Tag Archives: portage la prairie

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.


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

Fort la Reine Museum, Portage la Prairie

Reid Dickie


Fort la Reine Museum in Portage la Prairie is one of the most progressive and inventive museums in Manitoba. Their Lennon/Ono exhibit last year drew the curious. Always looking for new wrinkles to make use of the museum’s collection, this week I received an email from them suggesting “get married at our museum.” What a novel idea!

Fort la Reine i do

They have all kinds of interesting venues to actually hold your wedding including a couple of heritage churches. You can get wed elsewhere and use the museum as the setting for your wedding photos with various amenities available. I Do details are on their website. Even if you’re not getting married the museum is a worthwhile stop, just off the TCH on the east side of Portage.


Under an overcast sky, the mighty Avenger and I took a spin westward on the TCH to Portage la Prairie last Friday. A quick shop of PLP’s thrift shops, it has three, yielded just four classy 1950s glass tumblers @ $1 each at the MCC. A slow cruise through Island Park, literally a park on a large island in the middle of the Assiniboine River, and a pause for a Horts got me homeward bound. But not before a stop at the Fort la Reine Museum on the east side of PLP. The gate and all the buildings were open but Tracey Turner, the museum’s curator and manager, said they don’t officially open until Monday, May 7.

The evil-looking device next to the barber chair is an early electric hair curler!

I spent half an hour roaming the sprawling museum which is comprised of 27 different pioneer buildings and items brought into the site creating the feeling of a village.  Heritage purists disparagingly refer to these kinds of museums as “petting zoos.” They believe that heritage value exists only when the place is in situ and that value disappears when a building is moved. Not being a heritage snob, I like the clustering of buildings from various times and uses. Fort la Reine Museum displays all the qualities that I appreciate in a museum.

Such as? The pleasant feeling of an early pioneer village. When you enter there is a row of old buildings as you might find on a main drag of a prairie town around 1900. The pictures at the top are of the interior of the museum’s general store. Also on site are a replica of Fort la Reine (the original was built by La Verendrye in 1739), a red barn, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church, fire hall, print shop, school, doctor and dentist’s offices and West Prospect Church.

Specific items on display include a York boat, Musketeer aircraft and several houses. The houses range from a reproduction of a  trapper’s crude shack, the Paul family’s log house built in 1879, the Hourie house built in 1890, the Burton house from early 1900s and the Douglas Campbell home. Each house represents an improvement in accommodations and demonstrates the development of prairie architecture from rude shacks to elegant Queen Anne Revival style homes.

The museum has a significant railroad component which includes the private rail car of Sir William Van Horne, the flamboyant general manager of the CPR, a superintendent’s car, a signalman’s shack and a caboose.

Another reason I like this museum concept is, without it, most of these buildings would have been destroyed, converted into sheds and granaries or left to rot into the prairie. Even though they aren’t in their original location, they do still exist thanks to the museum.

Tracey Turner told me they are doing something new this summer. In July and August the museum will host an exhibition about the various traveling vaudeville shows that crisscrossed the country in the early 1900s. Called Voices of the Town, Vaudeville in Canada, the exhibit is on loan from the Peterborough Museum and Archives. I’ll provide more information about the exhibit when its opening day draws nearer.

Meanwhile, the Fort la Reine Museum offers plenty to see and be amazed by. There is lots of space for the kids to run about, fascinating one-of-a-kind exhibits and friendly knowledgable staff. The museum makes a terrific Manitoba day trip. Find out more about the museum here http://www.fortlareinemuseum.ca/

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Filed under Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Hope, Manitoba Heritage, Museum, Pioneer Village, Pioneers, Roadside Attractions

Heritage Houses – Three Bricks in Portage la Prairie

Reid Dickie

These three fine brick houses sit on the 600 block of Saskatchewan Avenue, the main drag of Portage la Prairie, MB. Although modest and similar in many ways, each has its own distinctive qualities.

