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Thomas Stratton Lanier and
Allene Hunter Hanna Lanier

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 362 - 364
by Charles Lanier

My father, Thomas Stratton Lanier, was born in 1886 and raised in south east Kentucky. When he came of university age, the family moved to Danville in central Kentucky. He graduated from Centre College there in 1907.

As a result of the land boom in Southern Alberta, he and friends came to Lethbridge in 1908 on the Spokane Flyer, (which travelled on the Soo line from Minneapolis to Winnipeg, and then to Lethbridge on the C.P.R. line). They bought land in the Wilson Siding area.

My mother, whose maiden name was Allene Hunter Hanna, was born in 1890 in Shelbyville, Kentucky, in an area long settled by Irish and Scots. She graduated from "Kentucky College for Women" which was affiliated with Centre College in Danville. After finishing her post-graduate studies in New York, she then taught in a mission school in the Kentucky mountains of south east Kentucky at a place called Buckhorn, which was on Squabble Creek and not far from places named Hazard and Sassafrass.

My parents were married in 1917 and made their home in a two room shack just across the road from Wilson School. My brother Tom was born in 1918.

In the fall of 1919 Dad bought Sec. 9-8-20-W4 from Herman Corry, and they moved into their new home which, according to my mother had been built in 1909 or 1910. The house and semi-attached bunkhouse and nearby barn were painted in C.P.R. grey - which colour she hated. Sometime in the 20's these buildings became yellow with black roofs, which brightened up the place considerably.

Iwas born in 1920. By that time we were settled in our new home where I still reside in 1995. It was a great place to grow up with lots of space and animals, and even a convenient rock pile where I honed my throwing skills. At some point I dreamed of becoming a baseball pitcher, but my mother spoiled that by having me take piano lessons and later violin. She should have left me with the rocks and baseball because my piano teacher committed suicide and no one begged me to play the violin

A daughter, born in 1921 died in infancy, and then Louis arrived in 1926. Ike followed in 1930, but his twin didn't survive a week. The great tragedy for my parents was the loss of Tom (Tombo) who drowned in 1928.

In the early 1920's a shelterbelt of poplars and maples and caraganas was started around the buildings, with protective barbed wire fences much in evidence and close to the house. We had ample water for livestock which was supplied by a couple of shallow wells with hand-pumps and windmill power, but the quality was too hard for plants and humans, so we hauled water (by horse-drawn tank), from the canal for both the home and the shelterbelt. Later we hauled water by truck from Lethbridge - a practice that lasted until about 1996. By then we had found a good well, producing 20 g.p.m, in addition to having a pipeline to the canal for irrigation.

For a time, early on, there was the wide spread adoption both here and in the U.S. of the "dust-mulch" theory to preserve moisture, where the surface of the land is well-worked and "clean". It led to devastation with the anival of a drought and high winds. Another practice that contributed to erosion and still used to some degree in Alberta - was that of burning the stubble where it was particularly heavy. My father adopted the practice of strip farming in the 20's, soon after its effectiveness in controlling erosion had been demonstrated in the Monarch area.

Our early tillage equipment certainly included the plough, but its use was discontinued or diminished early in the 20's. The disk harrow or double disk, spring-toothed harrow, and duck foot cultivator were some of the earliest equipment used. Later on, more reliance was placed on the one-way disk, the rod weeder and the Noble blade cultivator.

Dad's love of horses and reluctance to turn to tractors persisted until 1930. Until then he concentrated on the Percheron breed and enhanced the quality of his string with the purchase of a pure bred Percheron Stud as well as several registered mares.

It wasn't until about 1930 that he bought his first tractor a gasoline Caterpillar "30" from salesman Curly Tuff at Union Tractor. In a few years he owned three diesel "Cats" - a D-6, a D-4, and a D-2. Although they certainly were ideal at the time because of their superior traction and durability, I wasn't sorry to see the last of them and turn to the much improved wheel tractor. But that change didn't occur until the end of the '50's.

Dad's first crop was in 1909, so the wheat he seeded was most likely Red Fife. He later switched to Marquis for a number of years. At some point - probably in the 1930's, he began using Red Bob which he stayed with until it was downgraded in 1950. Then we grew Thatcher, Saunders, Chinook as well as varieties of Durum and Winter Wheat.

The earliest seeders I remember were high-wheeled pantype with chain links as furrow fillers. Improved disk seeders evolved and about 1950 we started using Noble hoe drills.

Binders and threshing outfits (first powered by steam engines) took care of harvesting until the 30's. Six binders on a field were the most that I remember but there may have been more. Stookers always seemed available (my mother first understood the term to be 'Stoopers' which may have better described them). The threshing outfit was always exciting to me as a youngster with its special activity and aroma and of course, refreshments in the afternoon straight from the cook car. As a teenager, I even enjoyed hauling bundles to the outfit. Claude Duncan did a lot of the early threshing as did Hugh O'Neil later, and the Frank and George Neidermier and finally Louie and John Skiba.

In the early 30's, Dad bought his first Holt Combine and soon had two of them which took care of most of the harvesting until we made the transition to self-propelled combines.

By the end of the 1940's we were at the threshold of major changes in agriculture. Not only were new crops and varieties becoming available, but great advancements were being made and accelerated the development of farming tools, i.e. new and better tillage and seeding machinery, bigger and more powerful tractors, chemical weapons for weed control, etc., and much, much improved, harvesting equipment.

Change, which has always been part of the "ag" process has simply accelerated. But what has remained a constant is the need to not only limit but to eliminate soil erosion. It is something that we as farmers and a nation cannot afford to ignore or allow.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup