Saskatchewan

Our story begins about two hours north of the Montana state line in the hamlet of Pense, Saskatchewan, Canada. Population: 532—unless someone just had a baby.

There’s not much happening in Pense. You’re basically looking at grain elevators, prairie, and farmers. Lots and lots of farmers. Saskatchewan prairieland is the world’s third largest exporter of durum wheat. So if you’ve eaten Wonderbread or Wheaties recently, it probably came from a Saskatchewan farmer.

These are hardy people who are used to dealing with Biblical snows and hellishly freezing temperatures. Last week, for example, the lows got down to negative 29 degrees. That’s negative with an N.

Which is probably why Canadian farmers have all sorts of clever names for these brutal snowstorms.

They have the “Alberta clipper,” a machine-gun blizzard that moves across the prairie like a Messerschmitt. They have the “Manitoba mauler,” which drops about 3 inches of snow in the same amount of time it takes to trim your toenails. There’s the “Canadian cyclone,” the “Ontario scary-oh,” the “Alberta low,” and the “omigod we’re all gonna freaking die.”

And then you have the “Saskatchewan screamer.” A unique storm that comes up quickly and screams like a banshee wind.

A few nights ago, while you were snug on your sofa, a Saskatchewan screamer raked across the prairie of Pense.

And Shannon was out driving in it.

Shannon is a single mom who had just picked up some take-out for her kids and was trying to get home before the big storm hit. She sped toward Pense, her windshield wipers set to high, her hands gripping the wheel tightly.

When pavement turned into gravel, the windspeeds picked up and nearly nudged her car off the road. Visibility was zero. In a few moments, she was driving blind. The snowfall got so bad she had to stop driving and click on her hazards.

This was not good.

She leapt out of her vehicle to get her bearings. The forceful gusts blasted sand and grit into her face, disoriented her, saturated her clothes, and nearly knocked her onto the ground.

No, this was not good at all.

She crawled into her car and called 911. But—and here’s the truly terrifying part—911 was busy.

Shannon was greeted with a recorded message explaining that 911 was experiencing high call volume. (“Thank you for calling 911, your call is very important to us, please stay on the line and our next available representative…”)

“I was parked in the middle, or maybe on the edge of a road in a blizzard…” said Shannon. “Would the gas tank last until morning? What if I was hit by another vehicle? What if I fell asleep and the tailpipe was blocked? What if I didn’t make it home at all?”

So she drove onward through the avalanche until she arrived at a deep ravine. She was hopelessly lost now. The world was covered in sugar-white snow, there were no visible landmarks. It was game over.

I don’t mean to reach for melodrama, but people have died in less trying circumstances.

After crying her mascara off, in a last ditch effort Shannon used her phone to to post her GPS location onto the Pense Facebook community page. She posted that she was stranded.

Enter 80-year-old Andre.

Andre Bouvier is a farmer who was at home nearby, busy doing old-guy stuff. “Piddling,” is what my people would call it. Although the Canadians probably call it something exotically French, such as, “c’est la piddle.”

Andre’s phone rang. Someone told him about Shannon’s post on Facebook. The old man sprang into action. Then again, “sprang” might be a little too peppy of a verb for someone Andre’s age. Let’s say he tottered into action.

The old farmer tried to fire up his tractor, but the battery was dead. So he told his wife he would walk.

“Walk?” his wife said. “Through a storm?”

Andre’s elderly wife was not a fan of this idea. This was a national-newsworthy blizzard. Whereas Andre predates the Battle of Iwo Jima by approximately three years.

His wife begged him to use common sense. But this is a Saskatchewan farmer we’re talking about here. Andre’s ancestors did not make it this far into history by listening to common sense.

He bundled himself tightly, grabbed his lantern, and he walked a quarter mile into the whiteout blizzard.

“The worst part was the wind,” Andre told CBC News. “Halfway there, I had to put my mitts in front of my eyes.”

Andre was looking for Shannon in the gale, but he got more than he bargained for. He found two more stranded vehicles on the frozen tundra.

In a few minutes, the old farmer was leading seven people through the blinding squall to his house where he gave them coffee and applesauce and a place to stay for the night.

“[I] jumped into his arms,” said Shannon, “and gave him a great big bear hug. I was sobbing with gratitude. I was so grateful.”

I’ll end the story here by telling you that Andre refused to accept recognition for his effort, even though he might have saved, not just one, but seven lives.

Andre’s reaction was, Nah. “Everybody would have done the same thing,” he said. “You don’t think about it, you just do it.”

Which is exactly what you’d expect a farmer to say.

