Wes Olson | Back To The Land

The go-to bison guy Wes Olson

On my first few days in Val Maire, Saskatchewan I continued my pursuit in finding people with interesting stories. I managed to find Wes Olson randomly by one of the ladies that runs the coffee shop at the local museum just off the main highway as you pull into Val Marie. Usually when I decide to stay in a town for an extended period of time, I usually hit up the local spots getting a good feel for the area and the people who call each town home. As I ordered just a drip coffee from the lady at the counter, I also asked her about various people in the town and if she knew anyone that stuck out in her mind within the community who had an interesting story to tell. She immediately mentioned two men, Wes Olson and Jim Commodore – I’ll get to Jim in a later blog. She gave me Wes’s phone number and once I finished my coffee I immediately gave him a call. We spoke on the phone briefly, I told him what I was doing, my intentions and if he was willing to have his photograph taken. Wes was intrigued and we made arrangements to meet at his home to talk about it more which was just down the street. When I first met Wes I was quite surprised how tall he was as I’m sure most people are. He had a gentle face with the most amazing cowboy moustache you have ever seen. I also met his wife Johanne who was very kind and made me tea as the three of us talked more about my Back To The Land project.

It turns out Wes Olson is quite the “go to guy” when it comes to anything Bison. Already retired, he has worked with bison for over 30 years which has taken him across the country and globe working with various species of Bison. This knowledge that Wes has gained started by growing up in and around the outdoors his entire life. He worked as a wildlife technician for the Yukon government for several years, then in 1981 worked for Parks Canada as a National Park Warden in Banff, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island, Prince Albert and Grasslands National Parks retiring in 2012. On top of all this, Wes is also an incredible artist with his inspiration coming from the natural world that has surrounded him his whole life. If you want to see more of Wes Olsen’s work you can visit his website here.

When Wes happily agreed to be part of my project, I could have not been more thrilled and when I told him what I had in mind for a photograph he assured me he knew exactly where to take me to scout the location. Wes having been a park warden for the Grasslands National Park, he had access and knowledge of every square inch of the park which was a huge bonus for me because I could explain exactly what I wanted and Wes calmly would say with a subtle head nod “Yes… I can find you that”. When we headed out to take his portrait, we stopped at one particular spot that I thought was ideal. The sun was in the best possible position, the plains looked beautiful, and the sky was flawless. Wes however had a different opinion and immediately spoke up “I don’t like it” he said with intent. I was a little confused and when I cautiously asked his reasons why, he said “I refuse to have my picture taken with a species of plant that is not native to the grasslands” as he pointed to a bunch of yellow sweet clover. I was humbled and so proud by his response as it clearly showed his love for this landscape which he himself helped maintain over the years. We proceeded down the gravel road, Wes re-assuring me he as he did with a chuckle that he knew a spot where all the surrounding plant life were native to the land.

We arrived at our location and it was beautiful. We also brought along a bison skull to add another element to the photograph. I took a few photo’s with just natural light and a bunch using my portable studio light. In the end we only spent 20 minutes taking photo’s and once I was happy with the results we packed up and headed back to Val Marie. The drive back was actually one of my favourite moments with Wes. I asked him questions about his experience with bison, his life as a warden and after every passing minute he seemed to open up more and more. I found Wes to be one of calmest people I know. Saying only what needed to be said but leaving you wanting to know more about his past. He went on to explain his experiences living in the bush, setting up a bison breeding program in Siberia and his love for travelling with his wife Johanne, who turns out is also a photographer. To this day I still wish I asked Wes more questions and had the opportunity to pick his brain for weeks, I enjoyed the time spent with him and is one that I will always cherish.

I hope you enjoy the photo’s and feel free to subscribe to this blog if you want to see more from this project “Back To The Land”.

 

Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan

 

Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan

 

Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan

 

Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan

by Jeremy Fokkens

show hide 2 comments

August 29, 2015 - 9:38 am

Connie Henuset I have known Wes and Johane for 30 years and I am blessed to have them as friends. They are very unique in their own ways.

