Saskatoon: Night Four (June 7)

Another day, another dollar, as they say. What beautiful weather we had today. Very hot with some wind, thank goodness, or it would have been unbearable for some. I totally love the hot weather.

Our system was changed up a bit today with the early race time. We again enjoyed a quiet morning, just Rick and I, discussing our day-to-day journey so far. Some days people get so caught up in their jobs, duties and other things that they miss the moments that count. We love what we do but when people come into our lives, with different issues that affect their life and share them with us, we come down to their level and realize that the sport we are involved in just doesn’t mean so much in the big picture of things.

Rick and I are so thankful to have met a beautiful soul, Stephanie, her friend Chantelle and her kids this weekend. As I shared in yesterday’s blog, Stephanie’s fiancé has cancer. And they have been dealing with this for a while now. We are thankful to have been able to open our “Home Away from Home” lifestyle with the both of them. It was a time for Stephanie to let go, and just be, around the horses. It was therapeutic. I totally believe that people come into our lives for a reason, and they also leave for a reason as well.

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Having 21 head of horses on the road comes with a whole lot of love and care. One of our newest horses, Vegas, was showing a bit of soreness on his left front ankle. So we ordered up the vet from the University of Saskatoon to come out and check things out. Nothing serious was found, just a bit of a bruise. We take all injuries very seriously and tend to them immediately. They are just like our babies.

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With all ages of folks enjoying the races, an elderly lady was today’s lucky recipient of our mini chuckwagon. She was very excited, to say the least. We are so glad to put a smile on someone’s face.

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With the races taking place at 2:15pm, there was little time to sit after morning chores and before the beginning of races. In no time, I was on my way to the track with Cayley and our two outriding horses. This is my job, to get them to the outriders on time. Rick was on barrel 4 today with the same hook as yesterday: Speedy – Left Leader, Nickle – Right Leader, Sneakers – Left Wheeler, Law – Right Wheeler, with Bingo ridden by Chanse V. and Trixter with a new outrider, Cole Sommerville. They both did a great job. The horses started okay, but didn’t get after it after coming around the top barrel.  They usually have a bit more charge. At any rate, at the end of the race Rick managed to come up between Kelly and Rae to post a time of 1:17.40. Good enough for seventh on the day, and sixth in the show. Mark Sutherland won the title, and it was his first win of his career. We are sitting fourth in the world standings.

We are headed to bed early as we are hoping to get a very speedy start to go south to Medicine Hat in the morning.

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In life, what sometimes appears to be the end is really a new beginning.

Saskatoon: Night Three (June 6)

What a beautiful morning it was. The quietness at 6am is breathtaking. Not many bodies are up and at it. The horses whinny as Rick enters the barn to feed them their morning oats and then they are satisfied. I sat out and had a cup of java with Rick and visited with Chad Harden’s dad. Just shootin’ the breeze.

Mornings are my favourite time of the day. I think I’ve relayed that a few times before. In the quietness, it makes me feel so grateful for all that I’ve been given and for all that is around me. I am so fortunate to have a wonderful husband, three awesome adult kids and one GREAT grandkid.

This morning we were elated when two young ladies came to help with the barn chores. We met them the night before when one of their daughters was the lucky recipient of our little chuckwagon we hand out. So in chatting at our barn Rick said to Stephanie, who was visiting a chuckwagon race for the first time, “We’ll see you at 7am to help out with the morning chores.” Stephanie replied, “Do I meet you right here?” “You bet!” Rick replied, not thinking she would show.

Ricky was wrong! Stephanie and her sidekick showed up right at 7am, with Timmies coffee and doughnuts in hand, ready to be put to work. And work they did. One grabbed a pitchfork and the other the hose to fill the buckets up with fresh water. Stephanie, not ever having this kind of opportunity to get up close and personal with thoroughbred horses, was elated. What therapy this was for her. You see, Stephanie had a story to tell, unbeknownst to us.

Once chores were completed, we sat and enjoyed the warm sunshine and watched the horses stretch and play in their pens. In chatting, Stephanie shared a little of her current life with us. She had just returned from Germany, and her fiancé Cody is coming home from there today. Cody has cancer, at the young age of 26. He had chemo treatments here at home in Canada but then went abroad to Germany for more treatment. My heart was hurting for Stephanie and her situation. She sounded so strong, telling her story. At some point they were told he might only have three months to live. One really never knows anyone’s point of passing. But Stephanie came out, and was so thankful to come and join us in our morning duties with the horses. In her words, this was therapy. Cody was happy to hear that she was doing what she was. In the big picture of all things, chuckwagon racing means nothing, absolutely nothing, when you hear stories such as these. Keeping Stephanie and Cody in my prayers.

