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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 28: Inglis Grain Elevators

Okay, so we were headed for Duck Mountain Provincial Park. That really was the plan. But you know what they say about weather and ducks...Fact is, what's good for ducks ain't always good for people.

By the time we reached Dauphin, it was raining cats and dogs. And ducks and dolphins too. So we weighed things up...Two days of hiking and biking in a provincial park in the rain, or hightail it for Saskatchewan in search of those endless (hopefully dry) 'living skies.'

Saskatchewan won. We had loved Manitoba but a little voice was beckoning..."Go west, young women." And so instead of taking highway 10 north towards the birds (Duck Mountain and Swan River) we heeded that voice and turned west on highway 5...Gilbert Plains, Grandview, Roblin (yet more echoes of our intrepid Nellie McClung) and then south on highway 83 to Inglis - our last port of call before parking the trailer up for the night at the remarkably fertile Asissippi Provincial Park on the MB/SK border.

We had read about those lonely Inglis grain elevators rising up from the prairie flatness at the end of a deserted railway line...They did not disappoint.

Jessie, our personal tour guide - we were the only ones there - ushered us through to watch a good little film, circa 1980, about the last working days of these particular five grain elevators - four of which which were built in the early 1920s and the other in the 1940s.

We were impressed at the variety of tasks that were performed by the one man in charge of the elevators...From doing quality control on incoming grain to shifting an entire railway carriage into grain-receiving position with an archaic, if ingenious, hand-held tool.

Once we had the general idea of how it all worked, we were guided through the process for real - marveling at the way the grain had smoothed the wood as it traveled down the various chutes, leaving behind a voluptuously valleyed surface that is much sought after today by "boutique" home builders.

There was enough left behind from Inglis's glory days as the "barley capital of Canada" to make it all come to life for us...This was a good education in a dying feature of the prairie landscape, and a good introduction to our drive the next day.