Recently I gained appreciation for another neighbor of mine…..ours, actually…..
Earlier this month, accompanied by our faithful friends the Dragos, we visited our neighbors to the north….a long, long way north…where I quickly fell, if not in love, at least into a deep, deep friendship. I love Canada and Canadians! What a truly awesome experience we had!!
At the Canadian border, I found myself doing a figurative potty dance in the car. We were the third vehicle in line and pressure in my bladder was getting uncomfortable so I decided to take matters into my own hands. Hoping there were public bathrooms in the border station, I grabbed my passport, exited the car, and approached the guard on duty.
“May I use your bathroom?” I inquired politely.
“Not until I have checked you in,” she said.
I handed her my passport.
“What is your full name?” she asked. I answered correctly. She followed with a series of questions, each of which I answered appropriately…. “Where do you live?”, “Where were you born?”, “What is the purpose of your visit to Canada?”, “How long will you be staying in Canada?”....until her final question…..
“Don’t you have a current passport?” she inquired. I had no words. All I could do was gasp as air and hope rushed out of me.
“Isn’t that my current passport?” I eventually managed to stammer. It wasn’t. I’d brought my mission passport, a document that expired in 1996.
Words cannot describe the horror I felt as my mind raced over the possible consequences of my blunder…..nor can words describe the relief and gratitude I felt when she allowed me to enter the country anyway. It was the first of many love-inducing experiences I had with our neighbors to the north.
Lois, the spry 83 year old mother of a woman in our stake, is another reason I love Canada. She welcomed us into her home, bed and breakfasted us (twice), and generally welcomed us like we were long lost kinfolk. Her incredible home—a log cabin with open beams ceilings and an interior rope swing—was exceeded only by her incredible graciousness. All of us what to be like her “when we grow up”.
The incredibly kind border guard and our unofficially-adopted, incredibly kind grandma were appropriate pre-coursers for what is appropriately billed as the most incredible outdoor show on Earth---Welcome to the Calgary Stampede!
Holy cow! HOLY COW!!! Actually the cows probably were not holy but they were certainly awe-inspiring as was everything else associated with The Stampede. Seriously. Even if you do not like rodeos (Lance hates rodeos), you should consider putting attending the Calgary Stampede on your bucket list. (Lance LOVED it.) If you even a slight interest in rodeos, going to the Calgary Stampede is a MUST.
The Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo was recently ranked in the top five in our nation. The Calgary Stampede is 10 times, maybe even 100 times better. Everything about it was phenomenal, from the cowboy athletes—all but one of the bull riders stayed on the bull the entire 8 seconds, to the stock—the horses jumped, kicked, and twisted in ways that only Olympic gymnasts could imitate, to the announcers—whose running commentary was both entertaining and educational, to the bull fighters, three of whom we watched chase down a bull and cut loose the cowboy it was dragging. Truly amazing. Truly. I am totally addicted and would return every year if possible.
And, come to find out, the rodeo is only a portion of The Stampede. At Stampede Park there was also a carnival, concerts, agricultural information/education booths, and livestock competitions of various kinds. At the sheep shearing competition we watched a man from New Zealand shear 6 sheep in less time than it takes Grace AND I to shear one side of one ewe.
We saw two Heavy Horse competitions, the Clysdale/Shire Ladies Cart and the Team of Registered Mares. Fascinating. In the Ladies Cart class, the women were dressed in formal gowns, the judge was in a tuxedo and top hat, and the horses pulled the cart around the arena to the accompaniment of the live Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. We felt a bit as if we’d been transported back time to eighteenth century England. Fun fact: a team from Young Living Stables from Mona, UT, won the Team of Registered Mares class.
Our favorite, rivalling the rodeo itself, was the cattle penning competition. Three riders. Thirty cows, each with a number 0-10 pasted on their backs. Sixty seconds. After the clock started, as the riders were approaching the herd, they were told the number of the three cows they had to cut out. For example, if “2” were called then the riders had to separate the three cows with the number “2” glued to their backs from the other 27 cows. Once separated, they had to move those three, and ONLY those three, cows to the other end of the arena and put them into a small corral. When all three of the targeted cows were in the corral at one end of the arena and the other 27 cows were at the other end, the timer was stopped. If they took longer than 60 seconds, they were disqualified. The record we saw was 27 seconds. Holy cow! Or, more appropriately, Holy Horseback Riding!!
More fun facts:
· The bucking broncs and bulls used in the rodeo are supplied by the Calgary Stampede Ranch. “There is not a bronc or bull here that is worth less than $50,000,” the announcer told us.
· The food is worth a lot also….or at least it costs a lot. A hamburger, two turkey legs, and a plate of curly fries cost us $65.
· Ninety-seven percent of the cows milked in Canada are Holsteins.
· All of the horses used in the cattle penning competition were American Quarter Horses. Apparently, Quarter Horses are to cattle working what Border Collies are to sheep herding.
· During a pause in the action, a bull fighter explained his job to us. “We don’t do much while the cowboy is on the bull,” he explained. “After 8 seconds our job begins. We make sure the cowboy is safe, that he gets up to ride again. If a bull goes after a cowboy, we take the hit for him. That’s our job.”
When we left Stampede Park, about 9 p.m., there was a full grown jack rabbit in the parking lot and we saw a young buck in the freeway meridian as we pulled out. I love Canada!
Inspired by my growing love for things Canadian, I developed a “You Might Be in Canada if….” List. Here goes:
You might be in Canada if….
· Seat belts are compulsory (instead of required).
· Compression brakes are not allowed in corporate (instead of city) limits
· Vast, VAST fields of bright yellow flowers line both sides of the highway. (The canola was in bloom.)
· The speed limit is 110.
· They sing the Canadian national anthem at the beginning of the rodeo.
· The border guard lets you in with an expired passport.
THREE CHEERS for our neighbors to the North! May I be able to visit you again soon!!!