More Than The Sum of its Parts


More Than The Sum of its Parts (Photo credit: Eric Westhaver)

Alex McFadyen, proud father, grandfather, and collector. (Photo credit: Eric Westhaver) 


McFadyen’s scrapbook is organized by team and league. (Photo credit: Eric Westhaver)

From the street, Alex McFadyen’s home seems normal. It’s a nice, modest home in small-town Shaunavon, Saskatchewan.

It’s different inside.

Inside, you find a shrine to Canada’s game. Sweaters hang on the basement stairway’s blue walls, and at the bottom is the kingdom of hockey heaven. The Holy Grail is a massive scrapbook.

“My son made this up for me,” he says. No off-the-shelf photo album could possibly hold all of McFadyen’s collection. The book is 100 kilograms, half a metre thick, and chock-full of photos, programs and autographs of hockey stars past and present.

It’s the world’s largest sports scrapbook, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2004. McFadyen has the Guinness plaque hanging in a dark corner; a framed, signed Darryl Sittler sweater looms next to it.

McFadyen is over 80. He’s been collecting for seven decades. Growing up on a farm near Wapella, Sask., hockey was like a religion. Saturday’s night ritual never changed. Alex’s youth was spent with his father, listening to Foster Hewitt’s hockey broadcasts.

Alex got pictures from a neighbour who collected newspapers. He’d come around for the sports pages. “Once a week, I’d come around right after school, and pick those papers up, and cut ’em out,” Alex says.

In his early teens, Alex and his family moved from their farm into a small house in Wapella. The house was too small for his collection. He recalls, “I’d go back to visit my parents, and my mother said, ‘How about you take these pictures, there in the road, there’s a burn barrel there…’”

He doesn’t have to finish the sentence.

After burning a few, Alex stopped and kept the rest. Alex moved to Shaunavon for oil work in his twenties, and he brought his collection with him. “My wife suggested, why don’t you put ’em in a scrapbook?” he says. After that simple suggestion, McFadyen’s boyhood collection turned into something more.

The McFadyens have toured the scrapbook all over Canada and the U.S. The book was shown when CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada came to town in 2004. The McFadyens travelled to Toronto, 100-plus kg of book in tow, to speak to CTV’s Dan Matheson on Canada AM. Alex chuckles when he remembers the hard time he had moving the massive book into the CTV limousine. “We managed to fit it into the trunk,” he says. The family have met Cherry, Hewitt, Gretzky, Orr, and even – strangely – M*A*S*H’s Corporal Klinger.


Dakota McFadyen, Alex’s grandson, has his own impressive hockey scrapbook. (Photo credit: Eric Westhaver)

Alex isn’t the only McFadyen around collecting things. His son, Randy, and grandson, Dakota, each have their own anthologies. Dakota has a scrapbook, almost as thick as Grandpa’s, full of hockey cards and autographed posters. The collection is impressive, especially since Dakota is only 16.

“I haven’t put as much time into the book lately,” Dakota says. “It used to be every day, putting stuff into it.” Between leading his high-school football team and keeping up with schoolwork, the fact Dakota has found any time to build the family’s second hockey motherlode speaks to his dedication.

Randy, Dakota’s dad and a cabinet-maker by trade, has constructed his own hockey-based “man-shed.” Alex himself talks about it in hushed, reverential tones.

“He’s got everything in there,” he says. He’s not wrong.


The inside of Randy McFadyen’s “man-shed”, complete with one-of-a-kind, hand-painted NHL logos. (Photo credit: Eric Westhaver)

The shed is every man’s red-meat-cold-beer-big-game dream. Randy’s been building it for a decade, and he’s been collecting for “probably 15, 20 years.” The ceiling is covered with his prized possessions: exquisite wooden replicas of NHL logos, each of them one-of-a-kind, made by a gifted friend.

