Calgary: Night Four (July 6)

Up and at it earlier this morning. At 5:15am the alarm sounded. I normally don’t need to wake to an alarm but as the days go by at this time of year my body gets more exhausted. So I don’t take the chance to expect to wake up on my own.

We decided to utilize the morning track time, 5am to 8am, to exercise an outfit. But we had a special guest come join us. Cody, our son, was the driver this morning, Chris, our son-in-law, was the helper and Kelly VanderBeek, retired Canadian alpine skier, came along for the ride. The faster the better, she said. Kelly enjoyed every minute of it.

Kelly Vanderbeek

Kelly VanderBeek

Kelly VanderBeek

Kelly VanderBeek

Kelly VanderBeek

Kelly VanderBeek

Kelly VanderBeek

After the ride, she also got to walk some hot horses to cool them out. Then she interviewed Cody about life in the chuckwagon world.

Kelly VanderBeek

After all the excitement of the practice run, Team 23 got to work doing the barn chores. It was our turn to make breakfast, so I was it. Sausages, scrambled eggs, leftover fried mashed potatoes and toasted grilled buns.

I had to get at it, as Rick and I had a date, along with a few other drivers and trick rider Payton Bensmiller, to visit some kids at the Alberta Children’s Hospital at 10am.

Rick and I have been arranging this for many years now, and it touches our hearts. There are so many stories to be told there, and if we can just bring a little bit of sunshine to some of the little ones’ world, for even a moment, it’s made our day. And I must say, it’s very humbling to enter into those rooms. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

A huge thanks to Sandy, a worker at the hospital, who makes this happen for us year after year.

Alberta Children's Hospital

Alberta Children's Hospital

Alberta Children's Hospital

On our return from the hospital, we knew it was time to get some rest. Rick and I both headed to the trailer to get a couple of hours of R & R in. It felt soooooo good.

Race time came fast. I had a few thing to do up in the trailer, so I didn’t get down to the barns until 5. I needn’t have worried, as Team 23 had everything under control.

Our hook tonight was Speedy on the Left Lead, Nickle on the Right Lead, Sneakers on the Left Wheel and Law on the Right Wheel, coming off the 3 barrel. Cole and Dustin rode Ace and Andy.

Prior to our race, the dark clouds hovered over and brought some wind and rain. Who would have guessed? Up until then, it was the calmest, nicest evening. So the track conditions got heavier for our heat. When the horn blew, the outfit started and charged. Barrel 2 outfit’s outrider somehow almost ended up in our lead team. Thank goodness, he managed to get out of the way. And away we went.

We had a great turn despite that start and had the best performance out of our horses yet. Rick was very happy how they performed. The kicker was we had two late outriders. Not their fault, they just couldn’t get around the Ray Mitsuing outfit. He held them out three wide. Very disappointing.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day and another redraw. We still have a chance to make it into the top eight by Friday. We just have to run hard, fast and clean.

Rick Fraser Team 23

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Rick Fraser Team 23

A loving heart is the truest wisdom.

Ponoka: Night Five (June 30)

WOW! Today is the last day of June. Where did this month go? When I’m on the road, I lose all track of which day it is. At home I faithfully live by a calendar. In the trailer, I do have one but we normally say it’s a race day or it’s a non-race day.

I went to bed a tad bit late last night and was up early this morning again. I awoke sometime in between to listen to the rain falling hard on the trailer. Not sure how much moisture the area got but I do know that it made the grounds very muddy. And how do I know? Because Rick decided we needed to hook another outfit this morning.

I dug out the rubber boots, the mud pants and rain jacket for the boys to wear while in the wagon. Better to spray down the rain gear than to make another trip to the laundromat. And yes, they did come back very muddy. Horses and all. So after the chores were completed, the pressure washer got used cleaning up all the equipment and horses.

