. . . or without the Stampede?
This year the sober citizens of Calgary will whoop it up again as they revive an era that never really existed. Robert Collins takes you step by step through the year-long buildup
WITHIN five minutes of his arrival in Calgary a stranger begins to harbor the sneaking suspicion that this town has a one-track mind. A southbound train called The Stampeder deposits him at the station. Outside he hails a taxi that has a metal bumper slogan reading “Calgary, the Stampede City” and a driver who says “You ever seen one of our Stampedes, buddy?”
The cowboy-on-bucking-bronco motif beckons him from the wall of the Stampede corral auditorium, the floor of the Stampede ticket office and the neon signs of the Wales Hotel and Hitching Post Theatre.
If he is a celebrity of some kind, a local service club or Mayor Donald Mackay will clap on his head a white cowboy hat, one of a hundred bestowed upon visitors every year. Mackay, a chubby former radio announcer who never punched cows, wears his ten-gallon hat almost constantly.
A shop window displays Stampede wallpaper, printed with cows, cowboys and Indians. The stranger learns that the senior hockey and football clubs are called “Stampeders” and that in 1948 when the football team won the Grey Cup, the Calgary Albertan printed a Toronto edition— but mostly about the Stampede, not the Stampeders.
In the city telephone hook he finds a Stampede Athletic Club, Stampede Auto Court, Stampede City Cartage, Stampede Dry Cleaners, Stampede Grill and Stampede Motors.
By now the stranger has probably grasped the point: this is Calgary, home of the Stampede.
But this is not Stampede Week—that fantastic July week of broncos, bulls, chuck wagons, cowboys, Indians, square dances and ten-gallon hats. It is merely a normal Calgary day. The city devotes part of every day to promoting, rehearsing or at least thinking about the next Stampede.
T here may be places in the world that have escaped Stampede propaganda hut, if so, it’s because Calgary hasn’t heard of them. Stampede literature has penetrated the Philippines, Pakistan, Vene-
zuela, New Zealand and Italy. Once a Calgary girl, sight-seeing in England, went into an Oxford library to bury herself in English culture and ran head-on into a garish four-color Stampede poster.
The Stampede city has done such a thorough selling job that almost everyone automatically assumes the Stampede is a spontaneous cowboy carnival in a genuine old-fashioned cowtown. Thus they overlook the most remarkable aspect of the Stampede story: it isn’t spontaneous, Calgary isn’t a cowtown and the west isn’t wild. The Stampede is an act, planned right down to the final war whoop by people who, for the most part, have nothing to do with ranching. It’s probably the most cleverly contrived act on earth.
During the Week—a word Calgarians use with reverence—there are plenty of bona-fide cowboys around town in skintight jeans and ten-gallon hats hut for each of these there are ten oilmen, bank clerks or used-car dealers in identical jeans and hats.
The Indians who prowl the streets in war paint are out to scalp the paleface but not in the old-fashioned way. The Stampede hoard lures them off the reservation each year with free food for the week, a traveling allowance, a five-dollar allowance for each chief and councilor, cash prizes for colorful costumes and tepees and for non-prize winners— every man, woman and papoose— a three-dollar gratuity each time they dress up and ride downtown. Tourists also tip them for posing for snapshots.
A Blaekfóot chief once told a Stampede official, “The Week’s worth five hundred dollars to my family.”
During the Week chuck - wagon crews hand out Continued on page 62
Continued on page 62
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 31
free breakfasts of black coffee and doughy flapjacks on Calgary streets but the Stampede pays each crew twenty-five dollars a day for the favor and flour companies donate the batter. Cowboy musicians play hoedowns for morning street dances but many of them are paid, are not cowboys and belong to a musicians’ union.
The majority of riders and ropers— about ten percent are Americans—are professional rodeo performers who also belong to a union-type organization and travel to the contests by train, plane or streamlined convertible.
Nevertheless the Stampede is a good act, as visitors from all walks of life have testified. During his term as governor-general, Earl Alexander saw two Stampedes and during the 1952 show he cabled wistfully hack from England, “I wish I could be with you.” In 1954 Walter Forsythe, an eighty-sixyear-old farmer, drove nine hundred miles from Rapid City, Man., to the Stampede on a farm tractor and allowed he’d “never seen anything like this hospitality.” Even a Texan-—who remained anonymous, perhaps fearing reprisal from his home-town chamber of commerce—once reluctantly told the Calgary Herald that “this is the biggest darn rodeo 1 ever seen.”
