Skip to content

Farm vandalism strikes Sask. seeding operation

Bullets and fenceline destruction hit farm hard at critical time near the end of seeding, in remote area.

MORSE, Sask. — Bullet holes in tractor tires, a windshield and air seeder were beyond Grant Rourke’s imagination. He hadn’t experienced anything like it during 48 years of farming.

It happened in early June.

“It’s quite shocking. You hear these stories. You read about them in the papers and see them on TV, but you never think it’ll happen to you,” said Rourke, who has farmed with his wife, Julie, near Ernfold, Sask., since 1974.

“It’s just been terrible. We got behind because of all the issues we had, so now we’re trying to play catch up with spraying and everything else,” said Rourke.

“This has been a tough, tough week.”

Rourke thought June 1 would be his last day of seeding. He had about 75 acres of canola left to plant.

When he arrived at the isolated field where he had parked his Ford FW-30 four-wheel drive and Conserva Pak drill with a Flexi-Coil tank, he got a rude surprise.

“When we returned in the morning at seven o’clock, we noticed flat tires on the four-wheel drive and shot out windshield,” he said.

One of the tires on the seeder had also been shot and a black smudge on the tank showed where a bullet had struck but not punched through.

Morse RCMP were called. They collected evidence, completed an initial investigation and confirmed at least 11 22-caliber bullets had been unloaded into the Rourke’s machinery.

“We determined what had happened, but we didn’t have any shell casings or anything of that nature,” said Sergeant Jim Fiske.

“So, Grant got out his metal detector and was able to locate them, which is very fortunate because given the field conditions, it’s like finding a needle in the haystack. But the other portions (shrapnel) were still lodged in the tires, so once they removed the tires, we were able to get access to it,” he said.

The casings are being examined for fingerprints but there are no suspects at present.

“It’s hard to say at this point in time who may have done it or what the rationale behind it was,” said Fiske.

Added Rourke, “it’s frustrating because you wonder why anybody would do it. It doesn’t seem to be a logical thing for a person to do.”

Unfortunately, that was not the end to Rourke’s run-ins with vandalism.

The next day, while checking his cows, he discovered a large section of fence had been pulled down during the night at one pasture. Another section of fence in another pasture had been driven over several times.

“Someone hooked on and tore down quite a length of fence where we have pasture and some cattle. It appeared to be some kind of vehicle with dual tires on the back,” he said.

“We also have another pasture three miles away, where we have another group of cattle. They went to that location, which is quite isolated, and drove through the fence three times.

“Somebody else, or the same individual returned to the only two pastures that we had cattle in. We have a number of pastures. They could have picked any pasture but only two we had cattle in.”

Fortunately, none of the cattle had wandered out.

Rourke believed the truck would have sustained damage to the bumpers because the fences were sturdy.

“This pasture is a heavily built pasture because we used to have buffalo in it, so it’s a stout fence. It’s got six-inch posts and eight wires. It’s not an easy fence to drive over,” he said.

Rourke is waiting for the repair bills for his tractor but knows it will be several thousand dollars. The impact from delayed seeding will also be expensive.

“We were seeding canola, which is a time-sensitive crop. It was a whole week before we were able to get everything repaired to get back in the field, so come harvest time, it could be thousands of dollars difference in crop that was seeded a week earlier.

“Because canola’s so heat sensitive, it’s going to be a week behind the rest of the canola,” he said.

While Rourke is frustrated with the targeted damage to his property, safety and livelihood, he suspects the two events are related.

“Somebody’s trying to scare us not to say anything more, I would suspect. It would almost appear that it’s some kind of retaliatory vandalism,” he said.

“We live in a very isolated farming community. There’re only nine families living in the whole area, so it’s quite isolated.”

However, he said he won’t let the incidents affect his farming life.

“Nothing changes. I mean, you can’t tuck your head under your wing, as the saying goes. We’ll be carrying on and trying to treat all our neighbours with the respect we’ve always given them.

“It’s stressful for both of us. Anytime firearms are involved, you wonder, is a bullet going to come through the kitchen window next time? Or when you’re driving around is somebody going to take a pot-shot at the vehicle?

“You just don’t know. There’s so many questions that are unanswered.”