interviews at various spots along the way. I documented about ninety heritage sites this year, wrote and produced videos about many of them and still have a backlog of new ones for posting and uploading in 2013.

For a 49 second video clip of the map of Manitoba with my 2012 roads marked, click the pic.

When my heritage list was cleared, I hiked to Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park about 30 times this year. I was able to introduce friends, both new and old, to the marvels of the park, especially Spirit Sands. ISpruce near trailhead yurted at Spruce Woods Park in June and August, both enjoyable experiences and ones I’d recommend for the almost-camper. Easy, inexpensive (take some friends) and fun. During my June stay at the yurt, I hiked into Spirit Sands just at sundown on the full moon. My post about the hike is called Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park.

Another hang-out of mine this year was the Criddle Vane Homestead which I have documented in several different ways including my 11:30 video tour of the site. Coming in 2013 another video and a post about this heritage site and the people who lived there.

Best Heritage Experiences

Two sites stood out this year, providing unique and very dissimilar experiences. Carberry, a little town just off the TCH east of Brandon, is a Manitoba heritage gem! Two blocks of Carberry’s Main Street have been officially deemed a heritage district, the only one in Manitoba. The concentration of well-preserved brick buildings constructed before and after 1900 earned the street the designation. I documented the street thoroughly and posted reports on all the individual heritageEast side of Carberry's Main Street buildings on the west side of the street, sixteen in all. The east side of Main Street is in the works for 2013 along with a video of the street. This picture shows some of the east side brick buildings which will be featured on my blog in the coming months.

The other enthralling heritage site is Negrych Pioneer Homestead, north of Gilbert Plains between Riding and Duck Mountains. Ten original log buildings from the 1890s and the equipment the family used, all of it fashioned from materials available on their farm, make this the best preserved Ukrainian pioneer homestead in North America! Lovingly preserved and maintained, the
site provides summer student guides who are knowledgeable and very empathetic to the Negrych family and their lives in the bush. The
Bunkhouse plus on Negrych homestead remoteness of the location, the complexity of the site and the attention to detail created a deep understanding of the hardships and the glories of early pioneer life. This bunkhouse with long shingle Carpathian roof is an iconic image from the Negrych farm. I am working on a video and feature article about the homestead.

Best Online Heritage Experience

The website for the Manitoba Historical Society is the best online resource I have found for referencing anything about Manitoba’s past. There is nothing that compares to it for its wealth of current details about heritage sites of all kinds, in-depth background on our history and people, and overall accuracy of the information. I have referred to it hundreds of times in my research. A major aspect to the website and a gargantuan project is an interactive map with over 4,000 Manitoba historic sites just a click away! Yes, 4,000 sites! I have a few hundred heritage sites on this blog and feel I’m getting things done. The 4,000 is the work of the MHS webmaster Gordon Goldsborough, a fellow heritage seeker who also likes heading out for a few days and gleaning every piece of heritage he can find, taking pictures, gathering information and GPS co-ordinates, all of which wind up on the website. Gord is much more successful at this than I am. Secretly, I get a little thrill on the very rare occasions when I discover a heritage site that Gord hasn’t already visited and posted on the MHS map! At all other times, I am in total awe of his work. Thank you Gord, for your integrity and determination. Links: MHS website and historic sites map.

YouTube

I added 55 new videos to my YouTube channel this year, many of them with some kind of heritage angle, all of them original, bringing the total to over 170 videos. Heritage churches accounted for 13 new videos, heritage houses for 6, trains going by (I’m a train fan!) for 6, the rest on sundry topics. This month I exceeded 61,000 hits on the channel in the two years of its existence. I am humbled and grateful. Thank you for watching.

Here is a new video from my summer travels. Come on Along the Road with Reid and visit 12 Manitoba places in 5 minutes.

Books

Two books, both loaned to me by dear friends, offered explanations for some deep and old mysteries this year. The Old Way The Old Way of Seeingof Seeing: How Architecture Lost Its Magic (And How To Get It Back) by architect Jonathan Hale clarified why some buildings appeal and seem to sing while others are disharmonious and ordinary. The secret is the Golden Section, the system most architects working before 1840 used to create human spaces, spaces that resonated with our bodies and spirits. I started to use Hale’s schematics on heritage buildings of all kinds to determine if the Golden Section was employed or not and discovered subtle and essential qualities that empathetic places all have. Published in 1994, the book is still available. Thank you Vonda.