I like the colour of shirt Wes worn for the photo shoot. The blue is subtle against the blue sky which reflects Wes’s personality – never one to stand out in a crowd (however it is difficult not to notice him because of his physique) and goes about in a humble way doing his work.

Thanks for giving a well deserved friend the spotlight!

August 29, 2015 - 11:44 am

Gail Beuhler I met Wes and Johane about a year ago and heard Wes give a talk on bison. I agree that the information that he shares leaves you wanting more. A very interesting couple and I am pleased to have met them.

Neil Jones | Back To The Land

Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan

Having only spent less than a week on the road, I am still in awe of the endless skies and rolling hills that meet the horizon in the province of Saskatchewan. It’s wave like grasslands and wheat fields dance in the wind reminding me of coral reefs swaying in unison among the ocean currents that bring them to life. When venturing off any major highway or road, you can find this authentic quiet that is true to the Canadian prairies among its natural beauty and vast landscapes.

With Canada’s authentic landscapes comes authentic residents. One resident that comes to mind is self-taught artist Neil Jones. I met Neil in the Val Marie campground during my stay while photographing John Reynolds family honey farm. On one afternoon when I was not shooting other residents of Val Marie, I noticed a couple pulled into the campground towing a beautiful Boler camper; imagine Dr Seuss and Ikea get together, drink way to many beers and decide to break into the RV market. After a few days I made my way over to my campground neighbours to introduce myself. Neil and Jan had two lovely dogs and immediately we started chatting about where each of us were from exchanging stories and reasons for visiting Val Marie. Both Neil and Jan were so kind and I was curious about their Boler camper, so I asked if they could give me a quick tour. Both laughing at my curiosity, they opened the door and I was shocked on how much room this fibreglass pod could hold. There was a double bed, room for a fridge, it had a stove, and more than enough storage for a never-ending road trip. Plus it was under 500lbs, enough for a Scandinavian athlete to pull on his 10 speed bicycle.

Within the first hour of our conversation, Neil and Jan had already offered an open invitation to visit the two of them at their home in Rockglen, Saskatchewan with the possibility of introducing me to other individuals they knew who might be willing to share their story for the Back To The Land project. I told Neil and Jan coincidentally my plans were to keep driving east in hopes of finding more towns along the way and that a short visit in Rockglen would be wonderful. Through-out the week we managed to hang out a few more times and right before they were leaving Val Marie for good, I asked Neil if he would be willing to sit for a portrait and without hesitation Neil happily said yes. I took 20 minutes of Neils time, set up a couple of lights and took a few photographs. It turns out Neil is from Saskatchewan and from Welsh decent. I asked Neil to describe his work and he said “My work brings history to the canvas focusing on first nations, their life as great people and the land they call home”. Neil loves the natural world and does so by portraying it as best he can while working in Oil paint to accomplish this. To see more of Neil Jones incredible art work please visit his website by clicking here.

Once I have finished taking a bunch of frames, Neil and I exchanged contact info and Jan made it quite clear that if and when I was in Rockglen to give them a call. The story however does not end here. After I finished spending 9 days in Val Marie I did manage to make my way East and took Jan and Neil up on their invitation to stay in Rockglen. Fast forward one week and I was on the front steps of Neil and Jan’s home. Rockglen itself is a beautiful little town with one main street surrounded by gorgeous prairie landscapes filled with coulees and rolling hills that create the perfect backdrop for Neil’s work and inspiration. It was also great to see where the two of them lived, including Neil’s gallery and studio which occupies the front foyer of their home where Neil paints and exhibits his work to the public. They also host bands from across the country using their home as a venue for live music, where people come from surrounding small towns and communities to see various musicians play in their living room as most music venues in small towns tend to be at the local hotel’s, pubs, or nothing at all. Neil and Jan also invited me to have dinner with one of their friends Leary Mulvena who owned a ranch in the middle of no-where where one evening we had a steak dinner, went for a drive through some of the back roads and ended the evening with a scramble up to a look out where you could see the Montana border followed by a beautiful sunset. It was a great day filled with new friends and a side of Canada I can not wait to return too.

