TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Catherine Button, who runs the Stockton ferry, makes notes while crossing the Assiniboine River recently.
With a dull but reliable hum, the Stockton ferry hauls a tractor from the south side of the Assiniboine River to the north bank.
A farmer drives his tractor onto the Stockton ferry to cross the Assiniboine recently.
After taking a two-year hiatus due to damage caused by the 2011 flood, the ferry is running again, albeit with a new hand guiding the vessel.
"It’s a pretty cool job and it’s a lot of fun," said Catherine Button, who moved to the area from Ottawa with her husband approximately one year ago.
"It’s something I can tick off my bucket list."
Looking for a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life, Button, a self-described "farm-girl diva," found serenity in the RM of South Cypress and the ferry played a role.
But it’s not always a stress-free environment. On more than one occasion, tractors, grain trucks, balers or whatever else the ferry might be transporting that day have gotten stuck in the mud trying to reach the other side.
"Everyone is pretty good about it. They all know how to pull each other out," Button said. "You just have to be careful when you put the aprons down when you land and I’m just learning some of that now especially with heavy equipment so nobody ends up in the river, which I did do once this year."
Located approximately 15 kilometres northwest of Glenboro, the ferry, which was opened in 1887, is the last of its kind in the province.
The original infrastructure consisted of a wooden scow attached to a movable cable which was angled, allowing the current to pull the fat-bottomed boat across the river, according to the Manitoba Historical Society.
Today, the boat looks more like a barge connected to a cable pulley that tows the boat back and forth.
It also serves a practical purpose, especially during harvest when farmers need to move equipment and product from one side of the river to the other. The ferry can save approximately an hour driving time as tractors, trailers and balers take the 10-minute trip across the Assiniboine.
"It’s a little bit scary. The first time we put a big tractor and trailer with bales of hay on it and it sunk down I was a bit nervous," Button said. "It stretched from one end to the other and oh Lord, I prayed the whole way across."
She hopes her adult children, who still live in different parts of Ontario, can come visit to see and go for a ride. But until then, she encourages any children interested in seeing the last ferry of its kind in Manitoba to come check it out.
"I love taking the kids across," Button said. "It’s great because they’ve never seen something like this. When you get them on there and it’s a little rickety and you should see their little faces, it’s cute.
"I want people to come out and enjoy it."
A monument was established at the site by the Manitoba Heritage Council in 1989, recognizing the 150 ferries that once operated in the province.
The Stockton ferry runs from 7 a.m.- 11 a.m and 3 p.m.-7 p.m. every weekday. It will run until Nov. 1, weather permitting. The ferry is then taken out of the water and the area is turned into an ice road over the river in the winter.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2013