By Inge Sybrandi and Mike Rainone for the News
The magnificent action picture on the 81st 2017 Ponoka Stampede poster was completed by one of Canada’s most recognized nature artists Andrew Kiss, and features early steer wrestling legend Vernon ‘Bud’ Butterfield, who along with his brothers Tom and Brian would fashion long, colourful, and impressive professional rodeo careers through the 1950s and ’60s.
Now, when he looks back at the exciting careers enjoyed by himself and his brothers Bud Butterfield fondly expresses the fact that ,“Going down the road in a $2,000 outfit was a little different from the high-rollers seen in the parking lots today.”
The early Butterfield story
Vernon ‘Bud’ Butterfield was born the middle sibling of the Butterfield brothers on July 19, 1930, and together Tom, Bud, and Brian, always cheered on by their sisters Joy and Carol, would practise and work hard on the family farm of Tom and Stella Butterfield west of Ponoka.
Their impressive and legendary rodeo careers would begin in the rough and tumble Boy’s Steer Riding and Bareback events in the early 1950s and would gallop on for several decades. Because of their ‘hefty’ size they decided that they would perform better in the steer decorating event, which would later evolve into the rugged rodeo event of steer wrestling.
Bud and Brian went on to trade Canadian Championships well into the 1960s, and were among the key figures in finally pushing the change from steer decorating to steer wrestling. Bud and his brothers dominated their event during a time of transition for the rapidly growing and popular Canadian Rodeo circuit and its cowboys, which ultimately meant the end of the ‘good old days’ and would be a crucial time where the sport of rodeo had to reinvent its identity and attempted to truly establish itself as a professional sport.
Many local rodeo committees would make the decision to ‘go pro’ because it guaranteed lots of top notch entries, and for the cowboys it meant guaranteed prize money so that they could qualify for championships as well as give themselves much more opportunity to gain the ability and skills required to make a living at the sport.
The Butterfield’s epitomized the image of what the Cowboys Protective Association (now CPRA) wanted its competitors to reflect as ‘hardworking and humble.’ Always well known for their strong work ethic, the boys often headed home after they competed to finish up the chores, and as Bud once quoted, ‘Tom and I would take our winnings and buy a CAT and clear land, but joked that Brian was younger so he got to rodeo more.’ Bud joined the CPA in 1956 and spent eight years on the pro-circuit, claiming six Canadian Championships in 1956-58-59-1960-62-63 respectively, as well as four Steer Wrestling titles at the prestigious Calgary Stampede. He retired from competition in 1964 after a great career where he never placed less than third in yearend standings, including seconds in 1957 and 1964.
A great factor in the many successes of the ‘Butterfield brothers’ was their ability to work well together both at home on the farm as well as going down the rodeo road. Many complexities will always be involved both then and now in an attempt to produce a winning time during each and every gruelling event, and in Steer Wrestling the horses, the hazer’s, the steers, and the footing are always a huge part of each thrilling split second effort. The Butterfields always held their animals in extremely high regard and gave a great deal of credit to both ‘Spud’ and ‘Twist’, both of whom were inducted in the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame after their long and illustrious careers.
When it comes strictly down to the run it’s the mind and the speed of the horse and the cowboy’s ability to rate the steer that are the critical factors in winning or losing. The ultimate goal of the competitors is to build a solid partnership between horse and rider, together with well organized travelling plans, dedicated family support, and sometimes the luck of the draw.
In 1987 Bud Butterfield received his Canadian Professional Rodeo Organization Life Membership and was inducted in the CPR Hall of Fame in 1996. Bud and his brothers Tom and Brian were honoured as Legends and Pioneers at the 75th Diamond Jubilee edition of the Ponoka Stampede, were recipients of the Calgary Stampede Pioneers of Rodeo Award in 2012, and represented pro-rodeo as inductees into the Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. Along the way the Butterfields have always been dedicated members of their community as well as avid and long-standing supporters and promoters of the Ponoka Stampede and all aspects of the great sport of rodeo, and several generations of their families have proudly followed that grand and exciting tradition into the wild world of pro-rodeo.
About the artist
Andrew Kiss, the creator of the magnificent ‘Limited edition’ print of renowned former Steer Wrestler Vernon ‘Bud’ Butterfield in action that is featured on the 2017 Ponoka Stampede poster was born in Hungary in 1946 and immigrated to Canadian in 1957. Kiss has quickly become one of Canada’s most recognized nature artists for his amazing skills and styles that capture both breathless images and a reverence for realism from the great outdoors.
Among his 40 years of work Andrew Kiss has released over 110 Limited editions and involvement with organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the B.C. Wildlife Federation, has illustrated four children’s books, as well as producing countless amazing exhibits and collections that have allowed him to present and travel throughout the world.
The exciting 2017 Ponoka Stampede Visions of the West Art Show and Live Auction conducted by Danny Skeels will be hosted on Sunday-July 2nd at 4 p.m. at the Stagecoach Saloon, and will feature unique paintings, sculptures and original paintings as well as the classic Limited Edition Prints of the Steer Wrestling action picture of Bud Butterfield.