The other book, Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering by Adyashanti suggests another old way of seeing…with the spirit. If you are openly looking with love in your heart, other Old Souls joinadyashanti you on your journey and you on theirs. Within minutes of reading the opening pages of this book, I knew I was in the presence of not just an Old Soul, but someone who is reincarnated by choice, a man with a spiritual mission. He knows stuff we all can benefit from knowing. The initial simple idea of “They are only thoughts” led to recognizing the illusion of having any kind of control over anything to finally following Spirit’s invitation. Very often our paths crossed, the words are different but the experiences described flow from one source only. A book that tells the truth. Thank you Garcea.

Grief

It is just over three years since I lost Linda, my soul mate, to cancer. I now feel more accepting of her death due, in part, to the time that has
passed but also because of dear and loving friends. Adyashanti’s book helped me take large strides towards acceptance, giving me
Linda at IF in 1980sperspective on my suffering and offering simple methods to get out of my own way and help myself, to “fall into grace.” Thoughtful phone calls, chance encounters and many long coffees with friends have given me healing opportunities for which I am enormously grateful. Linda’s message to me is still “be happy.” This picture of smiling Linda was taken in the 1980s at our vintage clothing store called IF you have to get dressed in the morning…

Ezra Reid Scholl

Regular readers of my blog will recognize the name of my longtime friend Chris Scholl. For over a dozen years Chris and I have helped each other through many difficult life changes and we’ve celebrated our successes, too. We have traveled the prairie together, visited sacred places and made pacts with Nature together. We’ve become family. Chris and his beautiful partner Megan had a full moon baby boy in October. To my complete amazement, they named the boy after me – Ezra Reid Scholl! (just the Reid part.) For an intentionally-childless guy like me, I was, and still am, overwhelmed knowing I Ezra at 6 weekshave a namesake in the world. More than a metaphor, the first image that came to me was Ezra is “a tunnel into the future.” I explore so many tunnels into the past that having one going in the other direction flummoxed me for awhile but I am starting to find language for him now. He is six weeks old in this picture. I am so grateful to Megan and Chris for their loving gesture, for adding a fresh and unexpected dimension to my life resulting in a brand new kind of joy for me.  As only an innocent new-born can, Ezra helped me bear my grief at its most intense. The Christmas season was more real to me this year. I am humbled and happy to express my gratitude to a little child.

Wouldn’t you know, Ezra already comes with philosophy! Now just over two moons old, Ezra has grown and changed so much. When I think of the changes ahead of him, I smile. All those changes can be viewed on Ken Wilber’s Map of the Evolution of our Consciousness. Read from bottom up. Ezra is lolling in the primary matrix right now, undifferentiated from the world around him but just itching to climb as far up the ladder as he can. Soon he’ll start differentiating himself from the world. Such as? Noticing the difference between biting the blanket and biting his thumb or – in grandly-hewn Wilberese – “the hatching of the physical self.”

Ken Wilber's map

The Lonesomes: Sixteen Prairie Stories

Strange births and strange deaths and the lives lived in between on the Canadian prairies. Stirred by the forsaken tumbledown farmhouses and barns, rusting farm equipment and lonely places they abandoned to the prairie wind, the voices of the pioneers and their descendants tell their poignant tales. Farm folk recall their struggles against the elements. Town folk recount interpersonal conflicts and complexities. There is no music but for the lonesome prairie wind. A beautiful dance of sadness and joy ensues.

When you drive down a country road and see a lonesome old farmhouse, sun-baked and tumbling down, or a broken-down rusty half ton on a rise or an abandoned red barn, don’t you wonder what happened in those places, to those things? Maybe you even start making up stories about them. That’s what I did. I found sixteen such places on the prairies and let their stories arise in my imagination. The Lonesomes is the result!

