Grant Stone was named the Citizen/Volunteer of the Year last month, at the Chamber of Commerce Business and Community Excellence Awards.
Although he is not exactly sure why, he thinks it may have had something to do with his cowboy poetry.
“I enjoy going around town and sharing poetry and children’s stories,” explained Stone. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a little bit of a knack, to get up and tell these stories and I’m very grateful and thankful to have that little attribute.”
Even though people get most of their entertainment from their screens these days, Stone believes that we “absolutely need that face to face contact.”
Story telling started for him about 20 years ago, when he was driving a tour bus, taking people from the Okanagan down to Reno, Nevada.
During the overnight stay he would get to know his passengers during the wine and cheese get together.
There he would occasionally tell a story or an anecdote.
Once he started driving the HandyDart bus he volunteered to tell stories to the seniors living at the Dr. Andrew Pavilion.
“My first story for them was the Cremation of Sam Magee,” said Stone.
Over the years he started to build a collection of stories and cowboy poetry as well as children’s stories.
“I do some Dr. Seuss for the children at the Giant’s Head School,” explained Stone. “I go in without fail to do the Grinch That Stole Christmas. I get my face all green and black and scary looking and I recite the story…the kids’ eyes are like saucers. They just love it and I love it too!”
Stone chuckled as he related the fact that he doesn’t think many 62-year-olds have Dr. Seuss as their bedside reading as he does.
“Dr. Seuss was a genius,” he said. “All of his stories have a bit of a message that is subtle but so apparent when you really study it…when you read it, learn it, absorb it and become it, it is very meaningful.”
Stone also shares his stories at the Summerland Seniors Village, Angus Place and the Seniors Drop-In Centre.
He describes himself as a “bit of a hambone” and enjoys telling humorous stories such as My own Grandpa and A Cowboy Buys a Bra, but he tells more sombre stories as well, such as A Wagon Train Ghost Story.
“I’ve told that story 20 times and I still get goosebumps telling it. When it really connects I’ve had people crying,” said Stone.
“It’s a very powerful story and it really connects me to my pioneer grandparents who came over from Sweden into the bare lands of Saskatchewan with nothing and they built their home and homestead. I think I do that story to pay tribute to my family.”
Stone was raised on the farm about 100 kilometres south of Saskatoon and was one of five children.
He left home at the age of 18 and went to Regina where he drove bus for Greyhound.
He transferred to Penticton in 1981, but he and his wife chose to settle and raise their family in Summerland.
Stone has been driving the HandyDart Bus since 2001 and also now drives the Summerland Community Bus. He explained that driving had always stayed in his blood but that at his age this will be his last job.
The one thing on Stone’s bucket list that he looks forward to doing in the future is to hike the TransCanada Trail from here to Hope.
Stone enjoys attending a cowboy poetry gathering held each year in a “jewel of a place called Cypress Hills” in southern Saskatchewan, where he doesn’t have to explain to anyone what cowboy poetry is.
He has been the only person from B.C. attending as most of the cowboy poets are prairie boys, he explained.
Stone also plans on continuing to tell stories and to recite poetry locally.
Stone felt that being named Citizen/Volunteer of the year was a real honour.
“I was lucky enough to be chosen and it was humbling and very flattering,” he said. “It happened a month ago and I still blush when I bump into people and they congratulate me.”