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Penning pioneer tales

Surrey artist and author Ernie Faessler shows his latest book, Incredible Pioneer Stories.    - EVAN  SEAL / THE LEADER
Surrey artist and author Ernie Faessler shows his latest book, Incredible Pioneer Stories.
— image credit: EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER

It’s been three-and-a-half years in the making, but Ernie Faessler is the proud author of a second book.

Faessler, who turns 89 at the end of the month, has recently published Incredible Pioneer Stories, a collection of about two dozen tales from the longtime Surrey resident’s childhood through to his adult years. Each is accompanied by a painting by Faessler, many of them barns from across the province which are no longer standing, preserved only in his artwork.

Most of the short stories come straight from Faessler’s razor-sharp memory and others are as they were told to him by family friends.

One, titled Canine Emergency Run, is Faessler’s favourite and took place when he was about eight or nine years old. It details the story of a trapper who was badly injured and alone in a remote cabin in winter. In desperation, he attached a note to his beloved dog and then whipped him and told him to “go home” in hopes that someone would then come looking for him. Eventually, the dog did return, leading help (from two men, including Faessler’s dad) back to the bleeding man and saving his life.

“All these stories… I was at those places when they happened,” he says, speculating why it has stuck with him all these years. “I was at a very young, impressionable age.”

Another story, called One Last Gift, tells of a man who contacted Faessler after a story about him ran in The Leader in 2006. In the background of the newspaper photograph of Faessler was a small painting of a barn with a unique roof. The man on the phone was incredibly excited because it was the barn his father had built in the 1930s, a building the family didn’t even have a photo of. He purchased the painting and hung it beside his ailing father’s bed. The man called again later that year to say his father had passed away, but that he’d asked a nurse to take the painting from the wall and died holding it to his chest.

Such stories, Faessler says, are deeply ingrained.

“They’ll never leave me.”

Money from the sale of Incredible Pioneer Stories will be donated to the B.C. Cancer Agency. Proceeds from his first book, Barns: From Our Pioneers - Builders of a Nation, benefited leukemia research. The disease took Faessler’s wife of 35 years and his book sales raised $6,000. Now out of print, it is available in every Surrey library.

Faessler will be signing copies of Incredible Pioneer Stories at the Guildford Town Centre location of Black Bond Books on Nov. 17, 1-2 p.m.

His book is available for purchase at Black Bond locations in Surrey, White Rock and Langley.

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