A Day at Glenbow Ranch by Karen Tubb

Dig a hole 50 cm wide by 1 m long by 10 cm deep.

Sounds pretty easy, right?

Well, it took Marilyn and me five hours to do it!

Now, before you shake your head in disbelief and wonder what on earth is wrong with us, you should know that the tools we were given were a flat, sharpened mason’s pointing trowel, and dust pan and brush.  AND as we removed each mm of soil, the location of any foreign objects  we discovered (more about those later) had to be measured, mapped, and bagged.

Who would assign such a Herculean task to us?  None other than archaeologist, teacher, and storyteller extraordinaire, Bergen’s own Shari Peyerl!

I should probably make it clear at this point that this task was self-inflicted.  Marilyn and I volunteered for a day of digging at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, “helping” Shari and her assistant Justine in their current project – locating the foundation of the single men’s bunkhouse, just at the base of a sandstone quarry which operated there in the early 1900s.  In our unit (the area we dug out) we found artifacts (aka foreign objects) like nails (mostly bent and used looking), pieces of broken glass, and a small piece of mica (which may have come from a lampshade), but sadly no foundation.

Despite the lack of any major discoveries, our day at Glenbow was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.  Shari and Justine were gracious hosts who downplayed the obvious fact that they would have accomplished much more if they hadn’t had to supervise us newbies.  We were delighted with each discovery we made – who knew that old nails could be so exciting – and learned so much about what is involved in an archaeological dig.

It was fascinating to learn something of the history of the quarry, and with her stories about the interesting people who lived there, Shari brought the place and time to life… the entrepreneur who envisioned a whole community and plotted out a townsite complete with store, post office, school and homes… the methods of mining, processing and transporting the sandstone… how children were named…derailments and difficulties…and one unforgettable fact – the single men’s bunkhouse had 90 beds and 180 occupants who worked in 12 hour shifts, so the beds were always warm (yuck).

Would we do it again?  In a heartbeat!  In fact, we’ve already asked Shari if we can come for another day of ‘digging’ this fall!

– Karen Tubb