Unfortunately I was not able to find anyone else to photograph in Rockglen, Saskatchewan, however Neil mentioned a gentleman who owned a convenience store in a small remote town called Big Beaver, Saskatchewan… I know what your thinking and I still laugh out loud knowing there is a town called “Big Beaver”.

I will leave it at that, I hope you enjoy the photographs, and stay tuned for more stories from both Val Marie and Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.

-If you know of someone who has led an interesting life and lives in a small or remote town (Under 500) somewhere… or anywhere in Canada, feel free to send me an email and let me know.

Feel free to subscribe as well as there will be a blog post 2-3 times per month.

Cheers,

Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan
Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan
Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan

August 25, 2015 - 8:34 am

Paul Campeau Hi Jeremy, I remember you when you went to Prince of Peace school with Renata. My Grandfather & an Uncle are both buried in the Val Marie cemetery which I have visited a number of times. I enjoyed your article on Neil Jones. Keep up the good work.

Val Marie, Saskatchewan | Back To The Land

Beekeeping in Val Marie, Saskatchewan.

After photographing Arthur James in Orkney, Saskatchewan and thrilled having found my first subject for my “Back To The Land” project, I continued East and headed towards Val Marie, which lies on the borders of Grasslands National Park. As I pulled off the highway, I made my way down centre street and within 100 meters I managed to spot the post office, the local grocer, a cafe’ and a couple buildings that were either in the early stages of a renovation or demolition.With my appetite starting to grow into a serious case of the “hangry’s”, I pulled into the cute little cafe’ called The Harvest Moon Cafe. I walked in and I could not help but notice the large photographs displayed on the wall showcasing the majestic grasslands and the Bison that call these grasslands home. I wasn’t the only person in the cafe as there was a family enjoying their lunch as well. Making small chat with the waitress and having troubles deciding what to order, I went with her suggestion and proceeded to chat with the family sitting across the restaurant from me. They shared some info about the park, where they were from, and we exchanged our reasons why each of us were visiting Val Marie and also getting the run down of accommodations in the area. After an awesome sandwich and salad lunch, I decided to check out Val Marie’s own campground that was just around the corner from the cafe’ in hopes of setting up shop for an undetermined amount of time.

The campsite was nothing more than a large rectangular patch of roughly landscaped grass about 200’ x 250’  with large poplar trees that surrounded the perimeter of the property. There were no noticeable markers or signs distinguishing each site, just random picnic tables scattered around the campsite. I assumed you just parked under or next to a tree and that was your spot… as far as I was concerned this was perfect. I found my spot underneath one of the larger poplars with low hanging branches to hide my truck from the hot Saskatchewan sun. I then set-up my tent, moved a picnic table closer to my truck, and settled in. From there I decided to go for a walk and check out the parks office and the museum and coffee shop just off the highway. I made my way into the museum and was greeted by a very friendly woman. I ordered a coffee and asked her if she knew anyone in the town that had an interesting story. She proceeded to tell me about Wes Olson and Jim Commodore. She gave me each of their contact information and continued to tell me about the area and the people that call Val Marie home. I finished my coffee and went back to the campsite to make some phone calls and explore the rest of the town. The next morning I woke up early, had eggs for breakfast on my trusty coleman stove and decided to return to the Harvest Moon Cafe’ for some coffee, as I forgot my bodum press back in Calgary, and yes it’s the one luxury I take with me on the road, that and a good bottle of scotch for after those long days of shooting.

As I sat drinking my coffee, I began chatting with the local waitress asking her about the area and the people in the town. I proceeded to tell her about my photography project and if she knew anybody that stuck out in her mind that I might be able to potentially photograph, mentioning my general list of hopeful subjects; farmers, artists, bee-keepers, etc. And as soon as I said the word “Bee-keeper”. She said “YES… and I know just the person”. She gave me a name and number and told me to give them a call.

The phone started to ring and the other line picked up

“Hello?”

Me: “Is John Reynolds there?”…

“Are you looking for John Sr. or John Jr?”.