Rick Fraser Team 23

Rick Fraser Team 23

If you have never attended the rodeo or chuckwagon races here in Ponoka, it is one event of the year that you should put on your bucket list. This is quite the happening place when people from all over Canada and the USA flock upon this small town for some great cowboy entertainment. The RVs amaze me every year. I wouldn’t even be able to begin to guess how many units are on the grounds.

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And the best part is that it costs nothing to park your home on wheels for the full six days of the Stampede. It’s one big party with the neighbours around you.

Ken Malvin, our friend, mans the World Professional Chuckwagon Association merchant trailer. He has many great clothing items to choose from to promote our association.

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Somehow the day slipped away quickly. I tended to a few more envelopes that arrived in the mail and also did month-end payroll. It just seems that when I sit down to do those things, more and more paperwork appears. It was rather quiet in my trailer, and I enjoyed listening to the kids just outside my door filling up water balloons and then chasing each other and hoping to get good aim, laughing through it all.

Around 4, we had some special visitors. My friend Lucy and Garth brought over Garth’s seven-year-old grandson Dylan. What a cute kid. Dylan has some special needs and so cannot speak, walk on his own or hear very well.  This doesn’t mean he can’t communicate, that’s for sure. He’s a smart little whippersnapper.

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When he went to see the chuckwagon races, they said he would get so excited. Well, he also got very excited when he received a Team 23 T-shirt along with a mini chuckwagon. What big smile he had. These kinds of moments touch our hearts and bring us memories that last a lifetime.

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Abigail also stopped by, and she was the lucky recipient of the mini give away tonight. She was all smiles when she arrived to meet us. We gathered up Abigail and Rick to take a photo in front of the wagon. I don’t think she’s going to give up her new prized possession to anyone anytime soon.

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Tonight out of the barn came Nickle on Left Lead, Speedy on the Right Lead, Sneakers on the Left Wheel and Law on the Right Wheel. Ace and Andy continued to be ridden by Cole and Dustin.

Rick Fraser Team 23

If you noticed a bit of a change-up, you are right. We switched Speedy and Nickle positions. It seemed to have worked out okay as the Ricky and the boys pulled off a fifth on the night’s placing, the highest position so far at this Ponoka Stampede for us.

Rick Fraser Team 23

Rick and his cousin Troy were in the heat together. For me, it’s neat to see these two relatives race together. We have one more race here tomorrow, and then it’s off to Calgary. We will be in the eighth heat and will start off on the third barrel. The four four finalists who made it for the possible $50,000 will be Evan Salmond, Kirk Sutherland, Jason Glass and Kirk Sutherland. May the fastest wagon win!

Our lives will always be full if our hearts are always giving.

Ponoka: Night Four (June 29)

As I rolled over and opened my eyes this morning, I realized I was the only one in bed. Rick had gotten up and headed the barn and I didn’t even hear him. This is quite unusual for me, not to wake up when he does. I must have been tired.

I jumped up and got the percolator going while I got ready for the day. It was just after 7 when I got to the barn. My hubby said he didn’t think I was coming. He had decided we were hooking two outfits but unfortunately I didn’t get the memo the night before. At any rate, I arrived just in time to help with the first hook and then the second one too.

It was a bit soggy out this morning, as it had decided to rain on our parade. Enough so that it settled all the dust around the area.

I decided to send Rick and the girls to have breakfast over at the legion. I said I would stay back and wait for our bale of straw to be delivered. Well, the straw arrived and then so did my friends, Bev and Norm Little. We sat shootin’ the breeze in front of the barn and enjoyed a cup of coffee too. They had lots of stories to tell of days gone by, which made for some pretty good laughs.

A couple of gentlemen stopped by to meet us. The one fella phoned us up this past winter and asked about obtaining one of our mini chuckwagons. I told him to come by when we were in his area. Well, he did, we chatted and I asked him what the reasoning was for the little chuckwagon. Back home in their small town of Killam, there are a group of eight guys who meet at the local coffee shop in the mornings. They are all avid followers of…you guessed it…the WPCA chuckwagon races. So these guys do up a draft just like in the NHL. They all have a pool of four wagon drivers and collect points throughout the season. And this year they are awarding the winner with a trophy. It will be our mini chuckwagon mounted on a base of some sort. How cool is that?

