I have a few different hobbies with which I occupy my scant downtime.
One of those hobbies is cruising the back-country roads of Paintearth County near my home just to see what I can see.
There is a lot of history yet to be found across the region if one knows where to look, although nature is slowly reclaiming areas once settled by people.
In the north-central part of the county, only a few relics and the well-cared-for cemetery remain of the once vibrant community of Bulwark.
Northwest of Castor, just south of the Battle River Power Plant, the Notre Dame de Savoie church is slowly being retaken by nature as well.
The small country church is over a century old. When a friend first took me out to the site in 2018, though the building was showing its age, the structure still had its steeple and overall still looked like it was in okay shape, at least for its age.
Since then, the years have not been kind. First, the steeple came down. Then the roof began to sag.
Over this last winter, the deterioration began to accelerate. The western wall of the structure collapsed, which removed the support of the roof; over the winter the roof partially collapsed as well.
The story of this church is not unique; Alberta and the Prairies are littered with these old buildings that nature is slowly retaking.
When I see the structures alone in the plains, I am filled with a sense of wonder; who lived in there? Who attended church there? How did they survive the long, cold winters before the creature comforts of today? What made them leave wherever they were from to come to a new country starting from literally nothing miles from anywhere?
Over a century ago, when Alberta first became a province and settlers arrived in the region from Europe, transportation was not relatively as easy as today. One could not just climb into your truck and head down the highway; and where some of these old structures are I am sure they were off the beaten path even back then.
If only the walls of these places could talk; I wonder what stories they would tell.
What celebrations would they hold? What tragedies would they share? What could they tell us of the struggles the settlers went through?
Unfortunately, they can’t talk. However, these buildings on the prairies can serve as a reminder that people can get through the toughest of hardships.
Nature’s slow reclamation of these prairie structures as time persistently marches on also serves as a warning; despite all of humanity’s advancements, nature will always take back what is hers.