40 comments

  1. Kay Williams - February 9, 2022 6:14 am

    I declare! I have some Canadian friends from our RV travel days and you just don’t find a nicer bunch of folks than Canadians

    Reply
  2. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - February 9, 2022 7:13 am

    What an uplifting story. I’m going through some tough times with a husband with final stage Alzheimer’s so had a meltdown last night here in South Africa. This morning I woke to a stream of uplifting positive messages from many folk, Told no one about the meltdown. Every message was a miracle & your story today topped them all. Got bless Andre, God bless Canadians, some of the nicest folk I’ve met, including my brother & his wife on Denman island off Vancouver mainland. May God allow me the chance to see them again someday. Bless you Sean for yet another miracle message in the nick of time.

    Reply
    • Stacey Wallace - February 9, 2022 3:29 pm

      Norma, praying for you. I lost my Daddy to Alzheimer’s in 2018. May God give you strength.

      Reply
    • Susan - February 13, 2022 3:24 am

      Norma, sending love and strength

      Reply
  3. Virginia+Russell - February 9, 2022 11:49 am

    Wowza

    Reply
  4. Patricia Collins - February 9, 2022 1:01 pm

    Andre you are certainly a man of God as well as a kind soul. Thank you for having a heart big enough to do what it takes to show compassion as well as love for others !

    Reply
  5. Marc Beaver - February 9, 2022 1:07 pm

    Exactly!!!

    Reply
  6. Denise Cheke - February 9, 2022 1:29 pm

    Sean, as one of your Canadian followers imagine my delight to read the headline for today’s column! I call Saskatoon, Saskatchewan home and yup, we had some weather last week! There are so many stories like the one you told and there are so many good people here in our prairie province! Thank you for sharing the story of one if them!

    Reply
  7. Sally - February 9, 2022 1:33 pm

    I live in Canada. right now the tempatures are around 0 Celsius. But it was down at 41 degrees Celsius. Thanks for uplifting the farmers. I live on a farm and it’s hard work. Canadian farmers know what hard work, sweat and tears mean. Rarely do the farmers get noticed if they didn’t plant any cropsone year North America would starve… Thanks Sean

    Reply
  8. Sarah - February 9, 2022 1:39 pm

    ♥️

    Reply
  9. Diane Copeland - February 9, 2022 1:48 pm

    Wow….God love him.

    Reply
  10. Jan - February 9, 2022 2:25 pm

    Love this. What an awesome person Andre is. Great story, Sean, you paint a fantastic word picture!

    Reply
  11. Cathy M - February 9, 2022 2:28 pm

    Great story of another true hero. God bless this fine, strong man

    Reply
  12. Shelton A. - February 9, 2022 2:59 pm

    You are one of those people that folks call heroes. Outstanding tale of what one person who will not be deterred can do. Seven people saved. Some people say there are no angels on earth and I would say, look at Andre. Or ask Shannon. God bless, sir and your bride for making space for seven people on a wild night. Thanks for sharing, Sean. A great story of courage and love for others.

    Reply
  13. Patricia Gibson - February 9, 2022 3:03 pm

    God bless Andre’

    Reply
  14. Donna from Iowa - February 9, 2022 3:08 pm

    the worst thing that happened to us in
    Saskatchewan was we locked the keys in the car at a rest stop–but it was summer and mounted police rescued us so we could get to
    Alaska!

    Reply
  15. Helen De Prima - February 9, 2022 3:18 pm

    This is the backbone which dissolves when people are crowded into cities.

    Reply
  16. Stacey Wallace - February 9, 2022 3:23 pm

    You go, Andre! You are my hero. This Alabama girl shudders at the thought of that much snow and temperatures of negative 29 degrees. Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  17. AlaRedClayGirl - February 9, 2022 3:39 pm

    Great story!

    Reply
  18. Dianne - February 9, 2022 3:39 pm

    Being a little Southern Belle, I honestly don’t think I could endure even one winter in those conditions. A tremendous thing done by that elderly farmer, who is a true hero to seven people. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  19. Gayle Wilson - February 9, 2022 5:40 pm

    When something bad happens, always look for the good people to come to the rescue.