Rick Fraser Team 23

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Tonight we also met another HUGE fan of ours. His name is Richard Zeluf. Last year we gave him one of our Team 23 hats. According to his daughter-in-law Janine, his hat is one of his prized possessions. Tonight we surprised him with a mini chuckwagon to take back home with him. The look on his face was priceless. “Is this for me?” he said as Rick handed it to him. He was in disbelief. He is very excited to show the boys during tomorrow morning’s coffee.

Rick Fraser Team 23

I trucked on over to get a few horse supplies at McFeeds today, then decided it was time to get the laundry done before we head to Calgary in a couple of days. I think others had the same idea, as it was pretty busy in there. But with so many machines it really doesn’t take too long to get things done.

Back at the trailer with the clean clothes and such, I thought I’d better tidy up and prepare the supper for the crew. A big pot of chili sounded good, as it was much cooler out today with the rains that came down.

During chore time this afternoon, our son Cody took advantage of the girls and made them pull just a little bit harder while he took a break.

Team 23

The kids are great to have around, as they are all pretty good sports and love to have a good time.

Team 23

Rick decided to hook Spirit on Left Lead, Ranger on Right Lead, Vegas on Left Wheel and Zorba on the Right Wheel. Cole rode Beau and Dustin threw stove with Trixter for his ride.

Just as Rick got stopped and ready, the horses moved forward just a bit. Not sure which horse caused it, but Rick pulled back and he was good enough to not be ahead of the barrel, thank goodness.

When the horn finally went, one of the horses reared up a bit, then away they went, around the bottom barrel and onto the track to pull and follow Kelly Sutherland.  Not sure if this helped us or not, as I think the running was two wide and not on the rail. We posted a 1:19.60 for 23rd on the day. Unfortunately our running time was not good enough to keep us in the top eight for the redraw tomorrow. So in other words, we will not have the chance to compete for the final dash of $50,000.

On another note, we have been very consistent and we are ready for the Calgary Stampede.

Tonight we met a young fan, Kaden, right from our hometown Wetaskiwn. Kaden, his sister and his dad came out to see the chuckwagon races. They knew that when Rick is finished the race he hands out a mini chuckwagon. So Kaden’s dad told the sister to go to one end of the stands and for Kaden to go to the other end. He thought this might give them a good chance in receiving the mini wagon. Well, his dad must be pretty smart because it worked. Kaden got the wagon. He was one proud young fella.

Rick Fraser

The next two days are going to be busier than normal. It will be time to start packing up, picking up and dropping off things at home before we head to Calgary on Wednesday. I hope I get my list figured out so I don’t forget anything that I might need when we are there. It’s getting pretty exciting as the Big Show, the Calgary Stampede, begins in only four short days. So hard to believe.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.

Ponoka: Night Three (June 28)

Another day of wonderful, hot weather. I think it reached 30 degrees for sure.

We didn’t hook any horses this morning so we just did the chores. We were short a crew member, as all the girls went out last night to celebrate our hired girl Kim’s 24th birthday. They all had a great time. Kim got to sleep in.

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I had an appointment at 10, so I made sure all the crew were fed and watered. Rick really doesn’t like it when I say that. He always says to me, “We’re not horses, you know.” But at the end of the day they are happy that I’m cooking for them.

I arrived back at the trailer by noon. My next project was to sort through all the Team 23 T-shirts that arrived. With the help of Amy, Kendra and Allie, we refolded, sorted and organized them all so my trailer would be livable again. It’s pretty bad when your neighbour boy pops by and says, “You sure have a lot of junk in here.” He sure made me laugh.

We were off the 1 barrel tonight. It’s our favourite. Rick hooked Spirit on Left Lead, Ranger on Right Lead, Vegas on Left Wheel and Zorba the big grey on the Right Wheel. We continue to have Cole holding the leaders and tonight he rode Beau. Dustin threw the stove and rode Trixter, his favourite.