A guitar signed by Philadelphia Flyer – and Randy’s old neighbour – Braydon Coburn hangs over a custom-made home bar. A homemade elevator in brings guests up to a second floor, where there’s a collection of stubby-style bottles Bob and Doug McKenzie would worship.

For Alex and clan McFadyen, the attention isn’t the reason why they collect. It’s about the things they hold dear: family, hockey, community, and enjoying company, in that order. Alex’s prized possessions aren’t the autographs from hockey royalty, or the rare, mint condition clippings in the book. It’s the personal things that matter most.

The items Alex maintains from his family, his children and the youngest McFadyens, are more important than photos with Gretzky. He’s just as proud of Randy and Dakota’s collections as he is of his own. There’s also a large amount of memorabilia from the local team, the Shaunavon Badgers, a team Alex volunteered with. The Guinness Book of World Records plaque is dusty, while Alex has framed photos of his descendants proudly wearing Badger black and gold.

Alex McFadyen and his family are all more special than the things they’ve collected. They are true Canadian originals; they’ve built something greater than the sum of its parts. Their collections are 100 per cent Canadian passion, in ink, wood, and heart.



The Darkhorse Theatre Rehearsal Hall. (Photo credit: Britton Gray)

The Darkhorse Theatre Rehearsal Hall. The theatre troupe is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2014. (Photo credit: Britton Gray)

Looking at the outside of the Darkhorse Theatre rehearsal building you wouldn’t think anything special happens inside. The only thing that distinguishes it from the other buildings are the Darkhorse logos in the windows. Inside, set pieces wait to be transported up stairs, and props are strewn across shelves. Upstairs, the costumes are hanging in closets in an unorganized manner.


The Darkhorse Theatre logo appears on the windows of their rehearsal hall. (Photo credit: Britton Gray)

There is an order to this chaos and it has allowed the Darkhorse Theatre company to put on 42 high quality plays for 25 years. It costs the group at least $15,000 to put on a play, sometimes more.

The troupe started out 25 years ago when founder Joanne Gregoire put out a call to find volunteers for a Christmas production. That first play took place in 1989 and the group hasn’t looked back since. They have been putting on plays yearly since then and at one time put on shows twice a year.

Theatre has been a part of Saskatchewan since the first one appeared on the second floor of Regina`s town hall 1886. The Darkhorse Theatre is affiliated with Theatre Saskatchewan, which was established in 1933.

Their productions have always been popular in Shaunavon. The troupe used to hold ticket blitzes and would have people lining up at 2 a.m. to get tickets that went on sale at 7 a.m.

Dianne Greenlay has been a member of the troupe since its first play back in 1989. Greenlay has not only participated in the plays as an actor but has been helped with make-up and props and has also directed 13 plays herself.

The group has typically put on comedies in the fall. In the past, they decided to do other genres as well. While people have still enjoyed the plays, they have had some complaints when they haven’t done comedies.

“They came up to us and said, ‘Look, this is our Christmas party, I didn’t want to cry, I wanted to laugh and be entertained,’” Greenlay said. “So we’ve always kept it traditionally something that is really funny and lighthearted so that people can just sit down and enjoy themselves during Christmas.”

Not everything has always worked out for the troupe however. The productions often call for at least 100 volunteers to put everything together. The Darkhorse Theatre group has suffered a lack of volunteers in the recent years and this has caused them to only be able to put on one play a year instead of the two they were accustomed to doing.

People were devastated. It was just an expectation that it was going to be there. – Dianne Greenlay

“For us in Darkhorse, some of the positions require that you be there all five or six nights of production.” Greenlay explained. “A lot of the families are traveling now with their kids for sports like they didn’t used to travel before. Hockey for instance, there’s hockey tournaments every weekend. The high school basketball and volleyball tournaments where the whole family goes and is away, so they can’t commit to being a volunteer on two separate weekends.”

The lack of volunteers hasn’t stopped them from putting on their plays. In their 25 years of existence, they have only missed a production once. This incident showed just how big of an impact the theatre has on the community.

