The farming region I knew as a boy is that which lies west of Ponoka, Alberta – land homesteaded and broken by people who received land grants following their participation in the Canadian war effort during the second world war. Perhaps participation in war, an ordeal survived and won as a collective has made this clustering of soldiers who became farmers quite pragmatic with regard to helping each other out, and particularly so in relation to disused items. Word of an item no longer used will make its way around the region and the person who can use that item will connect with its current possessor. Terms will be agreed to, cash or services in kind will trade hands and the item will be put to good use. While I have seen such transaction occur with many smaller things – cars, trucks, tractors and farming equipment – the photograph presented here reminds me that in two instances I have seen houses as big as this one transported to new locations, set on new foundations and made use of.
The photographs draw me back to my childhood as a boy in the sixties and skulking around the old, disused farm house across the way from my aunt and uncle’s home near Rimbey, Alberta. My exploration of the house revealed a wooden basement foundation instead of a foundation made of cement (what I was used to). It also revealed a dirt basement floor and seemed to be used mainly as a cold cellar for canned goods and the like. My cousin and I explored other houses no longer used; they seemed to have been left medias res (in the middle of things). Beds and dressers would be left in rooms. The rooms would usually have painted walls, but in some wallpaper revealed tastes of a former time. Some homes served much like sheds these days where old furniture or clothes that have gone out of fashion can be stored. Some had floors rotted through, the result of annual flooding. Some homes revealed children’s toys of a former time. Exploration always revealed the lives lived within the four walls of the house.
Moving forward – I wonder about the house in the photograph. It is huge. It is well-made. It still retains its structure. The plant growth surrounding the house cannot be more than fifteen years in the growing. So, whoever left it made their departure quite recently in terms of the age of houses. Thinking back to houses I’ve seen moved, I wonder about why similar efforts have not been taken to add new life and new purpose to this farm house. Surely it could have been used a while back as a house to help a young family starting out. And, perhaps more importantly, doing so would have been a part of a farm family’s moving forward and their de-cluttering from what is no longer needed of the past. The curiosity is that there is something that holds this house in its present location … and that’s where its story is.
Listening to Shuttertime with Sid and Mac episode XXI and good discussion on the practices associated with landscape photography; I continue to be impressed by the opinions, persuasion, logic and knowledge these two Edmonton-based, Canon photographers possess. Dave Matthews Band’s Steady As We Go and Dreamgirl, David Gray’s This Year’s Love, Patty Griffin’s Rain, Dar Williams’ The One Who Knows and Mindy Smith’s One More Moment surface as music holding my attention.
Quote to Inspire – “In my view you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it.” – Emile Zola