Springtime in Alberta, at it’s best, is a busy time of year and this year with the snow and cold hanging on late into the season, it has been busier than normal. We were coming up fast to the long weekend in May—a time when most grain crops need to be in the ground—and the forecast was for heavy rains by the end of Saturday May 18th.
We had the best part of 4 acres plowed by Thursday, but the spring rye seed Terry and I were planning to use existed near Wainwright, Alberta, Hughenden to be exact. So we used our Friday road trip to plan the upcoming Alberta Carriage Supply Field Day, Draft Horse Town teamster evaluation, and horse farming weekend, to be held at the Bar U Ranch.
As mentioned the forecast was for ‘heavy’ rain by the end of Saturday. Our plan was that I would start plowing early to in order to finish; while Terry had some customers to look after and then he would come out use the spring tooth harrows to prepare the seed bed while I got the seed drills ready. A last minute phone call provided us with some much needed help from Keven Graham and his new team of big, black Percherons.
We rushed all day, only stopping when Terry’s good wife, Linda, showed up with some sandwiches. By late afternoon, as we bucketed the last bit of rye seed into the hoppers on the grain drills the wind started to blow and the temperature fell, and the sky clouded up with the dark clouds that carry rain.
We finished, backed the drills under cover expecting any moment the torrential down pour to start … we had a cold beverage to celebrate getting the seed in ground while we waited for the rain. We waited some more and finally went home. All night I waited for the rain we desperately needed.
Maybe Sunday, or Monday? After all, it was the long weekend, and the usual time for wet weather. But nothing! Tuesday came, still dry, the forecast was now reporting heavy rains across southern Alberta in the upcoming days, the very days we had our “big event” planned at the Bar U.
Sure enough, Wednesday morning it started to rain. Wednesday afternoon it rained. Wednesday night it rained harder and the worst was still to come. There were storm warnings issued, high water warnings, citizens were warned to stay away from waterways. Ark building was a popular subject on talk shows. The forecast was ‘wet’.
Thursday morning as it rained still harder yet, Terry and I pondered on whether to cancel or not. Could we somehow save the event, could we do some stuff indoors, what about the caterer? The decision was made, proceed like we were in our right minds.
We started loading in the rain. In a very short time the four of us were completely soaked, but carried on. We had the first load battened down and we headed for the Bar U. I called to make sure they were still there. Jean told me the giant snow flakes had stopped, but the rain was now full time. When we arrived the tops of all the hills were white with snow and the thermometer in the truck read 1-celcius. Mike and Patrick from the Bar U were there to help us unload, they were wet and cold, and secretly wondering if we were crazy for continuing.
A few hours later, back at the shop, as we were already cold and wet, we decided to stay cold and wet a little longer and get the next load on the trailers and tied down. We did not expect we would have to unload this one as it was looking like it would be too wet for any outside activities.
Friday morning, the forecast was still for ‘extended periods of rain across southern Alberta’. I kissed my wife goodbye, and she asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ Don’t know, I replied, I just don’t know. The drive was quiet, except for the wipers running steady against the window. In some places I had to turn them to the high-speed position. Tyler sent me a text containing only cuss words. Looked like we were going to be cold, wet and lonely all weekend.
There is a small knoll a few miles this side of the Bar U, where Highway 540 makes a bend. I was talking on the phone (hands-free, of course) when I made the second curve and I started to smile. It was as if someone had drawn a line and on the other side (yes, the Bar U side) the highway was DRY.
Photos by TS Lane. View or download images on Flickr.
Our cell phones were humming all day with people asking if we were still going ahead. Our friend, David Farran, who lives only 20 miles north could not believe we were dry enough to plow, as his place was still getting heavy rain. We unloaded our equipment.
Our Amish friends—and Pioneer Equipment representatives—Leon and Rhoda Wengerd & their family, and Leon’s brother Steven Wengerd had arrived the night before and came to help set up equipment and get things ready for the next day. We worked in the sunshine. At 7 o’clock that night we put a plow in the ground to see just how wet it was. Although a tough pull, and a little on the wet side, we made several rounds, and got all the plows into the dirt. Teamsters and teams were starting to arrive and get settled for the weekend. We finished the evening off around a camp fire with a fine beverage or two. If it rained no more, Saturday would have great conditions for plowing.
Saturday the sun shone all day. The café at the Bar U opened early just so the teamsters could have breakfast. By 9 we were outside, teamsters and teams continued arriving steady.
We ended up with 15 teams in total. Considering it was raining everywhere but the Bar U, that was phenomenal. Joe Jeffrey brought 4 big Belgians and hooked them both 4-wide and 4-up to both the single-bottom plow and the gang plow.
Joyce Marchant, the plow Queen of the Kooteneys (actually from Salmon Arm, BC), brought her big team and walking plow. It always amazes me how she gets those big guys to listen so well. We are hoping that Joyce will run a walking plow clinic this fall at Alberta Carriage Supply.
Dean Sundquist, David Farran, Ken & Verna Pohl, Brett & Kathy Fulford, Cheryl Verostek, and Serge Laitre, all brought teams, that helped get some of the plowing done, as they tried out some new pieces of equipment.
The Alberta Carriage Supply team were organized as follows:
Teamster and team evaluations – Rhonda Monahan & Gordon Mowatt
As a point of safety, and as part of the evaluation for Draft Horse Town at the Calgary Stampede, all teams and teamsters had to hook to the work sled and make a circle before hitching to other equipment. Gordon has a good eye and understands that everyone has their own way of doing things, his concern is competency. Rhonda is responsible for horses and teamsters for Draft Horse Town, and together they make a dynamic duo.
Horse Specialist – Tyler Setzer
Tyler focused on horse issues helping people solve problems with everything from bits to collars to line and harness adjustments. Some horses had not been hooked to a load before and some of the minor adjustments made a large difference in team performance and comfort.
Equipment – Leon and Steven Wengerd
As Pioneer Equipment factory representatives, and experienced horse farmers, Leon and Steven were in the field to make sure people understood the proper workings and adjustments of the various pieces of equipment. They were able to help teamsters learn how to fine tune the equipment.
ACS Store & “Where is the ?????” – Terry Bailey
Terry manned the outside store and always amazes me with his ability to know where all the small bits and pieces are. This includes clevises, hitch pins, safety rings, all the eveners for two to four horses, check lines, books, rope hitches, etc.
Inspiration and Chaos – Dale Befus
Yours truly had the privilege of helping people pick what to hook to, how to hook to equipment, and encouraging teamsters to get the lines in their hands and drive some new vehicles and pieces of equipment.
In the end, we had a fantastic weekend. Good teams, good teamsters, good hosts, good campfires, great fellowship and warm DRY weather.
Thank you to all those who helped make it a wonderful experience.