“People were devastated. It was just an expectation that it was going to be there. There are companies that plan their Christmas parties around it, people who plan on having relatives to come stay with them that weekend and having a night out at the theatre.” The productions even affect the high school because they send students to do the serving for a fee and this allows students to volunteer in the community.

Cathy Smith has also been a major contributor to the theatre company. Smith has directed seven plays for Darkhorse and believes the group will continue to put on plays for the community.

“As soon as this one is over we start reading plays in March for next year, find another good one and away we go” Smith said. “As long as we can find good material, they’ll keep coming.”

The mystery of the missing mannequin


Inside the Shaunavon Fire Hall, where Rescue Randy was stolen from. /Lauren Neumann

Inside the Shaunavon Fire Hall, where Rescue Randy was stolen from. (Photo credit: Lauren Neumann)

It was Oct. 6, 2014. I sat in a little coffee shop called Checkers on Main Street, in the quiet town of Shaunavon, Sask. While I waited for a cup of black coffee, something caught my eye. Plastered onto the café counter was a little sign that read, “$400 REWARD.”

I got out of my diner booth to get a closer look at the ad: “For the safe return (or information leading to the safe return) of Rescue Randy.” Like a missing person’s poster, a photo of a mannequin in a firefighter’s uniform sat on the corner of the page.

I asked the woman at the café counter whether anyone had found Rescue Randy, and she told me everyone in town had been keeping their eyes open for him, but they hadn’t had any luck.

I looked at the contact information on the poster, took out my cellphone, and called the phone number. It belonged to Shaunavon’s fire chief, Dean McNabb.

Shaunavon’s fire hall has been around for about 100 years. It is primarily volunteer-based and has run smoothly that way for years. McNabb has been working as a firefighter in Shaunavon for the past 27 years. He met me at the hall to discuss the mystery of the missing Rescue Randy.

After pulling up in his truck, he unlocked the hall and welcomed me in. The hall was quiet and empty, with walls filled with equipment and uniforms. McNabb led me to a desk, pulled out some files and eagerly got down to business.

“It’s still a little baffling for us,” said McNabb, filing through his papers.

On Sept. 2, just a day-and-a-half after the fire hall received its brand new training dummy, it was stolen. He recalls Rescue Randy was last seen sitting on a chair in the hall, clad in fire equipment. Between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., someone entered the hall through the back door. Other valuables, such as a tablet and a television, remained untouched.

“That’s all they took,” said McNabb. “Or that’s all we can see they took.”

Being a community fire hall, Shaunavon’s firefighters got together and fundraised to buy the now-missing Rescue Randy. From hot dog sales to funding through their local radio station, the volunteers raised enough to purchase the $3,500 mannequin. The day after it was stolen, they received an invoice requesting payment for something they worked hard for, but no longer had.

“The big issue is how it affects our training now,” said McNabb. “It postpones all of that again until we can come up with the money to get another one.”

He thinks it was likely party prank, because the mannequin has very limited use outside of rescue training. He’s noticed an increase in mischief along with the rise in Shaunavon’s population. There’s a different attitude among transient workers in the surrounding industries – for some reason, they look at small town life and the fire department, and don’t seem to have respect for it, he feels. He’s dealt with a few minor disturbances over the past five months that were more rare before the town’s “boom.”

The population increase has brought a higher demand for the Shaunavon Fire Hall’s services and, consequently, has demanded an increase of training for its firefighters. “With the oil field and the growth in the community, we’ve seen three-storey hotels and complexes go up,” said McNabb.

The hall has always conducted ladder training, but the group found that with taller buildings, it was becoming a safety hazard to use their own members as pretend victims. That’s when the hall realized it was time to invest in a life-like mannequin to give the firefighters the opportunity for more real-life training. “We…decided this is the route to go,” he said.

The fire hall has been reaching out to everyone in town for answers, but has yet to receive any leads. McNabb says the community has been supportive in being alert to any activity that could lead to the retrieval of Rescue Randy.

