|This barn and those chickens south of Ceylon look innocent, but are they? Photo by Janelle Catherwood.|
Barn hunting is not for the weak of heart. When I first set out on this perilous quest just a few short weeks ago, I knew I would face many dangers, that I might have to risk life and limb to hunt down all the surviving barns in the R.M.s of the Gap and Laurier. Now that I’ve battled my way through some risky situations, I thought I’d share some of my wisdom, so that would-be barn hunters know the risks of this hazardous, yet highly admirable, task.
1. The wilderness
I have mentioned before that a true barn hunter will not be dissuaded by seemingly impassable roads. Abandoned homesteads sometimes harbour long lost barns. However, sometimes these “roads” peter out in the middle of trackless wastes with nary a barn in sight, and nothing for it but to carefully turn around and bounce back down the trail whence you came.
|While picturesque, I wouldn’t want to be stranded in these environs.|
|These cows quickly dispelled any delusions of grandeur we may had with their unimpressed stares.|
If one’s Le Sabre were to break down out in the middle of nowhere, you better hope your cell phone battery hasn’t died, or that you aren’t in a low spot where reception is patchy. With the danger of becoming stranded comes the possibility for coming across locals, who may or may not be friendly. Saskatchewan is home to plenty of wildlife. Most of them are content to go about their business if you go about yours, but there’s always the potential of crossing paths with a belligerent badger or a malevolent meadowlark (if such a thing exists). In addition to wildlife, there are domesticated animals to consider, such as territorial cattle.
2. Creepy crawlies and slithering things
Spiders and barns go together like Buick Le Sabres and speed; that is to say, they go together very well. Fortunately I’m not too afraid of spiders, but some of the webs they weave in barns are truly daunting, so arachnophobes beware.
|Stacy courageously strikes forth despite the giant spider’s web in front of her and the straw teeming with who-knows-what below her.|
As well as spiders, barns can harbour slithery creatures like snakes. I don’t mind pet snakes, but wild ones are heeby-jeeby inducing, especially because they always appear so unexpectedly.
|This one’s for you, Meghann.|
But the worst of all creatures that barns harbour is rodents of any kind. I hate mice, I hate them. And rats shall not be mentioned. So far, rodents have known better than to show themsleves in my presence, but I know I won’t be lucky forever. I am always wary about being around straw and hay ever since a childhood episode when I fell into a bale pile teeming with mice, one of which had the audacity to run across my hand.
3. Wells. While investigating an addition to the barn we’re currently measuring, Stacy ventured inside the dilapidated building to take a measurement. Upon discovery of a large hole in the ground, she quickly vacated the premises. We were both obviously relieved that this episode can be filed under “near-miss.”
|Probably best to leave the loft alone.|
4. Haylofts, ladders, etc. I used to be deathly afraid of heights. After ascending the half decayed staircase of a burned out house, shimmying up ladders in windmills and climbing into the rafters of cathedrals in the past six months (thanks to Jerry Pocius, my professor and thesis supervisor), this fear has been downgraded to ‘nauseating.’ I don’t like it, but I can do it. However, I always make sure to ask the owners if the loft of a barn is sound before I make the climb. If in no doubt, stay on the ground floor, no matter how cute the kitties in the loft are.
5. Data loss
Perhaps the greatest threat of all is the loss of precious data, whether that be tea spilled on a drawing (this almost happened when a gust of wind knocked over my thermos in the vicinity of the drawing board), a marked R.M. map eaten by sparrows (this hasn’t happened yet, but I’m on guard against it), or a camera memory card that suddenly and inexplicably loses photos, probably due to some bumbling but inadvertent mistake of the barn hunter. This is highly dangerous, not to the physical well-being of a barn hunter, but to her psychological wellness. Barn hunters tend to exist in a fragile state of mental health, and the loss of data is more than enough to tip the scales to full-blown mental breakdown. To preserve the few threads of sanity remaining to her, the recent loss of several dozen photos will not be discussed in this blog post, or possibly in any blog post to follow.
This list is partial and ongoing. There are plenty of other dangers inherent to barn hunting that have not yet been experienced firsthand. Barn hunting is only for the brave, the reckless, and/or the stupid. I’m still trying to decide which group I belong to.
|Danger lurks everywhere for the barn hunter.|