The outfit started hard and came to the track to get the rail. They all ran hard and finished first at the finish line, placing us 9th on the day. The driver did a great job too!

I must say, Ricky’s a pretty good skinner, as he had some real good teachers and comes from a pretty good gene pool: his grandfather Tommy Dorchester, his stepdad Dave Lewis and his uncle Dallas Dorchester.

I don’t have any race photos tonight, as I didn’t realize until I got to the infield that I forgot to put the battery back into the camera. Grrrrr. Silly me. It won’t be the first time and may not be the last. Ho hum.

But the photos I do have are some great ones of our good friends Doug and Deb Hanson’s grandkids. They are our number one fans. They were at the races tonight sporting their new Team 23 T-shirts.

Team 23

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And afterward, they posed for a photo with a gentleman named Jim Plamondon. Jim was thrilled to have received our little mini chuckwagon giveaway tonight after Rick’s race. It put a smile on his face.

Team 23

We met another young fella tonight. Damien came to visit us from Red Deer. He met our friend Mary Lynn from Bruce’s Tru Hardware store. She sent him over to meet us and get a signed poster. We did better than that and gave him a T-shirt too. I think we made a fan for life. He said he’s coming back next year for sure.

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In my opinion one of the best things about our chuckwagon journey is meeting all the wonderful people along the way. There are so many of you out there, with so many different stories to tell and different paths of life. And we appreciate meeting you all and letting you come into our lives to see just a bit of what we do.

A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

High River: Night Two (June 19)

It’s Friday already. Seems like we just arrived. We were up and at it early. Rick fed the ponies while I got myself dressed and ready to go out the door. We had a date! To the local Tim Hortons.

Actually Jody Seeley from Sun Country 99.7 was broadcasting live there this morning and the WPCA drivers were invited to come and join her. We were also joined by rodeo announcer Mike Labelle and rodeo clown Dennis Halstead. We had lots of laughs with the customers driving through and the guys signed some posters to give away.

One of the customers came through in a very fancy convertible. Rick, in his humour, asked if he could go for a ride. The fella obliged, Rick jumped in and they were gone! It wasn’t too long and he returned with a big grin on his face. They were flying!

Shortly thereafter one of Rick’s old schoolmates, Tim, came through in his done-up pick-up truck. Well, Rick has had the opportunity to drive this baby the last couple of years that we’ve been here. He’s fallen in love with this truck. Rick took Mike for a quick spin to show it off. I just shook my head. I say, “The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys!”

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And before we left, a local RCMP constable showed up for a coffee. The boys all sauntered over to have a chat and take a photo. They really wanted to drive his car. But no go!

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Upon our return to the barn, we saw the girls had worked efficiently and had gotten all the morning chores completed. It was time for breakfast. We enjoyed a nice visit, with our meal out in the warm sunshine while the morning practice wagons began to roll. We headed over to the track to watch a few, then the girls saddled some of our outriding horses to go out for a lap or two. I ventured off to the grocery store to fill up the cupboards again.

Coy, our grandson, arrived right at supper time, just before the races. He had hitched a ride with our relative Brace to spend a couple of days with us here.

Tonight we were off the money barrel, as some may call it. But tonight it unfortunately didn’t work for us. The team of Spirit on Left Lead, Speirman on Right Lead, Vegas on Left Wheel and Zorba on Right Wheel didn’t start too badly at the sound of the horn. Rick turned the top barrel but coming to the bottom that Left Wheeler kept leaning to the left, just enough to have the barrel in our way.

Rick Fraser Team 23

I don’t usually like to post the photo of a knocked barrel but hey it happens and no one is exempt from it happening at sometime in their career. Our outriders Cole and Dustin rode Beau and Trixter tonight and both did superb jobs. They all are great athletes.

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Growth means change and change involves risks, stepping from the known to the unknown.