That’s how Nova Scotia farmer Blake Jennings describes the feeling he had Tuesday morning when he discovered someone had burned down his “beloved bear.”
Every fall, for 14 years, Jennings has made a large sculpture out of hay to promote his family’s poultry and pumpkin farms in Debert.
For the past couple years, he has made a five-metre tall bear using five round bales of hay worth about $200.
“There are a lot of families looking forward to taking their pictures in front of it. I’ve put a lot of effort in it for many years for the families coming to buy pumpkins,” Jennings said. “Last year, I left it up all through Christmas and decorated it and everything.”
The bear was still sitting in its place in the middle of a field last night when he came home from delivering pumpkins at around 9 p.m.
By 6 a.m. when he woke up, he could smell smoke.
“My cousin texted me and told me, ‘someone burned your bear,'” he said. “Because I had smelled smoke, it immediately dawned on me that I had been smelling burning hay.”
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Based on the tire tracks in the field, Jennings believes whoever started the fire came on a four-wheeler and attempted to leave quickly.
Shortly after discovering the arson, Jennings posted photos of his bear on Facebook.
What followed was an outpouring of support for him — and a realization just how much the community has appreciated his efforts.
“A ridiculous amount of people are contacting me to say how much it means to them and their children,” he said. “Everybody is so upset, and their kids are upset.”
His younger sister, who has special needs, is among those left devastated by the vandalism.
“My little sister — that’s her pride and joy. She would name it every year after her favourite stuffed animal,” he said. ” She was quite upset this morning to find out someone burned it.”
Not only is his family and the community devastated about the vandalism, he’s also upset at how dangerous the arson was. He says the ditches around the field are currently filled with dead grass, and conditions have been dry.
“It’s so dry on these fields right now, if a spark could have gone in the ditch, the ditch could have lit up and it would have travelled for miles.”
Jennings has filed a report with police but says he knows there isn’t much they can do.
Meanwhile, he admits he won’t be able to put up another sculpture for this year but plans to keep the tradition alive next year.
“I’ll just keep putting it up every year, but it sucks how someone could be so disrespectful,” he said.
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