The Johnson Farm

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An old rural mailbox at rest.  The farmer has died and his wife is in the nursing home. The land has been rented out and the house sits vacant. The heartbeat of the farmyard has slowed, and come to a full halt.


The final act was to tear out the mailbox and post from the edge of the rural road, leaving it hidden from view, leaning against an old shed. A mailbox that has held a lifetime of messages, good news and bad.

4-8-2011 014A typical old red barn sitting in a farm yard which has now turned into a hay meadow. It always seems so quiet when I visit an abandoned farm. I try to imagine the place back when it was a busy working farm with teams of horses harnessed up and hard at work. Milk cows lowing in  the barn and chickens running to and fro, chasing bugs.

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The barn windows have been beaten and weathered through countless storms till only a single pane of glass remains.

4-8-2011 021 The door to this old farm building has seen a lot of activity. Those days are gone and the farm has been abandoned. The boards are weathered to the point you can just barely see the remains of the original bright red paint.

Weathered door & hardware

The door has sagged so the hardware is no longer in alignment. I love the old style latch and handle that was probably crafted in the shop out of left over materials.

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The steps and porch of the house have been taken over by raspberry canes, as life struggles on. Long after these photos were taken the house was destroyed and the remains buried.

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The outhouse has served its time and is slowly being enveloped in vines and ferns.

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I took these photos over ten years ago and in recent years the farmyard has been  purchased by a young couple who have move in another house. The barn has a new steel roof. Children’s voices are once again being heard and so the cycle repeats itself.

The Chair Lift

This is the town of Banff, Alberta, Canada, nestled in the Bow River Valley, deep within the Canadian Rockies. The photo was taken from Mt. Norquay and shows Mount Rundle towering over the town.

I was posted here in the mid 50’s as a young RCMP constable. The town had a winter population of about 3,000 which grew in the summer to ten times that amount. It was designated a Red Serge detachment so the full red dress uniform was worn while on duty.  Dam the tourists!

Banff was discovered by Canadian Pacific Railway surveyors and became Canadas first and most famous National Park. Banff sits 4,537 feet above sea level. Mt Rundle sits at 9,673.

A call came into the Detachment that a woman had been injured on the Mt. Norquay Ski Lift, which is used in the summer to take tourist to the top of Mt. Norquay for a great view of the valley. The accident had occurred near the chalet where the lift starts, about half way up the mountain. The injured woman had already been taken to the hospital in Banff when her injuries were reported.

The company that operates the lift and ski slopes was in the process of building a new ski jump for the upcoming winter.  Large trucks were hauling rock and dirt fill to the new site which required that they pass under the Chair lift cable.

This view was taken from the mountain, looking north, and the two cables in the photo can be traced downwards to where they begin at the chalet in the center of the shot. The truck was traveling from right to left on the road that passed under the chairlift cables.

After dumping it’s load the truck headed west but the driver failed to disengage the dump box gear. As a result, the box of the truck started to slowly rise again until it was fully raised.  The front of the box had an angle iron frame that normally supported a spare tire but at the time of the accident it was empty and stuck up above the box, similar to football goal posts.

The woman in the chairlift met with the truck as it passed under her.  The chairlift was designed with an arm rest that swung in front of the rider once they sat down.  At the same time the arm was also connected to a foot rest that swung into position and gave the rider a place for her feet.

Both the truck and the chairlift moved in a slow steady fashion. The angle Iron on the front of the truck box was at its greatest high as it met the chairlift.  The angle iron pushed the woman’s feet to the side and hooked over the foot rest.

The first indication the truck driver had of a problem was when the front wheels of the truck slowly raised off the ground. As the cable took on the weight of the truck, the truck started to move left up the steep mountainside. At the same time the woman and the chair were pulled down by the weight of the truck.

The lift cable was attached to a huge counter weight that sat in the cable lift operations building. It was hinged on the two front corners that faced the mountain.  It was designed to keep the cable tight as passengers got on or off the lift. Later it was discovered that the lift was so designed it could have pulled the truck up the side of the mountain with little trouble.