“Typically, in small towns, someone eventually talks,” he said. “Everything eventually comes out one way or the other around here. For nobody to have heard anything or know about it it’s just really weird.”

McNabb is still hopeful that Rescue Randy will turn up somewhere, be it on the hall’s doorstep or by a planter on Main Street. With growing demand for firefighting services but also growing mischief hampering the services, the irony is thick with this ongoing Shaunavon mystery.

Two different worlds: from Shaunavon to Antarctica


Ray's Antarctica photo-Rafique

Ray Glasrud in Antarctica, 2013. (Photo credit: Ray Glasrud)

Since Shaunavon was established, many national and provincial stars have been born in this smart little town. But only 68-year-old rancher, scientist and commercial pilot Ray Glasrud, born in Shaunavon, has been to Antarctica as a part of scientific research group.

The southwest Saskatchewan town is 355 kilometres from Regina on Highway 1 west. At Shaunavon, I turned right onto a gravel road heading to Glasrud’s ranch. Suddenly I realized that I was driving only 30 km per hour. I came to a high hill that gave me a panoramic view of the land ahead, the blue sky, hill, tiny road, and distant oil rigs. Just when I thought the dusty road led nowhere, I reached a little corner of the world called Glasrud’s ranch.

Glasrud has spent time on all seven continents, and in 2013 returned from Antarctica. He was employed as a heavy equipment operator in the U.S. Antarctic Program.

“It is remote, as remote as any place on earth and probably more remote than most,” he said.

Antarctica, a continent measuring more than 14 million square km, is 98 per cent covered by ice. The ice is several thousand metres thick in most places and produces some extremely dangerous conditions, creating enormous crevices that measured several kilometres deep in some locations.

“I saw parts of the Antarctic that no human has seen before,” said Glasrud. “We were probably some of the first people to ever land in some of those areas.”

Glasrud was born and raised on a ranch not far from Shaunavon. He graduated from the University of Montana, with a science degree in wildlife biology, and he completed a diploma course from the Institute of Environmental Management in Geneva, Switzerland. He also earned a commercial pilot’s license. Before taking up ranching, he worked in the oil industry in Edmonton and Calgary, and also worked for the Alaska/Canada Arctic Gas pipeline project.

“I was fascinated about both the Arctic and Antarctic. I had worked near Alaska close to North Pole, but I thought someday I would go to Antarctica,” he said.

Canada doesn’t participate in the Antarctic program, he said. He kept looking for opportunities to travel to the frozen continent.

No single nation owns Antarctica. The U.S. Antarctic Program, which represents the U.S. in Antarctica, has a mandate to encourage international co-operation, maintain an active and influential presence in the region, and conduct high-quality science research. Glasrud was selected out of 8,000 highly qualified candidates to be the part of this research program.

“Twenty-eight countries have a treaty—just for scientific research. Canada is not a research member for Antarctica. Canada has no interest about South Pole, I guess,” he said.

Glasrud’s primary duty was building and maintaining a 3,000-metre airstrip for the airplanes that would land using skis. His main piece of equipment was a D4 Cat on tracks that runs on arctic jet fuel. The main U.S. base was 1,500 km from the South Pole.

It was middle of nowhere, he said. Team members must fly to Australia or New Zealand first, then board military helicopter for six hours. Landing in Antartica, they step into a harsh climate.

“In Antarctica, most of the time the weather is -80 C to -90 C with strong wind in blizzards conditions,” he said.

The weather can change dramatically in a heartbeat but Glasrud became accustomed to working with harsh weather. He has been to Antarctica three times, in 2010, 2011, and 2013, each time for three to four months.

“After the first two visits I got a little bit experienced. By the time 2013 came around, now I am kind of used to that, so it is pretty much routine, but never really a routine,” he said. Severe weather does not allow for any truly routine work.

The scientists were working on three main research projects, including two that were related to the measurement of the movement of the polar ice cap.

