Lloyd Roger Mason was born in Altamont, Man., on Sept. 6, 1945, to his parents, Frank and Vina. He was the youngest of three children; his childhood was spent helping out on the family farm, milking the cows, helping with the harvest and collecting eggs. In his spare time, he would go hiking, and would often bring home souvenirs, such as feathers, stones, frogs and toads. Although he loved all animals, his favourite was a pet Jersey cow named Bossy. As a five-year-old, he would lie beside her, or hop up on her back and go for rides. “He really loved that cow,” explains his wife, Shirley, 59, who now works in a nursing home. “They had quite a relationship.”
A nature lover, Lloyd had a few scrapes in his youth. At age 10, he and a school friend went camping by a slough near the family home. While they were sleeping, a beaver gnawed through a nearby tree, which split in two. A large branch fell on the tent, which collapsed onto the boys. Terrified, they struggled out, and ran home in their pyjamas.
Lloyd began working before he finished school, first taking odd jobs, like painting grain elevators, and then opening his own small delivery truck business in Winnipeg. In 1967, he met his wife through a mutual friend; he picked her up in a burgundy convertible, and, Shirley says, took her for “the ride of my life.” The couple had three children, two girls named Shannon and Sherrie, and a son, Lee. Lloyd taught Lee to play hockey, coached the junior team, and liked taking the girls on long hikes. Family holidays were spent camping in a tent trailer, and sometimes Lloyd would sleep outside to be closer to nature. Together the family travelled throughout Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta, and a few times they drove to the United States. On vacation, Lloyd would teach his children about the local wildlife, bringing back specimens of animals like baby rabbits and frogs, but always letting them go. He was often bitten by mosquitos, flies and wasps, and “almost anything that lives,” Shirley says, although he never complained.
In 1976, Lloyd and Shirley went into business together and started a trucking business in Pilot Mound, 185 km southwest of Winnipeg, where the family had moved. They worked as a team: he drove the trucks and managed seven other employees, while she answered the phones and kept the books. The company transported livestock, grain, fertilizer, fresh produce and other goods to the surrounding towns in southern Manitoba. On long trips, Lloyd would bring along his pug, Tyler, for company. He liked smuggling him into hockey games inside his coat, or chatting to the dog on the road. In 1999, the family moved house, quite literally—their three-bedroom dwelling was raised from its foundations and transported intact to Rock Lake, a 20-minute drive away. The new spot was right on the lake, with a spectacular view looking south onto the open water and up the Pembina River. Lloyd would take his six grandchildren, the neighbours and their kids on boat rides to catch turtles and point out the variety of animals in the area. He also loved biking about the backroads on his moped. “Lloyd was a very chatty and friendly person,” Shirley explains. “He always wanted to take people on adventures and teach them how to appreciate nature.”
Lloyd tried to spend every spare minute outside. In the mornings, he and his wife would wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee sitting on their dock, watching the wildlife. In the garden, Lloyd had erected a bird feeder that drew hummingbirds and orioles. The property lured other animals too, such as leopard frogs, garter snakes, wild turkey and deer: the family avoided using any chemical sprays so as not to harm the environment.
Although he cared for all creatures (he disliked fishing because he didn’t want to kill what he caught), Lloyd planned to eradicate the wasps that had been swarming his property. He even decided on the type of trap: a funnelled coke bottle that did not require any toxic chemicals. The insects were everywhere, and the couple worried that their grandchildren might be hurt. Their son-in-law had already been stung on his finger while standing on their back deck, and a neighbour had been stung inside her mouth.
On Sept. 8, 2008, Lloyd went to chop wood after lunch. He returned a few minutes later, and called out to his wife, who was getting ready for work. He said he’d been stung repeatedly by wasps and felt dizzy. Then he collapsed. Shirley called 911, and emergency workers explained over the phone how to do CPR on her unconscious husband while she waited for the ambulance. It arrived 20 minutes later. As Shirley followed in an RCMP cruiser, Lloyd Mason died while on the way to the hospital from a severe allergic reaction to the multiple stings. He was 63.