I Wonder If…???
… away back in 1968, anyone thought the Beechy Rodeo would continue for 25 years?
… the organizers thought they would see the day when the chutes and panels remained behind the rink in the off-season?
… the lake road to Beechy would ever be oiled?
… Blue Bill will be back this year?
… the rodeo committee will ever pay a damage deposit for the use of the rink?
… Beechy rodeo will ever make money?
Things really have changed since that first effort in 1968. A week before the rodeo, Jerry Myers, or Duke Ferguson, or Jim Blanchard (or all of the above) would pull into town with a semi-load of stock. The rodeo in the south country had its final performance and why would anyone of Jerry Myers’experience take the stock all the way to Moose Jaw for a few days only to round up and load again for the haul to Beechy? All this western excitement transpired because Albert Meaden, president of the rink board, along with members George Barr and Clayton Unger, had made the trek to Sandhills Rodeo earlier in the year. Arrangements were made for Jerry Myers to produce an indoor rodeo in Beechy that fall. Along with his Bar T livestock, chutes were also transported from one rodeo to the next. While some of the local hands spent several days on the beg-and-borrow trail confiscating as many panels as the neighbours could part with, others used their talents with a welder. Of course the wooden grain doors were also an integral part of the required props.
The weatherman didn’t always co-operate in providing good conditions on the winding link between Beechy and Clearwater Lake. Each year dispensed a new experience for stock contractor and contestants alike – rain, snow, dust. The first trip to Beechy was quite an education.
In the early years a two-day Quarter Horse show was part of the western activities. Trucks and trailers, along with semi trailers, lined the parking lot and the hills north of the rink. Barns at the racetrack and Oliver’s were booked to capacity and again the locals “lost” more panels. Allen Moebis was contracted to build panels so stalls could be provided in the curling rink. Signs of the equine presence remain today like wear and tear on rafters and the outline from hoof black on the cement floor.
Jerry Myers would get a little excited around 5 on Friday night. If the Quarter Horse show wasn’t completed it came to a halt while the rodeo stock was sorted and the evening’s performance commenced. Rerides and slack were generally completed after the performance. Gary Jones kept the spectators informed with times and scores.
One particular show comes to mind. Art Peterson from British Columbia was judging. American Quarter Horse Association rules dictate that the judge cannot be from the home province, or state, and thus an import was delivered to the Hanke residence some time prior to 7 Friday morning. That year the show ran its last class, pole bending, at 3 a.m. Our announcer, Bill Story of CFQC, would have had the show resumed earlier if they would just quit turning out those bulls! Following the Saturday show came the chore of finding the judge a ride back to Saskatoon to catch a plane.
Lloyd Hanke served as Show Manager for several years and part of that prestigious position included providing accommodation for the judge. Some years it also included providing extra down-filled jackets for some of our more southerly officials. When the Quarter Horse show was completed in time, the rodeo stock was sorted while Lois Hanson (one of the famous Dewar sisters trick riding act) took the edge off her borrowed chestnut stallion, Sally’s Chipper. He was whip broke and it was really quite amazing to see the control she had over the free-funning horse. The term ‘horse whisperer” was unknown then.
It wasn’t too many years until the rodeo dances outgrew the hall facilities (perhaps some other factors were involved in the change), so the curling rink had to be readied for the high-stepping humans. Panels, knee deep in straw and shavings, were evacuated and the curling rink soon became the ballroom.
The signs that grace the east side of the arena today fulfilled a notion recommended by Jake Braun that advertising could be provided by local merchants, ranchers and farmers. For many years Jake did the bulk of the canvassing and then we’d wonder who could make a trip to Wally’s Signet Design to pick up the signs…but phone first. There’s a good chance the paint will still be a little tacky.
By this time, Charlie Skinner would have Jerry’s stock prods working again, as well as the sound system that reported to the hill so the show could run smoothly. He’d probably be able to make the frames for the new signs.
Residents are starting to notice the display in the Credit Union as local merchants promoted the event. Sometimes all the trophies and rosettes to be distributed to Quarter Horse owners were displayed, or when Lois Meaden had the horse wreck that detained her in hospital, her chaps, hat and gloves were available so we could get some old-west authenticity. The ladies borrowed antiques from Ike Petkau and turned the western hospitality area above the kitchen into quite a show place. Today the Chamber of Commerce offers a plaque to the location that receives top marks from the judges for their efforts.