First I’ll mention the qualities all three houses share. Each has steeply pitched roofs on flaring gables and a rectangular dormer with steep roof. The fenestration (window positions) is the same on all three houses with brick sunbursts above the two front windows. All are built of the same buff brick, which on two of the houses, including this one, is laid in American bond, that is, every sixth row shows the header (end) of the brick rather than the stretcher (side of the brick). All have fish scale shingles on the large front facade gable, limestone lintels under the front windows and attractive, appropriate shutters. The floor plans are extremely similar. All front entrances are protected by roof.

What distinguishes this house is the additions, mostly sympathetic, that have been made at the rear. The same colour of brick and trim was used and detracts little from the original house. The building is now occupied by an insurance company.

This is the most distinctive of the three houses and has many design features that set it apart from its neighbours. It has a substantial foundation which the other two lack. This results in the attractive stairs onto the porch, which is rounded with a fine contrasting dentil just under the eave. Contrasting columns support the porch roof and the corners sport quoins similar to the foundation material. This house is the exception to American bond. This building features standard running bond, that is, all bricks were laid end to end. It is currently a hair salon.

This is the only house of the three that is still used as a residence. The most obvious difference is the reversed design inside and out but the materials remain the same. American bond brickwork was used here as in the first house. The dormer roof is different from the other two. Because the building is a home, it has a warmer feel to it.


Filed under Heritage Buildings, Houses, Local History

The Halfway Trees

Reid Dickie

Regular, intercity travelers along the Trans Canada Highway between Brandon and Winnipeg will be familiar with the halfway trees, trees that local lore says mark the midpoint between the two cities.  

The halfway tree on the north side of the highway is about 14 kms west of Portage la Prairie, right next to the road and protected by a steel guard rail.

 This tree is a 40-foot common willow and is the last survivor of a willow planting next to a drainage swale. Twinning the TCH caused the other willows to be removed but this, the largest one, was spared. This tree is a Manitoba Heritage Tree and is listed prominently in Heritage Trees of Manitoba, a publication of the Manitoba Forestry Association.

The other halfway tree, situated about 23 kms west of Portage on the south side of the TCH, is a gigantic, old cottonwood. This is the tree most recognized as halfway despite  lacking heritage status. I have often seen the lower reaches of this tree decorated with an occasional Christmas ornament, ribbons, shoes and assorted stuff. It has been the scene of various life-changing events over its 100 year history including at least one marriage proposal.

So we have two trees nine kms apart that both claim to be halfway between Winnipeg and Brandon. Fact is, neither tree is exactly halfway but, by actual miles, the cottonwood is closer to claiming that title than the willow. I suspect building the Portage bypass and twinning the TCH changed the mileage between the two cities, thus neither tree is pivotal. The cottonwood certainly merits heritage status and the Manitoba Forestry Association is taking nominations now to update the protected tree list. See their website for details on the process.

This moody photograph of the cottonwood at night was taken by Brandon photographer and videographer Derek Gunnlaugson. Thanks, Derek. Check out his website, Dex

How To Measure the Height of a Tree

Have someone stand next to the tree. (It doesn’t have to be a person but should be something of a specific height.) Holding a ruler vertically, walk backwards from the tree until the person is one inch tall on the ruler. Note where the top of the tree is on the ruler. Take that number and multiple it by the height of the person (or object) next to tree and you have the tree’s height. Easy!


Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Local History, PRAIRIES, Roadside Attractions, Spirit

Manitoba Flood Update June 11, 2011 – My Driving Tour

Reid Dickie

Last Thursday I took a drive into rural Manitoba, destination Dauphin, to check out the aftermath of the torrential rains we received at the beginning of the week. There’s still water everywhere!