Not knowing there were two John’s in the house hold, I went out on a limb and asked for John Senior, which turned out was the man who answered the phone. I began to tell John Senior who I was and my reasons for calling which he then calmly started telling me that he had a freak accident and broke his neck three days prior to my call. Still in a wheel chair and brace he mentioned his grandson might be better off helping me with my project and from there he passed the line over to his grandson John Junior. John junior answered the phone with such enthusiasm and small town hospitality that can only be expected from rural Canada. After telling him about my reasons for calling, it turns out he had relocated him and his family to Val Marie to keep the Triple R Honey Ranch on track as John Senior did most of the labour prior to his horrible fall that almost left him a paraplegic. The good news was the doctors expected a full recovery. I asked John if it’s possible to meet up and find out more of what goes into the day and life of a bee keeper, possibly meet his grandfather, and find out more info about the family honey farm and the production behind it. He happily agreed and in two days I was on Johns door step.

Before I could even knock John opened the door and I could not believe my eyes, there in front of me stood the most incredible character that certainly did not fit the description I had pictured in my mind; a timid young farmer with levi 501 jeans and a plaid shirt to finish. Instead, stood this 185lb thick tattoo covered friendly giant with an orange beard that would make any biker jealous. His physical appearance was something out of a Mad Max movie and would catch anyone off guard if it wasn’t for Johns genuine and welcoming smile. Immediately after introducing ourselves I could help not notice John’s positive gentle nature and enthusiasm in welcoming me to his home and town. He immediately shook my hand firmly and introduced me to his lovely wife Carly and their two beautiful energetic children Wyatt and Olivia who immediately invited me to jump on the trampoline. I sat down with the family and talked more about my Canada project, my intentions, what I was hoping to achieve and also wanting to know more about the history of their family. Once John and Carly gave me the thumbs up to document their honey operation and their day to day life as bee-keepers, I could have not been more honoured, humbled and above all excited to photograph such wonderful people.

That night they decided to give me a little taste of what I was in for over the next 9 days which at that time was not what I had planned. I only kept postponing my departure from Val Marie because I was having way too much fun both with bee-keeping and meeting other people (More to come on that). That evening we drove through some of the towns backroads visiting two out of the five honey yards they owned that were in various locations, checking to see how the bees were doing and the progress of the honey which would soon be harvested in the coming days. The first thing I immediately noticed was the constant humming in the air as hundreds of bees surrounded you, approaching each yard that consisted of several hives. I wore a face shield but John reassured me I didn’t need one at that time nor needed gloves as we were just checking the hive and wouldn’t be disturbing the bees that much. Skeptical as I was, I trusted him (only with the gloves) and within a span of an hour never once did a bee sting John, Carly or myself. I also noticed the bees were quite calm as John and Carly checked each hive being careful not to aggravate any of the bees that were within inches from their bare skin. John reiterated that when they started to harvest the honey and break down each hive, the situation will change drastically and when that happens we will be forced to wear face shields and gloves.

The first few days of the harvest started with John and Carly showing me their hives by separating each crate that were stacked 5 feet high. From there they were able to show me the general production on how bees make honey, what makes up the hive, and the different types of bees and their purposes within the colony. ON one occasion we were even able to find the queen in one of the hives. By the time we had the first few crates of our first hive, the bees at this point were in  survival mode and the air was covered in tens of thousands of bees. I can still hear the constant buzz that was almost deafening as it could also be heard from hundreds of feet away. The one thing I loved about watching Carly and John work was their attention to detail, putting as little stress on the bees as possible which was just as important as the quality of their honey, making sure bee casualties were at a minimum. After all the crates were separated and placed on the ground from each hive, we now had to let them rest for six hours, allowing the bees to calm down before our return in the evening to load the crates onto the truck and drive them back to the processing room back in Val Marie. This whole process took a few days and there was one thing that I still found fascinating but caught me off guard when it happened; One evening John asked me to help load crates with him and I jumped at the opportunity, eagerly picking up my first one not before nearly giving myself a hernia. The thing must of weighed over 100lbs. Now lifting 100lbs is not hard, but you never expect honey to have that much weight especially out of a 24″x 20″x 12″ crate. It’s the added +30 degree weather, wearing thick clothing head to toe, and the added pressure of wanting to perform and not disappoint John and Carly. On one of the nights we ended up working late into the night and my over confident bragging caught up with me as I still had bragging rights because I had not been stung yet. Being stung by a bee or wasp is not a big deal, it’s happened to all of us, and it’s not the worst thing that can happen. It only sucks when it happens again, then again, then again, and again. This is what happened to me and and when it did, I was losing my mind wondering what the hell was going on as I kept frantically looking over body for any signs that bees were able to penetrate. Then there’s that feeling of insects crawling up your leg and for that split second you think to your self “This is not good”. That’s when I noticed I had a small hole in the bottom of my pants. There was nothing really I could do except say, “Oh Shit” and cover the hole and kill anything that was moving inside my pants. I briefly thought about running away to take my pants off, however that was not an option as there was too much work to be done. John came over and quickly rubbed my leg which ended up leaving me with a few more stings from the remainder of the bees in my pants. By this time it was getting very late, we were all exhausted and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