“That ice is moving and it may be moving more rapidly than it used to, although the data is pretty slim,” explained Glasrud. “Generally, the ice cap in the Antarctic is building. So if it is sliding off more rapidly, then that could affect world climate as well as ocean levels.”

For research purposes, scientists took core sample from the bottom of the ice and transported them to Denvar, Colo. to be melted in a lab. The air that came from this ice was150,000 years old and full of methane gas, they found.

Scientists studying how fast Antarctica’s ice sheets were moving discovered the sheets were melting very quickly.

Not many people are interested in traveling to what is generally regarded as the coldest place on earth but a few tourists visit Antarctica every year.

“It costs almost $US50,000 for seven-day visits, but it is very risky. Always you have to fly from South America and no help is available if any problem comes up,” he said.

Glasrud is grateful to his family members. His wife Linda Glasrud, son Garret Glasrud and daughter Haley Glasrud ran his ranching business while he was in Antarctica.

“It was not possible for me, if my family would not support me. They have supported me tremendously not to (worry) about home. I had a chance to talk to them by satellite phone every morning. The only bad part was my mother died while I was there,” he said.

Treasure in the Heart of Shaunavon


Mark Anderson, owner of Andersboda (Photo by Rebekah Lesko) Mark Anderson, owner of Andersboda, successfully sustains a high end jewellery store in small town Saskatchewan. (Photo credit: Rebekah Lesko)

Just one step off Centre Street, sectioned off from the historic Plaza theatre, lies a gem in the heart of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. Actually, many gems can be found in Andersboda, the home of fine jewellery and gifts.

Within your first step through the glass entrance door, a black and white border collie, Elsa, greets you, just seconds before the hundreds of glistening pieces completely captivate your eye. Each piece boasts brilliance, as they shine from the wooden cases enclosing them. Sparkling and twinkling alone, yet all together, the jewellery constructs a sight of wonder. The boutique-style atmosphere, complete with hardwood floors, invites you into a warm and fascinating setting.

Standing proudly behind one of the cases, smiling as he welcomes you into his store, is a man by the name of Mark Anderson.

It was April, 2011, when Anderson opened his business, Andersboda. After purchasing the store from the previous owners, the Goldsteins, Anderson went on to rebrand it.

With a population just shy of 2,000 people, the small community of Shaunavon has greatly supported the jewellery store, said Anderson. Even before the store landed in Anderson’s hands, the town managed to maintain jewellery businesses for the past century.

The Shaunavon native recalls always being fascinated by the local jewellery store in town since he was young. “I always had an interest in jewellery itself: watches, rings, diamonds, that type of thing. They are still the most interesting part of the business to me, the gems. That’s what intrigues me,” Anderson said.

When it came to naming his store, Anderson found inspiration from his Scandinavian background. The name, Andersboda, is a hybrid of the first six letters of his last name, Anderson, with the attachment of the Swedish word “boda,” which translates to ‘place’ or ‘home’ in English.  As well, the unique icon that accompanies the name of the store is inspired by a Swedish symbol, known as a Dala horse.

Its name isn’t the only thing that sets Andersboda apart.

The wooden and glass cases, which enclose the jewellery, came into Shaunavon in the early ‘30s when the jewellery store initially opened. The original owners, the Thompsons, “had purchased them second hand from the Hudson’s Bay store in Winnipeg, so the cases are probably 100 years old,” said Anderson.

A look inside these cases also reveals another unique aspect of Andersboda. The gems that occupy the cases are carefully chosen with great consideration by Anderson. He focuses on supporting Canadian designers and manufacturers. About 75 per cent of the diamonds he sells are Canadian.

I hope I never get tired of diamonds. They are the sparkle of the business.  -Mark Anderson

“People like the idea of buying a Canadian diamond, that they don’t have to worry about how it was sourced,” Anderson explained. “There’s an ethical question to some of the other diamonds, but they don’t have to worry about it with Canadian diamonds.”