I travelled out the Trans Canada Highway west from Winnipeg to Portage. At the TCH crossings of the Assiniboine River, the water was as high as it’s ever been this spring. The Portage Diversion, carrying water from the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, was filled to the brim again. There appeared to be topping up activities along the dike. I turned onto Hwy #16 and didn’t encounter much new flooding until around Woodside, past Gladstone and almost into Neepawa, where the Whitemud River had spilled its banks. For miles and miles ditches and fields on both sides of the highway were flooded, as far as the eye could see in some places. The Whitemud drains the southeastern foothills of Riding Mountain, exactly where heavy rain fell Monday and Tuesday, causing flash flooding along its course. The earth here is already saturated, flash floods now more possible. This picture shows the brown murky water of the Whitemud, which has a distinct sewage odour, flooding the lower section of a rest stop on Hwy #16 before the Arden turnoff. Manitoba Water Stewardship (MWS) says the Whitemud will remain high until the runoff abates.

I turned north in Hwy #5 along the east side of Riding Mountain, crossing many of the streams that feed the Whitemud. Most of them were full and fast flowing. As I passed Ste. Rose du Lac I could see their ring dike which they just recently reopened. That evening my cousin Vonda and I took a drive east of Dauphin to view the flooding around Dauphin Lake. Dauphin Beach and Ochre Beach are inundated with many waterfront properties diked with heavy stones piled along the beach to protect their property from wave erosion. Many properties were flooded, sandbags were available at several locations  and people were busy hauling them away. The worst areas are Ochre Beach and Crescent Cove. The picture above is an aerial view of Crescent Cove on Dauphin Lake that appeared on the front of this week’s Dauphin Herald. The other pictures are ones I took of Dauphin Beach and Ochre Beach and show water levels that are still high but have subsided from the storm earlier in the week. Click to enlarge any picture.

Yesterday (Friday) I drove home through Riding Mountain National Park where I spotted deer, a coyote and a moose lifting its dripping head out of the swamp water with a mouth full of water weeds, a classic Hinterland Who’s Who moment. Trucks three axles or more cannot travel the highway through the park due to some soft road conditions. Overall, it’s still a pleasant and easy drive through a beautiful lush forest.

My next encounter with flood water was in the valley of the Little Saskatchewan River south of Erickson. Some of the fields were still flooded and the river hurtled along filled to the brink. The same river flows through Minnedosa which was diked in several areas. I drove south to Brandon and surveyed their situation. First and Eighteenth Streets are open and still thoroughly diked to about twelve feet. The water has receded in some areas around Brandon but a new crest of the Assiniboine is expected this week, returning the river to its record highs of a month ago.

As they await the next crest, towns and cities all along the Assiniboine from St. Lazare to Winnipeg are on tenterhooks. The town of Souris has declared a local state of emergency and sandbaggers are working day and night against the Souris River. In this picture a Souris family prepares to leave their diked home as the flood waters rise. Wawanesa is under the same conditions though MWS says the Assiniboine is now cresting in both those towns. More rain is expected early next week so they remain on alert. See NASA’s view of Souris River flooding.

The place least worried about this is Winnipeg. If the Assiniboine gets too high, ‘Magic’ Duff Selinger, Manitoba’s unelected premier, has promised to open Hoop and Holler Bend again to relieve the nasty river of a few hundred cubic feet of water per second so he can don his Moses outfit and blink and grin again. This man is so dumb he thinks this cynical ploy will work twice on Manitobans. We got it the first time – it was a fake-out, a publicity stunt. This time there is more at stake. The government has bungled Lake Manitoba water management so badly this year, both with the actual level of the lake and dealing with the tragic human aftermath of man-made flooding, they need a saviour move at Hoop and Holler Bend to divert attention away from their big mistakes on the big lake. MWS reported yesterday the Fairford River outlet from Lake Manitoba is flowing at its highest level ever. Grain of salt, folks. I just can’t believe what these people say any longer. The above After picture is of Twin Lakes Beach on Lake Manitoba after recent devastation from high water and winds. Compare it to this Before picture from the 1980s.

