First Trip to Calgary!

I’ve been seeing different  people’s posts on FaceBook this past week about the Calgary Stampede and it brought back a memory of my first trip up there. Very memorable to say the least. I was 19 and about the biggest town I’d ever seen was Amarillo. Well, Calgarys’ just a tad bigger’n Amarillo, if you know what I mean. And the Stampede…..there’s nothing like it. If you’ve never been, you oughta go at least once. It’s more like a Worlds Fair; It’s the biggest thing that happens in Canada, for sure. And, while I was going there for the rodeo, which is one of the biggest on the planet, there’s tons of other things going on besides the rodeo.

It was me and Barney Brehmer and Doug Shipe. We hit the Canadian border about 4 pm the day before I was to ride at the Stampede. When we went in to the border crossing office Clyde Bullard, a calf roper from Comanche, Oklahoma had the border boys as mad as they could possibly be. I mean he had ’em stirred up! They weren’t letting him across for dang sure and maybe not anyone else, for that matter. Well, their argument went on for a while and the crowd of rodeo people was building all the time of people trying to get to Calgary.

We started our drive through the checkpoint and when they stopped us they told us we had to have at least $50 cash each. Well, this is the truth, we had about $50 amongst all three of us. We’re big-time rodeo hands, you understand! lol So they’re not letting us cross the border which is a problem because I’m up in the bull riding the next day. Another carload of veteran cowboys were in the same shape that we’re in and they’re not letting them across either. Barney borrowed some money from somebody and went ahead across the line. Well, about an hour after he’s crossed I realize that he also took my only set of pickup keys! So now, not only are we stranded at the Canadian border…but now with no keys! Quite the little dilemma….and the clock’s tickin’!

About midnight Rusty Riddle and Clyde Vamvoras showed up. Clyde hot-wired my pickup so it was drivable and the plan was for me to borrow enough cash to have that $50 they required and I’d head out to Calgary. First thing the next morning I fired my hot-wired pickup up, got me $50 cash from a couple of buddies and went on my way to Calgary by myself. At the border they didn’t ask me one thing about how much cash I had….they just waved me on through. I guess the border boys got over their mad spell!

I hit Calgary about 1 pm. My ‘ol hot-wired pickup made it just fine. It was bumper to bumper traffic, I had no idea where I was going and to top it all off it started coming a ‘monsoon’.  I mean, the bottom fell plumb out! That’s when I learned that my hot-wired pickup windshield wipers wouldn’t work. So, I’ve got my drivers side window down getting completely soaked. I’ve got a t-shirt with my left hand and I’m hanging out the window trying to wipe my windshield so I can see through the flood.

I finally found my way to the Calgary Stampede. To this day I can’t remember what bull I had or what I did on him….(must not’ve been too memorable!) but I’ll never forget the trip up there as long as I live!

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Business = Finished!

If you’re not familiar with the Professional Bull Riders organization this post might not mean much to you. And if you’re not familiar with the PBR….maybe you should be. Bull Riding is the most extreme of all the extreme sports. If you have a disagreement on that thought, go get on a bull and, chances are, you’ll quickly change your mind. Bull Riding as a sport has evolved over the past 20 + years into a high-profile, spectator friendly sport that has made celebrities of the bull riders, as well as the bulls. Sports arenas around the country are filling up when the PBR comes to town much due to the overt, raw danger of the sport and the vanishing individualistic nature of the, authentic, American cowboy.

An event was held this past weekend in Decatur, Texas unlike any Bull Riding event ever before, and almost assuredly, will never happen again. “Unfinished Business” pitted eight of the most high-profile PBR Bull Riders in the organization’s history, all retired for a number of years, riding for a, winner take all, $160,000 payoff. Cody Custer and Mike White, PRCA World Champions; Tater Porter, J.W. Hart, PBR World Finals Champions; Justin McBride, Chris Shivers and Michael Gaffney all PBR World Champions and Ross Coleman, perennial PBR World Finals Qualifier.

To say that these men had ‘unfinished business’ in the arena couldn’t be further from the truth. These eight guys left it all in the arena every single time they ever competed, without exception. Their primary reason for coming out of retirement for this, once in a lifetime, event was in the name of charity. I don’t care who you are, you gotta appreciate that! *(consider that a couple of them are nearing 50 yrs of age!)

Shivers and Hart rode their bulls and split the $160,000. The other six didn’t complete their 8-second ride. But, just like always…..they gave it everything they had…..one last time! I care about Bull Riding; I’ve been directly involved with it in one way or another pretty much my whole life. I’d like to see Bull Riding continue to come to prominence as a sport. My reasons are personal. But I look at the field of bull riders today and I wonder who’ll take the place of these men. I don’t see very many out there on the radar screen, today, the caliber of these guys in the way of sheer effort….and the desire to be ‘ambassadors’ for the sport. The door’s wide open for some ‘young guns’ to step up!

Thank you Cody Custer, Mike White, Tater Porter, J.W. Hart, Justin McBride, Chris Shivers, Michael Gaffney and Ross Coleman….for showing unprecedented ‘class’ with every ride and every interview your entire career! Thanks from us older guys that never had the opportunity to ride for a million dollars.

Thanks for showing the rest of the world what the sport of Bull Riding is really about! You finished your business…..and you finished it well!!

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Tee-Ball…..The #1, Undisputed, Very Best Team Sport of ‘Em All!!

It might not be your favorite sport, but there’s on doubt about it…it’s mine! There’s nothing I don’t like about Tee-Ball It became my favorite sport when my kids started playing, years ago. In fact, one of the very first practices our boys attended, Clay….now 27, took a major league swing at the ball. He missed the ball, did a full 360 spin, let go of the bat and it flew like a guided missile and hit the coach square on the ankle bone! He hopped around for a few seconds, limped for a few more and through the tears said, “Clay…..try to hang onto the bat!” I still laugh when I think about it….but I’ll bet the coach still thinks it wasn’t all that funny.

I missed Crockett’s (my next to the youngest Grandson, age 4) very first Tee-Ball game today. Hated to, but I had a meeting that I couldn’t miss. I did find out, however, that after his very first hit, he headed straight to third base! I’m thinking, “Heck, yeah! If you can get a triple that way…get it on!”  And THAT, is exactly why I love Tee-Ball!

You gotta be on your toes if you’re the coach; (I did get there for game #2 today!) The catcher is checking the stands behind him and making sure his people are watching. Outfielders are chasing butterflies and the second baseman and shortstop are on the ground wrestling with one another. There are a lot of spectators….probably more than at a lot of high school games. Why? Easy question; parents, grandparents love to watch their kids excel. Our Father is like that, too! A few dads are giving ‘expert’ instructions from the stands……as if there’s actually something at stake. Serious business to some!

I was asked later who won the game. I have no idea but I think, no I’m sure, they both won! Not a sad face, one, on any of the players, coaches or spectators. I don’t care if you have kids or grandkids playing Tee-Ball or not, you need to go to a game. You can have the worst day you’ve ever had, go to a Tee-Ball game….and get home just right!!

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