    Reply
  20. Stephen Herchak - February 9, 2022 6:02 pm

    Years ago I remember hearing a story where there were people in North Dakota who felt their state was lacking identity, people didn’t know it from South Dakota, which one was Mount Rushmore, etc etc and there was some enthusiasm for the notion of rebranding the state with a different name. There was a contest sponsored by a newspaper, tv or radio station, perhaps — this was many moon ago and I really don’t recall the details. My favorite submital, and the only one I remembered was: South Saskatchewan

    Reply
  21. Peggy - February 9, 2022 6:23 pm

    “There’s not much happening in Pense. You’re basically looking at grain elevators, prairie, and farmers.” HA! This made me laugh. Maybe you don’t know much about farming, but there is ALWAYS something going on with that. This is a story with so much blessing. And to comment about he man in Wyoming who saved people in the house fire, I have to wonder if you have ever been to Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana? If not, you should come out and see what “flyover country” looks like. We are here, farmers and ranchers, and we feed the world. I live 60 miles from Mt. Rushmore.

    Reply
  22. Charlotte Virginia McCraw - February 9, 2022 6:28 pm

    A beautiful story. My eyes are leaking so much that I can barely see to write this comment. I read each and every day about evil, murderous people, so I am truly grateful to hear of really nice, kind, caring people. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  23. Jakki Stephenson - February 9, 2022 6:37 pm

    This is so heartwarming- I live in SK and indeed, I heard that night, a guy ended up in the ditch with his tractor and died of hypothermia when he became disoriented trying to walk less than a mile home. I had not heard about this story though. God Bless Andre! God moves in mysterious ways!

    Reply
  24. Linda Moon - February 9, 2022 7:49 pm

    I know about old guys’ piddling stuff. And I know about “no good at all” when a little boy’s daddy beat him in backyard putt-putt. “That wasn’t no good at all!” the four-year-old yelled to his daddy. But my small references here don’t compare to Andre’s and Shannon’s encounter. Yep, those old farmer guys can be heroes for lots of people. The little boy is all grown up now, his daddy is gone, and my old guy is one of his heroes who still springs into action anytime it’s needed!

    Reply
  25. Suellen - February 9, 2022 8:17 pm

    We’ve taken two vacations in Canada. Once to Ontario Province (Owen Sound) and once to Saskatchewan. The Canadians are the nicest people. My husband lost our car keys (with my purse locked up in the trunk) swimming in Lake Huron. A nearby cafe owner took us in and plied us with beverages until AAA could get there. They probably didn’t have as favorable opinion of me because I had told my husband a dozen times NOT to put our keys in the little pocket in his swim trunks but there ya go. The only sour note from either vacation. I wish I could go back today oh um…I mean this summer.

    Reply
  26. MAM - February 9, 2022 8:20 pm

    Yes, exactly what a farmer or rancher would do and say. I get so tired of farmers and ranchers being maligned by bad politicians and so-called environmentalists. Farmers and ranchers are the BEST people in the world, THE best conservationists. They have difficult jobs feeding everyone. Thank you, Sean, for recognizing one of them

    Reply
  27. Pingback: Sean of the South: Saskatchewan | The Trussville Tribune

  28. Ann Marie Bouchet - February 10, 2022 2:09 am

    Andre is a great man

    Reply
  29. Robert Sheppard Smyth - February 10, 2022 11:44 am

    Wonderful, just wonderful

    Reply
  30. Sue Cronkite - February 10, 2022 10:02 pm

    Yep.

    Reply
  31. Sheryl - February 10, 2022 10:47 pm

    Saskatchewan is my HOME!! And I love the ever changing….today it’s +6C and tomorrow it’s supposed to be -19C. Rain, wind, sun, and snow….

    Reply
  32. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - February 11, 2022 4:14 pm

    Reply
  33. Judy Riley - February 11, 2022 5:05 pm

    What the heck were you doing in Saskatchewan? We lived in Moose Jaw for a year. Most fun year!! 1967 was their centennial year…parties, parades, listening to the people from Georgia. Great people!!

    Reply
  34. Belinda Byrd - February 12, 2022 3:30 pm

    God bless men with hearts as big as Andre’s.

    Reply
  35. Belinda Byrd - February 12, 2022 3:32 pm

    God bless men with hearts as big as Andre’s!

    Reply
  36. Debbie Minotto - February 12, 2022 5:50 pm

    Great story! I have a silly question though- what happened to the children of this single mom? I’m guessing she called a relative or a neighbor to watch them? Are they older kids? Just a wondering mom here…

    Reply
  37. Cindy - February 13, 2022 6:34 am

    Oh yes, I’m in Manitoba and live that life! Rural people just help no questions, it’s what you do. I love rural people. It’s called survival. 💕

    Reply
  38. Nancy R. Wallace - February 14, 2022 11:40 pm

    I have family in Saskatchewan (and Alberta) and they are the best people I know – rock stars for sure, The first time I went for a visit they greeted me as if we’d known each other forever, and exclaimed “Welcome to Saskatchewan, where you can watch your dog run away for three days !!” hahaha … love ’em

    Reply

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