"Next up, rodeo fans, are three boys all the way from Toronto!" the announcer bellowed cheerfully. "So let's give 'em a real Bentley welcome!"
Up in the stands, packed as they were with the rookie contestants' friends and relatives, no encouragement was needed. Cameras flashed, cowboy hats waved and cans of Kokanee collided in anticipation. But down in the chutes, where Buttercup lurked, a decidedly hostile reception was brewing.
Wild-cow milking sounded like a bit of a joke when compared with the bull-riding and calf-roping I had already witnessed during the first two hours of the 2004 Bentley Elks Indoor Rodeo. The event is a staple of Alberta's smaller rodeos, which draw fans to towns such as Strathmore, Pincher Creek and Olds, to name just a few. Here, locals kick up their heels at square dances, barbecue just about anything that moves, and show off their new pickup trucks, livestock and steer-wresting injuries. These annual summer spectacles are a far cry from the roller coasters, pyrotechnics and chuckwagon races of the Calgary Stampede, which starts on July 7 with a rodeo purse of $2 million and draws around 300,000 out-of-province visitors a year.
But outside the city limits, in cattle country, you get the unexpected: A chance to mingle with the brave athletes who ride, rope and wrestle; a long look at a Prairie sunset as it fades behind the Rocky Mountains; and a taste of lesser-known ranchland delicacies such as buffalo carpaccio and sweet Ukrainian sausage. And if you're lucky, a wild-cow encounter you'll never forget.
Read the rest of the story in the Globe and Mail.
WHERE TO STAY
The TownePlace Suites Red Deer is less than 30 minutes by pickup truck from Bentley, with an indoor pool and hot tub on hand to ease aching rodeo muscles.