On the morning of a blustery blizzard last week, Dave Kroeker bowed his head and asked the Lord if he could be of service to others.
Hours later, the Killarney farmer couldn’t have guessed he’d be called twice to pull stranded travellers off the snow-covered highway just outside his house.
"I don’t always do that," Kroeker said of his particular request, "but all of a sudden, this happens."
Kroeker took his tractor onto Highway 18 during the brunt of the snowstorm on March 7 for two separate rescues.
The vehicles were grounded no more than 150 yards apart, but visibility was so impaired the motorists did not notice each other, even during the commotion of the first rescue.
"I guess you can call it a coincidence, but you also know that it’s something more than that if you have that relationship with God," he said.
Subhash Goyal, a Piston Ring employee from Winnipeg, began his unlikely journey to the Kroeker household late in the day on March 6.
He was on his way to Killarney with parts to deliver. He figured he’d find a place to stay overnight as the region braced for the blizzard, but Goyal never made it that far.
Sixteen kilometres north of Killarney, Goyal’s cube van struck a snowbank. He tried to shovel himself out, but the howling snowstorm was overbearing. He called a tow truck company, 911 and police that night, but nobody risked the travel.
Overnight, Goyal stayed in his vehicle, hungry and unable to sleep. His truck lay exposed in the middle of the highway, in the path of any driver who may attempt the perilous drive.
By Tuesday morning, Goyal picked up his phone again. He reached the tow truck driver, who asked Goyal to send him his location through his cellphone.
The man realized Goyal was not far from the Kroekers’ home, and called Dave and his wife Adrienne for help.
Dave took his tractor into the blinding whiteout until he came across the grateful traveller. He had been stranded for 17 hours.
"When I saw Dave, I was so emotional, I was almost crying," Goyal said. "They were the only hope I had.
"The wind was so heavy, you couldn’t see anything. I thought maybe it would calm down but it didn’t, the whole day and night."
Kroeker was able to yank Goyal’s cube van off the highway and onto his yard.
Relieved, both parties settled into Kroeker’s home, until Dave got another distressed phone call two hours later. A car salesman said his client was stranded outside the Kroeker farm.
No more than 150 yards from where Goyal was rescued, Craig Soldier and his wife Paula Cameron, residents of Swan Lake First Nation, were stranded. They never noticed the rescue a snowball’s throw away.
This rescue attempt was treacherous. Kroeker had to ditch his bidirectional tractor when it got stuck, finding a larger tractor to reach the couple and bring them safely to his house.
The couple had waited inside their truck for a couple hours.
Together, the Kroekers and their three storm-stayed guests weathered the blizzard under the roof — a cross-cultural get-together, it turned out.
They bonded like any good Manitobans would.
"When you have a blizzard, you play games," Adrienne Kroeker said.
By the next morning, the family’s guests, sufficiently fed, returned the favour the best way they could, helping Dave pull out his tractor. The highway now cleared, the appreciative travellers set off on the road again.
They may meet again — there is an East Indian meal waiting for the Kroekers next time they’re in Winnipeg.
Over the years, the Killarney family has helped other travellers during snowstorms. A man they welcomed into their home on Christmas Eve a number of years ago comes to mind.
However, this may be the couple’s last rescue. They plan to move into Killarney before the next winter, leaving the farmyard to their two sons.
"This is kind of our last hurrah," she said. "Now, it will be their turn."