The hidden years in Canada, 57 the stampede

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Saturday 13 June 09:11

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The Stampede

We sat in the Pontiac, the engine growling which made its way through the narrow streets to POP’s burger joint. The radio was on and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, came rolling from the speaker. We were early but Don and Bev were already waiting at their table. When we entered Don immediately wanted to know how our week had been. I did not want to elaborate on colleagues who pull slot machines from the floor and replied, ‘Oh just the normal sort of thing.’ ‘Are you ready? ' 'Ride' em cowboy! ‘Laughed Don. ‘It's Stampede time!’

The Calgary Stampede, we had already seen it. Slowly, the city was filling up with people from outside. It was increasingly difficult to park somewhere and everyone was ‘cowboy.’ In any case, everyone wanted to be cowboy and not stand out by being different and therefore they were noticed. The hat that goes with Calgarians, the white Stetson, ours, had been put on and off so often that it had  become a bit grubby. The outsiders had bought immaculate white Stetsons, you could buy them almost in every stall for a few dollars. You stood out, because they were very white. You might as well put a text on your shirt, ‘I'm not from here,’ they also spoke in slang like us but posh.

There were those who were almost like us, but wearing boots which pinched because real western boots, only form after a few years on your feet and then fit like a glove. They are also quite expensive but will last for years. You do not get sweaty feet in them and you're never cold in the real western boots. The neck scarfs which we all wore had gone many times through a washing machine. It was unmistakable, there were plenty of aliens in our city. The sidewalks were crowded with white Stetsons and of the men and women who walked limping around on their boots which needed breaking in and their bright, not faded, neck scarves.

The most disturbing was the fake cowboy accent that would not have gone amiss in Texas, but not a Texan from Texas, but from some third-rate antique cowboy movie.

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Business was good. Residents living near the Stampede grounds took the fence of their front yards away and the front yards were converted to parking lots, there the cars would stand, side by side, next to the payment. When the ten days Stampede craze was over, the garden would be tidied up and the fence would be put back. Little boys set up stalls, just beside the gardens which had now become parking lots, with sandwiches and lemonade. Everything breathed money and expectations.

With great difficulty we found a spot in someone's front yard, we paid our $ 5 and the guy wrote the time down. ‘A dollar per hour, hey,’ he said, ‘you stay away longer and you’ll have to pay for it,' and there we went to meet adventure. ‘Where do we go to,’ said Bev? ‘Have you got prefererence,’ I wanted to know? ‘I like the wild cow milking competition, it is  fun,’ she said. ‘Ok,’ I said, ' same here.’ We’ll pay an entrance fee and then we'll see on the program when it takes place. ‘ It was $ 5 to get in. We walked to the grounds, the real grounds, where rodeos would be ridden and where the wild cow milking competitions would be held.

It was set up smart, you were led along stalls with sugar spins and candy apples, apples on a stick that had been dipped in caramel. ‘I want that,’ laughed Bev and later we walked around sticky looking for a place where we could wash our hands. Everything was well thought out most prices were $ 1, so there was no fiddling with change. I saw my money evaporate and then came the turning point, you were out with your friends, it was fun, everyone had saved for these few days of carefree fun. It did not matter. As with Christmas, where you carefully calculated at first, which presents to buy, and once in the atmosphere you’d simply lay money out to please people.

The wild cow milking competion, only started one hour later so we strolled around and came to the horseshoe throwing  matches. The horseshoe throwing competition. That was less exciting than the name would suggest. An iron stake had been beaten into the ground and the men of the various ranches threw along an expanded line a horseshoe around the pole. It had to remain lying down around it, it looks easier than said. The horseshoe flew through the air and it would impact, but in most cases the speed gave it a spinning effect hitting the stake, making it gyrate and fly away..

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The men were aiming with deadly seriousness, they held the two ends before their eyes and stretched out their arms and brought them back in again calculating, distance and the strength of their arm. Some brandished the horseshoe around above their heads, others took their arm far back as though they were going bowling. The horseshoes were not allowed to bounce over the ground, they had to go at once around the stake. Eventually there were three men left over throwing the horseshoes  from ever increasing distances. The last thrower who also was the winner, knew how to place the horseshoe over the 15 meter line exactly around the stake where it stopped, a loud cheering broke lose. He was put on a stage and with much fanfare, he became the champion of horseshoe throwing for the day and got a big horseshoe, on which his name would be engraved and his ranch. How often had this farmer been practicing in his field with a horseshoe? Yippie Ya hoo.

San Daniel 2015

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