Jerry Myers is getting anxious for the big event to start. His laundry has been done at Tom’s Coin-Operated Laundromat. Beechy’s rink kitchen is known to all those who attend our rodeo. The kitchen crew really puts on a spread and it definitely beats the bread and sardines Jerry and Ralph Bellows have in their lunch buckets. Jerry has even been known to get an overworked and underpaid volunteer to “put it on my tab”!
Some of the congestion is alleviated at the gate because Hugh Hunter has really taken his job to heart. Once the panels had been painted canary yellow, it was time to get selling those advance tickets. It was his pet peeve that we cut off sales before Friday so we’d get some of that Lucky Lake money!
The station wagon is parked by the arena entrance – no ambulance in those early years – and the announcer is calling for Doctor Tony long after he has come to the aid of an ailing cowboy.
Each year Mrs. Morson led her grade one class, hand in hand, to the rink to see the glistening Quarter Horses change leads and slide to a stop. Now, for the first year in Saskatchewan, the high school students have rodeos of their own where they can prepare for Canadian Cowboys Association competition.
The spectators would look in awe as rodeo clown and bullfighter, Kelly LaCoste, is introduced as a former resident of Baton Route, Louisiana. This year our in-house funnyman, Warren Kelliher, plans to visit the school, and hopefully some of those influenced will bring Mom and Dad to the evening’s performance.
Some things about our western days remain as in the early years. Timer Geraldine Ringrose continues to challenge the announcer when a testy bull charges, much like she did watching brother, Geoff, on a bareback horse, or son, Colin Jr, in the mutton busting. At the end of her competition years, Verna Allinson joined Deanie in the announcer’s stand.
The rodeo stock gets a tour of the area annually. Nothing has changed there either. If we could just get them to bypass the golf course!
Each year at a rodeo meeting just prior to the big event, Pete Perrin, Hugh Hunter or Keith Romanow would be railroaded into receiving the glory of the lights and camera on “Meet the Guest”. The folks at CJFB-TV come to us now and the event winners can be seen on their sports broadcast after the final performance.
This year our Coteau Hills Cowboy is a former Beechy resident and rodeo contestant, Brian Claypool. In his honor, souvenirs in the form of T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps are being sold. The artwork on these items features a silhouette of Brian on the bull Doodle Gibbs. The subtle 25 branded on the bull’s hip reminds us of our special anniversary.
I wonder…did that early rodeo committee, the same one that, on behalf of the Beechy Community Rink, gave Myers Bar T Rodeo Company a cheque for less that $1,000 representing half the profit…I wonder if they thought the local organizations could combine to put on such a successful event that would net our community 5-figure profits, and grow to the magnitude it has in 1992? Hats off to our community!
BEECHY WESTERN DAYS – the next 15 years
As we reflect on the Beechy Western Days performances, preparations are being made for the 39th annual event in the fall of 2006. The chutes and panels are moved into the rink from their storage area along side the golf course. Rodeo stock, supplied by Stan Weatherly’s Big Country Rodeo, arrives in Beechy from performances in Quebec. There is no longer a Quarter Horse show, or any sign of wood-chewing horses as the curling rink has been rebuilt. Friday evening’s dance for the High School Rodeo contestants is in the hall. Saturday’s dance is in the curling rink. Slack is completed Saturday morning. By the way, the lake road is still under construction!
There are fewer businesses to provide decorations in the community and no Chamber of Commerce to offer awards for the efforts. Just as residents must go farther a field to obtain some goods and services, so too do the rink board and rodeo committee to acquire sponsors and advertisers whose signs are displayed on the rafters of the arena. The coin-operated laundry available at the Coteau Country Inn is shared with motel staff as they ready rooms for the weekends’ occupants.
The sound system is checked by Craig Robberstad, Jay Dee Galbraith or Tony Mitchell. On occasion, the announcer uses a cordless microphone and gets close to the action. The clowns and barrel men also use contemporary equipment. Their jokes and stories are no longer relayed to, and repeated by, the rodeo announcer. The interaction between them is by way of modern technology. Ralph Bellows no longer opens gates to release broncs and bulls, but his son, Lee, has entertained many with his array of hats, and the marshmallows propelled from his slingshot.