A forty-seven minute docudrama eighteen months in the making, The Lonesomes is a creative extension of my interest in heritage. The sixteen original stories, ranging in length from one to Image from The Lonesomesfive minutes, span more than a century of history, roughly 1890 to 2005, from pioneers opening the harsh prairie and early railroading to second and third generations living complex lives in small towns and villages. The stories tell of the desperate births of people, towns and ideas, mysterious barns, trickery, magical windmills, memories of machinery, revenge and bizarre deaths.

The Lonesomes is a place where rusty old farm equipment suddenly spouts poetry, where the blue vastness of the prairie sky frightens a woman to death, where an innocent red barn is revealed as the scene of an old mystery, where a defeated small-town mayor sheepishly tellsBarn from The Lonesomes his odorous story, where two retired telephone operators have a chance encounter with life-changing results and where a pair of long-abandoned grain elevators have a wonderful dream.

I hired professional actors to voice the roles and recorded them at state-of-the-art Video Pool Studios. The sound quality is exceptional thanks to Michel Germain, an extraordinary audio engineer. The actors brought their best game to The Lonesomes. I’m thrilled to have my characters brought to life so thoroughly, so convincingly.

I shot all the images in HD digital myself. Visually The Lonesomes ranges from subtly changing still life to montage to live action always suggesting the location where the story occurs. The images are simple; the raw, explicit stories blow through them like the restless prairie wind.

This is much bigger than my YouTube stuff. Since I have a financial investment in it, I’ll explore the commercial potential of the piece. My plan is to market The Lonesomes in several ways. The options are many: from apps to E-books, on-demand TV to film festivals. I will keep you apprised. It’s a little too early for a preview but stay tuned to a blog near you.

Particular Posts

Another year of posts done, about 180 in all, covering the length and breadth of my interests. These are some of my best posts of the year with links to the original articles.

January

Early in the year I started my reporting on Carberry and its unique heritage position in Manitoba. An example is this incredible
Canadian government postergingerbread house built by James White. Starting in the late 1800s, the Canadian government advertised free land in the west to fill up the newly acquired North West Territories  I created the TV commercial for their ad campaign. If you think Winnipeg’s current mayor is a sleazebag, he’s carrying on a well-established tradition begun by our first mayor, Francis Cornish. Find out what I mean.

February

I reported on another bit of Carberry heritage – their vintage Louis Riel statueoctagonal agricultural display building. A rarity in Manitoba. On the 20th, Louis Riel Day,  I celebrated the day with two posts about the two Louis Riel statues that have had prominent places in Winnipeg. First statue, second statue. I ended our leap year with the first of several posts about Manitoba Heritage Under Duress, showing a couple of examples of damaged and disappeared sites.

March

Early in the month I posted a piece I had written a few months after my double-bypass heart surgery in 2002. The palpable power of an online prayer circle that formed around me for the surgery aiding the success of the procedure and speeding my healing afterwards is recounted in Nothing Virtual About It. On the 15th, in a grateful post called Lucky, Very Lucky, I wrote about the pattern of luck that has shaped my life. Last winter I watched a series of documentaries from the library and reported on four excellent ones – Gasland, Buck, Exit Through the Gift Shop and Catfish. I recommend them all highly. I Bruce's first albuminadvertently created one of the most popular posts when I wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums. Included with my thoughts on his music was a highly revealing photograph of a young, mostly naked Bruce taken by Lynn Goldsmith. Now when anyone searches springsteen naked, which happens surprisingly often, they find my post. I’ll bet one or two have even read the article. The post is called Forcing a Light, one of my best titles.To end the month, in case you missed memo, I posted a short video on why it’s called a combine.

April

The month began with a report on my beloved Spruce Woods Park Kevin Richardson kissing a lionand its state after the snow. This is the first of many park reports over the summer. It is love. That’s the only explanation for this amazing relationship between a man and 38 lions, a video I reposted from the internet. It will make your day. I posted about another great documentary called Waste Land – turning garbage into art. The Manitoba Escarpment, a geological step upward as you proceed west across the prairies, offers some spectacular views of the old lake bed below. One is at newly created Alexander Ridge Park near Miami, MB.  On the 15th, I posted Convergence – 35 Years Ago Today.  It commemorated the day Linda and I moved into a little house on Lorette Avenue – our first home together. We stayed there a couple of years. The house is gone now but not the Super 8 I shot out its front window.

