Midwest Minute- April 27/16- "The Apple Tree"

Published 26 April 16 12:39 PM | Vern McClelland 

The Apple Tree

The call came in one spring will you sell a quarter of land for me?” The owner was from Manitoba, had recently inherited it from her aunt, and thought the sale proceeds would be put to better use closer to home.

I asked her for a bit of history on the property. All she knew was that the aunt and her sisters had once lived on the site but details about that time were vague in the family. Apparently a distant cousin had been renting it the last few years but had let it go over the winter when he retired from farming. She had never seen it in person and to her knowledge mom hadn’t been back for a long time either.

That struck me as a little odd honestly. Although there have been thousands of prairie folk emigrate to other parts of Canada, they often return on a semi-regular basis to see how the ol’ homestead is fairing and to reminisce.

I always want to see a property before expressing an opinion on its value or proposing an appropriate marketing plan. No one parcel is the same and even though we can gather a fair amount of detail on line these days, nothing replaces feet on the ground. Too many times owners rely on coffee shop talk or the speculation of some urban banker who wouldn’t know which end of a cow to feed, but I digress.

The best part of my job is seeing new property for the first time and systematically developing a perspective on its value in today’s market. Appraisers call what they do as purely logical; but personally I see it as both an art and a science.

I particularly enjoy working on farmland, likely because of my own roots in the country but also to get a sense of its history. This region has only been settled for just over a hundred years; really not a long time in the scheme of things. At one point almost every quarter has had someone living on it. For sure, the ownership has changed over the years but there usually is at least one story that comes with the land.

It was easy to see why the builder had chosen this particular location to locate a house as just behind it was a beautiful vista overlooking the valley below. The once majestic maple trees were now only suitable for firewood, and what had been the garden was overgrown by caragana. Tucked back in the corner was several apple trees. It looked like they may have been once part of a small orchard but time had taken its toll on them too.

There was an overgrown laneway leading up to a house that by its design likely was built about seventy years ago. The single pane windows were missing or cracked and the front door had been pulled off its hinges. Inside there was pile of newspapers and magazines from the mid- fifties. I got the distinct feeling that whoever had lived here had left quickly.

We put the quarter up for tender and a local farmer bought it. The first winter he owned it, a Caterpillar was brought in and the land was cleared fenceline to fenceline to accommodate his big air seeder. The house was pushed into a hole and burnt.

I bumped into a friend from that district at Tim Horton’s one day and over coffee asked if he knew the story behind the abandoned farmyard. Apparently the former owner as a young man had come back from Europe with a war bride in tow. They built a new house, planted a shelterbelt and established a garden. One by one three little girls came along until the day a tractor he was driving rolled over on him on the hillside below the house killing him instantly. Shortly thereafter, his wife packed up the children and went to live with relatives in Winnipeg.

I drove by on an early summer morning on my way to another appointment and couldn’t help but smile when I saw the distinct white blossoms of a crab apple tree in the corner of the neighbouring land. The land may be different today but the innocent actions of a bird or fox was providing a fitting monument to a family tragedy!

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

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