By George Brown, editor
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a dude, a drugstore cowboy.
I’ve lived in Alberta for 30 years but I didn’t buy my first pickup truck until a few years ago.
I have 400 neckties but not one bolo.
I have one white cowboy hat, given to me by Tourism Calgary.
I smoke cigars, I don’t chew tobacco.
I could listen to Johnny, Merle and Buck all day but I think today’s country music is just Eighties’ pop with a fiddle.
I don’t have spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle. I have a pocketful of change and a set of keys.
I used to play ranchers and First Nations Indigenous Peoples as a kid but today I only shoot Indians with my Canon 30D.
I’m not a wrangler; I’ve got as many cats at home as horses.
But like everyone else in town, I’m looking forward to the 73rd annual Ponoka Stampede and the attendant week-long party.
I have been recognized as on many occasions as Alberta’s Best Dressed Weekly Newspaper Editor but I am certain I will not be Ponoka’s best dressed cowboy this week.
“You got your Tony Lama’s on, your jeans pressed tight…”
You’ve got to respect anyone who voluntarily gets on the back of an ornery bull or bronc, scrapes its belly with a spur and manages to hang on for eight seconds. It can’t be nearly as much fun to do as it is to watch. Kudos to the cowboys who will risk life and limb to entertain us for a week.
My friend The Toad was Out West to visit a few years ago and we were headed off to Calgary when I realized that it was Stampede Week in Cowtown and I really didn’t want to deal with the traffic. Toad, being a born and bred Ontario financial planner, wanted to see a genuine Alberta rodeo and consume more than his fair share of Silver Bullets. Right turn Clyde — we’re headed to Benalto where the same cowboys who attend the Calgary Stampede compete up close and personal.
“If you don’t have bull snot on your shirt, you’re not close enough to the action,” I told him.
Well, he’s leaning on the rail and sure enough, he was close enough.
Cowboys and comics
My Dad and I had a voracious appetite for Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt and Rawhide Kid comic books. On television I preferred Bonanza to Gunsmoke and Maverick over Paladdin. I’ve seen nearly every John Wayne western movie and True Grit is the movie I’ve seen the most times — at least a dozen and counting.
I’m not exactly sure why but on our spring trip to catch baseball in Arizona in March, I just had to go to Tombstone. Maybe it’s because I always thought that the Earps were unfairly painted as the bad guys — at least according to some revisionists.
I was somewhat disappointed with the Tombstone experience; I found it more tacky than historical — like Niagara Falls without the water — but if we had spent more time poking around my opinion might have changed.
I bought a western gambler’s vest in a store that screens you when you walk in to see if you have the tourism gene and a predisposition to buy something from them that you could just as easily buy at home but wouldn’t normally give a second glance.
I insisted we take in the re-enactment of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Again, we were red-lining on the tacky-ometer. I’m not sure what I was expecting for acting chops but this performance landed somewhere between high school drama club and community theatre.
Boothill Cemetery is a national landmark and a curiosity but again none of the solemnity or history you would expect. Too much of this “he died with his boots on” nonsense.
If I die as a cowboy I would prefer it be while my boots are under Shania’s bed.