This was like a multilevel Conquest. The concept floated around for years, The planning took a few months and the day itself had several different tangents attached to Conquest.
It was a road trip to uncharted but researched territory with some side trips tucked into it. There was every level of road quality imaginable with never ending chatter inside the vehicle.
Our main goal was Conquest. Not a mountain or a personal nemesis but rather the tiny town, population 170, of Conquest Saskatchewan. Why you ask? Well there is a historical reason we wanted to visit the country side around this farming community.
In the early 1900s the Dominion Government of Canada started the nursery station program. The manifest of it was three fold: research into trees hardy for the prairies, the beautification of farmyards and the propagation of trees for farmers. Conquest had a very active Shelterbelt Association headed up by a Peter Kennedy.
Indeed, as it turns out, Peter’s original homestead was were Conquest is now. The railroad bought his land and he purchased the land immediately north of town. Which is kind of funny because as we drove into the town the exclamation was “wow, look at all those shelter belts north of town”.
You see we’d driven in from the south, via Outlook, and the fields were quite wide open and the shelterbelts were visible by their absence with the piles of removed ones still waiting to be “disposed” of. Turns out a large feedlot owner purchased them and has removed miles upon miles of shelterbelts.
Dan Kennedy, Peter’s grandson, has been farming for 55 years and has learnt a thing or two along the way. He states that there are pros and cons to shelterbelts. He has kept mqaaany that his grandfather planted and removed others that stopped cross winds or had significant low spots in them which makes logistics of that field a quagmire. He also found that with decreased wind flow pulse crops were prone to fungus but he states that they are definitely just the ticket for preventing soil erosion and collecting moisture.
While the farming conversation was ongoing from the driver side (we stopped at the house and when no one answered I chose to drive around the yard to see if we could find someone home) the passenger side was discussing yards and houses. Turns out that Peter Kennedy built an Eaton’s Earlcourt 100 + years ago. His wife graciously suggested we take a tour.
It’s a strikingly handsome house and well maintained. They have replaced the summer kitchen with an attached garage but the character shines through. Original radiators, wood work and fireplace are all intact and the grandfather clock probably hasn’t moved in a century. The verandah and balcony are simply enormous and look out onto a beautifully maintained yard. The trees are gorgeous and provide that privacy and wind protection the early government literature talks about.
The literature and documentation that we missed was the local museum. We drove around town looking for it with no luck. A quick stop at the local coop gave us the insider info. Open by appointment only, and housed within the school, except on August 5th when Conquest is celebrating Canada 150th.
Cruising the streets was enjoyed by all and as the only small town Canadian in the vehicle it was easy for me to “give the tour” even though I didn’t live in that town. The similarities in most small towns is pretty obvious. I was more intrigued by this stone fence, which is an unusual small town find, than the trees meeting over the street or the old church.
On the other hand our driving also took us through a ghost town and that was worthy of a few pictures. The remnants of lives that impacted the landscape but all that remains are a few forlorn buildings and the trees.
There were less abandoned farm sites than in other areas were I usually road trip. We did manage to spot an old barn that is in good repair so obviously that yard was still occupied. Conquest also gave us the iconic view that is becoming a bit more illusive these days as the grain elevators are torn down to be replaced by huge inland terminals. For a small town it was quite amazing that they had two excellent examples.
The elevators were an easy photographic subject. Not so much the main attraction of shelterbelts. We tried several different angels as well as standing on the roof of the truck (just don’t tell the truck owner) and nothing did them justice. I think one needs a drone to get a good overhead photo.