Boom or gloom? A drive through the back country roads and small towns in Saskatchewan, Canada, would suggest that life here is far from booming, which is in stark contrast to media reports of a growing economy with potash mines opening up in several places and immigration from provinces like Alberta and British Columbia picking up at an increasing rate. What I hear on the radio is one thing, but what I see with my own eyes is something completely different.
Wherever I drive, there are abandoned farm houses, tilting metal silos and rusty obsolete farm equipment lying in the tall untouched prairie grass that is the backdrop of many yard sites. Fields of grain or grazing cattle replace the driveways and private family backyards which once brought life to the land.
Most of the farmland is still being worked primarily with wheat, canola, barley, and lentils, and of course, cattle, but the trend is for families to now enjoy the benefits of an urban lifestyle in cities like Saskatoon and Regina with owners driving daily to the farm to look after the animals and crops. As a result, what were once beautiful old homesteads and well-maintained barns are now crumbling reminders of days gone by.
I was told by an official from one Regional Municipality that the number of working farms in his south central district alone decreased from 300 to a mere 90 in the last five to ten years. Evidence of a diminishing country way of life can easily be seen in the small towns and villages that dot the countryside along the highways of Saskatchewan.
One prominent reminder of days gone by is the number of antique cars and trucks that can be seen lining the grassy fields and dilapidated barns. People in this province have an obvious fascination with and respect for this part of their heritage.
One local farmer told me “To wreck an old car is the same as wrecking an old farmhouse – there’s just too much history to destroy and then it’s gone forever.” There are numerous antique car shows, auctions and car dealers that buy and sell these old relics and actually make a living doing it. Most of the cars and trucks here in Saskatchewan get refurbished and recycled until sometime down the road these clunkers reach their final resting place in a forgotten prairie burial ground.
But with all the gloominess aside, there leaves only this.