It has been several years since the demise of CJFB-TV in Swift Current and advertising costs continue to escalate. Clowns and contract acts provide fodder for press releases. Stories have been printed in regional papers featuring several rodeo celebrities. The list includes, but is not limited to, the likes of Dennis Halstead (a 24-year veteran of the Calgary Fire Department who is also the #1 rodeo clown and barrel man in Canada) and Ash Cooper (a rodeo clown and artist who can be seen weekly as the host of Cowboy Country TV). We are proud to say that these individuals, as well as many others, have graced the arena in Beechy. Cowboys and cowgirls too numerous to mention have competed at our small-town rodeo and went on to venues such as the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the National Finals Rodeo. The rodeo dates are advertised early in the Western Producer and after 39 years, it is believed that spectators just need to be reminded of Beechy’s western events that are held the last full weekend in September.
Emergency services have also seen an upgrade. Medical personnel continue to provide excellent service. It’s the equipment that has changed. Association rules that govern approved rodeos advise that an ambulance must be in attendance before the action commences. Beechy-Demaine Emergency Services affords the necessary protection to the contestants.
Permanent corrals and pens erected behind the arena provide housing for the rodeo stock. Although they are closer to the golf course, the opportunities for an outing are reduced. However the shod hoof prints on the sand greens are evidence that the golf course still sees abuse by horses with riders.
Sponsorship packages provide local and regional businesses a variety of promotional opportunities. Without this financial support it would be difficult to offer the prize money required for an approved rodeo. Several sponsors have been on board for most years of the rodeo. Some of the original companies and individuals are no longer in business and new money is always welcome. A variety of companies have provided tractors and equipment to work the arena. However, it was the quiet plodding of Norman Tuplin’s Belgian team in front of the harrows that offered “a wistful yearning for something past”.
A diverse number of activities have been included during the western weekend to attract people, and make money. These included a visit from the Coteau Hills Savage and wrestling, trick riders, roast beef supper from a pit bar b q, golfing, rodeo queen contests, stock dog demonstration and competition, ladies calf dressing, nervous novice where locals took up bronc and bull riding, mutton busting, calf scramble, team roping and barrel racing jackpots. The Christian Cowboys Association hosts a worship service in the park, or the stands, on Sunday.
Our rodeo is unique in that the first two performances (Friday and Saturday) represent the long go round that gives each of the contestants one chance to return to the finals on Sunday. Only the top ten in each of the seven major events, and the top six in the junior events, are eligible for the short go round. The top money winner of the rodeo also gets to take home an additional high-point award. Originally it was the Hugh Hunter Memorial Buckle sponsored by the committee. More recently the winner has received a handcrafted saddle, which has been donated on several occasions by Norman Tuplin in memory of his father, Eric.
Honours have been bestowed on a variety of people with ties to Beechy Western Days. John Arntsen, the 1971-2-3 Bareback Champion, was named Cowboy of the Decade by the Canadian Cowboys Association. The Association recognizes that it takes more than contestants to have a rodeo and Colin Ringrose received a buckle at the Canadian Western Agribition for his dedication and contribution to rodeo. At our 2006 rodeo, Allan Allinson will be presented with a buckle as CCA Committee Person of the Year. The culinary efforts of the rink auxiliary appear to go unnoticed but compliments are many for their efforts.
In 1992, Brian Claypool was honoured as the Coteau Hills Cowboy at the 25th annual Beechy rodeo. He was also nominated to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame at that time. Brian launched his bull riding career at our first rodeo. He returned in 1969, at age 15, and won the event. The Brian Claypool Memorial trophy is donated each year by his grandmother, Ida Kenyon. Brian died tragically in May 1979 while flying to a rodeo. In June of 2001, Brian was inducted posthumously into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and Museum for his contribution to rodeo.
Technology changes many things but eight seconds is still the magic number in the riding events and the quickest one to stop the clock wins the money in the timed events. Each year the bull on our logo sports a brand that represents the number of years Beechy rodeo has been around. The highway signs to the north and south of town have been updated.