18-year-old Eileen Eagle Bears and her mother had a habit of watching their local traffic cameras when Canada’s notoriously brutal storms would sweep in, sometimes lasting for days. On this day the two noticed that the storm had left a truck driver stranded nearly three miles from their home on highway 10, and with the snow not letting up they knew it wasn’t good news for him. Being the kind and concerned folks that they are, they decided they would somehow help if he was still stuck by morning.
The family lived on a small farm inside the close-knit community of Minto, a residential area near Manitoba, Canada. Winter was usually harsh so it was no surprise that the truck driver was stranded as this brutal storm’s end was nowhere in sight. With temperatures dropping the family knew that soon the man could face serious danger, but wondered how they could help without endangering themselves.
Eileen was highly experienced in horse-riding, starting at the tender age of eight when she got her first horse. Riding had become second nature to the teen, competing in, and winning various equestrian competitions. By the time she was 18, she was the proud owner of nearly 20 horses.
The Truck Driver
Peter Douglas, the stranded truck driver, was no newbie when it came to Canadian storms. Hailing from Winnipeg, Canada, he had encountered a few during his career as a truck driver. However, this one was bad, and he knew he was going to need some help to get out of the situation he had quickly found himself in.
Headed to the nearby town of Brandon, he thought he had plenty of time to reach his destination before the storm got too bad. However, although he was keeping up with local weather reports, no one realized just how intense the storm was going to get, and it happened with the blink of an eye. What happened next surprised the seasoned driver.
“The Souris Valley was one sheet of ice and I couldn’t pull the whole thing,” Douglas recalled to a local news station in March of 2017. “I was trapped. With all my brakes on, I still started sliding backwards.” With his truck sliding out of control on the road, all Douglas could do was hope for the best. When it finally came to a stop, there was one thing on his side.
Stuck In The Ice
Douglas slid to a screeching halt, avoiding injury and any significant damage to his vehicle. He noticed that there was a nearby traffic cam just feet away from where he had landed, bringing a little hope to the situation. He knew that someone would notice him and he hoped they would send help.
All Eyes On Him
“My family, my bosses and, it seems, everyone on Facebook knew exactly where I was,” he mentioned. In fact, Eileen was one of those people that knew what kind of situation Douglas was in, and because of her nearby location and brave heart, made a decision that would shock many.
Keeping An Eye Out
“On Monday night, my mom and I were watching the Manitoba 511 road cams,” Eileen shared with CBC News in March of 2017. “And we noticed that a truck driver had been stuck on the north side of the number ten highway.” Right away the young woman knew she wanted to help.
“I thought that maybe I should help [Douglas],” Eileen continued. “It was too late that night, so I went to bed thinking that I should do something. When I woke up, I checked the cams first thing and he was still there.”
To Douglas’ surprise, the storm kept on strong, dropping so much snow that he ended up having to spend the night in his truck. While things weren’t getting too serious yet, it wasn’t a comfortable situation by any means. When morning came and Eileen noticed he was still stranded, she knew it was time to act.
She packed up some supplies that would be handy in this kind of situation and decided that the best form of transportation would be one that she had a real passion for–one of her horses. To some, this would seem like a crazy idea, bearing in mind that the journey would be nearly six miles there and back, but to Eileen, it made complete sense.
“I got together some coffee and I got on my horse,” she said. “And [then we] went to go see [Douglas].” The horse she decided would be the best fit for the job was a Welsh-Arabian breed named Mr. Smudge.
Eileen took precautions to ensure that Mr. Smudge was well equipt for the long journey, covering him in a weather-proof tartan blanket to protect him from the harshness of the snow. Eileen’s mother, Heather, was surprisingly supportive of her daughter’s idea. Confident that her daughter could handle the trip, she told Eileen that she loved her and waved goodbye.
I trust [Eileen],” Heather told BuzzFeed Canada in March of 2017. “I just told her she had to be safe and I was keeping an eye on the time to see how long she was gone.” Not the average response from a mother, but one that showed complete confidence in her daughter’s decision making. However, later Eileen would open up that the trip was not without its challenges.
“It wasn’t too cold, but the wind made it very cold, the roads were covered in ice from all the rain that we had got, and there were quite a few drifts.” Knowing that the ice could be dangerous for both her and her beloved Mr. Smudge, Eileen had to navigate the path very carefully, taking her time not to head into any unnecessary danger.
Eileen hailed Mr. Smudge for his efforts on the rescue mission, “Mr. Smudge was great,” Eileen shared. “I had to get off [him] and walk about half of the way, [though], because the wind was too strong. The wind was blowing us around, and with the ice on the road, it could’ve been bad.” As the wind picked up the two moved forward, hoping to reach Douglas before anything got worse.
Finally, the two made it to Douglas’ truck, safe and sound. Eileen noticed that Douglas was still sleeping, so she gave a loud knock to hopefully wake him up. “Lo and behold, first thing in the morning, I look out my window and there was a horse and a young lady by the name of Eileen Eagle Bears. She brought me coffee,” Douglas told the local news.
Douglas was so impressed by Eileen’s trek that he was amazing at what he was witnessing, “She had to walk that horse half a mile up that hill and half a mile down because it was so icy,” he continued. “[It] blew me away. She said she saw me on the camera. She and her family were watching.” He never would have imagined that his saving grace would be an 18-year-old and Mr. Smudge.
Low On Food
Luckily for Douglas, Eileen was one courageous teenager as his situation was starting to look grim.“He was doing okay,” she shared with reporters. “He still had lots of diesel in his truck [and] he was still warm, but he was running out of food.” Not to mention, everyone loves to be woken up by a cup of fresh steaming coffee.
After they chatted for a while, Eileen promised Douglas that if he was still there by later in the day she would come back and bring him some more supplies, “I promised him that if he was still [there], I would make him some hot supper and bring it back to him.” She handed him the coffee and set back on her way home.
Trip Number Two
Later, she noticed that Douglas was still stranded, and she intended to keep her promise. She made him some dinner and set out once again with Mr. Smudge to help the truck driver. All of this was caught on camera and later adored by multiple local news stations.
A Caring Stranger
“I brought Douglas some hamburger stew with potatoes,” Eileen told reporters. “I also brought him more coffee. He was very appreciative that someone was out there and that they cared.”
The Right Man For The Job
Eileen also explained why Mr. Smudge was the best horse for the job, “I have a lot of trust in this horse,” she told CBC News. “I knew that if I took him [out to find Douglas], I would get there and back safely.” And she was right, Mr. Smudge was the man for the job.
On His Way
As for Douglas, help finally arrived nearly 24 hours after his initial stranding, in the form of a snow truck and tow truck. They were able to free him from his position and he was once again on his way to Brandon. He won’t forget the kindness shown to him by the brave teen, reminding us all that a simple act of kindness can go a long way.