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This is a reanimation of the Vicaribus blog as lived by Miro Kazakoff and Ehren Foss in 2004 and 2005. The photos may be spotty.

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July 12, 2005 near Calgary, AB | Printable

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The Million Dollar Rodeo

Posted by ehren

The RV park is packed, the whole city sold out, but we had the astonishing luck of extending our Calgary stay backward into Monday and Tuesday night via someone else's cancellation. The puzzling German influence over RV culture here is present, not as strong as in Lillooet. Yesterday I saw 3 old men with a trumpet and Karaoke machine improvising along to Oom Pah Pah records.

Miro and I set up camp. With the hose too short to reach the water spigot and the sewer drain on the wrong side, it's unclear we'll be getting our money's worth...though it would only be a 10 minute project every couple of days to fill the tank. I went for a dusk run, and was nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes. I went down the road, too much traffic, then down a gravel road (~15 mosquitoes / cubic yard), and then down a dirt path into a field where the count exceeded 150 / cubic yard. I couldn't swat them away fast enough and became transfixed on the idea of turning an ankle and then being stuck there, an empty bloodless husk after only two or three minutes.

Sean and Rana arrived just before midnight, marveling at the fact that it was finally dark (this, their first night in 3 weeks owing to the arctic sun). Their loop sounded incredible: through the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, Alaska... including Inuvik, the farthest northern city reachable by road in the summertime. By 1 we inflated the air mattress and all were asleep.


Sean and Rana were under the impression that we would buy them rodeo tickets along with ours, but due to a communication snafu that didn't happen. So, Tuesday morning we all woke up, breakfast, shower ($1 looney for 5 minutes), etc, and bought $8 round trip tickets on the campground bus, hoping Sean and Rana could pick up last minute seats close to ours.

So now, the Calgary Stampede. It's a bigger, more cowboy centric version of a state fair, and I say that having only seen about a third of it so far. We toured various Ag industry booths, saw elegantly groomed bison and prize cattle, looked in on pink newborn piglets suckling, and another set on a different sow with their eyes open, hell-bent on stepping on each other's snouts and squealing. Also, a big sawdust filled pen filled with yellow puffball baby chickens. Awwwwww....

Sean and Rana bought standing room seats (much cheaper than ours...had we known...) and with a dozen flares and a dozen lady riders in red sequined western shirts, carrying flags and banners at full gallop around the ring, the show was on. It was one of the best timed performance / sporting events I've ever seen; Limited gaps between events, a clownsome coyboy entertainer in goofy pants and face paint who filled the occasional delays while they extracted bull horns from cowboy kidneys.

The first event -- possibly my favorite -- was the North American Championship Stampede Wild Cow Milking. No really, 12 teams of 2 cowboys, a herd of 20 wild cows who were not used to being milked by people, cowboys chase cows, catch them, attempt to hold them still while yanking on their teats, and then run up to the stage with a milk bottle at least half full. I sensed that it shared a similar occasional lack of athleticism with baseball, as most of the cowboys proceeding to the stage would start out running, but then turn around to look if anyone was behind them, and if not, they'd walk... no... saunter.

After that we saw a few of the junior events in rapid succession...any rider under 18 wore compulsory flak-jacket (anti-hoof) and a hockey helmet. The Novice Saddle Bronc Championship and Junior Steer Riding Championship were entertaining, but not nearly as violent as the later events with larger animals.

The North American Tie-Down Roping Championship showed me what horsemanship can be like at the highest levels. Calf released from gate, calf runs, cowboy on horse follows calf, cowboy ropes calf but not before crossing a chalk line, cowboy dismounts at the same time horse stops in order to whip the calf off it's feet and tighten the rope. Cowboy then runs to calf, flips it over, ties at least 3 of the legs in a half hitch, and throws up his arms. An arena record of 3.1 seconds was set while we watched. I'm not even sure I can sneeze in under 4 seconds.

Then Flint Rasmussen, rodeo comedian and 2004 Rodeo Clown Entertainer of the Year did his bit. Eh. The skill, I think, it not in the comedy, but instead in not being gored while taunting the bulls.

Then, the Steer Wrestling...a larger version of calf roping, minus the rope. This time, the cowboy jumps on the shoulders of a charging steer and performs a jiu-jitsu move, flipping the yearling bull. The steers always put off an aire of "Is this necessary? I run, you catch me, I get flipped, then you let me go. Let's skip all the steps and have me in a meadow."

Then (it didn't let up for several glorious hours), the Championship Horse Race. Similar to the cow milking, minus the milking, but add the challenges of catching a wild horse, putting a saddle on it, and riding it through a gate at the far end of the field. The horses did not want to cooperate. Imagine spending 30 seconds chasing after, wrestling, and saddling a 1,000 lb animal, only to climb on and have it buck you violently for as long as you can hold on.

Intermission, salute to sponsors (I missed it... was buying a smoothie), then the Saddle Bronc Championship, Wild Pony Race, Hoop Dancer Alex Wells, Bareback Championship, Barrel Racing Championship, and Bull Riding Championship. The bronc, bareback, and bull competitions were all very similar to my untrained eye; Different variations on "hold on to this huge wild animal as it tries to kill you." The bulls are the biggest and most impressive, as they buck and turn at the same time, chaotically. The bronc and bareback riding isn't any easier, I'm sure, but the horses only leap and kick along their own axis. Every third rider had his hand so tighly wound into the grips that, at the end of his 8 second suicide mission, the rider was unable to free himself for 20 or 30 seconds -- still bucking like mad -- while safety riders moved alongside in an effort to corral and settle the bull or bronc. Yikes.

The women-only barrel racing, another pure horsemanship event, was jaw dropping as well, when they cornered their horses at 45 degree angles in between 35-40 mph stretches. The pony race, however, was easily the crowd favorite: Teams of 3 10-12 year old boys being dragged all over the arena through the dirt, in their attempt to subdue and ride. Awwwww.....

I think my 24 hours of internet is about to run out.


Photo Album

Ehren's Posts:
(Aug 1): This Is The End
(Jul 28): Tulip the Bulldog
(Jul 25): On Fumes
(Jul 23): 500 Miles
(Jul 20): Oofda.
(Jul 19): Are we there yet?
(Jul 18): Leaving the North Country Fair
(Jul 16): The Greatest Province on Earth
(Jul 14): My name is Gus, I'm a Longhorn Steer, and I weigh 1600 lbs.
(Jul 12): The Million Dollar Rodeo

Miro's Posts:
(Jul 27): Minnesota
(Jul 23): Angry Blacksmith
(Jul 17): Aurora Borealis
(Jul 13): Cowboy Up
(Jul 3): A selection of Butte's finest
(Jun 26): A Continent divided
(Jun 18): Snow in June
(Jun 12): Smelly Cat is an Excellent Campfire Song
(Jun 11): Interior Canada
(Jun 9): Yuk Yuk

See all log entries.

Miro's Recipes: (See All)
(May 25): Zhurek (Sour Polish Soup)
(May 23): Atomic Noodles
(May 22): Campfire French Onion Soup

Bus Conversion: (See All)
(Oct 9): Electrical System
(Sep 19): Design
(Sep 10): Roof Raise

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