It’s becoming the flood that never ends. Build an ark people, build an ark. Get a grant or maybe even a buyout after the flood from the province to build it. Which reminds me the widely touted parting of the Red River by Moses Selinger has been moved off the back burner, I hear. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Flood, Local History, Natural Places, PRAIRIES

Manitoba Flood Update – June 9

Reid Dickie

The Rain Has Stopped!

That’s the best news! This map illustrates the normal amounts of rainfall Manitoba usually gets in May and the excessive accumulations this year. The following list shows how much more rain the area has received compared to normal amounts for May.

  • Souris, Estevan, Sask. and Minot, N.D., have received 297 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Hamiota has received 294 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Pierson has received 279 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Ste. Rose du Lac has received 254 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Virden has received 250 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • McCreary has received 246 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Melita has received 229 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Dauphin and Arborg have received 195 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Brandon has received 190 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Portage la Prairie has received 182 per cent of normal precipitation.

So far, our spring has been cool and wet with a few summery days. Soils province-wide are saturated causing concern about flash flooding should we get more heavy rains. Fields and pastures remain underwater with farmers saying the land will be useless for years, residents along Lake Manitoba are demanding government buy-outs of their flooded properties, Dauphin Lake claims more and more properties, new crests of the Souris, Qu’ Appelle and Assiniboine Rivers are coming and emergency crews continue watching miles of dikes for breaches. Regarding the buy-outs, The Magnificent Selinger has flip-flopped on this, one day, no buy-outs, next day maybe buy-outs, then some buy-outs. Still pretty tense here.

Bartley Kives wrote an interesting piece about our lakes in the Brandon Sun. Best lead line this week is from Bill Redekop: “One cottage had seaweed clinging to the ceiling fan.”  Sad, poignant and descriptive – good one, Bill!

Provincial parks are either blossoming or bombing this year depending on their flood status. Three campgrounds around Lake Manitoba have been inundated and are closed for the season: Lundar Beach, St. Ambroise and Watchorn. Due to spring flooding and  increases in lake levels for the next several months, these three provincial park campgrounds will not open this season and efforts are underway to protect park infrastructure. Spruce Woods Park remains off-limits and inaccessible except for the higher campground. The provincial parks website has the latest information. A reminder: for the third year in a row there is no charge to visit Manitoba’s provincial parks, free admittance but campground fees still apply. Get out there and enjoy one of our parks.

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Filed under Accommodations, Flood, Local History, Parks

Faces of the Flood

A series of photographs of people’s faces as they deal with Manitoba’s flood. Click pics to enlarge.

Matt Janzen reaches across his 5 foot dike to hand his 2 year old daughter Kaitlyn to his wife Melanie at their home just outside Elie, Manitoba Thursday.  The family have one of the lowest homes in the community and will have to leave the dike in place for a minimum of 6 weeks.  May 12, 2011. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Members of 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry help load sandbags onto helicopter slings to be transported to weak sections of the dike running along the Assiniboine River 25 km from Portage La Prairie, Man. Thursday, May 12, 2011.   (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

Mexican migrant workers sandbag the home of Jeff Connery near Hoop and Holler Bend, Manitoba.  May 11, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Members of 2 PPCLI  Shilo reinforce a dike on the Assiniboine River off Hwy 430, north of Oakville, MB Thursday.  May 12, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

There was no shortage of help on the James Valley Colony Wednesday as everyone, including young girls, helped pitch in to move sandbags to dikes being built around their colony. May 11, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Flood relief workers at Breezy Point April 8, 2011 (Photograph by Stan Milosevic)

Members of the Canadian Forces carry sandbags to a home located close to the Hoop and Holler Bend near Portage La Prairie, Man, Thursday, May 12, 2011. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)


John Bray does last minute sandbagging at his father’s home near Oakville, Manitoba Thursday morning while his dog Lucky keeps an eye out. Their home is next to the Elm River.  May 12, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Friends, family and volunteers sandbag a home on Cloutier Drive near the Red River in St. Norbert. April 9, 2011 (Photograph by Stan Milosevic)

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Filed under Flood, Images, Local History, Natural Places, Prairie People

Manitoba Flood Update – Monday May 23

Reid Dickie

The heavy rains that fell Saturday are making their way through the river system causing some concern and slowing the water’s decline in most places along the Assiniboine. The major concern is about inflow from the Souris and Qu’ Appelle Rivers and how it will affect dikes and drainage downstream. In Brandon, where river levels have been dropping about 6 inches a day, the decrease was minimal yesterday and today due to the rains.