It was also in 2011 when Anderson left a ranching career to pursue entrepreneurship. The transition to retail has involved adapting to a new lifestyle. Although Anderson credited his farming background for giving him business knowledge, he said he’s still constantly learning.

One key lesson Anderson has learned is how much time he must dedicate to successfully run his own store. “You have the freedom of owning your own business, but you also have the responsibility of being tied to it all the time.”

Managing Andersboda takes time, and Anderson devotes a major portion of this time to his customers. Understanding the difficult task of competing with large stores, Anderson hopes his customers appreciate his efforts to create a memorable shopping experience.

“So often when you go into a chain store, it’s a ‘here is what you get’ type of thing. In a small town, none of us businesses can survive that way. We have to go that extra bit with service,” Anderson said.

“That’s the problem with the bigger chain stores, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s jewellery or any industry, or retail store, that is what’s lost – the passion of the people working and the willingness to pass on what they know to the customers.”

Anderson has an optimistic outlook on running his store. He also, however, acknowledges his customers who add to the positive environment. “As people come in, they are looking to celebrate something, whether it’s an engagement, or a birthday, or an anniversary, or something, so you see people at their best,” said Anderson.

“It’s really easy to work with people like that, and it’s a lot of fun, as opposed to someone coming in and they’re down in the dumps, bringing the cares of the world in with them. They seldom do that in a jewellery store. They’ve left (their cares) at the door,” he added.

“I hope I never get tired of diamonds. They are the sparkle of the business,” Anderson concluded with a smile.

Fares and f-stops


Founder of Shaunavon Taxi, Chris Attrell

Founder of Shaunavon Taxi, Chris Attrell. (Photo credit: Lauren Neumann)

Driving through southern Saskatchewan you will find a scattering of abandoned towns, forgotten vehicles left to rust, and buildings still standing even after 100 years. For Chris Attrell, an enthusiastic photographer, the decision to move from Banff, Alberta to Shaunavon was obvious.

“It’s almost like going through a living museum,” explained Attrell. “You can see a house, and you can sit there and imagine the memories – them getting married, a couple going to the house for the first time, grandpa dying, and you can almost just imagine the life they had back then.”

Attrell has a whimsical character with an eagerness for expedition. This contributed to how he convinced his wife, Kelly, to pack all their belongs and move to Saskatchewan eight years ago. However, it wasn’t without effort.

Photo credit: Chris Attrell

Chris Attrell, Shaunavon’s lone taxi driver, also dabbles in photography. Attrell snapped the above photo of an abandoned home in southern Saskatchewan. (Photo credit: Chris Attrell)

“She saw my pictures of decrepit buildings in Saskatchewan and imagined this stupid town with nothing in it.”

That would prove be far from the truth. Attrell, who previously worked in the oil industry, anticipated a town like Shaunavon to boom.

“I worked at Talisman and they were all talking about Saskatchewan. So I knew it was a good place.”

Sitting in the bustling lounge at one of Shaunavon’s newest additions, The Overtime, Attrell describes how the town has been cultivated into an “oasis” in the southwest; paved highways, a new grocery store, police station, hospital, and even high-speed Internet.

“I know it sounds like a crappy tagline but, it shouldn’t – it’s not that bad here,” enthused Attrell.

Despite the increase in Shaunavon’s population and the rise of the oil industry in the area, the town boasted no taxi service.

At first, Attrell didn’t know if a taxi would even serve a purpose. There are bigger towns around the province that don’t have taxis. However, the demand for Shaunavon Taxi has now created a full-time job for Attrell.

“I thought that if you do it and you do it really good . . . that you create the demand. And you know what, it worked.”

His regular stop is The Overtime, where most are looking for a ride long after the sun sets or as early as the sun rises. These hours can create interesting experiences.

“The most recent one was this guy . . . talking about, ‘I got knives, I know people in Regina, I’m tough.’ And then he goes, ‘And I’m going to find out where you live,'” said Attrell.

