More than a week has passed since the final fireworks of 2015 exploded in front of the Grandstand at Stampede Park. The midway is gone. The infield is silent. The house guests have evaporated. The rough stock have returned to Stampede Ranch, and the employees and volunteers are sighing with the knowledge that after August the preparations for next year will all begin again.
For me the end of Stampede 2015 is a mixed blessing:
On the one hand, I was delighted to finish another parade still glued to the saddle, in spite of the somewhat gnarly steed that reluctantly carried me along the route.
On the other hand, I felt tremendous pride that the volunteers on all my committees performed tirelessly and remained in good humour despite the inevitable hiccups that always accompany such a huge event.
Unfortunately I spent most of Stampede week doped up on Toradol and morphine, powerful drugs required to manage a nasty kidney stone attack which resulted in two Stampede nights in the hospital. If I appeared a bit glassy eyed at times, no one complained, but one cowboy did suggest that it gave a whole new meaning to the term “getting stoned at Stampede”.
Listening to the “hurtin’ songs” being endlessly discharged from Nashville North helped to put my pain in perspective, making me particularly grateful that we weren’t in some exotic foreign land when the attack came. Now, after a third night in hospital, the stone has been surgically removed and I’m (hopefully) on the road to recovery. I can hardly wait for the next one.
All this has made me look at rodeo in a new light.
Sure those cowboys and cowgirls look cool decked out in their finest western duds, mounted up and riding furiously in front of the big Grandstand crowds. The smooth turns around the barrels, the flick of the rope to catch the calf, the perfect rhythm of the bucking broncs can make rodeo life seem hypnotic, but what we tend to forget are the inevitable face plants, somersaults, and stompings that occur in between those rare perfect rides.
You’d have to be a lot tougher than me to endure punishment like that every day.
Heck, I bet that if any of those competitors had a kidney stone during Stampede week they might not even mention it. They certainly wouldn’t whine and feel sorry for themselves. They’d just “cowboy up”.
I’m already dreaming of next year’s Stampede. More great riding, more entertainment, and more fantastic volunteers. But it’s those tough cow folk I’m really looking forward to seeing again.
So here’s to you and your tough rural roots. Your western heritage and values. You’ve got the stuff that has long made the Calgary Stampede the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”
Till next year…stay safe.
To see more of my Stampede photos click here.