Once we finished loading all the crates onto the back of the truck with no shortage of a few more swear words and grunts, we packed everything up and headed back to Val Marie. As I arrived back at my campsite, I immediately went right for the public shower eager to get out of my sticky sweaty clothing. The pants were the first to come off and I quickly noticed about 20 stings on my right leg which by now was 30% larger than my left. I was too tired to treat it with anything, instead I took a long hot shower, made my way across the camp-ground half naked in a towel, and crawled into my coffin of a tent and immediately fell asleep. The next morning I woke up and felt a little stiff, shrugging it off as normal body aches from the past few days in the fields, until I stepped out of my tent and fell flat on my face. I couldn’t bend my right leg or kneel down without having significant pain. The swelling had increased over night and my joints were starting to seize. John assured me the swelling would go down and not to worry. He was right, but holy shit is it uncomfortable and my walking didn’t return to normal until seven days later. My advice to anyone wanting to work around bees, wear the gear and make sure you have no holes in your clothing. Oh and bring duct tape… lots of it.

It was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend anyone do. The photographs below will provide better visuals and give you a taste into what I would consider one of the best chance encounters I have ever had the honour of experiencing.

Enjoy!

If you have any questions or know someone in a small town (Less than 500) that has led an interesting life that should be told, send me a message.

~Jeremy

by Jeremy Fokkens

show hide 9 comments

August 17, 2015 - 11:42 am

Carly Amazing!! :-)

August 17, 2015 - 12:14 pm

Lindsay WOW. Amazing photos, Jeremy! You are so talented! And I’m so jealous you got to see John and Carly’s work up close(though not of the bee stings, haha). They are good friends of mine. So glad you got to meet them and capture this part of their lives. So loved looking at each photo.

August 18, 2015 - 5:09 am

Shelley Thank you so much for capturing this amazing family hard at work! I love the story and being a Professional Photographer I admired the beautiful pictures. It sure gave me an insight of how hard owning an Appairy really is!!!

August 18, 2015 - 3:06 pm

Shawn Great captures!

Full of character.

I especially like the shots with the swarms of bees in the air and the light catching their wings.

Somehow a metal guitar soundtrack seems appropriate.

August 18, 2015 - 3:58 pm

Malcolm You’ve got some great work in these shots Jeremy….nicely done.

August 18, 2015 - 5:34 pm

Robert Scott Beautiful as always Jeremy!

August 18, 2015 - 6:37 pm

John Reynolds Jr. Now this Brothers & Sisters will be a book worthy of the read 😉
Any project Jeremy is involved in he sets the bar very high so please like/share and talk Mr.Fokkens into the opportunities he dreams of.

