During a decade in the past, the Calgary Stampede and Exhibition ran a marketing slogan. “The hottest ten days of summer.” I decided that they were the tackiest and continue to have a fairly cynical attitude towards the greatest outdoor show in town and its puke, sex and animal abuse. However, I found timeless beauty in those teams of horses thundering around the bend and onto the straightaway, whipped and screamed at reckless maniacs.
It is neither for nor against the controversial sport of chuckwagon racing that I speak. I can only try to convey the deep, unexpected response I felt upon witnessing, in the flesh, the metaphor of tent pegs being thrown into the back of a vehicle and the mad rush around the half mile of hell. I found it truly impressive. Tears come to my eyes now when I recall them charging into sight and towards the finish line. I felt so incredibly humble in the presence of such power and beauty. It is an awesome spectacle and the only thing that compares to it is everyday life.
After the fifth or eighth time that people climbed onto animals, they were probably racing them. I suspect that their brute force was put towards pulling plows only after we’d figured out how to move ourselves faster than our flimsy little legs would let us; faster than our competitors. How long have young men been meeting glory or disaster while trying to impress potential mates with acts of skill and courage? Can you imagine the countless creatures that have been killed because boys have something to prove? Amazing mounted women racing around barrels at the foot of the grandstand contribute to the mystique of this primitive pursuit. It is recreation now, but such skills were necessary for societies to thrive, only a short century ago. Throughout history, humans have dramatically increased their productivity by enslaving animals, including those of their own species. We have prospered by harnessing energy. It is in our blood. The bull riders and the burning flame of the Calgary tower are examples. Pain. Suffering. Death. And then a giant tractor pulls the grandstand stage onto the infield. A song and dance follow. Comedy. Fireworks. What a spectacle life is!
From racing on foot, we have raced on beasts and when beasts could carry us no faster, we forged machines. Rockets lifted an electric car towards mars, but still the hooves at the Stampede Grounds toss soil as those beautiful beasts are pushed to their limits and occasionally beyond. It is timeless and deadly like chariot races. It is dramatic.
I don’t blame my wife from Rio de Jannero for wanting to witness the most interesting show that we have to offer during the brief summer in this subarctic desert. I have tried to appease her with (what the City of Calgary claims is) the most extensive urban bicycle path network in North America. I have taken her camping in the mountains and on the prairies. What can else I do?… yeah, yeah, yeah. The Zoo. We haven’t been to the zoo yet. Fine! I’ll take her to the zoo. What then? What can with do during the inter-restriction time when we have favorable weather for about five minutes? Hopefully this year summer lands on a weekend, right? (winky face).