Wife Tammy and I headed to Alberta Canada on the 4th of July and worked with Steve Brander of Zoetis Canada team. We worked at feedyards, ranches, and started some Colts and head and heel branded some calves. We stayed with Steve and his wife Jade in their beautiful new home and ranch and really enjoyed the great hospitality. A very good 4 days of livestock handling and good people that handle them.
We went through the town of Cardston. This is the town that really started my love for All things Canadian. Some thirty years ago Buzz Cope, Stanley Johnston, were my main traveling partners, as well as some others and we went to a winter series of rodeos in Cardston. The Canadians treated us great, helped us like we were one of them and were always real fair.
We liked it so much that winter that we ended up rodeoing at Chinook rodeos as much as we could. I was never treated bad or cheated. When you are climbing on a bareback horse or bull, you really rely on the people helping you to get a fair shot and they may save your life if things get bad. The great thing about rodeo is that you are being helped by the people you are competing against. Rodeo is about try, and you are competing against yourself to try hard and improve your skills. If you win first you don’t really think of it as beating another competitor, but overcoming the challenges you face, and if you win money that’s great. You are a winner if you try as hard as possible, and ride as good as possible on the horse or bull you got on. I have been thrown off and felt better because I tried my guts out, than sometimes when I won first. I just didn’t eat as good.
We were just a bunch of young guys trying to do our best at something we loved to do. The Canadians were the same way. We didn’t care what side of the border we were on we were all just living the dream, getting on things that bucked and being cowboys.
Being a bareback rider was great, because it was usually the first event, and listening to the national anthem always got me jacked up and ready to ride. At first in Canada it was different, but then I really got to liking “O Canada” and still know the words and think it really describes the country. When I hear it now it reminds me of the good old days when all that mattered was riding good and having fun with my friends.
After I was done rodeoing my next adventures north of the 49th was doing horse clinics. Same deal. Keith and Denise Stewart hosted us and we met so many great people. We were around in the BSE times and saw how devastating it was to these good people that as far as I could see, the only difference was that they said “Eh” instead of ” you know” and drank rye whiskey instead of corn whiskey.
Now I have been doing livestock handling seminars for the last several years. I’ve watched and met so many great Canadian stockman. The more I get around them the more I admire their skills as stockman and just being good human beings.
When I hear organizations wanting to create borders and labels and talk about unfair practices, I just can’t feel good about not helping, or thinking and acting as if like minded people are the enemy. We in the livestock business are not all that different than these kids riding bucking horses. My son Rial loved riding ranch broncs in B.C. and it was the same deal as thirty years ago. There are no borders. Wyatt Thurston stopped and stayed last week on the way to Crawford, Nebraska. Pro rodeo cowboys are just that, cowboys and they really don’t care where they are, they just want the chance to make a living and ride bucking horses, and help there competition do the same.
If you get personal, you will see we all have the same challenges. We met people that had lost family, had tragedy in their life. We saw young families making there mark in the world and trying to get a start. Young Hutterite boys respecting and learning from their elders, and making top hands.They are all dealing with debt, drought and fire and the fear of the cattle market, just the same as you may be.
So I think it might do us all good to act like cowboys. We all need to make the best ride we can, but help each other for the sake of the sport.
We in the livestock business are facing many challenges ahead, just like when I used to climb over the bucking chute. I always liked to have Stanley and Buzz there on my horses head or pulling my rope. But I always new if they couldn’t, a Canadian would jump in there as if his life depended on it. I just can’t forget that, and sometimes money is not more important than integrity and try. Ask any real cowboy.
Now back to a little more positive subject. I left the Brander’s place this morning and went to Pincher Creek, then got on Highway 22 or what they call “The Cowboy Trail”. It is a spectacular drive through great ranch country. I stopped at a national historic site, The Bar U ranch. I spent a couple hours there looking around and visiting with the folks that help out. It was a great experience and I learned much about the history of Ranching in that area, had a good cup of coffee at the wagon, and maybe the best burger ever at the restaurant. I highly recommend you head that way if you are in the area, or make a trip out of it.
I would also like to express my most humble thoughts out to the folks of British Columbia. If you remember the photos of the branding at the Chilco Ranch a while back, they were hit hard and lost a new place they had just bought and I don’t know what else. Mother Nature is tough on us sometimes, but don’t lose the faith and just keep on going. Even more reason for us all to work together in good times and bad.