By Susan STEFUN
Those who live locally no doubt have driven along Tujunga Canyon Boulevard a time or two. And chances are they have noticed a strip of land along that route a bit northeast of the golf course with cairns of piled stones placed curiously about.
These cairns began cropping up about nine years ago. Just a couple of years after their first appearance a sign was posted posing the question: “SUSAN – WILL YOU MARRY ME?” and signed “BANDITO.”
Around the time the cairns began to appear, local business owner, Rotary Clubber, community volunteer and Sunland resident Richard Stewart began cleaning up that bit of land. He dragged truck beds of trash and rubble away, pulled weeds and generally worked to beautify the eyesore he frequently drove past.
“The beauty was there,” said Stewart. “I just took away the ugly.”
“Tidying up” was not unusual behavior for Stewart who long before honed his skills cleaning up unsightly messes near his home in Sunland.
Some months into the property clean up, Stewart recruited a likeminded miss – Susan Boughton – whom he met at a Toastmasters meeting. Together the two did all sorts of good around town like volunteering time and talent at Sunland’s annual Watermelon Festival. Boughton also came along for cleanup days at the cairns.
In February 2010 the pair decided to decorate the cairns as a Valentine to the community. They labored under cover of night on Feb. 13 preparing their surprise to delight early commuters the next day.
“Drivers had been so kind with their honks and waves, supporting me cleaning up,” Stewart said of the reason he decorated the stones.
The couple drove to the property early on Feb. 14 to check out their handiwork. They pulled up in Stewart’s truck and then Boughton saw the proposal.
“Bandito,” Boughton knew, was her own Richard. The moniker was given to him by local resident Bob Georges, who was the editor of the publication Voice of The Village. He coined the name “Bandito” because Georges said Stewart “stole trash and weeds” from the property.
Stewart had snuck out earlier on the morning of Valentine’s Day and hung his heartfelt question between two posts facing the road. Boughton’s answer was “Yes.”
“I looked at that man (the first time) and said ‘I’m going to marry him,’” Boughton said.
Now Stewart, who is also the cairn builder, had fans and friends; and like so many passersby, they wanted to know Boughton’s answer – so soon after the proposal was posted Stewart tacked up the joyful exclamation, “She said Yes!”
The couple published their nuptial date in local papers and tacked it up in Crescenta Valley businesses.
“Since it was a community proposal, we decided it should be a community wedding,” Stewart said.
On May 16, 2010 the Bandito and his sidekick got hitched in a true community event – a picnic – held at the cairns, of course, and attended by hundreds. The stone commemorating their vows can be found at the foot of the old oak beneath whose branches they tied the knot.
Coming up on the seven-year anniversary of their engagement, the couple was spotted delivering a large golden Cupid to the cairns. And for their wedding anniversary in May?
“I think another picnic,” Boughton-Stewart said.
If you happen to spot the couple on May 16, feel free to honk, wave or pull over and say “Hello.” They say they would welcome it!