August 24, 2015 - 10:18 am

Jeremy Fokkens | Calgary Photographer […] artist Neil Jones. I met Neil in the Val Marie campground during my stay while photographing John Reynolds family honey farm. On one afternoon when I was not shooting other residents of Val Marie, I noticed a couple pulled […]

August 28, 2015 - 11:50 am

Jeremy Fokkens | Calgary Photographer […] my first few days in Val Maire, Saskatchewan I continued my pursuit in finding people with interesting stories. I managed to find […]

Back To The Land | Orkney, Saskatchewan

I have just woken up in Consul, Saskatchewan and my night was nothing short of interrupted. I wasn’t thinking first when I pitched my tent on the outskirts of town as it was under a flood light from a nearby property leaving this orange haze that left little chance of a dark slumber. Not to mention waking up to a group of drunken teenagers coming from what I can only imagen being a barn party that went late into the night. Ahhh at that age… drunk, stumbling home through fields and hopping barbed-wire fences. Actually I’m a little jealous. When I woke it was around 6am and the light was starting to coat the surrounding fields. I wanted to get a nice early start to the day and I diligently packed my tent in a record three minutes and scarfed down a bowl of Weetabix in two minutes. I Brushed my teeth, splashed my face with some cold water, and I was on the road in less than eight. I headed east and made my way towards the Red Coat Trail (Hwy 13). From there, I stayed on this road for about 5 km before coming to Hwy 18 where the little town of Robsart marked the junction. I decided to take a little look through the town and was amazed at the condition of everything. There were abandoned buildings everywhere and some looked as though you could not quite tell if they were being occupied or not. I noticed a larger house at the end of the main road and saw a woman sipping her morning coffee on the front porch. The sun was already up but the morning dew had not yet disappeared. She was wrapped in a blanket and staring out into the distant prairies. It did cross my mind to stop and ask her about the town and surrounding area, however I decided not to, as she looked as though this was her morning ritual, enjoying her hot morning beverage in the morning light. No distractions and only a blanket.

I made the transition onto Hwy 18 and headed South towards the US border. The road eventually veers East but not after about 26 km of gravel road.  This single stretch of road is by far one of my more favourite drives and for one reason. It’s nothing but seclusion as far as the eye can see. As soon as the road starts transitioning East you start getting a real sense of just how big this country Canada really is OR how small we really are. I stopped the vehicle as mother nature was calling and after, I just stood there for 15 minutes taking in the scenery and outside air. No cars, no farm equipment, no cows, barely even a breath of wind. I kept imagining a vehicle breaking down out here in the middle of winter, and if that were to happen, no one is coming to get you within 60-80km radius. There was barely even a bar of cell service. I have never experienced baron landscape like that in my own country until that day and when that happened, I felt very insignificant knowing that this particular environment at certain times of the year would not be forgiving. I kept driving and reached a little bit of civilization making brief stops in the towns of Frontier and the cleverly named town of Climax. Climax had no real affect on me except it boasts a very phallic grain silo with the towns name on it at the end of main street. And a sign that reads “Come again soon” when you leave. Gotta love small town humour and let’s be honest, who’s mind wouldn’t be in the gutter when your going to “Climax”.

I stopped in Bracken and managed to visit the local corner store and had a nice chat with the fellow that worked there. As I kept heading east I came upon the little town of Orkney, Saskatchewan. I pulled into Orkney and at first glance had little hope that I would find anything. I drove through the town, parked my truck and started venturing though some of the abandoned buildings. Satisfied, I got in my truck and as I was about to hit the highway, a tractor came up the main street towards me. I flagged down the man driving and he stopped, got out of his tractor and started walking towards my driver side window. I could not help but notice the size of this mans hands comparing them to a callised catchers mitt and the calm carefree expression. His shirt was untucked showing a bit of his belly, his collar popped, and a truckers cap that I can only assume left the comfort of his own head only when lying down to sleep at night due to his wife making him remove it. I introduced myself, we exchanged names, and I proceeded to ask him about the town. He responded with “I know so much about this town” in a high pitch almost cartoon bugs bunny voice “what do you want to know?”. With that, I had the pleasure of meeting my first subject for the “Back To The Land” project and his name was Arthur James.