It was at this point the foot rest snapped off and caused the truck to fall back to the ground. The sudden release of the weight of the truck caused the counter weight to fall back and suddenly take up the slack on the cable. This caused the woman and the chair to be launched upwards as if from a sling shot. The rider flew out of the chair high overhead but on an angle towards the mountain.  As a result the distance to the ground was less than if she had fallen down on the ground by the truck.

The truck had no damage and the chairlift only required a new chair. Fortunately, while the woman was badly injured, she had no memory of being launched skywards, nor the crash to the ground.

Afterwards, all truck traffic was forbidden to drive under the chairlift cable.


I just read recently that L.O.W.I.S.A. is holding its 53rd race on the Lake of the woods. The above names stand for Lake of the Woods International Sailing Association.


The first race was in 1966. A Winnipeg friend of mine owned a 24 foot Shark sailboat and was anxious to enter the race. He invited me to help crew the boat, mainly because I was familiar with the lake and could help keep the boat off the reefs.

In the first five year I sailed three times with Gordy  Kunselman and we had a great time. The event took place over six days and traveled 250 miles around the Lake of the Woods in a counter clockwise direction and involved over 200 sailboats of various sizes.

The Shark class was built by a Canadian, particularly for the Great Lakes, and was designed to go like hell when the strong winds blew.


One year the race started in Kenora and the rainy weather and high winds curtailed a lot of the boats as it was too rough. That year we won the first day race as the weather was ideal for the boat. It was our only win as the shark was not designed for calm sailing breezes.


The majority of boats sail in a large group so there was lots of friendly inter-reaction between boat crews, trying to pass slower neighbors.  At the start of one race two large sailboats were at cross purpose and one punched a hole in the cabin of the other with the bow of the boat.  No one was hurt  and the boat damage was minimal and did not leak.
The collision was in slow motion but the force of the wind in the sails makes the inertia of the boat keep going, so that the striking boat rose up out of the water and looked like it was going to climb onto the victim.  When I returned to work following the race I ended up being assigned the insurance claim and having been a close witness saw it all.


When the weather turned bad most of the boats headed for sheltered bays while our Shark flew like the wind.  A photo of rough water never shows it as bad as it is.


In this photo we are leading the pack and only a few boats are in sight behind us.  That being said, when the wind died down and we were becalmed, everyone seemed to leave us behind.

On the occasions when the wind did not blow, packs of boats drifted together with the crews having to fend off boats that got too close. With no wind, the silence on the lake resulted in everyone hearing what was said on every boat all around us.

The tension mounted as everyone tried to put up lots of sail in the hope of moving ahead. In the dead quiet moments it was easy to hear boat crews blaming each other for moving around too much and slowing the boat down. Husbands haranguing crew (wife) was a cause for great laughter.


In calmer weather when a large group of boats was jockeying through a rather narrow channel, one boat left the group and tried to pass everyone by hugging the shore line.  I happened to be watching the boat because I knew it was heading for shallow waters and a particular reef.

In front of an audience of over fifty people this large and brand new sailboat, that slept six, ran up on the reef. The boat rose out of the water in slow motion and stayed upright until the large keel of the boat was out of the water.  Then the boat came to a full stop and slowly rolled over on its left side, sails in the water and hull lying high and dry. It was difficult to salvage the boat later without scratching the fiber glass hull.

At the end of each days race the entire fleet spent the night in the harbor of a selected tourist camp.  Evening campfires allowed people to mix and share the stories of the day. Many people slept on their boats while the rest set up tents.

Trying to fall asleep was not too hard because all the fresh air and exercise left everyone dead beat. With a hundred sailboats sitting in the harbor it was inevitable that some lazy sailor failed to secure the halyards (used to raise the sails) and in the light breeze of the evening, the irritating sound of “Ching, ching ching, ching” (caused by the aluminum wires banging on the mast) caused someone to swear at the offender, followed by loud laughter from the group.

The race will take place again this year (53rd) in August at Kenora, on the Lake of the Woods.


Eloise’s Wilderness Trek

img499Back in the mid 70’s, prior to becoming an English Teacher, Eloise ventured into Northern Ontario on a number of canoe trips. In this shot the guide is paddling while she fishes for the next meal. The canoe is piled high with all the camping gear and equipment.