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Another great night of racing, but it was threatened by some rain in the late afternoon. The dark clouds burst out in raindrops a couple of times but then the wind blew the clouds away to bring more warmth and sunshine for the chuckwagons to begin at 7:15. Rick hooked the good ol’ boys—Speedy on Left Lead, Nickle on Right Lead, Sneekers and Left Wheel and Law on Right Wheel—with outriding horses Ace and Andy being ridden by Chanse and Dustin. Coming off barrel 3, Ricky came out alongside Kelly off of 1. Chad was not far behind, with Rae Croteau bringing up the rear. When the dust settled and the race was finished, Kelly crossed the finish line first, with Ricky second, posting a 1:18.55. That’s good enough for a 10th on the day, and our aggregate standing is a respectable eighth place for the meet.

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When Cody, our son, jumps in after the race he drives the outfit back to the barns. Rick grabs the little mini chuckwagon to give to a fan, and tonight the cutest little fella got to take it home. Gotta love those kids.

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After we get back to the barns, the chores are all done and the horses are tucked in for the night, it’s time to head to the Harden camp to watch the evening races, which Dori has taped. We all give our critiquing opinions, eat a bowlful of popcorn and then head to our bed for some much needed rest.

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Onward and upward to another day tomorrow. Time to hit the pillow.

Yesterday is but a dream. Tomorrow, a vision of hope. Look to this day for it is life.

Saskatoon: Night Two (June 5)

Beautiful weather yet again today—somewhere in the mid-20s. I’m enjoying this warmth, as I am a heat person. Love the sun. It really is amazing how sunny and cloudy weather can change people’s moods. So, at the end of the day, I would choose the sun.

We had a good night’s sleep last night. Seems like once we get going on the road sleep comes very easy just because one gets very tired with the fast pace we keep. We have a very enjoyable lifestyle but there’s a lot of hard work that comes with it.

This brings me to two young ladies who have come alongside us this 2015 season.

Kimberly comes from the Calgary region and Cayley hails from Sundre. Kim has had four years’ experience with another chuckwagon camp so she has been a treat to have around. She just had to learn all the horses and how we like our routine taken care of and then she took off to become the barn boss from there.

Cayley is a newbie to the chuckwagon world. A horse lover herself with a few of her own, she has joined right in and is willing to learn all the tricks of the trade. Summer on the chuckwagon trail is a lot of fun, a great experience to see Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan. You bond with the equine athlete and come to care for them as your own.

Rick has a great memory but sometimes it can be a bit short. Thus he likes to give the kids nicknames. So Kimberly is known as Fiona (yes as in the show Shrek) and Cayley is know as Rapunzel. I’m afraid these names have stuck, as I keep calling them that as well.

Kimberley, aka Fiona

Kimberley, aka Fiona

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Cayley, aka Rapunzel

The 2015 barn hands

The 2015 barn hands

After morning chores were completed Rick headed to the production meeting, as he is a driver director at this show. I took advantage of an hour off to go out and spend some me time. I put my sneakers on, covered my ears with my headphones, cranked up the tunes and headed on out for a power walk/run/stairs program around this Prairieland Park we call home for the week. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find the time to do this, but when I do I feel so rewarded and it fills up my energy tank to press on with our daily routine. I just have more to give.

With track practice times from 11 to 1, it doesn’t give us a whole lot of time to get at it. We hooked an outfit this morning to give them some exercise. When we go out onto the track and run them fast, we call it “blowing them out.” You see, we have with us four chuckwagon outfits of four, as well as nine outriding horses, which comes to a total of 21. Rick rotates the teams according to what barrel we are on that day. So if a team hasn’t raced for a few days they get a morning practice run. This adds to how we keep our crew busy a good part of the day.

This morning our barn neighbour and competitor Chad Harden gave Ricky a hand when we did the practice run. Many of the camp’s drivers and crew members jump in and lend a helping hand to their neighbours during practice and evening runs.

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Today on the way back from the run, a little helper jumped up in the wagon to catch a ride and grab the lines. Chad’s little guy Denver was all smiles riding back to the barns with one of his favourite drivers. Someday Denver may take over the lines and become a second-generation chuckwagon driver. You just never know.

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Tonight we hooked the same boys as last night: Left Leader – Spirit, Right Leader – Speirman, Left Wheeler – Vegas and Right Wheeler – Zorba. Chanse Vigen rode Beau and Dustin changed up and rode Andy. They came into the second barrel and were ready, but then Rae Croteau on barrel 3 had a false start, which made our horses jump ahead, and then Rae pulled out. Rae ended up with a 2-second penalty for a false start. The wagons all lined up again, the horn sounded and they were off. Chad Harden had a great race off of barrel 1 and Ricky came alongside of him but then had drifted out on the 3/4 turn and Rae came through. When the dust all settled, Ricky won the heat with a time of 1:18.60 and unfortunately Chad’s outriders were both late, causing him a 2-second penalty. Rae ended up with the 2-second false start and Kelly trailed behind. We came out with an 18th on the day and are sitting 9th in the average, just under 3 seconds of the leader Kirk Sutherland.

