Category Archives: I’m just sayin’


Alderson: The past remains

At Alderson, a former village along the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline, northwest of Medicine Hat, time and freight roll on – but the past remains.

To echo the thoughts included within the preface to Empire of Dust (see below), it should be a historic site. There are stories to be told there.

Split personality. 

X” marks the spot.

Looking southeast down Bowell Street, Alderson



Nemiskam or Nemiscam? That is the question.

Pulled up tracks east of Nemiskam (Nemiscam?) c. 2005

Today’s tale is about Nemiskam, the subject of the image featured above. Derived from the Blackfoot term for, “between two coulees”, Nemiskam is what one might consider a “ghost town”, located about seven miles due east of Foremost. According to Place Names of Alberta, Nemiskam is aptly named, as it is situated between Chin Coulee to the north, and Etzikom Coulee to the south.

Like many townsites surveyed along  the C.P.R.’s Lethbridge – Manyberries branchline,  Nemiskam quickly grew to become a community of some prominence and promise. By the ’20s it boasted an elevator row of five, a pool hall, restaurant and general store, and a modest citizenry of 75 . Like most southeastern towns, Nemiskam dwindled in the drought, but wartime brought a  resurgence that lasted well into the ’40s and ’50s. Sixty years on, the elevators and commercial district are gone—the community long-since eclipsed by the also aptly-named Foremost.

While there are few today who call Nemiskam home, what the community is called continues to confuse and confound us all.

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Our journey to the beautiful, boring, bowl-shaped structure of Bow City (Kinnondale)

“It’s probably one of the most boring places. It’s beautiful, but it’s flatline and in that sense it’s quite boring.”

As you may have read on this very blog, the University of Alberta announced on May 7 that a team led by Dr. Doug Schmitt had discovered the “roots” of a crater—a “bowl-shaped structure”—theorized to have been left by a massive meteorite strike just west of Bow City, Alberta.

View Bow City Crater in a larger map – Source: University of Alberta

According to Dr. Schmitt, all that remains of the “Bow City Crater” today is “a semicircular depression eight kilometres across with a central peak”. However, evidence suggests that a meteor strike within the last 70 million years left a crater that was initally eight-kilometres wide, 1.6 to 2.4 km deep, and produced an explosion “strong enough to destroy present-day Calgary”.

“An impact of this magnitude would kill everything for quite a distance,” stated the professor in a UofA media release. “If it happened today, Calgary (200 km to the northwest) would be completely fried and in Edmonton (500 km northwest), every window would have been blown out. Something of that size, throwing that much debris in the air, potentially would have global consequences; there could have been ramifications for decades.”

In an interview with Calgary Herald’s Colette Derworiz, Dr. Schmitt described the site of the discovery, a vast expanse of grazing lease and farm land about 30 miles southwest of Brooks as: “…probably one of the most boring places. It’s beautiful, but it’s flatline and in that sense it’s quite boring.”

As it turns out, I happened to spend a considerable chunk of my youth living a few miles west of this beautiful, boring and flatline place; on a farm situated in an area formerly known as Kinnondale. 

Area pioneers and their descendents have long been aware of the existence of “an ancient ring-like structure” north of Kinnondale. Referred to by the locals as “the sundial”, and others as “Canada’s Stonehenge”, the Majorville Medicine Wheel has been studied extensively by academics and mystics alike. 

Prime grazing lease - Looking southeast from the Majorville Medicine Wheel towards Bow City. During the early part of the 20th Century, this mixed-grass prairie supported some of the biggest cattle and horse herds in the country.
Prime grazing lease – Looking southeast from the Majorville Medicine Wheel towards Bow City, c. 2010. During the early part of the 20th Century, this mixed-grass prairie supported some of the biggest cattle and horse herds in the country.

However, the revelation there was yet another “ancient ring-like structure” at Bow City (Kinnondale), hidden in plain sight for longer than anyone could remember, caught the community by surprise. 

As a fan and chronicler of boring places across the southeast, especially ones close to my childhood home, I felt the need to investigate.

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Prairie Cheeseburgers and the Post-Apocalyptic Cafe

Furry Cheeseburgers anyone?

The other night I was rifling through my Twitter feed when I came across the following item from Canadian Geographic:

Intrigued, I clicked the link, hoping to read about the old prairie standard: a slab of hamburger dripping with cheddar, dwarfing the obligatory bun and served next to a mound of thick cut fries. Instead, the “prairie cheeseburgers” they were referring to were of the furry and four-legged variety—the black-tailed prairie dog—typically found south of the 49th parallel. Recoiling at the notion of ingesting mouthfuls of fuzzy meat and cheese, the photo included with the piece brought to mind a memorable visit to a roadside diner on the northern fringe of Alsask, Saskatchewan.