“I opened up my door and I stood over that poor guy (and said,) ‘You don’t say that to somebody, especially in a small town.'”

You go out there and are just really dependable. You know the people and you treat them with respect. – Chris Attrell

Attrell is a business man through and through. From his early occupation in Alberta running websites to the Shaunavon Taxi, he now intends to focus on “Chris the photographer” in the sparse hours he has left in the day. He maintains there is good money in photography and is currently selling prints at the popular town restaurant, Harvest Eatery and Freshmarket.

“You do a good enough job, you charge double what everyone else does but you give them honest value,” said Attrell.

He crosses this mantra over to his taxi service as well.

“You go out there and are just really dependable. You know the people and you treat them with respect.”

The reality is that Saskatchewan leads the country in drinking and driving. In 2011, only the Northwest Territories and Yukon had higher impaired driving rates. Attrell acknowledges that his service is helping to decrease these numbers.

“I think (drinking and driving) is part of Saskatchewan’s culture. It’s always been, ‘Well, small towns you have no choice.’ But this saves people from having to do that.”

His choice of a 2004 Cadillac Deville, equipped with heated seats, also makes his taxi popular.

“When it’s minus 30 and I’m out here, if there was me and a hooker I swear, they would choose me. It’s such an easy sell. They know I have the seats on and the car is hot.”

Although many in the community appreciate his service, recognition is not what kept Attrell in Shaunavon. Rather, it was the relics of a past life that drove his decision to live in rural Saskatchewan. This appreciation for antiquity takes him to the far corners of the province.

“You can’t name a town in southern Saskatchewan that I haven’t been to.”

Now that Attrell has succeeded in growing his taxi business, he can start focusing on his passion for photography – something he didn’t fully actualize until experiencing the character southern Saskatchewan had to offer.

Family finds light in dark times


Jaydon Scott holds a picture of himself and his best friend, Lyndon Arnal. The two are all smiles in their chore clothes. Arnal, 10, and his older brother Sean, 16, were killed in a farming accident in July 2014. The Arnal family has established a bursary in the aftermath of tragedy. (Photo credit: Kendall Latimer)
I left Shaunavon before sunrise and headed south-west on the Red Coat Trail. The Frenchman river wound through the hills alongside the narrow gravel road I travelled. I was on my way to meet Anne Arnal at 8 a.m. near the small community of Ravenscrag.

The roads were empty of traffic until a young bull crossed the road. I edged the car forward. The moose galloped strangely in a circle and then sauntered down into the ditch. Anne was patiently waiting at the junction in her vehicle. I tailed her to the family farm, envying her effortless navigation of loose gravel.

We waded through mewing cats to get into the house. The large home felt empty, even though six children’s faces beamed down from picture frames. Anne and Clifford Arnal have lost their three youngest children. They were hardworking, kind, passionate boys who lived life to the fullest and were leaders in the community.

Blake lost his life in 2008 at the age of 14, in an ATV accident that took place north of Ravenscrag, where he was tending to a newborn calf.

In 2014 their youngest children, Sean, 16, and Lyndon, 10, were killed. It was July 23 and the boys were driving a tractor towing a baler on a steep, narrow hill down the road from the farm. The loss has left a gaping hole in the community.

It sort of reaffirms to us that idea that, you know, we are only allotted so much time here and they just went at it with gusto. -Anne Arnal

Anne, Clifford, and their three children, Chantal, Dylan, and Olivia are coping with the generous help of friends and neighbors. In small communities, the whole town becomes a neighbour.

I sat across the window while Anne fixed us breakfast. She smiled, clasping the black cross on her necklace, remembering how the children would fight for the windowsill spot. It was the only place in the house with Internet reception.

