(see photo gallery below)
Tractors have long since replaced horses as the source of power on family farms, but the PALS Draft Horse Field Days in Rama has tapped into some very powerful nostalgic memories of area seniors.
The organizers present the field days in two events, one in spring when the land is seeded and the second in late August, when the crop is harvested. Draft horses are used for most of the work and the teams come from long distances. It is with great pride that the teamsters present their gentle giants for one demonstration after another. It is common for the teamsters to haul their horses in from Preeceville, Pelly and Yorkton, but some come from greater distances like Humboldt and Langenbuurg.
This is the fourth year for Draft Horse Field Days and many of the same teamsters have been coming year after year. They often bring friends and others who work with horses. Among the audience are faces that are also becoming familiar because they have been coming year after year. Some audience members come from quite a distance, like Yorkton or Humboldt.
As the event becomes an annual must see, the organizers are able to add more events, said Alphonse Trach, PALS president. Though it has been divided into a seeding and a harvest event in the past, this is the ﬁ rst year that a threshing machine demonstration was added. It brought out the nostalgic memories for many in the audience and many took a turn at feeding the sheaves into the separator.
The grain separator was provided by Wally Hubert of Canora who has a private collection of old farming equipment. It was powered by a Massey Harris 44 tractor provided by Dennis Winkleman.
The Draft Horse Field Days was dreamed up by the members of PALS which stands for Performing Arts and Leisure Society, which is a Rama-based organization that celebrates culture, Trach said. Working with horses is not only part of this area’s heritage, it is also part of its culture.
Weekly activities at PALS usually includes suppers, followed by various entertainers each Friday. It was four years ago that the group decided to rekindle the draft horse culture experienced by the pioneers of this area. It is also an educational tool for the younger generation, said Trach.
Earlier field days utilized agriculture land within the Village of Rama, he said. This year, the demonstrations moved to the farmland adjacent to the village’s sports grounds which were provided by Roger and Nancy Genoway.
The sheaves being threshed at this year ’s event were actually from last year’s winter wheat harvest, said Trach. Some of the sheaves produced this year will be stored for next year’s demonstration. The rest will be used as greenfeed.
One of the new events at the August demonstration was a ranch roping exhibition. However, it was the threshing demonstration that drew the most favourable feedback, Trach said. Many of the spectators had not seen a working grain separator since they were children. Some had never seen one in operation.
“All the feedback was positive,” Trach said.
The August event is always quite different from the spring seeding event, he said. While the spring event has demonstrations of cultivating, seeding and harrowing, the august event has some disking and cultivating, but the focus is on fall activities such as cutting and raking hay, bindering a standing crop, stooking and preparing for the grain separation.
For the fall event, there were 13 teamsters with 16 teams of horses, Trach said. In addition to local participants, others came from Humboldt, Nipawin, Tisdale, Pelly, Preeceville, Ituna and Yorkton.
Now that the two events are a good representation of a complete crop growing year, Trach said he expects the event to keep growing.
From the threshing demonstration, about 30 bushels of winter wheat was collected. It was sold to the Big Sky hog barns and the proceeds went to PALS. The straw pile will be utilized for Roger Genoway’s cattle.
Having this event on the village’s sports grounds and the adjacent farmland, works out better for everyone and PALS is looking into acquiring the property from the village so that various improvements can be made, said Trach. The last time the sports grounds were used by the village was for a sports day in 1999. The goal is to make the draft horse field days the biggest event of its kind in this part of the province.
In addition to taking part in the field demonstrations, the teamsters were invited to participate in a few friendly competitions during the spring event on May 23 and during the August event, said Trach. In spring, there were stoneboat water barrel races and a log skidding event. At the August event, the log skidding challenge was again popular.
To kick off the event on the first day, there was a parade by the teamsters. As the announcer, Trach introduced the drivers as they passed in front of the crowd. Before participating in the field days, all participants must first be members of the Saskatchewan Working Teamsters organization.
The field days are the biggest events undertaken by PALS and it is the main fundraiser for the organization’s regular programming, Trach said. Besides admission tickets, also generating revenue during the field days are calendar sales. The calendars feature pictures from previous draft horse field days and are easy to sell, he said.
The canteen always does well at the field days, he said. Pancake breakfasts and dinner meals are always well supported. There are about 35 active members in PALS and new members are always welcome, he said. The organization operates out of a former general store on Front Street. Some people join PALS because of the field days, but the group is also involved in many other events promoting culture and entertainment. It is common for the members to hold bake and craft sales. Performing during the August event were the Zayshley Band of Yorkton, the PALS Jammers and a number of guest entertainers.
The PALS executive is comprised of: Trach, president; Walter Hughes, vice-president; Ron Mocyk, second vice-president; Judy Johnson, secretary; and Melody Arden, treasurer.