Since the water diverted north from the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba has to go somewhere, it is causing major flooding around the shores of the lake and residents are still scrambling to protect or evacuate their properties. Today many of the best cattle producers in Manitoba, six First Nations and dozens of cottages around Lake Manitoba are flooded due to dumping more water than the lake can accommodate. Lake Manitoba’s outflow at Fairford is totally unable to handle the inflow from the Diversion thus producing scenes like this.

Some Manitobans are accusing the provincial government of reckless abandon for mismanaging the flood situation then off-loading blame onto bureaucrats and generally acting like clueless idiots. The government even took out half-page newspaper ads last week to shuffle blame away from themselves. The Black Rod wrote a fine piece this week about Premier Selinger that sums up his self-inflicted and well-deserved dilemma. Read it here.

The provincial state of emergency has been extended until June 5 “to support continued flood responses around the Portage la Prairie area” as stated yesterday by Manitoba Water Stewardship. It’s the newly flooded properties around Lake Manitoba that need sandbags and the troops right now. It was reported last week that today would be the last day the military would be involved with the flood fight, just when they are needed most around the lake! Whether that is actually the case remains unknown at this time.

The provincial government will announce its compensation package for flood victims tomorrow. Also tomorrow I will have a new update on the flooding at Spruce Woods Provincial Park and the prospects for opening the park this year.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reid Dickie

“Don’t Come to Brandon.”

The Assiniboine River continues to threaten cities, towns and farmland in Manitoba today. The river level at Brandon increased about 3 inches overnight and forecasters estimate the crest of the flow is near. Though the rain has stopped, the weather is quite windy, not ideal. Some good news this morning: no further rain is expected in Brandon for the rest of the week although rain is predicted further north. So far, over 1200 residents have been evacuated south of the river but people on the north side still remain in their homes. According to Brandon flood officials at their morning briefing, nearly all the sandbagging and diking is done. They now are in a state of maintenance, watching for seepage and breaches. The Brandon bypass – Hwy 110 – may be opened to piloted heavy commercial vehicles only today; First Street remains closed but Operations is hopeful it may reopen on the weekend; all lanes of 18th Street may open to traffic today. This sounds promising but the Assiniboine may have other plans.

Brandon’s mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, stated that, though everything looks calm and under control, the city is in the eye of the storm now, waiting to see what the river will do next. She emphasized that it’s not over yet so don’t get complacent. “We don’t need tourists,” the mayor said. “Don’t come to Brandon to gawk at our hardship. We don’t need anyone doing that. Brandon is in a state of emergency. Respect that.” Since most of the evacuees are lodged in Brandon hotels, there are no rooms available to stay in anyway. The Corral Centre remains closed. The mayor again commended the “everyday heroes” who have worked to save the city.

“Controlled” release set for Thursday 

Manitoba Water Stewardship announced today the “controlled” release of river water just east of Portage la Prairie is scheduled for Thursday morning at 8 a.m. The intent is to drain some of the Assiniboine into the La Salle River watershed so it will empty into the Red River south of the floodway. Residents of the 150 mostly farm homes affected by the release are evacuating today while military personnel build dikes around their properties.  The “controlled” release is preferable to an uncontrolled release which would have unpredictable results. I don’t know how big a gamble this release actually is for the government or how firm their predictability is but I am compelled to reprint poet Gary Snyder’s caution: “It is not nature-as-chaos which threatens us but the State’s presumption that it has created order.” Here is a map of the area to be intentionally flooded.