Anne had been awake since 4 a.m. ῝I have this box, and in it, is where I put my grief, ῝ she explained. Spreading her hands, she paused to close her tired eyes. ῝And every day I open it a little bit at a time. Today, I opened it a little too wide.῝

I also spoke with Clifford. He takes his days minute by minute. “Where do you go from here?” he asked, saying that it feels cold at the farm. He said Anne started operating the farm machinery in the early 90s, which meant the kids grew up farming. ῝We had the jolly jumper in there. Sean was five weeks old, hanging in the cab, bouncing up and down. ” He added that Lyndon was six months old and riding in the combine, vying with six-month-old Chico, a collie-terrier cross, for a spot in the car seat. cross A cross given as a gift to the family marks the scene of the accident which overlooks a beautiful valley (Photo credit: Kendall Latimer)

Anne shuffled stacks of paper so we could sit at the corner of the long kitchen table. We ate eggs and fresh bread purchased at Manley’s Bakery in the miniscule village of Consul, Sask.

She told me that when tragedy happens you can wallow in it, or you can choose the positive light, a sentiment the family echoes.

The Arnals established the Arnal Boys Memorial Bursary, which will encourage children ages eight to 18 in the Chinook School Division to pursue an agricultural endeavour. The family has found light in the darkest times by working on the bursary.

῝Sean and Lyndon never really went into anything without a plan. They always knew who was going to do what and what costs were going to go where,῝ said their sister Olivia.

῝They had the same hard work ethic as their parents, but when they went to play, they played hard,” said Ken Hassett, a close family friend who purchased Lyndon’s award-winning Red Angus steer in last year’s 4-H sale.

Sean financed a pig operation for the self-titled ‘family runt,’ Lyndon. ῝We thought if we created that bursary we could be that big brother for someone who wants to get into the farming or agricultural aspect but may not have the funds, ῝ said Olivia.

Lyndon’s best friend Jaydon looks after the pigs now. “For my birthday we went to a Rider game,” Jaydon said. It was two weeks before the accident. Lyndon had told Jaydon’s dad, Shane, that he wanted to buy a football for Jaydon’s birthday. They stopped at the store on the way to the game.

Jaydon wanted to buy one, too, but Shane knew the plan and had to say no. Lyndon handed him the football before the game. “We were gonna go to mechanic school. We were gonna play football, then go back and ranch,” Jaydon told me. He won’t be applying for the bursary this year because he said he feels like he has already received one.

Sister Chantal said Sean “never got frazzled with a situation.” She recalled one time when Sean was driving a tractor that started on fire. He didn’t have water so he put it out with green grass, saving the equipment by keeping a level head

“He was the most educated kid I know for farming. He never took anything for granted,” said Kirk Humphrey, Sean’s closest friend and badminton partner. “I was probably the only one that could make him mad. He liked everybody. He was at my house the day before. You never think they’re not gonna come back the next day. ”

“It’s a shame they didn’t have more (time) to enjoy but I think that was the important part of it,” Anne said. “It sort of reaffirms to us that idea that, you know, we are only allotted so much time here and they just went at it with gusto.“ Anne said the bursary will help children experience the same joys her children had.

Anne Arnal holds a stone heart found on the farm land. The family has found heart shaped rocks of all sizes since Blake died in 2008. Anne Arnal holds a stone heart found on the farm land. The family has found heart-shaped rocks of all sizes since Blake died in 2008. (Photo credit: Kendall Latimer)

The bursary is funded by an annual heifer sale, a hockey tournament in March, and a skeet shooting tournament in July. Both tournaments are held on dates close to the boy’s three birthdays.

Bircham ranch has donated three heifers to this year’s kick-off heifer sale on Dec. 8. Donations will always be accepted and so far the support has been incredible, said Anne.

Also, members of the community have purchased naming rights to three stars in honour of the boys. The eternal shining lights can be seen with a telescope at the Eastend observatory, approximately 32 km from Ravenscrag.

Anne said she sees exceptional kids everywhere. The Arnal family hopes to encourage the dreams and passionate behavior of youth.

“I don’t feel they ever did let a moment go unlived because they have left the world scattered with so many of their memories,“ said their sister, Chantal.

For information visit the Arnal Brothers Memorial on Facebook.