May

Reports from the road started in earnest this month as my summer travels got underway  The Fort La Reine Museum on the east side of Portage la Prairie is a terrific museum. I hiked the Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park about 30 times last summer and Hoary puccoon along the trail to Spirit Sandsdid two reports this month: the first about the park’s recovery from the floods of 2011, and the second post on my hikes so far. We’ll take any excuse for a long weekend in Canada and Victoria Day is a prime example. I explain why we celebrate the day. I suppose it’s because of its general outrageousness, but this Email from an Old Friend draws views for all kinds of reasons.

June

I started my posts about one of Manitoba’s heritage gems, Carberry One fine Carberry buildingand the turn-of-the-century buildings lining its main drag. The first three buildings on the street are here, here and here. In an early report from along the road, I covered a drive I took up to Dauphin and beyond. I did a report on an alluvial fan which has garnered a surprising number of views. People wanna know! I ended the month with something for armchair engineers – chug chug chug.

July

I kicked off the month with another report from the road, this time
Trinity of light in aisle of a churchfrom a tour through southwestern Manitoba including Spirit Sands and Brandon. In July I reported on six more of the fine old buildings along Carberry’s Main Street. The best way to access all my reports is to choose Carberry in the categories. A provocative title about what happens after death caught some views thanks to Dr. Kenneth Ring.

August

Two trains and two trestle bridges provided some excellent video as did my exploration of two bridges, one trestle, one swinging, over the Structural support for swinging bridge over RoseauRoseau River. Another road report from southern Manitoba including Miniota, Hartney and Spruce Woods Park. The dog days of summer found me reporting from southeast of Winnipeg. A veteran thrift store haunter, I celebrated the 40th anniversary of MCCs (Mennonite Central Committee) thrift stores. Based on years of seeking out and exploring often remote heritage sites, I make some observations in a post called Sex and the Solitary Heritage Site.

September

My reports from Carberry continued this month and I also wrote about heritage sites that have been lost for various reasons. I repostedThe staircase that killed Percy Criddle my Map of Dying from the Tibetan Book of the Dead followed by two more road reports. The first offers interesting pictures from here and there; the second has a dozen pictures from around the province with my short write-ups. Language always fascinates me and the hobo code, a series of symbols that transients in the first half of the 20th century created, resulted in a popular video. I explored a spooky old house inside and out, resulting in another original video.

October

The appeal of ruins along the road was expressed in several original Wooden statue of Katerivideos including one called Portals to the Past, which combines live images with harrowing sounds. My curiosity about language found me exploring Diner Slang, food to the nth degree. I wrote about two more buildings in Carberry’s heritage district this month. Things to do along the road included Reid’s Roadside Junk, which meant filling a small box with highly miscellaneous items and leaving it somewhere out there, all documented on video, of course. On the 20th, I wrote about the impending canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha in the context of Leonard Cohen’s second novelBeautiful Losers, in which she is a central character.

November

I elaborated on a post I found online about Friendship, adding a few items gathered from my life. Desperate for free stuff to fill the ever-increasing white space between their ads, the Winnipeg Free Press ran the Friendship post in their Sunday edition as blog of the week. Later in the month I posted a piece about digital executors and new forms of memorializing yourself after death called Log Off in Peace – Cyber Wills and the Virtual Beyond.

December

In a repost from the internet, which I called Mayo = Life, a succinct explanation of our basic empty awareness ensues. I celebrated the second anniversary of this blog on the 11th. As the year ends, the blog’s view count is more than 182,000 in just over two years. Thank you one and all! The tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas began in the 14th, this year heritage churches and houses alternated daily until Christmas.

The Future

The immediate future will see 31 short absurd videos – one a day, every day, like a pill, throughout January. The series called Sorry Notes to the Future starts January 1st. I plan to kick back in January, let the blog ride with Sorry Notes and focus on some other projects I’ve been putting off. Thereafter, expect more heritage reports from this year’s travels and loads more of the other guff you’ve come to expect from RRR.

I wish you only happiness in 2013 and may you awaken each day with this kind of determination in your spirit.

Today!

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Filed under Heritage Buildings, Linda, Manitoba Heritage, Year-end Review 2012

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