I spent a couple of days visiting family in Hafford, Saskatchewan. These Western towns aren’t like anywhere else, and my Dad came from one; I like visiting and photographing them. Here’s the water tower through the trees, incredibly lush this time of year up into the edge of the parklands.

The Hafford water tower

Population 360, says Wikipedia, and shrinking. The Prairies are emptying out, farm and town. The traditional family farm no longer provides a living; some farms are still family-run, but the family has a bunch of employees and big operations top ten thousand acres. So the farmhouses that still stand every few miles along the country roads are mostly empty and crumbling. Which is sort of sad; but I haven’t chosen to live there either.

The towns, there in large part to serve the fabric of farms, shrink too; but some will hold on. Here’s Hafford’s main street.

On Hafford’s main street

I feel vaguely guilty pointing the camera at picturesque decay, because it’s unfair to the town; there are lots of perfectly prosperous houses, big and small, which look pretty well like my Mom’s, a few hours away in urban Regina. And the drugstore in the picture is nicely modern and well-stocked inside. But those don’t make interesting pictures. Having apologized, here’s that picturesque decay.

Happy Ron’s Cozy Corner Cafe
· · ·
Rybryna Hardware

This last one’s really unfair, since the local school’s playground has nice modern equipment too; it’s just that these old bits lined up irresistably. I bet there’s some fine football (Canadian rules, natch) played on that field there.

Old playground equipment

And the local culture isn’t necessarily all white-bread stuff, either.

Saskatchewan Rastafianism

The town’s street signs are bilingual English/Ukrainian, and there are both Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches. Here’s the latter, which I thought a fine piece of work.

Ukrainian Catholic church in Hafford

The town has another advantage: If you want to live in this milieu, as my relatives do, there are fantastic real-estate bargains. They paid a laughable amount for an old farmhouse that’s been relocated into town and had a substantial addition built on the side, across from the church and the school. It’d cost loads of money in any city, but was peanuts here.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Jim Harvie (Jul 08 2012, at 17:41)

Great shots. If I win a lottery I'm buying prints.

Having said that I'm Canadian. I have to give a dig.

These shots look like the home town of someone who thinks the University of Guelph is cosmoeffinpolitan.


From: Doug L. (Jul 08 2012, at 18:04)

Cool photos. I've taken a few similar-ish ones in some of the similarly faded towns of California's Central Valley.

I would point out that the tradition of farming in Saskatchewan, as with ranching across most of the dry western US, is barely even 200 years old. So from the perspective of millennia of farming in Eurasia, these brief North American experiments can hardly be called "traditional".


From: BWJones (Jul 08 2012, at 20:41)

Thanks for this tour. Love the shot of the church.


From: ben (Jul 09 2012, at 06:41)

All of my verified Henick cousins make like you: they all live elsewhere, but wind up back in Sask. from time to time for one reason or another.

The next closest thing to that in my experience is listening to folks who came here from Western Kansas for college, and decided they didn't like the winters or the requirement to drive 80-100km to see a movie.

There is, meanwhile, a part of me wishes I could guarantee myself a decent living out in the boonies. Marquette, Mich. seems from the outside like a place I'd like to live.


From: Michael Zajac (Jul 09 2012, at 07:25)

Doug L., the photo of the church indicates that some traditions here go back more than a millennium.


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