As he sat down for lunch in a cafe the other day, rancher Roy Sturgeon came face to face with his own family history.
The bronze statue he spotted by accident at Huckleberry’s Cafe in Wetaskiwin was a jockey on a racehorse.
“I looked at it, and it’s like, this is me, it’s actually me,” he said. “And my mom did it.”
Sturgeon reckons his mom, Suzan, made about 20 copies of that particular bronze back in 1987.
She died last fall. Though he has several of her bronzes, he’d always wanted that jockey on that horse.
But he’d never been able to find one.
“I was trying to locate one somewhere if I could,” Sturgeon told CBC News in an interview. “And obviously it never showed up. And we’re sitting there … and then here it is.”
Suzan Sturgeon started off as a sign painter before eventually opening her own shop called Sturgeon’s Bronzes on the family ranch near Lacombe.
“She ran a trophy shop and then probably the last 35-ish years … basically she did bronzes, that was her business,” her son said.
Finding that statue of himself stirred deep emotions for Sturgeon, not just because of the connection to his mother.
“For 36 years I was in the racehorse business,” he said. “I was a jockey for years and then I ran our place as a thoroughbred training centre.
“There were some people that I rode for for years, actually my entire career. And I dated their daughter for years. She was actually killed in a racing accident in Northlands Park. And my mother, when she did this bronze, did one and gave it to the family.”
Now he has one, too.
Sturgeon explained the history of the bronze to Huckleberry’s Cafe owner Paul Kalke.
“I think both my manager and me just stood there and listened to his story,” Kalke said. “And we were just so struck by the chance of this ever happening, and him being on a search for this bronze.
“We just said, ‘Well, we have no choice. This is the right thing to do, to give it to this patron.’ “
The bronze was donated to the cafe about 12 years ago, Kalke said.
He feels good about the reason he’s parting with it.
Sturgeon is grateful to add the bronze to his collection.
“It was invaluable, truthfully, it was priceless,” he said.
It now has a special place on the mantle at the Flying Cross Ranch near Lacombe, where he continues another legacy of his mother’s, teaching kids to ride.
“My mom was actually a riding instructor for years,” he said. “And so basically everything we’re kind of doing and everything that has happened is kind of weirdly all tied into the same thing.
“My mom truthfully gave away more riding lessons than she ever got paid for. And our operation is not a lot different.”