Christmas 2018: Hornepayne community pulled together for Scott
BY DENNY SCOTT
Retired Ontario Provincial Police officer Mike Scott shared one of his most memorable Christmas moments with The Citizen in its 2018 Christmas special. The article, written by Denny Scott, focuses on the loss of a companion and a community rallying to help Scott overcome that loss.
For police officers, like local retired OPP officers Arden Farrow and Mike Scott, Christmas can be a difficult time of year.
While many people associate the Christmas holiday with warm memories, police officers can find themselves working on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and handling some of the most trying situations imaginable at what is supposed to be a happy time.
Scott said that, as a result, Christmas is a fairly subdued event around their home. He explained that, after seeing some of the worst sides of Christmas, it is hard to celebrate and, even in retirement, it’s not an occasion the family holds dear.
Scott and Farrow, and their daughter Phaedra, live on a farm just outside of Blyth and, while there are stories that Scott and Farrow could tell that would sour people on the holiday, one of Scott’s fondest memories is a tale of two horses and the railroad community of Hornepayne.
In 1986, Scott was stationed in Hornepayne, which is easily a 12-hour drive from his home in Blyth. The town is located approximately 480 kilometres east of Thunder Bay.
Scott had taken a horse and pony with him when he was stationed to the town, which marked, in his estimation, the first time that such animals had been in the town for three or four decades, since loggers had stopped using them.
The animals were an oddity at the time and appreciated by the community, Scott said. The local Girl Guides used them to get badges associated with equine activities and the pony was used to haul a sled around the community at Christmas.
“The pony would pull the sled, and my partner, dressed as Santa, would deliver colouring books and treats to the houses in the community,” he said. “We followed with the cruiser, blaring Christmas songs through the PA system.”
That Christmas holiday, however, was a bitter one for Scott. Back on patrol after having put the pony back in his stall after the Christmas deliveries, Scott observed a local male breaking into the Hornepayne Legion and arrested the man. He explained that, being caught in the act with a crowbar in his hand and identity of the person not being an issue, there was no legal requirement to keep the suspect in custody.
The accused was released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.
After being let go, however, the man went to a nearby party, became intoxicated, and borrowed his brother’s crossbow.
He took the crossbow to the barn outside of town where Scott kept the pony and his horse Badger.
“Badger was my pride and joy,” Scott said “I had trained him for years. I did jumping with him. He was gentle and great.”
The man killed Badger with the crossbow and drenched the pony in gasoline. The crime scene showed that Badger had suffered greatly before he succumbed to the wound inflicted by the arrow from the crossbow.
“Fortunately, he wasn’t able to start a flame to light the gasoline,” Scott explained. Smurf the pony was spared.
The man was arrested and incarcerated for what he had done, and Scott was sent home to Kitchener for a week’s leave after the incident.
While he was home, however, the people of the town of Hornpayne rallied to try and repay Scott for his work in the community and, through the work of several townspeople, raised approximately $2,000 for him to replace his horse.
The people of the town tried to give the money to Scott, however, as an OPP officer, there was a problem with him accepting the lump sum of cash. The townsfolk, however, weren’t going to quit there.
They appealed the decision and, after going through the OPP’s legal department, it was determined Scott could have the money provided he used it to buy a horse, which he did.
“I bought a young Clydesdale,” Scott said. “I took it back to Hornpayne and we had a competition to name it and it was great.”
Charlie Fitzback was the winning entry, Fitzback being the name of the early settlement of what is now Hornepayne.
Scott said that, at the time of Badger’s death, he was devastated. He said it would’ve been easy to put Hornepayne in his rearview mirror and never think of the community in a positive light again, but the residents helped restore his faith in humanity.
“I’ll always have that fond memory of how Charlie came into my life,” Scott said.
Scott said he will always have fond memories of Hornepayne instead of dwelling on the one person who took Badger away from him.
As for that man who killed Badger, Scott said that, after his one-year sentence, he returned to the town, which he was promptly encouraged to leave. He found his way to Peterborough eventually, where police arrested him for grave robbing. When they searched his home, they found jewelry from recent interments and he was once again behind bars.
Charlie provided many years of happiness to local children, nieces and nephews. It became a Christmas tradition to walk Charlie down the sideroad with four or five young children on his back. He died of old age at Scott and Farrow’s farm.