The guide is multitasking, paddling and trolling for fish at the same time. We are on an unnamed pair of lakes that could only be reached by portaging the canoe and gear through the woods. A small island provides a perfect camping spot.


The tent is up, the cooking area erected, and the evening campfire site is ready. The island is about a quarter of a mile from the mainland and we are at least twenty miles from civilization.


Fishing for a big Northern is a daily activity.


At least we won’t go hungry this evening.


Future English teacher, substituting as camp cook.


This is what she looks like when the fish are not biting. Many a student of English experienced this look when things were not going well. (I am going to die when she sees these pictures!)

The James A Ryan – tugboat



The Minnesota and Ontario (Mando) Pulp and paper company at Kenora operated a small fleet of tugs that were used to haul large rafts of pulp logs to the mill. The logs were fed into the mill from the lake and processed into newsprint, the largest percentage going to Minneapolis, MM.

This photo show the James A. Ryan hooking up to the log boom, where it had been temporarily parked near the shore where I lived. The boom would be hauled miles down the lake to some bay where the pulp wood cutters were at work.  The cut logs were dumped into the lake and confined by the log booms.


Each tug was accompanied by a smaller craft that assisted in the operation of the tug and log boom. It was also used to recover any logs that escaped the boom and might be a hazard to other boaters. When in motion the raft was rather large and held many  hundreds of logs, but moved at a slow speed so it was easy to see and avoid.


In this view the tug is gathering up the log boom and preparing to move the raft to the mill. The tug operation was terminated many years ago but the tugs are on display in a couple of parks in the Kenora area. The pulp mill no longer operates and was torn down.

The Peach Can

trees & waterIn the 1960’s I lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. My new neighbor, Howie, wanted me to take him fishing in one of the local lakes, early one spring.

On a Saturday morning we drove about fifty  miles to a lake who’s name I no longer remember. We parked our vehicle by the beach and then carried our canoe and equipment down to the shore. We had a Coleman stove so we could cook a fresh walleye lunch on shore.

The lake was three or four miles long and about a half mile wide. It was a long narrow lake. We paddled out into the middle of the lake and ended up about a mile from one end.  As we settled in to fish we noticed the weather was changing and the wind was dying down.

The fishing was good and we had two or three walleye on the stringer. I had just moved into the neighborhood where Howie lived so we sat and talked and got to know each other better. We enjoyed a few beers we had on hand.

About noon we found that fog had moved in and we no longer could see any shoreline. It continued to get worse until we could hardly see each other in the canoe.  I decided that there was no point going to shore for lunch as we could end up paddling the wrong way and end up three or four miles way down the lake. Hughie was not an experienced canoeist and he was a little nervous of the changing weather.

We were hungry and had some hot dogs and buns along so I set up the Coleman stove in the bottom the canoe in front of me and cooked the hot dogs.  Hughie was sitting in the front of the canoe but had managed to turn around earlier so we sat facing each other.

We continue fishing while eating a couple of hot dogs. We also had a medium sized can of peaches. It seems the can opener was not in the packsack so Hughie volunteered to open the can with his pocket knife.

The procedure of opening the can became quite involved and Hughie had a great deal of difficulty.  He stabbed and pried the lid off until he was able to bend the lid half open and then extracted the peaches out onto aluminum camping dishes for us to eat from. Once all the eating and clean up was done we continued fishing and drinking a few more of the beers we had brought along.

The fog continued to hang densely around us but there was no wind so we continued to fish and enjoy our outing.  We could not see or hear anything and felt like we sat in a bubble.

The tranquil scene was disturbed when Howie stated that he needed to take a pee but was afraid to stand up in the canoe.  I refused to try and paddle to shore and suggested he pee in the peach can which lay in the bottom of the canoe.

With poor hand eye coordination Howie managed to get his fly open, pried back the lid of the can, and carefully started peeing. When the can was almost full, his thumb slipped off the lid of the can and the jagged lid snapped back and partly closed on his delicate parts.

He immediately started yelling for help.  Keeping in mind that the can was almost full, wet, and vey sharp and jagged along the edges, he started to panic and rocked the canoe.

He continue screaming and calling me to help or do something.  I was at the other end of the canoe and all our equipment was piled between us. I got him to calm down and he slowly bent the can lid back so he could remove his appendage.  He then dumped the contents over the side and sank back into the canoe with a huge sigh of relief.

