Some stories in Cowichan in 2021 were more fun than news

Mesachie Lake’s Herrington family: dad Shaun, mom Cara, eldest daughter Charlotte, and new arrival Violet, who was born in a hurry on March 7, 2021. (File photo)Mesachie Lake’s Herrington family: dad Shaun, mom Cara, eldest daughter Charlotte, and new arrival Violet, who was born in a hurry on March 7, 2021. (File photo)
Connie Mason, the music director at Duncan United Church, sits in front of some of the 541 pipes from the church's pipe organ as they were being prepared to be cleaned in August. (File photo))
A panoramic view of Judy and Wayne Kozler’s spectaular western town fence. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)A panoramic view of Judy and Wayne Kozler’s spectaular western town fence. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Each year, there are always some stories in the Cowichan Valley Citizen that are not hard news, but are just fun and interesting to share with the community.

The year of 2021 is no different and the end of the year is a good time to look back and remind ourselves of some of the feel-good articles that have been written over the past 12 months.

In March, reporter Kevin Rothbauer wrote a story about Mesachie Lake’s Cara Herrington who went into labour with her second child, but never made it to the hospital.

Herrington woke up around 4:15 a.m. on March 7 when her water broke.

After calling the hospital for advice, she was making her way downstairs to the door when she had two quick contractions and guessed there probably wasn’t enough time to make the drive to Duncan.


She told her husband Shaun to call an ambulance so there would be some professional medical help available while she was being driven to the hospital in what, she realized, was the likely chance that there wasn’t going to be enough time to get to their destination before her new child arrived.

Shaun just happens to be a four-year member of the Mesachie Lake Volunteer Fire Department and he also sent for his colleagues just in case the ambulance didn’t arrive in time.

Of course, by nature of the small community, as soon as the firefighters got the call that someone was giving birth, they knew exactly who it was.

The ambulance arrived in about 10 minutes, and when Cara and Shaun opened their front door to walk to the ambulance personnel, the entire fire department was standing outside.

“It was like, ‘hey boys,’” Shaun laughed at the time.

Cara was strapped into a gurney and was loaded into the ambulance.

With Shaun preparing to drive the family car to Duncan, deputy fire chief and close family friend Tyson Allnutt was given the job of riding with Cara in case the paramedics needed a hand.

They hadn’t even left the driveway when Cara told them to stop.

“Don’t go anywhere,” she told them.

“We’re not going to make it.”

Neither of the paramedics — both named Sarah — had delivered a baby before, but they were going to have to do it this time.

By 4:45 a.m. — half an hour after Cara woke up — Violet Luene Herrington was out in the world, surprising all the responders.

After the birth, Violet was cleaned up and taken to hospital in Duncan, where medical staff confirmed that she was healthy.

Both paramedics, Sarah Mooney and Sarah Spencer, earned stork pins for attending their first birth.

For Allnutt and the rest of the fire department, it was a unique event in multiple ways, as it’s much more common for firefighters to attend tragedies than miracles.

“The coolest part is that normally, where a life would be lost, in the back of an ambulance, a life was gained,” he said.


Another interesting story was written by me, Robert Barron, in August after I learned that the 120-year-old pipe organ at Duncan United Church was to undergo a thorough cleaning and tune up.

The pipe organ, and the organ technician and builder who was brought in from Calgary to do the job, had fascinating stories.


The large pipe organ, which was built in 1902 and has 541 pipes of varying sizes, was originally used to accompany silent films at the Variety Theatre in Victoria before being sold to an individual for $750 in 1933.

The buyer then donated it to the Duncan United Church where it has been in use ever since.

Jason Barnsley, one of the few people in western Canada capable of tuning and cleaning the pipe organ, took almost five days to complete the work.

It was pointed out to me by Connie Masson, the church’s music director, that one has to be a combination leather worker, an electrician, a cabinet-level woodworker, and a metallurgist with musical skills to do the work Barnsley does.

Barnsley, who was born in Saskatchewan, said he went to the U.S. to learn how to play a pipe organ and realized that he had better learn how to tune and fix them as well, so he spent seven years as an apprentice with an American company that specialized in the field before heading out on his own.

He is currently responsible for pipe organ work in western Canada, from Saskatoon to Victoria, and his territory is expected to grow as more people in the trade retire, with few stepping up to learn the skills to replace them.

Barnsley told me that the type of pipe organ at the church should be thoroughly cleaned every 40 years, and the re-leathering of the stops in the pipes should be done about every 100 years.

I’m guessing it will be Barnsley’s apprentice, or his apprentice’s apprentice, who will service the pipe organ when it needs it again.


A story about a fence that reporter Sarah Simpson wrote about in one of her weekly columns in July piqued the interest of many in the community.

I’m not talking about any old fence here, but one that had been converted into a western-style town by the property owners, CVRD Sahtlam-area residents Judy and Wayne Kozler.

The dynamic duo spent the entire summer of 2020 building the western town fence, which Judy called a labour of love.

Simpson described the wildly creative 3-D fence as being like a movie set.

Judy said the couple had a fence of cedars and they were dying so they had to pull them out and put another fence up.

“Welcome to the town of Riverbottom; Pop 8” read a carved wooden sign on the fence.

The town’s decor tells a bit of a story about its fictional occupants.


The first door front is that of the town doctor, Doc Sawbones, who, perhaps unfortunately for his patients, shares space with the town’s undertaker.

Beside the doctor’s office is the sheriff’s office, complete with a prisoner, whose hand is sticking out of the barred door.

Next to that is the mercantile, where as you’d expect, you could buy anything and everything you need, from tobacco and guns to chickens and sugar and more, according to the signs out front.

Judy said inspiration for the creation came from photographs online of the type of painting she’d pictured in my head.

She said it sparked her imagination and off she ran, but her idea was better than any painting.

She drew up plans and got to work.

“We got wood from the neighbourhood, had a mill come in and a friend milled it here on the property and we just started building,” Judy explained.

“It took us all summer. We’re retired and have more time than money,” she added with a laugh.

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2021 Year in Review