At this moment, about five hundred thousand potential spectators are suddenly becoming excited over the 1955 Week. But to southern Albertans the Stampede is more than a week. It is part of their everyday lives, a thing they have lived with and helped build all year, a last link with their vanishing frontier tradition. The real Stampede is a series of minor incidents, seemingly unrelated at first but finally falling together like a jigsaw puzzle. To tell this year’s Stampede story one must go back fifty-two weeks.
It is the evening of July 10, 1954. On the stockade-style gates of the Stampede grounds a new sign has just been erected:
CALGARY EXHIBITION AND STAMPEDE July 11-16 1955
In the head office suave Maurice Hartnett, Stampede manager and at one time Saskatchewan’s deputy minister of agriculture, and assistant manager W. L. Ross, a veteran of twentyeight Stampedes, are arranging for a planning meeting the following week.
In the Palliser, Calgary’s largest hotel, a reservations clerk tells manager Ronald Dyell, “Eighty-five people have booked rooms for next Stampede.” Other hotels are also taking reservations for the 1955 Week. The remarkable thing about all these incidents is that July 10 is final day of the 1954 show'.
A few days later Mayor Don Mackay, an ebullient round-faced figure in a white hat, hurries off to the British Empire Games in Vancouver. While others watch the games, Calgary’s greatest booster deftly slips the word “Stampede” into the ear of anyone who’ll listen. The Mayor’s white hat will pop up at many other functions throughout the country before the year is out. Mackay is so enthusiastic that during the year he frequently buys white hats for Calgary visitors out of his own pocket, if the city or a service club neglects to do so.
Back in Calgary Hartnett and Ross huddle over their first problem: the cowboys complain that broncos didn’t buck so well in Calgary’s 1954 show as
in other rodeos. Minor as this complaint seems, it could ruin the Stampede’s reputation from the standpoint of both spectators and competitors. It turns out that too much gravel has worked its way to the surface of the bucking arena. Horses are reluctant to slam their unshod hoofs down on it and cowboys don’t like to fall on it.
Hartnett and Ross send workmen to excavate the entire bucking arena and cover it with sandy loam. Later they’ll repair roads around the eighty-acre grounds, install pumps and drains on the bucking field, re-roof the grandstand and repair the chutes—the narrow pens where cowboys mount bucking horses and wild Brahma bulls.
Stampede officials are not making elaborate jubilee-year plans, though. They’re somewhat annoyed by the provincial government’s handling of the situation.
“We’d like to do something,” assistant manager Ross explained this spring, “but the government hasn’t given us much help. They’ve given us no directive, they’re not paying us anything for it and as far as we know they’re not going to. In Saskatchewan incidentally, the exhibition boards are all getting a special grant to spend on a jubilee program.
“We’re mentioning the fact that this is jubilee year in all our Stampede literature. There’ll be a number or two along the jubilee theme in our grandstand stage show. But that’s about all we can do.”
At his Hereford ranch eighty miles northeast of Calgary Dick Cosgrave, the burly white-haired arena director, pores over bucking-bronco performance
records of 1954. Cosgrave is a sort of ringmaster. During the Week he directs bucking, roping and chuck-wagon events. During the year he takes rodeo entries and gathers rodeo livestock.
Each bronco has a name like Parachute, Lousy Louie, Mouse Trap or Sheep Herder. Judges compute the horse’s bucking performance in percentage points on a tally sheet. After studying the tally, Cosgrave earmarks good horses for future use. Some he will rent during the 1955 Week at fifty to a hundred dollars each.
“Others the Stampede buys outright at up to three hundred and fifty dollars apiece,” Cosgrave says. “That way we keep a nucleus of top-flight broncs.”
“Broncos Are Like Women’’
Through the year he writes or travels around the west scouting more horses— the Stampede needs three hundred and fifty, plus eighty cows, eighty calves and sixty wild steers. The show also uses about fifty humpbacked Texasborn Brahma bulls. Some the Stampede owns already; some are leased from movie star Gene Autry’s traveling wild-west show.
Choosing broncos is Cosgrave’s hardest task. To make it easier, he tests unknown horses with the “dummy”— a heavy wooden saddle that approximates the weight of a rider. Fitted with the dummy a bronco is released from a chute, bucking as though he were carrying a live cargo, while Cosgrave studies his performance.
“But broncs are like women,” Cosgrave says. “A fella can never quite figure them out. There’s no sure way
of knowing what’ll make a good bronc.”