Arthur proceeded to tell me about Orkney in the 50’s and the town dances that used to take place every weekend where the surrounding towns came to enjoy the entertainment. He told me about the fall of the railroad which eventually forced Orkney to be nothing more than the remains of what still stands today.  Arthur proceeded to point out each abandoned and derelict structure and what once stood 50 years ago: “There is the old liquor store, but was later destroyed by a fire… Over there was the post office, but then was decommissioned once the railway stopped coming through Orkney”. Arthur had such a passion for his little town and it turns out his son including his family are the only people currently living in Orkney. Why was Arthur there on that particular day? Well he was stealing hay from his sons fields to feed his own horses 15 km away.

Arthur still works his own farm to this day, he is 74 years old, and was more then gracious enough to be photographed. To say I was surprised… not really. Small town people have this incredible way of making you feel welcome and always willing to share a story or two. All you have to do is ask.

I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to comment, share, or even email me if you have any questions. I have also supplied a “Google Maps” View of the barn he was standing in front of just for fun.

Cheers,

Jeremy

 

 

 

Back To The Land - Orkney, Saskatchewan
Back To The Land - Orkney, Saskatchewan
Back To The Land - Orkney, Saskatchewan
Back To The Land - Orkney, Saskatchewan

Back To The Land - Orkney, Saskatchewan

 

 

Back To The Land - Orkney, Saskatchewan.

by Jeremy Fokkens

show hide 9 comments

April 6, 2015 - 9:54 pm

leslie Ottenbreit My mother grew up on a farm by orkney. Thank you for such a wonderful article. I knew all of the places you mentioned and have many happy childhood memories, especially our trips to the fan my mom grew up on to see my uncle and his family, or to bracken to visit the general store and the museum. It was wonderful.

April 6, 2015 - 9:55 pm

Blaine Schafer I have just got done looking at your story about Orkney and Arthur James. I don’t know how you got him to pose for the pictures. I have been married to his daughter for 26 years and I know that when a camera comes out Arthur disappears That being said I was wondering if it would be possible to get copies of those pictures

April 6, 2015 - 10:00 pm

Mark Lewams Thanks for the great article! I grew up in Orkney and we lived next door to Arthur and his family for many years. I spent many years as a kid riding my bike on those streets and then later tearing around in my car. So many memories…thank you!

April 7, 2015 - 9:21 am

Allen Proust Good article. Arthur was my school bus driver for many years. He would take kids to school rain or shine. I grew up just east of Orkney.

April 7, 2015 - 7:22 pm

Tim Watson I remember going to Orkney as young punks mainly to rip around with our vehicles hahahah-Mark and Mike. Looking good there Arthur, what a great guy for sure

April 7, 2015 - 9:18 pm

Joyce Enjoyed reading this article, look forward to reading more

April 7, 2015 - 9:38 pm

Dan Schafer Good article Jeremy. I ran into you at Elevation Place in Canmore in February and I see my cousin Mark has left a comment for you above as well. Lol I enjoyed our brief chat that day.

April 9, 2015 - 7:47 am

Jennifer Diguer Thanks for the great read Jeremy. This is my dad….and where I grew up. As kids, there was no end to the freedom we enjoyed in Orkney. Thanks for the great photos, I would love to get copies if possible.

August 16, 2015 - 10:39 pm

Jeremy Fokkens | Calgary Photographer […] photographing Arthur James in Orkney, Saskatchewan and thrilled having found my first subject for my “Back To The Land” […]

Back To The Land | Hwy 21 (Hashtag Highway)

Hwy 21 Saskatchewan

Only in small town Saskatchewan can you get a club house, a full tank of gas, and a brand new 2015 f-150 with zero percent financing within ten feet of one another. Ok… you could probably do the same in other parts of Canada I just thought it was funny when I stopped in Kindersley. I’m in Kindersley sitting at a diner called the Coliseum Restaurant which is attached to the Esso station and next door to the Ford dealership. I arrived around 2pm and needed a little break to plan my next course of action as I could not decide on two possible options. Either I head directly North to where the roads eventually are non-existent, or head south as close to the US border as I can get without actually arriving at the border. That is always the tough decision when you go on a trip with no real set plan, sometimes everything just works out in your favour, and sometimes you make a small mistake such as missing turn-off and before you know it, you have lost two days worth of driving. One thing I have always told myself is to never force a decision when your blinded by your preconceived notions of the possible out-come. ALWAYS and I mean always trust your gut and let instinct be your guide. The rest will fall into place. Well that’s my approach, philosophy, whatever you want to call it.

