Prairie ~ Then and Now!
For well over a hundred years, trainers have ventured to the prairie to train and condition their dogs and compete on wild birds. They traveled to the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and state-side, the Dakotas as well as western Wisconsin and Minnesota. They journeyed by train, then by motorized vehicle often taking a week or more to get to their destinations from the deep south and elsewhere. Today, their primary training destinations are Manitoba, Saskatchewan, North and South Dakota.
You can sense the excitement as mid-summer rolls around. Messages accompanied by photos on the internet announce the trainers’ departure, then arrival at their camps and, as weeks go by, progress reports on the dogs in training and finally, results of the prairie championships.
Life at camp hasn’t changed significantly…and maybe that accounts for much of the draw for trainers who still venture to the prairie each summer. The sun rising and setting in that big sky country, beams of sunlight touching golden fields of wheat and indigo skies foretelling a coming storm are as breathtaking as ever. The work day is long but life is simple and good and the chickens, huns, and pheasants still work their magic!
The 1961 Chrismas Edition of the American Field featured a Prairie Pictorial by Kyle M. Walker. Here are his and other photos alongside the modern equivalents:
- Grain Elevators, Pierson, Manitoba, 2009.
- Adequate housing in a shaded grove, located on old grounds of the late Ches Harris near Pierson, Manitoba. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- Still the need for shady groves. Rick Furney's camp in Manitoba, 2009.
- Dogs’ summer home in a shelter belt, North Dakota, 2005.
- Peck Kelly puts dog in truck. John Gates in background. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- Dog being loaded in “modern” dog wagon only a few miles away at the 2010 Manitoba Championship.
- The dog wagon heads for the open prairie with dogs to be conditioned following the dog wagon. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- Now 4-wheelers or trucks haul the dog wagons, Broomhill, Manitoba, 2009.
- Dog boxes on truck, prairie, circa 1945.
- Dogs and horses travel all in one, North Dakota, 2005.
- Peck Kelly, Gates’ assistant prepares feed for hungry dogs. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- A suitable prairie arrangement. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- Modern day suitable prairie arrangement!
- Herman Smith gives dog water from an always handy canteen. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- Modern day canteen...holds more water and comes free with the exception of the duck tape and leather strap!
- Hose rigged up from 4-wheeler carries plenty of cold water for hard driving dogs.
- Part of the chow line at Frobisher during the 1961 Border International trials. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- Chow line at the 2010 Manitoba Championship, Broomhill.
- Grill master, Hunter Gates watches over steaks, 2010 Manitoba Championship, Broomhill.
- Prairie gallery, 1961. (photo: Kyle Walker)
- Prairie gallery, Manitoba 2007.
- Prairie gallery, Montana, 2013.
- Trial headquarters, Vic Eastmond’s barn, Mortlach, 1971.
- Thousands of barns dot the prairie landscape. Rolette county, North Dakota, 2009.
- Colvin Davis, John Rex Gates, Gates camp, 1970.
- Gates camp, 2009.
- Colvin Davis and Robin Gates, Broomhill trials, 2010.
- Gates camp house, 2009.
- Robin and son Hunter Gates. Hunter is the third generation of Gates dog trainers coming to the Canadian prairies.
- Chickens...same as always!