Some of the best Stampede bucking horses were formerly docile animals that have become unmanageable for various reasons—perhaps a bad fright or a tangle with a barbed-wire fence. Calgary Stampede, a recent bucking favorite, began his career peacefully hauling a water wagon. Famous buckers called Fox, Old Coyote and Steamboat were also tame horses gone bad. A black gelding named Midnight, sometimes called the greatest bucking horse in Stampede history, was a schoolteacher's saddle pony as a three-yearold. Within a year he turned mean and his owner, Jim McNabb, a southern Alberta rancher, entered him in the 1924 Stampede. Midnight bucked off all comers, was sold to a horse dealer for five hundred dollars, began a tour of the Canadian and U. S. circuits and made life miserable for rodeo riders throughout most of the 1920s.
Cosgrave also finds time to visit rodeos in San Francisco, Denver, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Billings, Mont. Here he gathers fresh ideas in rodeo technique, lines up several acts to entertain spectators between the Stampede’s afternoon riding events and reminds everyone he meets about the 1955 show. Rodeo riders need little reminder. The Stampede and Cosgrave—who is the only man ever to win ten Stampede chuck-wagon championships — are known among riders throughout North America.
Meanwhile, in September at a Toronto convention of Canadian mayors, tireless Don Mackay, still wearing his white hat, talks to everybody and in-
vites all delegates to the Stampede.
By midwinter many Calgary mothers are sewing matching cowboy shirts or skirts for themselves, their husbands, sons and daughters. Ina west-end bungalow a housewife entertaining eastern friends is faced with an awkward silence. She bridges it with Calgary’s favorite conversational gambit, “Have you ever seen our Stampede?”
In a city Sunday school a teacher asks her class:
“What do you think would happen if God came to Calgary?”
A small boy replies seriously, “The mayor would give Him a white hat.”
By early January most of the twentyfive hundred rooms in the city’s twenty-nine hotels are booked, but reservations still pour in. The tourist bureau receives a letter from a man in Paris, France, enquiring about cette fête, the Stampede. Mail-order ticket sales begin; the first tickets go to customers who placed their orders in May, 1954.
In Texas on holidays, Mayor Mackay beats the tall-talking Texans at their own game. At the Houston Petroleum Club he delivers a flowery speech on Alberta, Calgary and the Stampede.
By spring the two hundred and twelve Stampede directors and associate directors, all leading citizens of the city or district, are closeted in twenty-five different committee meetings.
The Indian committee under hardware-store proprietor Thomas Hall asks the government agent on the Sarcee, Blackfoot and Stony reservations for thirty tepees and about four hundred Indians. The agents and tribal chiefs decide who’ll go. This is merely the climax of a season’s work for Hall.
“Hardly a week goes by that I don’t talk over Stampede ideas with Indians from one of the tribes,” he says. “Quite often, they come to ask for more money.”
The street-activities committee under oilman Clifton Cross studies applications from cowboy musicians who all seem to be named Smilin’ Slim or Singin’ Johnnie and who come from ranches as far east as Yonge Street, Toronto. Cross’ committee also hunts up skilful male square dancers around town, mostly businessmen who perform free of charge. Each morning these experts in cowboy attire will mingle with the street crowds, swing shy girls into the square dances and send ecstatic tourists home thinking every Calgary man is an Arthur Murray in high-heeled boots.
The parade committee under Jack Grogan, another oil executive, reviews last year’s opening-day parade: six
people fainted in the ninety-degree heat, an ambulance parked across the route and the parade bogged down. Grogan tries to devise a system of moving casualties without slowing this year’s show.
Now the Stampede fervor spreads far beyond Calgary. In Banff sculptor Charlie Beil, a former cowboy, casts eight bronze trophies of cowboys, cows, horses and chuck wagons. Beil’s work
has been praised by everyone from King George VI to Will Rogers and Stampede rodeo winners prize these awards.
In ranches across Alberta and Saskatchewan chuck-wagon owners are overhauling their rigs. On the flat grassland near Vulcan, seventy miles south of Calgary, Hank Willard sends his team and wagon whirling around a practice run. Willard, a barrel-chested cowboy with strong hands and strong nerves, has won the last four chuckwagon championships. Like most competitors he drives only thoroughbred horses. One of last year’s was Roll Along, a granddaughter of Man o’ War; one of this year’s is Sea Ace, a son of Seabiscuit. Like its rivals, the Willard outfit practices at home and races in minor rodeos all spring to tune up for Calgary’s $13,250 total purse. By winning first monéy each day, plus the final grand prize, a single outfit can earn about twenty-five hundred dollars.
