Becoming a “Bunnock” Champion
I have been playing the game of Bunnock since a very early age. The day I became strong enough to throw a Schmeiser the distance of the court was the day I played my first game. Previous to that, my parents or relatives would let me walk half way up the court to throw a bone at the 20 soldiers standing. Hitting one would cause excitement that would rival the emotions felt when scoring my first goal in hockey.
For those of you who are still reading, have either heard of the game of Bunnock (Bones), or are awaiting some sort of explanation. The game consists of 52 horse ankle bones and, where I grew up in Macklin, Saskatchewan, every family in town owned a set. They would sit in their garage until summer and would make an appearance at the first family reunion or camping trip. It wasn’t until the idea was pitched to host a tournament on the August long weekend of 1993 that the game began to gain momentum outside of the town. I was in grade eleven that first tournament, which hosted 79 teams and was held down at the Macklin Lake Regional Park. If memory serves me well our team won a prize that year, and so much fun was had that I’ve missed very few tournaments since. The ankle bones are painted three colors of which doesn’t matter. The 8 heavier ones are painted one color and are called Schmeisers, or throwing bones. They are thrown by four people 32 ft and 10 inches at the guard bones which are painted another color. Once these guards are knocked over, the team is then able to throw at the rest of them which consist of 20 soldiers that are painted the third color. After all 8 bones are thrown, the other team of four then get their turn to throw them back, two bones for each player. Now of course there are minor rules that you must follow, like when a soldier is knocked down before the guard etc., but I won’t go into every detail here. If you would like to read more about the game of bones just Google the Town of Macklin, the game of Bunnock or click on the link here.
August long weekend has just passed and with it the 25th World Annual Bunnock Championship in Macklin, Saskatchewan. It is still held down at the Macklin Lake Regional Park, but now hosts a maximum of 320 teams. I had the pleasure of playing again, and the joy of winning a prize again. I have never won the championship, nor do I have the desire to be the champion as I feel the tournament is about much more than the money or prizes. To me it showcases the efforts of a community coming together to achieve a common goal of bringing people to their town. I always try to introduce people to the game, and have them come experience something they’ve never experienced before. The response I receive after they come is always the same. It is the feeling of excitement, loads of fun, meeting of good people, making new friends, and leaving utterly exhausted from trying to take in everything.
This year I brought eight new people to the tournament and they immediately were able to witness the hospitality of the locals. From first being allowed to pull their trailers into their yard and set up their camp, followed by meeting new people and making new friends. The host of this house invited them all back and extended their home to them if ever they were in the area. This may seem strange to some people, but is a common gesture and a frequent courtesy shared by the people of this town. It is how I was raised, and is how people should be treated. I have taken these values with me when I left Macklin, and try my best to display them in everything I do. After all, the world is about people helping people, and if we can’t follow those basic values that make the world a better place, then what is our purpose? The individuals that hosted the people I brought to the tournament, are to me, the real champions of the Bunnock Tournament. Together with all the other countless hands that help out, make that tournament a success. They are true champions of what we as people can do when we place the focus on a common goal, when we put others before ourselves and strive to help. Whether you carry these values into your work or volunteer them to an individual, or to a community, you also can be a champion to someone by doing so. Don’t let money or prizes blur your focus of what a champion is. Thank you to those who make the World Bunnock Championship the success it is today.