During bad weather, some people like to keep tabs on their local traffic cameras. Eileen Eagle Bears can certainly relate to that, as a snowstorm prompted both her and her mother to cast a watchful eye over the live footage. However, the pair then discovered a stranded truck driver in the middle of the road.
A resident of Manitoba, Canada, Eileen and her mother, Heather, lived on a farm in a small community named Minto. Back when the former was just eight years old, she became the owner of her very first horse. That event set one of her biggest passions in motion.
Indeed, in the decade or so since, Eileen has gone on to own over 20 horses. Meanwhile, the keen equestrian also competed in a number of competitions. The love that she has for her animals is readily apparent on social media, as she shares images of them via her Facebook page. However, on March 6, 2017, something else caught the Canadian’s eye.
A snowstorm swept over Manitoba that day, leaving truck driver Peter Douglas in a difficult position. Hailing from Winnipeg, Canada, he was heading towards the city of Brandon when the bad weather closed in. Despite keeping up with the forecasts in his vehicle, though, Douglas couldn’t prevent what happened next.
“The Souris Valley was one sheet of ice and I couldn’t pull the whole thing,” Douglas recalled to CTV News in March 2017. “I was trapped. With all my brakes on, I still started sliding backwards.” Although the trucker was in a tough spot, he took some solace knowing that his vehicle was positioned near a traffic camera.
“My family, my bosses and, it seems, everyone on Facebook knew exactly where I was,” Douglas added. Eileen and her mom were certainly aware of the Winnipeg resident’s predicament, as they wanted to keep an eye on the roads. So with that in mind, one of them made a bold decision.
“[On] Monday night, my mom and I were watching the Manitoba 511 road cams,” Eileen told CBC News in March 2017. “And we noticed that a truck driver had been stuck on the north side of the number ten highway.” After spotting Douglas and his vehicle in the snowstorm, she then devised a plan.
“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.” Indeed, due to the adverse conditions, Douglas had to spend the night inside his truck.
At that point, Eileen started to gather some supplies before picking a unique form of transport to reach the stricken driver. “I got together some coffee and I got on my horse,” she said. “And [then we] went to go see [Douglas].” The animal in question was a Welsh-Arabian horse named Mr. Smudge.
After wrapping a brown tartan blanket around Mr. Smudge, Eileen then started her journey to the highway, which was over two miles away. Despite the treacherous conditions, though, her mother didn’t stand in her way. According to Heather, she was confident that her daughter could handle herself out on the road.
“I trust [Eileen],” Heather revealed to BuzzFeed Canada in March 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.” On that note, the teenager spoke about the challenges she and Mr. Smudge faced while making their way to Douglas.
“It wasn’t too cold, but the wind made it very cold,” Eileen told CBC News. “The roads were covered in ice from all the rain that we had got, and there were quite a few drifts.” With that in mind, the Minto resident then hailed Mr. Smudge for the way he handled the difficult conditions.
“[Mr. Smudge] was great,” Eileen continued. “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.” After successfully navigating the wintry obstacles, the pair finally arrived outside Douglas’ truck.
From there, Eileen found Douglas sleeping inside the vehicle, which prompted her to knock on his door. “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,” the Winnipeg resident told CTV News. “She brought me coffee.”
Due to the conditions outside, Douglas was incredibly impressed that Eileen and Mr. Smudge made it to his location. “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.”
Meanwhile, Eileen spoke about Douglas’ condition following her arrival, noting that the trucker wasn’t doing too badly. However, there was one potential issue on the horizon. “He was doing okay,” she said. “He still had lots of diesel in his truck [and] he was still warm, but he was running out of food.”
As a result of that, Eileen made Douglas a vow regarding the food situation. “I promised him that if he was still [there], I would make him some hot supper and bring it back to him,” she added. After handing the coffee over to the trucker, the Canadian and her horse then made their way home.
Later that day, Eileen saw that Douglas was still stuck on the highway, so she followed through on her promise. The Minto resident did indeed cook up some food for the stricken driver before heading back out with Mr. Smudge. The pair then traversed the dangerous conditions for a second time to reach the stranded truck.
“[I brought Douglas some] hamburger stew with potatoes,” Eileen recalled of that second journey. “I also brought him more coffee. He was very appreciative that someone was out there and that they cared.” By the end of the day, both she and Mr. Smudge had traveled just under ten miles across the icy roads.
With that in mind, Eileen then explained why she chose Mr. Smudge over her other horses at the farm for the journey. “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 that’s exactly what happened.
As for Douglas, a tow truck helped him out of his difficult position later that evening. Following over 24 hours stuck on the icy highway, the trucker finally reached Brandon, bringing his ordeal to an end. However, he certainly isn’t the only one to have been stranded in wintry conditions, with plenty of people facing similar issues in the past.
Indeed, while Douglas could keep warm inside his truck and remained visible on the traffic camera, travelers from hundreds of years ago didn’t have those advantages. For instance, those who attempted to traverse the Western Alps’ Great St. Bernard Pass faced incredible difficulties reaching their destination. Much like the truck driver’s story, though, help often arrived in the form of an animal.