As I sat in a booth for six, quietly sipping my un-seasoned coffee, struggling to finish my club house, I curiously started looking at a detailed map of Saskatchewan to get a better sense of where my I might want to go.  I didn’t know this but Saskatchewan has over 100,000 lakes and I found this very hard to believe at first, however after looking at that map, the province is covered in them. After about 45 minutes I payed for my food, thanked the waitress for the service, and started my truck. I pulled out of Kindersley feeling refreshed and excited to hit the highway. By now I made my decision and that was to head South on Hwy 21 where the road transitions veering west turning into Hwy 44, and then veering back into Hwy 21 just as you pass a small town called Eatonia. From there it continues South all the way to the Cypress Hills. As I started driving the sun was high, it was hot, not a breath of wind, and the odd puff of cloud offering little hope of shade for anyone working outside. I had the music playing and was really enjoying the scenery. As I was on Hwy 44 I noticed a couple grain elevators a half km or so off the highway to the south and thought why not check it out. I pulled down a gravel road and as I started to get closer, I realized these two grain elevators were in amazing condition given on how old they looked. Once I stopped my truck within 50 feet of the structures, I noticed two other men loading  a big engine looking object on to a loading trailer. I approached and asked if they knew any history about the elevators. Turns out the land was sold to the Hutterites and the generator that these two men were loading up was the last of the agreement in the property deal. The two men were very friendly and said the elevators dated back to the early 1900’s. Once they left I decided to have a look around myself. Walking through the tall grass, it was like being a kid again and discovering a place that was nothing short of incredible given the size of the structures, the condition the two elevators were in, and not a single person, car, or other building in site. I’ll let the video do the talking (The sound is a bit terrible for the first 15 seconds but significant;y improves once I’m out of the wind).

Now you’re probably wondering why this post is called “Hashtag Highway” well there are not enough #hashtags to describe this stretch of road from Kindersley, over the Trans Canada, and past the Cypress Hills. Hwy 21 South was nothing short of breathtaking with countless abandon houses to explore where I imagined myself spending weeks exploring every homestead. And this is only what I saw from the highway. The road itself turned and twisted like you were on a kids roller-coaster never wanting it to end. As soon as I crossed over the Trans Canada (HWY 1) the scenery just kept rewarding me. The sun was setting showering the wheat fields with the most amazing golden light I have ever seen. Large hills and gully’s engulfed the surrounding environment with endless skies and cricket sounds that could drown out the noisiest of vehicles. The light is different in Saskatchewan and I encourage anyone to drive early in the morning or two hours before sunset. Some people ask why I don’t take pictures at these particular moments. My answer to them is the camera is a great tool for documenting and creating, but it can sometimes be distracting and when it becomes distracting, I like to enjoy these moments for myself.

I ended day two of “Back To The Land” in Consul pulling my truck onto a patch of grass on the outskirts of town, pitching my one man tent before calling it a night.

If you have any questions feel free to email me or post a comment below. And I mentioned in my previous post… Day three of “Back To The Land” will have a portrait… I promise.

Stay tuned & Cheers!

Jeremy

 

Best Highway Ever

 

Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan
Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan
Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan
Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan
Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan
Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan
Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan
Grain Elevator Dankin, Saskatchewan

by Jeremy Fokkens

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April 1, 2015 - 7:16 am

Janice Saskatchewan is a beautiful place, and the landscape is much more diverse than most people expect. We have spent many long weekends in Cypress Hills, it is lovely. I can’t wait to see more.

April 2, 2015 - 11:12 am

Lynn Strom Hi Jeremy, it’s me, Lisa’s mom here :-). I know what you mean by the light being different; it’s like that here, too. I call it ‘that sideways light’. I love it. I can’t describe it, but anyone who has experienced it knows what I mean when I call it that. I see it here mostly in the late afternoons. We are about an hour straight east of the Cypress Hills, southwest of Medicine Hat. Thanks for expressing your art so very well.

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