Showcase: Game of Bones
Meet a world champion Bunnock player—a bone-tossing game that dates back to the 19th century!
Iam a writer, a blogger, and a proud mom of three, but perhaps, most interestingly, I am a world champion. I wouldn’t call myself famous, as you will not find my competitive endeavours televised on any major network, nor have I landed any profitable endorsement deals to date. I am sure, however, that any of the good folks living in and around the small town of Macklin, Sask., would be happy to fill in the blanks of my—our—extraordinary story.
It begins in 1993, when the Chamber of Commerce in this west-central Saskatchewan town put their heads and hands together to conceive of and host the first-ever World Bunnock Champion- ship… but what’s Bunnock? Nobody’s ever heard of Bunnock, you say?
Well, the more than 360 teams slated to play in this year’s championship tournament during the long weekend in August would beg to differ. Any one of these people will tell you that Bunnock is a proud and long-standing tradition in the town of Macklin. They will explain that Bunnock is a game, comparable to horseshoes, in which opposing teams compete to knock over each other’s line of horse-ankle bones, spaced ten metres apart, by lobbing—you guessed it—more horse-ankle bones at them! And if you ask why, they will tell you the story of the 19th-century German-russian ances-
tors of the pioneer folk of Macklin who, to pass the time on the frozen Siberian landscape, took to throwing about horse-ankle bones. This informal game was handed down to subsequent generations and eventually found a new home as a realdeal world championship competition in Macklin. They might also share with you some of the names of Bunnock legends, such as Mel Gartner, Chelsey Doetzel or Troy Baier who manage to dominate the tournament year after year. And maybe, just maybe, they will share a fleeting memory of my team—the youngest ever to win the tournament, joining their ranks as World Bunnock Champions in 2001.
Over the years, I’ve been asked how my team, composed of myself, then just 20 years of age, and three younger cousins, managed to pull off a victory of such “osseous” proportions. Well, the truthful answer is that it took a healthy dose of practice and a dollop of Viel Glück (German for good luck)! The four of us, like many around Macklin, grew up playing “bones” in back alleys, on family farms, at weddings, family reunions and community events. We played with our grandparents, parents, neighbours, cousins and friends, and, no doubt, every one of us threw our first bone (albeit at an altered, shorter distance) before the age of five. Gradually, I suppose, one’s aim improves and some players hone a specific throwing technique, but even the most seasoned vets will tell you that bones is as much a mind game as anything else. They will also tell you that some
days success is effortless—that they know the second the “thrower” leaves their hand that it is going to make a connection on the other end. Other days, they can’t hit a bone to save their lives. Of course, there is always the added element of luck! An unfortunately placed stone on the court, for example, can alter a throw bound for bone-shattering glory or a sandy spot can stop a thrower dead in its tracks. These added random elements keep Bunnock players and fans on their toes, and undoubtedly contributed in some part to our success on August 5, 2001.
Let it be known that you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to enjoy the World Bunnock Championship. This spectacle holds appeal for people of every age, and you won’t regret coming to Macklin to discover its charms for yourself! With players and spectators ranging in age from 5 to 85, the town swelling to more than double its size, and a spirit of volunteerism that has to be seen to be believed, you will not leave Macklin disappointed. You will be forever touched by the best this community has to offer, and you will experience for yourself the magic that draws people back to the World Bunnock Championship year after year. The World Bunnock Championship takes place August 3 to 5 at Macklin Lake Regional Park, one kilometre south of Macklin, Sask. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/ Worldbunnock.