The Portage Diversion, which diverts Assiniboine water northward to Lake Manitoba, is being re-enforced, its banks heightened to accommodate greater capacity. Homes along the Diversion are on flood evacuation alert.

Other rivers and lakes

The Red River still cuts a wide swath across southern Manitoba. The Floodway is adequately protecting Winnipeg again as water levels decrease slightly. The Souris River is causing havoc in Melita with levels increasing due to excessive rain this week. Dauphin Lake is at flood stage with heavy precipitation expected there today and tomorrow adding to the woes of cottagers and farmers. Over 600 military personnel are working at various sites along the Assiniboine. The province has requested 300 more.

The waiting is underway big time now in Brandon and communities all along the Assiniboine flood plain. When will the crest arrive? Are we protected? Stay tuned for the answers to those and other watery questions. My next report comes late Wednesday evening.

Provincial government flood information here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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Manitoba Flood Update – Tuesday

Reid Dickie

The Assiniboine River still continues to threaten communities along its path although the water level at Brandon was unchanged overnight. Showers and rain coming in from Saskatchewan will give the Assiniboine River basin over 20 mm of water by the weekend, adding to the unpredictability of the river.

At this morning’s media briefing by Brandon flood offficials there were twice as many media people as there were yesterday, denoting the flood’s increasing significance. The briefing confirmed that earth-moving diking will be done by this evening and exisiting dikes will be topped with aqua dams. Evacuations in Brandon stand at about 1000 people. No further evacuations are planned for today. Hazardous materials, such as gasoline at filling stations, in the risk zone have been secured or moved. Brandon awaits its fate.

       Despite the fact that the Portage Diversion, which diverts riverwater north into Lake Manitoba, has been running slightly over capacity, the city of Portage la Prairie, east of Brandon, is still under duress due to potential river flooding. Rather than risk uncontrolled breaches of dikes, the Manitoba government is planning a “controlled” breach that would flood an area east of Portage effecting about 150 homes. Evacuation orders are in place for the area with the “controlled” release expected on Wednesday. Although the declared provincial state of emergency allows this action, I caution those making this decision by reminding them of these words from poet Gary Snyder, “It is not nature-as-chaos which threatens us but the State’s presumption that it has created order.” 

      Word of the day: freeboard meaning “the distance between normal water level and the top of a structure, such as a dam, that impounds or restrains water.”

        Manitoba Water Stewardship publishes a daily flood bulletin. Here is today’s. The next briefing from Brandon officials is at 4 this afternoon. More from me thereafter. My heart goes out to those living in Brandon, Portage and the surrounding area. Stress and uncertainty must be overwhelming for many. Know you are in our hearts and prayers. Be brave, be strong.

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Filed under Flood, Hope, Local History, Prairie People

Beauty and The Bridge

Reid Dickie

 “For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror we’re still just able to bear.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

“The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream. It does not just connect banks that are already there. The banks emerge as banks only as the bridge crosses the stream.” – Martin Heidegger

            Linda and I have pointed the rental car west on the thin ribbon of possibility called the Trans-Canada Highway. It is a clear spring morning, the sky an exhilarated blue. East of Portage la Prairie, suddenly arising into the pristine day, we see a curling twist of black smoke, ominous but beautiful. It rises quickly into the air a few miles ahead of us. We watch it thicken and grow, wondering what its source could be.

            Two bridges span the Assiniboine River here, one for each traffic direction, separated by several hundred feet. On the eastbound bridge is the source of the dark plume. As we arrive we see a semi trailer truck, just the cab, ablaze on the bridge.

            Flaming fuel drips off the bridge sending small barges of fire floating downstream on the surface of the river. Some of the liquid fire falls onto the riverbank, setting the grass to smoldering. The truck cab is completely engulfed in flame by the time we pull over and park. It seems to be the only vehicle involved in the fire.