By June Calgary radio stations are peppering their listeners with cowboy ballads, including a couple about the Stampede. The daily Herald and Albertan cancel their staff holidays for the week of July 11. In the Palliser Hotel workmen tighten all the screen windows, a Stampede emergency measure to keep excited guests from tumbling out on the opening-day parade. Assistant manager Norman Inge hires a cowboy band to play range-land ditties in the main dining room all week. The kitchen staff hunts up its recipe for buffalo stew, a Stampede specialty.
Like most other hotels, the Palliser is by now sold out for the Week. But in his first-floor office, manager Dyell wearily attempts to fill requests from cabinet ministers, company presidents and vice-presidents who frequently call for rooms at the last minute. Perhaps, Dyell muses, extra space will appear by some miracle as it did the time a U. S. oilman, his wife and two children voluntarily gave up their Palliser suite for the Week.
“Looks like you’ll need more space so you jus’ give our suite to somebody,” the wife told Dyell in a delicious southern drawl. “We’ll move into a single room. ’Course we would like the suite back when the Week’s ovah . . .” Needless to say, they got it back.
Of course the cabinet ministers and others can always find a bed in Calgary. At this point, thousands of other Calgarians get into the act. Normally they are no more or less friendly than any other city dwellers but in Stampede Week the old-time range-land spirit captures everybody. Last year, through the Stampede accommodation bureau, private citizens offered beds for twenty-five hundred visitors. Twenty-three hundred took advantage of the offer. The bureau boasts that no one is ever turned away.
Visitors sometimes find less trouble in getting a room than in paying for it. A Minneapolis family after spending a week in a Calgary home, offered money. The Calgarians pushed it away. Finally the Americans bought a hundred and twenty-five dollars’ worth of household knickknacks, had them delivered to their hosts and hastily left town before the Calgarians could argue.
Another U. S. couple repaid their Calgary hosts by inviting them to California for Christmas. Next year the Calgarians invited them back for the Stampede. Then the Californians invited them back for Christmas. It’s been going on like that ever since.
Of course most householders charge rent—perhaps four to seven dollars a day, depending on the accommodation offered, although there is no fixed rental scale. The bureau investigates
charges of profiteering and, if the complaints are justified, takes the householder off its list. But apparently most Calgarians play fair. The bureau solicits tourist comments and of three hundred received last year only ten were critical.
By early July all these separate activities have fitted together. The events are planned to run off like clockwork, the entire province is infected with Stampede excitement, there is sleeping space for a multitude and a wild-west atmosphere has materialized from thin air. The Stampede will proceed as smoothly as a Broadway musical yet will seem to happen by accident.
On July 11 the stage is set with “Howdy Stranger” and “Welcome Pardner” signs on lamp posts, bellhops in string neckties, elevator girls in gay kerchiefs and log mangers full of hay along the sidewalks. It is probably a hot dry day, for the weather usually co-operates.
Calgary is touchy about this socalled “Stampede luck.” In 1950 when rain fell heavily during the Week, the Stony Indians and Stampede board had a minor squabble concerning free admission of Indians to the grounds. Some Calgarians promptly claimed the Stonys had prayed for rain out of spite. The rumor persisted all summer. Finally Stony councilor Tom Kaquitts assured everybody that the Stonys couldn’t make rain and it wouldn’t rain on Calgary if they could.
Cattle Kings Put Up Money
This year all is forgiven. The Stonys are in the three-mile parade with the Blackfeet, Sareees, Mounties, real cowboys, drugstore cowboys, covered wagons, stagecoaches and twenty to thirty bands. The William Herron family is on hand, too, typifying the private Calgarians’ part in the act. Herron, who is president of an oil company, his wife Madeline and his two sons all ride in the fancy-costume section. Their home-decorated saddles are lavish affairs of tooled leather, beaten silver, synthetic rubies and inlaid gold. Their costumes, which Madeline Herron beads and embroiders for months, are matching gabardine.
In the old-timers’ section rides sixtynine-year-old Clem Gardner, of Pirmez Creek, one of the few surviving competitors of the first Stampede in 1912. Gardner won the best-all-round-cowboy championship that year and roped calves or drove chuck wagons until he was nearly sixty. Three years ago he was voted the man who contributed most to the .Stampede in forty years.
