By Adam Eisenbarth
It’s not just a figure 8 through the barrels and a charge around the track; there’s plenty of work involved in a chuckwagon driver’s week at the Ponoka Stampede.
Three 4-H members got the chance to see just what life is like behind the scenes for the cowboys that stampede fans love to stomp their feet to.
4-Hers from New Sarepta, Valleyview and Rimbey were paired with three chuckwagon drivers as part of a mentorship program organized by the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, 4-H and EnCana.
This was the fifth year of the program and members wrote essays to qualify.
From helping muck the barns, to washing saddles and bridles, members participated in a variety of aspects throughout the week.
“I’ve had a lot of fun and learned a lot about chuckwagon racing that I didn’t think happened,” said Courtney Mannix of Rimbey, after being presented with a certificate on the infield.
Mannix was paired with veteran driver Rick Fraser, who claimed top honours in the 1983 Ponoka Stampede in just his second year as a driver.
“He’s funny and a nice guy. He likes to joke around a lot.”
Mannix learned a lot about the sport throughout the week and was surprised that the excitement of the half-mile of hell isn’t the only rush the drivers had to deal with.
“It’s a rush to get ready to get out here. I didn’t know it was like that. I thought it was a little more relaxed.”
Mannix was interested by the amount of work that goes into the weeklong production.
“I took a lot of respect for the chuckwagon racers and what they go through, waking up at six o’clock to feed the horses.”
It was a rare opportunity for the high school barrel racer, but for now it sounds like she’ll be sticking to barrel racing.
“I don’t know if I’d be a chuckwagon racer. It’s a lot of work and I’m not a morning person.”
Mark Sutherland and Layne MacGillivray were the other drivers to take part in the program.