Leaving Ponoka and Getting into Calgary

So for all you early morning risers out there who get up, go to the restroom, grab your cup of coffee and head to your computer to see what Sue has blogged from the previous night, “I’m sorry!”

Team 23 made a mad dash out of “Dodge” last night immediately after the races in Ponoka. We and a few others were slotted to get into Calgary that evening. We had lots of help to load and go, and so we departed approximately at 9:30pm and arrived safely at 11:30pm. We had a few extra kids show up to help us unload and we sure appreciated that. By the time our heads hit the pillow, the clock chimed 3am.

When in Ponoka, a new sponsor to the WPCA, Bruce’s Tru Hardware with Bruce and Mary Lynn, AKA The Red Neck Barbie, decided to put up a barn award for the best cleaned up barn, and also a few single awards to the best barn hands. They followed certain criteria and had some local businessmen and women come in and judge.

I am truly happy to say that Team 23 came out on top for the best barn award. This does take some extra work and imagination, and at the end of the day it makes me feel like I’ve brought a little bit of home with me on the road. I love the real flowers I purchased, as I normally just use the plastic ones.

We have brought them along with us to decorate in Calgary as well. I just hope and pray I can keep them alive and well. A green thumb I have not. Red is my favourite colour and someday I would love to decorate for my hubby a sea of red roses at our barn, just like at the Kentucky Derby.

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Rick had a decent turn of the barrels yesterday. He hooked a couple of newer horses of ours and was very impressed. Zorba, Keenan, Victory and Air were pulling the wagon and Cole and Dustin rode Bingo and Stadium. Those guys did an impressive job all week staying penalty free. We are looking forward to some very exciting racing in Calgary these next 10 days.

Rick and I finally got ourselves out of bed by 6:30am. Just a bit slower than usual. He fed the ponies and then had to go clean up. He was headed to the Children’s Hospital to attend a mini parade that is put on for all the patients and their families for Stampede Week. The kids totally enjoyed it and so did Rick. He greeted some of the patients, and also met some heroes. The young men that serve our country were all in uniform attending the parade. Rick goes out of his way to shake their hands, as this service they do for we Canadians is very dear to his heart. How selfless are they.

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While Rick was away, we girls covered the barn chores and organized all our belongings in the tack rooms. What another busy day, especially when one is tired. At one point we took a break, and I must say our lounge chairs are the cat’s meow when it comes to a little me time.

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This evening Rick and I brought out the paint and spruced up the chuckwagon for the big show. Kind of like a mini date we had. It got finished a whole lot faster, which made our bedtime a whole lot sooner.

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Tune in to Radio AM 700 for all the Calgary Stampede’s chuckwagon races. They will also be live on TV if you’re going to be home.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

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.

Ponoka: Night Two (June 27)

So here’s the deal…today was so busy!!! Rick and I arose around 5:45am. He scooted out to feed the horses before we hooked them. I put the coffee percolator on and then prepared myself for the day. Out to the barn I went, with coffee carafes in hand. The girls and Cody were ready to harness and hook.

Track time here is from 6am to 8am. So if one is going to take advantage of the two-hour window, you better be organized. You see, the track is a ways from all the barns. It takes time to go up the chutes, do your practice run and then return. And if you want some of the outriding horses exercised that uses up quite a bit of time too.

We managed to get the one hook in and send out a few outriding horses. Once the hook was done, I raced back to the trailer to make up some yummy breakfast wraps for the crew before I departed over to the Stage Coach Saloon for the Chicks for Charity Champagne Breakfast. A group of local ladies here put on a breakfast with auction items, goodies and a wonderful breakfast to raise money for charities. It’s such a treat to attend.

Just before it wrapped up, I snuck out next door to the infield to partake in the Special Needs Rodeo. Rick and I have been volunteering with this rodeo since it started quite a few years back. We now have many of the chuckwagon drivers and outriders come and pair up with the 25 children who sign up to attend. These kids range in ages and have some type of disability.

This is such a heart-warming time for us to share with them, these two hours to just go out and have some fun. The organizers put stations together that mimic the rodeo and chuckwagon events, along with animals to pet. An awesome turnout for all.

Rick Fraser

Ponoka Special Needs Rodeo

Ponoka Special Needs Rodeo

Ponoka Special Needs Rodeo

Ponoka Special Needs Rodeo

Ponoka Special Needs Rodeo

Ponoka Special Needs Rodeo

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Special Needs Rodeo

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Once that rodeo wrapped up, Rick headed over to the legion to attend a WPCA board meeting. I went the other way and quickly popped into the grocery store to pick up some ice and water to replenish the coolers. I did that job back at the barn, then jumped on my bicycle with a gift in hand and scooted over to a neighbour’s trailer to celebrate little Rose Salmond birth at a baby shower. Evan, another chuckwagon driver, and his wife Adrian are thrilled to be sporting their first bundle of joy. I was lucky enough to be able to hold that little bundle for a few minutes, before heading back to camp.

I decided it was “me” time and I laid my head down for a nap, but not until I put my earplugs in and my headphones over my ears. I’m not really sure that I slept, but I do know that I rested. I’m not the greatest napper whatsoever. The next thing I knew, it was 4:10 and time to get the supper put into the crockpot and head back out for chores. The crew is doing very well looking after things, so pretty much everything was covered.

Tonight’s hook was the same as last night: Speedy, Nickle, Sneakers, and Law, with Andy and Ace as the outriding horses. Cole and Dustin tended to them, doing a fine job.

When the horn blew, all four wagons went. Rick was wide but then pulled in behind the other three wagons. Coming down the home stretch he got an opening and went wide, catching the others at the finish line. What a great crowd-pleasing finish. This race gave us 10th on the day, and lands us 10th in the aggregate.

I am happy to have a couple of helpers bring the outriding horses up to the infield with me.  Allie and Candice take my job right over, I just need to be there.

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After the races, we get a lot of visitors from friends, wagon kids and sponsors. Tonight Rick must not have gotten enough driving in the real race. He hooked up the mini and went for a spin. Just a bit slower pace.

Rick Fraser Team 23

I think we might have a few new fans, as I got them sporting Team 23 T-shirts. Do you think competitor grampa John Walters will like his grandkids’ new shirts?

Team 23 fans

Looking forward to another warm day tomorrow. Hopefully just not quite as busy.

Today, dream the dream you haven’t yet allowed yourself to consider. The one that seems unrealistic, unreachable or even insane. Tomorrow, take the first step toward making it happen.