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On another note, we met some very special folks tonight. To begin with, at each race meet every night Rick and I give out a little memorabilia chuckwagon to some lucky fan. We were fortunate enough to have these fine folks go out of their way to come meet us and say thank you for the wagon and snap a picture together. This little gal was so happy to receive one, especially because it was her birthday the day before. She was thrilled. We took her and her family for a walk in the barns and snapped a few pictures in the wagon together.

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On day 1, the mini wagon was given to a young fella named Dallas who uses a wheel chair. Dallas and his wife came back to the barns to meet us but unfortunately Rick had already turned in for the night. They drove the four hours back to their home only to return on Day 2 for the races just to come and meet Rick and to say thank you. We made his day when he received this gift. Oh how it warms our hearts, to be able to reach out and make somebody’s day.

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

Saskatoon: Night One (June 4)

It’s been a busy four days. Monday morning came way too fast. I thought in my mind that if we had packed up quite a lot of our belongings the day before, it would make our trip out of Grande Prairie a quick one. But it just didn’t pan out that way. When we use box stalls instead of our homemade barn system off our liner, it adds a whole bunch more work for us. Yes, the ponies get lot more room to rest but cleaning the manure out before departure takes some time. Then there is the loading and strapping down of the wagon and the Kubota.

My job, before I head out to help with the horses and barn, is to pack up our travelin’ trailer, drain all the tanks, hook it up and have it ready to go. I also make sure there are snacks, sandwiches and beverages in each vehicle for all the crew on our journey to the next stop.

The second last thing to load are the horses. As they get loaded into the liner and horse trailer, I go along and take down the electric fence and posts and tuck them away. Then we are off.

Managed to get away by 11:30am. We headed south to the Ranch back in Wetaskwin for an overnight stay. Just enough time for the horses to have a bit of a run around in their pens, reload the bin on the truck with oats, restock with hay, and…yes…plant some trees. Ricky brought some pine seedlings home and we planted them. When we talk about Team 23, this includes our crew at home that we are so thankful to have who oversee our Ranch while we are away. This includes our kids, our relatives Bruce and Bonnie, and our good friends Doug and Deb. We are thankful for all they do.

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I really would have liked to stay two nights over at home. I was going into withdrawals as I missed my grandson Coy. You see, Coy and I have a special bond. We have spent a lot of time together in these past five and a half years of his life. I’m his Nana and Rick is his Papa. Amy, our daughter, is doing a great job raising a fine young man. He fills our life and those around him with so much joy. There’s nothing like being a grandparent, and you won’t really know what I mean until you become one.

As I only had a few hours to spend with him when we arrived home, I asked Coy if he wanted to run into town with me to get some supper for the crew. I told him we would be going to A & W. He replied, “Sure Nana, let’s go to ALIEN W! I’ll have chicken strips and fries please!” Oh the things kids say crack me up. Makes me forget all the things big people worry about and just enjoy life. Coy has a very good imagination when it comes to superheroes and costumes. He’s forever making things with paper and tape. This one day he was Optimus Prime. I’m really not sure who that is but he sure did do a great job in making his costume.

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We received a very good magazine in the mail today, with a very special article inside that we would like to share with you. If you have not already subscribed to this magazine I would suggest you do, as it has so many great cowboy country stories in it from people and places all over Alberta and abroad. We’re excited to let you know this June/July issue has featured our home. We invite all readers to come in and join us for a nice cup of coffee, and stay and chat awhile. The magazine is called Canadian Cowboy Country. Head out to your nearest newsstand and pick up a copy for yourself. You won’t be disappointed as it is a very good read. Billy Melville, our chuckwagon historian, also features a story each issue from our chuckwagon world. You can go to their website for all the subscription information:

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What a beautiful night here in Saskatoon for chuckwagon racing: nine heats of pounding thunder making its way around the track. A very good crowd had gathered to watch the performance. I think this may have been the best we’ve had yet.

Tonight Rick was off of barrel 1 in the eighth heat alongside Rae Croteau on 2, Kelly Sutherland on 3 and Chad Harden on 4. Our hook was Left Leader – Spirit, Right Leader – Speirman, Left Wheeler – Vegas and Right Wheeler – Zorba. When the horn sounded that wheeler, Zorba hit it! What a powerhouse that horse is. Ricky drove the team around the barrel and just skimmed by the bottom barrel and charged to the track to steal the rail. The team went rail to rail to win the heat. The outriding boys, Chanse Vigen and Dustin Gorst, had to ride hard on Beau and Trixter to make the finish line to refrain from penalties. So glad they made it. Our team posted a 1:17.69, which was good enough for a sixth on the day placing. Looking forward to another beautiful day tomorrow, weather wise.

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Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance toward the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point. Climb slowly, steadily enjoying each passing moment, and the view from the summit will prove to be astonishing.