It was at this point I started laughing and the longer I laughed the madder Hughie got. Fortunately it was not long after the wind came up and the fog blew off the lake.  We were then able to get back to the beach, load up and head for home.

On the drive home Hugh was still embarrassed and mortified by the experience and not talking to me.  Finally he asked me, “Why did you continue to laugh, even after I removed the peach can?”

I replied, “Because I did not think you were going to get the can removed and I had a mental picture of you having to walk across the beach in front of all those people with the can hanging in front.”

After a long pause Hughie said quietly, “Yea, that would have been embarrassing but funny.”

He never went fishing with me again for some reason.


Morning Glory?

100_3420.JPGWhen I saw this flower yesterday morning I instantly thought of the name Morning Glory. At my desk I dug into my Wildflowers Field guide to refresh my memory. Well, I was close because this flower is part of the Morning Glory family but is in fact called Hedge Bindweed – with arrow shaped leaves.

This flower grows on a vine and likes to spread through brush so the flowers are far apart and can easily be missed. The morning glory family has many members with different sized and shaped leaves.

Flowers are a lot like people, we know they are there but we fail to pay much attention and fail to get to know them.

Did you notice we just passed the half way point in July and the evenings are getting cooler?

The sign of the bear!


One of our regular black bear visitors left his mark on one of the kitchen windows. The size of the paw print can best be appreciated by the size of the window frame. I consider this a good luck sign as the bear his given us his stamp of approval.  Any lesser bear, upon seeing this signature, would be sure to move on.

It also has an effect on uninvited human visitors, who would also get the message.

Last night while driving home in the dark and prior to reaching my driveway I had a small bear cub race across the road in front of me and dash into our woods.  Obviously he had been visiting the bee hives nearby.

This a good sign that at least one of the local bear cubs has survived and continues his residence in our woods. It also confirms that Browne’s woods are not yet bare of bears!


Time capsules

Many forgotten old storage sheds are hidden on the prairies. The farm has been abandoned, in many cases the house has been salvaged, burned down, or moved to another site. Visits to the old farm become less and less and finally no one even visits the place because only old rusted junk remains. The trees and bushes take over and soon the buildings disappear.


How many times have you driven by one of these old sheds and been curious as to what lies inside?  Here is a peak into the past.

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For starters, the roof is in the last stage of destruction and collapse. Caution is primarily as the wrong touch or bump can launch and landslide of debris on your head. This shed hold very old auto and truck parts from the early 1900’s.


Obviously the body of an old car with fenders, hoods and miscellaneous parts scattered about.


This view shows the rear tires and frame of a vehicle, accompanied by more fenders and the springs from the car seats. Many other parts I am unable to identify.


I was surprised by the great condition of the tire tread, but the wheel itself is in poor shape. The owner must have put the vehicle in storage because of mechanical problems, soon after putting a new tire on.

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A couple of 1951 license plates suggests there has not been much activity on this site for about sixty years.


Now your curiosity has been partly satisfied, take a good look as the next storm or falling tree could reduce this time capsule to a junk pile.

Orange Lichens

On a recent trip to Warren, Minnesota for chainsaw parts I wandered off the beaten path a number of times to satisfy my curiosity for old buildings and other sites. I found this old building which once was a storage shed, hidden deep in the woods. Falling trees had crushed it and an old 1951 license plate confirmed it was at least 70 years old.


I have referred to it as orange lichen but there are a few different orange types. Note how the lichens are hardly started on the window patch which indicates it was added to the building more recently. The tree and the building have helped support each other for a long time.

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I think orange is the perfect color for a dying wooden building as it fits into the surrounding scenery tranquilly.  The color red or blue would be out of place. Further down the road I saw the same orange color on some grave stones in a cemetery

KODAK Digital Still CameraThis is one of the oldest grave markers in the cemetery so I am guessing it is well over a hundred years old. It certainly makes the rest of the grave markers look rather dull and boring.  Maybe it is mother natures way of directing attention to special people who have gone on before.

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I think the design is creative and shows some artistic talent. Painting the whole thing orange would ruin the effect. Perhaps in another hundred years it will look even more different.