Probably, as he rides, Gardner muses on the first Stampede: how a lanky Wyoming cowpuncher named Guy Weadick rode into Calgary vowing he’d put on the biggest rodeo ever; how he persuaded cattle kings George Lane, Pat Burns, A. E. Cross and A. J. McLean to put up a one-hundredthousand-dollar guarantee; how Weadick held his September show with cowgirls, cowboys and two thousand Indians and grossed one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. There was another Stampede in 1919 and a third in 1923. Then it became an annual event, guided until 1940 by general manager E. L. Richardson.
Richardson has retired, Weadick and most of the others are dead but Gardner, still a working rancher, rides straight in his saddle and notes how times have changed since 1912. In those days a quart of whisky was all a cowboy needed to stage a street show. Now the parade and subsequent mornings of dances, Indian powwows and chuck-wagon breakfasts cost the Stampede around twenty thousand dollars.
“We pay for it but it’s worth it,’
“For one week strangers can flirt with pretty cowgirls in comparative safety”
says assistant manager Ross. “We get that easygoing western atmosphere and that’s what makes the Stampede. If a stranger talked to a girl on the street any other week she’d call a cop but this week it’s all right.”
So, after the parade, while cowboy fiddlers play in hotels, clubs and restaurants, strangers flirt with pretty cowgirls in comparative safety. By one p.m. the mobs move down the nine blocks from city centre to the grounds. Some, with portable radiosand binoculars, watch the show from Scotsman’s Hill, east of the grounds. The paying customers file through the gates, past the midway barkers, past home-cooking exhibits and prize livestock, past the RCMP hut where men in red tunics pose uncomfortably for pictures beside a decrepit stuffed buffalo, past the Indian village where shy grubby children peer through tent flaps, and into the grandstand to watch four hours of riding, roping and horse racing.
Here seventy-year-old Josh Henthorn, a Stampede regular since 1912, operates the public-address system with lost-children announcements and his perennial Stampede joke: “Will
Mr. (here Henthorn names some prominent citizen; please report to the checkroom? His suitcase is leaking.”
In the centre-field area Dick Cosgrave in silk shirt and gabardine breeches sits in a two-thousand-dollar silver-decorated saddle aboard a pedigreed palomino named Golden Maxim. The palomino trots and wheels effortlessly as Cosgrave hustles the show
along. Golden Maxim is a professional, too; apart from occasional light ranch jobs to keep him in trim through the year, this Stampede appearance is his only work.
The Stampede matinee idols lounge around the chutes—lean hard cowboys from Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Texas, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and half a dozen other states. Last year a contestant came from Scotland. There’s slender Marty Wood, of Bowness, Alta., who at twenty-two is saddle-bronc champion; dusky Francis Many Wounds, a Sareee and the champion steer decorator; big square-jawed Cliff Vandergrift, of Turner Valley, the calf-roping champion. In the grandstand, gilds sigh at the sight of Casey Tibbs, a South Dakota cowboy with curly hair, a tooth-pastead smile and lithe skill in the saddle that has already won three Stampede bronco-riding championships.
Romantic as they are in their spurs and rakish hats, the five hundred cowboys are essentially businessmen. By following the U. S. and Canadian rodeo circuit from January to November, many of them gross twenty thousand dollars each a year; a few earn up to fifty thousand dollars. With this much at stake, few of them paint the town red during a working week. Most gather for a beer after a day’s show but some rodeo riders don’t drink at all. On Saturday, the traditional party night, most of them hurry away to the next rodeo.
In the afternoon as they wait their turn for rides, a few throw dice behind
the chutes, some toss a lasso at an overturned bucket to limber their arms but most perch on corral rails studying each bronco’s tricks and motions. A top rider knows every horse by heart. Maybe he depends a bit on superstition, too. Hardly any cowboy will change a lucky shirt.
After all, he can’t afford to overlook a trick in his bid for some of the forty thousand dollars prize money, bronze trophies, gold and silver belt buckles, hand-tooled saddles, hats, clothing, watches, electric washers and silver cigarette cases.
For entry fees of five to fifty dollars he can try his luck in the saddle-bronc ride, bareback ride, Brahma bull ride, calf roping, wild cow milking, wild steer decorating (vaulting from a running horse to hang a ribbon on the steer’s horn) or wild horse race (with two helpers, roping, saddling and riding a wild horse out of the arena). Fees are highest for popular events like calf roping, to keep the number of entries within reasonable limits.,-
The fee also entitles the cowboy to broken arms, ribs and fingers, dislocated shoulders, rope burns or perhaps a concussion. At the 1951 Stampede there were five broken legs in a day. Years of spine-jarring rides may make a cowboy punchdrunk like a boxer. Occasionally injuries are fatal.