Douglas was able to rely on Eileen and Mr. Smudge in his situation, but for the people journeying through the Alps, St. Bernard dogs played that heroic role instead. It all started back in 1050, as the monk St. Bernard de Menthon opened up a hospice in the pass. Prior to the canines’ arrival, that building served as the port of call for struggling travelers.
Around 600 years later, the monks working at the hospice introduced the St. Bernard dogs to the area. However, it would be close to another century before the famous canines showed what they could do in the wintry conditions. By the start of the 1700s, a group of servants had begun to help people across the Alps.
Some 50 years later, though, the St. Bernards joined them in their task, proving their usefulness. Thanks to the dogs’ sense of smell and large build, they were able to find travelers buried beneath the snow. As time went on, the canines were then entrusted to find people who were lost in the area.
Incredibly, the St. Bernards fulfilled their heroic role in the Alps for around 150 years, rescuing over 2,000 travelers in that time. One dog in particular, named Barry, saved just under 50 people on his own during his service, which came to an end in 1812. Barry was so important to the country that, after his death, Switzerland’s Natural History Museum displayed his body.
Following all those years of loyal service, the last recorded St. Bernard rescue came in 1897. On that occasion, one of the dogs discovered a young boy stranded in the Alps, saving his life as a result. While the circumstances behind Eileen and Mr. Smudge’s efforts were completely different, they shared that same will to help someone in need.
Eileen’s actions certainly impressed her mom, who took to Facebook later that day to share her daughter’s story. The Minto resident posted a screen capture from the traffic camera footage, in which Mr. Smudge and his owner can be seen standing next to the truck. In addition to that, she also included a message alongside the image.
“Highway camera on number ten caught a [picture] of Eileen Eagle Bears delivering coffee on horseback to a stranded trucker in the storm,” Heather wrote on Facebook. “She rode [around] three miles each way to check on him.” The proud mom then added another message in the comments section, hailing her daughter’s actions.
“[Eileen’s] a good rider and took Mr. Smudge,” Heather wrote on the social media website. “She rode where drifts were smaller and [she] knows the road. For those that don’t know, Eileen Eagle Bears is just 18 years old. Showing maturity beyond her years.” While the mom was clearly delighted, not even she could’ve predicted what happened next.
Indeed, Heather’s post proved a big hit on social media, with online users showing their appreciation to Eileen and Mr. Smudge. The screen capture earned close to 3,000 likes and over 1,500 shares on Facebook. In addition to that, it also generated more than 400 comments, most of which were incredibly positive.
“God bless Ms. Eagle Bears,” wrote user Douglas Martin in the comments section. “Her act of kindness to one driver is felt throughout all the drivers, nationwide, in both great nations. Thank you from an Oregon State driver.” The praise didn’t end there, though, as another trucker spoke about Eileen’s actions.
“That was a very caring gesture you did,” wrote Facebook user Jon Gudorf. “[I] wish more people would follow your example. I [have been] a truck driver [for the] last 29 years, and [it’s] great to see someone with COMMON SENSE. We are all in life together under God, wish more people realized that.”
Eileen wasn’t the only one to receive praise in the comments section, though. Heather, in fact, also got some of the plaudits. “You should be so proud to have raised such a caring and compassionate human being!” user James Colquhoun wrote. “Wish this world had more individuals like your daughter!”
However, one other post stood out above all the rest. And it perfectly summed up Eileen’s gesture and the effect it had on Douglas. “This is one of the most heartwarming stories I’ve read on Facebook in a long time,” wrote user Kathy McNally. “Three miles doesn’t sound like a [long] ride until you hit bitter winds and icy conditions.”
McNally’s kind words didn’t end there, though. “I commend you for continuing on and checking on that trucker,” she added to her comment on the social media website. “I bet that was the best coffee that man has ever had in his life!” As for Eileen, she was taken aback by the online response to her efforts.
“I am overwhelmed at how much attention this story has got,” Eileen told CBC News. “It was a surprise to me when I got back, because my mom had posted it on Facebook and it had just totally blown up. Everyone has seen it on Facebook now, and it’s just overwhelming.”
On that note, Eileen was then asked if her selfless act might inspire others to do something similar in the future. The Minto resident’s subsequent response mirrored that of Gudorf and Colquhoun’s comments on Facebook. “I sure hope so,” she replied to the question. “The world needs more kindness.”
Eileen might have been “overwhelmed” by the praise she received, but her mother reiterated just how deserving she was of it. Indeed, Heather believed that the public were getting a good look at the kind of person her daughter was. The proud parent then touched upon her horse riding skills.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing [Eileen] get the recognition she deserves for being such a good person,” Heather gushed to BuzzFeed Canada. “I’m very proud of her, always have been. She’s an excellent little horsewoman.” Meanwhile, Douglas was set to drop Eileen a visit after everything that happened, looking to return her thermos flask.