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Toban Dyck: Adventure found in the most unexpected place

Jamie and I explore the wild side of Souris, Manitoba

Toban and Jamie Dyck in front of the Souris River, which runs through the town and is a feature the community is proud of and has invested in. There were walkways, a park and tourist-oriented infrastructure built around the relatively wide river.

I joked to my dad that I don’t think we’ve ever harvested so many acres in one day. He assured me this was not something to brag about. We didn’t put our combine in road gear, but we’ve never harvested wheat at those speeds before.

This column isn’t about that, though. It’s about the community of Souris, Man., and the surreal/great experience my wife and I had there.

My wife, Jamie, and I were on a junior road trip. A colleague of mine at Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers asked if I’d consider meeting her at a crop research trial site a few miles east of Souris to snap some photos and take some drone footage.

I said “yes” before I finished reading the email request: A, I enjoy flying my drone; and B, I needed to get out of the house before cabin fever finished making scrambled eggs of my brain. I’m fine, by the way. But I did welcome the excuse to get out and do something work related.

I packed my camera, my drone and was excited to try out some new gear I had purchased since I was last commissioned for such services. Jamie had time and agreed to join me. We would make a fun trip out of it. The two of us really do enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of Manitoba.

We arrive. Exchange some long-time-no-sees and then I begin unpacking my gear, splaying it out on my endgate like I know what I’m doing.

The new gear (a new, longer cable connecting my phone to the drone remote) didn’t work, so, after hours of troubleshooting and attempting to Google this issue with virtually zero bars of service, I discovered a workaround.

The crops represented by this particular series of plots looked unusually healthy. Souris is about two hours directly west of my farm. Not too far, in other words. I expected to see soybeans that looked dwarfed and parched, like ours did.

This was not the case. Instead, I was forced to confront an accurate representation of what healthy soybeans should look like at this time of year. They should be about four feet tall, bushy and bursting with pods. So, not 14 inches tall, the opposite of bushy and struggling to stay alive amid the crippling heat and drought.

We got the shots of these beautiful test plots and put them onto a flash drive, which we handed over to my colleague. We were then told that if we were to make it to the Souris bakery before it closed, we’d have to make haste.

And this bakery came highly recommended.

As we neared this mythical land called Souris, we started to get a quaint vibe, in a good way. I know you know what I am talking about when I say, “vibe.” The impressions we were receiving from what we could see on either side of the highway were positive and our decision to visit the town over heading home was fast becoming vindicated.

In Souris, there is a sizeable swinging bridge spanning its shores. photo: Toban Dyck

The topography started to become what I would describe as rolling and forested. The namesake river that runs through the town is a feature the community is proud of and has invested in. There were walkways, a park and tourist-oriented infrastructure built around the relatively wide (for Manitoba) river. There is a sizeable swinging bridge spanning its shores.

We arrived at the bakery before it closed. We bought a loaf of cheese bread and two sandwiches for the ride home. The friendly woman taking our order recommended we walk around the corner to Forty-Nine Degrees Coffee and Ice Cream. We did. It was fantastic.

All the while, we’re taking in the cozy restaurants, artisanal shops and the kind of wide streets you’d find in small, touristy towns.

We decided to walk around a bit with our coffees. It is at this point when our time in Souris took a strange turn.

At the edge of my peripheral vision, to the left, I could see something blocking traffic. Jamie and I were crossing a main street on our way to traverse the swinging bridge.

If that would have been the only glimpse I had of the thing and I was chatting with, say, a police sketch artist, I would have described something that looked like a peacock.

I looked again. Certainly, it couldn’t be a peacock.

Peacocks are permanent and welcome residents of Souris, where they roam free all summer. photo: Toban Dyck

It was a full-on, living and free male peacock. Judging by how the traffic was avoiding it and stopping for it, I guessed this peacock was something people knew about and were quite used to accommodating.

Then I saw another one. This one was on the meridian, poking around in some community-planted flower garden. Then another. Then another.

In case you are not following, Souris is a small town in southwestern Manitoba. It is not where one would ever expect to see peacocks roaming free.

I saw a woman walking with two children and approached, trying very hard to hide my nervous excitement/bewilderment, as I didn’t know how that would present to a stranger.

She affirmed they were, indeed, peacocks and they do roam free in Souris all summer. Apparently, they are a remnant of a bird sanctuary that used to operate in the area. They either were freed or freed themselves at one point in time, and now have become permanent and welcome residents of Souris.

They are taken in for winter and released in summer.

I’m not sure we could have digested any more adventure, so we drove home, and we tell everyone we meet about the peacocks of Souris and just how gorgeous of a community it is.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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