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The story of Forgotten Alberta

On March 14, I was privileged to join a diverse lineup of presenters at Medicine Hat’s Esplanade Heritage and Cultural Centre for the second Pecha Kucha Night of 2014.

It was an interesting and informative night for all involved, and I’d like to thank Pecha Kucha organizers for inviting me to present.

For those who missed it, or who are looking to kill roughly seven minutes, I’m happy to present the Story of Forgotten Alberta.

I would imagine it will go something like this...

Forgotten Alberta is coming to Medicine Hat’s PechaKucha Night (V.2)

I imagine PechaKucha going something like this...
I imagine PechaKucha going something like this…

Clear your calendars Medicine Hat!

On March 14, I will be joining some of the southeast’s most creative and interesting people at the second PechaKucha Night of 2014, taking place at the Esplanade Studio Theatre, start time 8:20 p.m. 

As one of a dozen presenters on the evening (details below), i will be talking about the Forgotten Alberta blog, and why it is poised to change the course of world history, or something like that.

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Top Instagram Shots from 2013 – #10

It’s 2014, and as I’m feeling the need to publish in something the next two weeks, I’m going to be counting down my top 10 Instagram photos of the year, as “hearted” by my devoted legion of followers (all 17 of them). The selections are a mixture of pictures I’ve posted from previous year’s excursions, and others are from more recent forays into the southeastern Alberta outback. If you wish to follow me on Instagram, please don’t hesitate to stop by my page:

10. Main Street – Hilda, Alberta (2013)

The first of many shots from the 2013 Forgotten Alberta Road Trip. It wasn’t my first trip to Hilda, a tiny hamlet little more than a stone’s throw away from the Saskatchewan border. However, I was surprised to see little had changed since my previous visit eight years earlier; and heartened to see the elevator still standing. The major exception was that the Hilda Hotel no longer seemed to be in business (I may be mistaken about this, please let me know if this isn’t the case). A have posted a few more pics from the visit below:


It took more than money to save the south from drought

Photos courtesy of the Esplanade Archives.

PrairiePostLogoAlbertans have a turbulent relationship with Mother Nature. We live in wonder of her ability to shape our majestic landscape and wide open spaces. Sometimes we wonder why we live here at all, when extreme weather events, like last month’s floods, turn lives upside down.

Over the last century, southeastern Albertans have endured the worst Mother Nature could muster. A fact mostly forgotten, it took decades of trial, many errors, and some tough decisions to transform the southeast into a place to call home.

While June’s floods were fierce and dramatic, the drought that afflicted southeastern Alberta between 1917 and 1939 was a catastrophe in slow-motion. As dust and debt slowly smothered farming communities across the south, the neophyte United Farmers of Alberta party was swept into power to prevent a looming economic, environmental and social crisis. Inheriting a massive debt burden from its predecessors, and without access to oilsands billions, the U.F.A. faced some hard choices to solve its so-called “southern problem”.

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History books, websites help uncover the southeast’s forgotten history

Many local histories from Alberta communities can be found online.

I received an early Christmas present this year.

Out of the blue, a reader of this column offered me two local histories from his collection, and I was happy to accept. I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to Frank Horvath of Barrhead, Alberta for his kind donation.

I developed a love of local histories as I learned about my own family, who homesteaded in southeastern Alberta over a century ago. Local histories— compilations of unvarnished recollections and grainy photos of intrepid homesteaders and their descendents—are often the only record that exists of Alberta pioneer families, and the communities that grew and often withered around them.

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Alberta History Matters

I only found out this week the Canadian Museum of Civilization, soon to be renamed the Canadian Museum of History, is asking Canadians: What would you put in your national history museum?

What stories would you tell? How would you reach Canadians across the country?

Public consultation has been ongoing for a month, and unfortunately for Albertans, the opportunity to contribute in person has already passed.

However, an interactive website,, is still asking visitors what they think are “the most important historical events, periods, movements and changes that have shaped our country?”

The website is well done, providing plenty of opportunies for public input, and a rare opportunity to tell Canadians that Alberta History Matters.

I invite you to visit the website, add your comments and suggestions, and “like” the events, periods, movements and changes that you would add to your history museum.

Raise our profile in Hull, Quebec, and put in a plug for Alberta history, the Prairie Drybelt Disaster, and the stories of the pioneers who built this province.

Canada’s story includes Alberta – #AlbertaHistoryMatters.