We watched the slough dry up. We watched the soil blow away. We watched clouds roll in with empty promises of rain. We watched our crops struggle, shrivel and die.
We watched families move away. We watched businesses close. We watched villages disappear.
We feared the well would go dry. We feared rain would never come again.
This prairie that once held promises of bumper crops and full granaries was now only a distant memory, if it had even existed.
And all for lack of rain. For lack of water. For lack of caring how we treated the land.
#99WordStory #ForTheRain #GreatDepression #DirtyThirties #DustStorms #PrairieHistory #HannaHistory #HighamHistory #MargaretGHanna #OurBullsLooseInTown
Both my maternal and paternal grandparents struggled to farm through the terrible years of the Dirty Thirties. The rains left in 1929, they did not return until 1938. By then, it was too late for many families and for many towns. Southwestern Saskatchewan alone lost about 50% of its population during those years. They left for truly greener pastures – northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, or back east to Ontario and Quebec.
My grandparents lived in the heart of the Palliser Triangle, a region that Capt. James Palliser in the late 1850s called a desert and that, a decade later, John Macoun called a paradise. The difference: Palliser traversed this region of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta during a drought; Macoun during a wet period.
In 1935, the Canadian government formed the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) which immediately launched several programs to help farmers deal with the drought. These included dugouts to store water, and strip farming and large-scale tree-planting programs to reduce erosion. Marginal land was turned into community pastures.
The PFRA no longer exists, but it helped transform dry-land farming practices to be more in tune with the vagaries of prairie climate. Perhaps we once again need the PFRA as we begin to comprehend the long-term effects of climate change on this fragile prairie region.
3 thoughts on “For Want of Water”
Firstly Margaret thanks for the reference to John Palliser, I hadn’t heard of him but I’d previously read a lot about similar related expeditions organised by Sir John Barrow who, like myself was a Cumbrian. He died 1848.
Your short tale and following explanation are clearly very personal to you. And, I think you’re right that another focused organisation is needed. But, shouldn’t this be a role within government? Stupid question I suppose!
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I really enjoy your history themed personal stories – this one makes me want to head back out before it gets too snowy!