Giant cowbell a show unto itself

For the last two weeks, there’s been no mistaking Max Scherrer for a Korean, Russian or Argentine.

Max Scherrer

Max Scherrer

For the last two weeks, there’s been no mistaking Max Scherrer for a Korean, Russian or Argentine.

The “big bang” of his 40-year-old seven-kg brass-coloured cowbell left no room for discussion about his national origins as he rung out loud and proud for former and current countrymen and women at the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“It’s a totally Swiss thing. Because in Switzerland, the cows, they wear bells up in the hills and distant valleys so you can hear where the whole herd is,” said Scherrer, a 42-year-old farmer from the Innisfail area who immigrated from rural Switzerland in 1995.

“It’s a tradition. We use them to make loud noises and cheer for somebody . . . I’ve been using them since I was a little boy.”

Scherrer’s trip to the slopes of Whistler was something of a lark, as his older brother from Switzerland came over for a long-anticipated visit and suggested the Olympics would be fun to watch.

It turned out to be an “awesome” experience for the two brothers, who returned to the farm this week.

“I still sort of cheer for the Swiss, too, eh?” Scherrer said in an accent interjected with Canadianisms.

And the bovine charm — decorated with edelweiss and a Swiss cross — proved to be a lucky one. The Swiss have six gold medals, all in skiing events. Canada has eight golds.

From the sidelines at skiing events to barrooms for hockey games, he and his bell were, to all accounts, a show unto themselves.

People thought it was “a real cool thing,” he said, and it wasn’t unusual for Canucks to ask to give it a ring when the Canadians scored in hockey and buy the brothers drinks.

The big bell has made a long journey from the alpine valleys of Europe to the prairies of Central Alberta to the campgrounds of Squamish, B.C., where the two parked their camper during the Olympics.

Scherrer came across the roughly 30-cm-in-diametre bell when a friend in the Wildrose Yodel Club suggested he take it from his large collection “to cheer for the Swiss.”

“He’s almost 75 years old and he got it from his godfather, this bell, and took it from Switzerland,” said Scherrer. “His godfather, he won it in a Swiss wrestling competition called Schwingen.”

As he took the bell back Thursday night to its rightful owner, Scherrer said he was ready to let it go. But he added that he’s thinking about buying a similarly hefty bell himself, and possibly taking it to Sochi, Russia, for the next Winter Olympics.

mgauk@bprda.wpengine.com