            Several other vehicles have stopped on the westbound bridge. We all get out of our cars to stand in helpless awe and watch the fire. Though there is no sign of the driver, we all know there is a human being inside the flames. A walk through hell in a gasoline suit! Someone calls 911 on their cellphone.

            Tires explode sending flames shooting out over the surface of the river like unwholesome fireworks. The flames die in the water, leaving greasy slicks. More cars pull over to join our grim witnessing. The black smoke is so thick it casts a shadow over us. The air grows rancid with the smell of burning fuel, rubber and metal.

            A loud crack comes from inside the column of orange and red flames tinged with petrol blue. In the air is the hiss of fire greeting water and the chatter of fire in dry grass. Someone begins to sob quietly.

            Strangers standing together on a bridge, we will take with us this disturbing vision, the smoky remembrance and the emotional baggage of our chance encounter with the fiery fate of another stranger.

            A few helpless minutes later, we are on the road again. Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars from Portage head past us to the accident scene. The following day we check the newspapers to see what happened on that two-lane concrete span over a prairie river.

            The driver of the truck cab, having left his haul at its destination, was heading home to his young wife for the weekend. As he pulled over to pass a slower moving hough at the entry to the bridge, one of his low side fuel tanks caught the hough and sent the truck spinning around, bursting into flames when it hit the sturdy cement railing along the bridge. The truck driver had no chance of escape and died in the inferno. The driver of the hough, due to his placement on the bridge, was obliged to drive through the wall of flames, escaping shaken but uninjured.

            The black smoke churning into the blue dome, fire falling from the concrete bridge flaring red in green grass, desperate flames spinning in the eddyfied murk of the Assiniboine, the sound of robins and blackbirds from the bushes in the ditch – it is only because we are so close to Grace that this Beauty is bearable.

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Manitoba Heritage Houses

One-and-a-Half Storey, Empress Avenue, Altamont, MB

     This little one and a half storey gem, next to the United Church, is in glowing condition with its eye-catching red shingles, double clipped gable roof and matching entrance roof. The arch and brackets below the entrance and the mix of stucco and roof textures add unknown pleasures. Its fenestration and blind position suggest the house is winking at you. Wink back.

Mansard roof, next to St. Felix Church, Dunrea, MB

         This classic example of a square Mansard-roofed house with added wraparound rooms has tasteful dormers and colour combination. Mansard style afford use of garrets as living space and the tall dormered windows ensure plenty of light at all times of day. The subtle combination of colours sets off the house among mature trees and the yawning prairie just beyond.

Italianate House, 103-2nd St NE, Portage La Prairie, MB

        Italianate is one of my favourite styles for houses and public buildings. This fine example, built around 1889, richly demonstrates the style with its low pitched roof, bay window with shallow roof, brackets in two sizes and intermittently paired, running bond brickwork and effective quoins. The dropdead awesome feature is the unique brickwork used to make the shaped details of the window heads. The hood mouldings over the windows are excellent with the single brick pendant on either side. The pendant is repeated at the end of the heavy paired wooden brackets under the eaves. The place has a stalwart aura, solid and dependable despite its dreadful purple colour.

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Who was Yosh Tashiro?

          Yosh Tashiro was one of Manitoba’s most important rural photojournalists. For a quarter of a century, between 1952 and 1975 he was the only photographer for the Daily Graphic, a newspaper that serves the entire Portage la Prairie district. Luckily, his photo negative collection, consisting of some 10,000 individual items, was rediscovered in 2002 in storage at the Fort la Reine Museum. The collection is currently being scanned and conserved by students at Portage Collegiate Institute. Many of Yosh’s black and white photographs along with his life story are now online.

This incredible capture of a young girl on her bike with an uncertain Manitoba sky behind her is one of Yosh's most amazing photographs.



Another classic capture by Yosh. Beet boys with angelic expressions and some fine beets.

 See more of Yosh’s photographs

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