A few years ago lanky Gordon Earl, a twenty-nine-year-old Newgate, B.C., rancher, was kicked in the head as he fell from a bronc at a Saskatchewan rodeo. Last year, riding with a silver plate in his skull, Earl won the highest Stampede honor—best-all-round-cowhoy championship.
You Can’t Carry a Horse
In 1932 Leo Ferris, twice the bestall-round cowboy, was gored in the eye while riding a steer. He finished the ride, a doctor removed the eye and a day or two later Ferris was back demanding more rides.
In Ferris’ day a cowboy paid his own hospital bills. Now most riders pay annual dues of fifteen dollars to the Cowboys’ Protective Association, a rodeo performers’ organization that covers most medical expenses, guarantees a minimum purse, makes rodeo arenas conform to proper standards, forbids cruelty to livestock and even makes a cowpoke pay the damage if he kicks in a plate-glass window or runs amok in a bar. Although similar in function to a union, the CPA is an independent body, chartered under an Alberta societies’ act and affiliated only with a similar cowboy association in the United States.
CPA protection plus the cowhand’s natural sense of humor does much to offset the tension of rodeo competition. There’s always a joke around the arena, like the time an ornery bronc named Blazer lay down in the chute with Jerry Ambler of Oregon on his back. A Stampede official, unaware of the sit-down strike, shouted impatiently, “Come on, get going.”
“Take it easy,” yelled Ambler from the depths of the chute. “/ ain’t sup-
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posed to carry him out of here.”
At five p.m. each day the bucking events end. A bevy of girls sprint for Casey Tibbs’ autograph. Other cowpokes haul their aching bones to their trailer, hotel room or the nearest bar. The tourists, who are swaggering like Wild Bill Hickok and trying to roll cigarettes with one hand, drop in for a dinner-hour square dance at the Palliser or grab a quick snack at coffee bars called the Chuck Wagon, the Corral or the Wagon Wheel.
Within an hour twenty-five thousand of them, including the rodeo riders, are back to watch and place surreptitious side bets on the evening’s eight chuckwagon heats. This is considered by far the most thrilling Stampede event and all over the west home-town fans are tuned in to the broadcast, cheering for the local wagon team.
The wagon race originated by accident in 1919.
"1 remember it like it was yesterday,” says Dick Cosgrave. “It was Pat Burns’ birthday and they brought two chuck wagons off the range, set ’em up in front of the grandstand and served free buffalo sandwiches to the crowd. Well, afterward the two cooks wheeled their teams around and started to race off the field. Cne big team of Clydesdales got all tangled up and that was tlie end of the race. But the crowd got such a kick out of it we’ve had it ever since.”
Nowadays four wagons, each drawn by four thoroughbreds and accompanied by four outriders on fast ponies, line up before the grandstand. At a signal, each outfit “breaks camp”: the
riders toss a stove and tent poles in the wagon, then leap for their saddles; the wagon cuts a crazy figure eight around two barrels, the high-strung thoroughbreds lean into the harness and the rigs career around the half mile, hubcap to hubcap.
Every night there are spectacular, sometimes tragic crashes. Frequently valuable horses are injured and must be destroyed. So far, the drivers have always crawled from the wreckage alive. C ne year a driver bounced from his own wagon to the canvas top of another, where he Lnished out the race. Another time a wagon crossed the finish line minus its two hind wheels. It pays to bring the outfit in, even in last place, because in addition to nightly prizes there is extra money and a championship trophy for the best average time of the week. This usually hangs in doubt until Saturday night, the wildest race night of all. After that, although there’s a grandstand show and a presentation of prizes, the range-land Mardi Gras is really over.
Then the Indians fold their tepees, the rodeo riders catch their trains, the “Welcome” signs come off main street and the drugstore cowboys climb back into business suits and fedoras. Calgary is left with the empty wistful feeling that goes with the end of all good acts.
But only for five minutes. The Calgary Stampede never really ends. In the office Dick Cosgrave gathers up the week’s bucking-bronco tally sheets. Stampede manager Hartnett arranges a staff meeting for the following week. At home Mayor Mackay removes his ten-gallon hat—but only for the night. In the Palliser a clerk tells manager Dyell, “Ninety-three reservations for i .xt Stampede Week.”
And as the last straggler limps through the stockade gates in his highheeled boots, an overhead sign catches his eye:
CALGARY EXHIBITION AND STAMPEDE July 9-14 1956