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I Don’t Think You’re Cut Out for This

Powell River writer and singer-songwriter Pat Buckna began his music career in Calgary in the 1970's, spent a number of years in the Arctic including a stint as a photographer-reporter for a community newspaper, and was responsible for bringing over 750 performers to the NWT pavilion at Expo '86. In 2019, he wrote and published Only Children - A Family Memoir - and runs a small recording studio on Texada Island. He lives in a small Canadian coastal community two ferries north of Vancouver, BC. 

Horses and I have never gotten along. My first horse broke his leg when I was riding him in Canada’s Calgary Stampede Parade in 1955. He wasn’t an actual horse — they’d made him out of wire and paper mâché. He was attached to the Hudson’s Bay 50th Anniversary float.

I turned four that spring. Mom worked at The Bay in downtown Calgary and somehow managed to get me a spot in the parade. I sat in a wagon “pulled” by the horse in my brand-new blue blazer and white pants until his foot broke or more accurately, his wheel fell off somewhere near the start of the parade route right in front of the Greyhound Bus Depot on 7th Avenue.

I had to walk the next two-and-a-half miles beside the float instead of riding on my pony in my basket. It’s one thing to be part of the crowd—sitting on the curb with people lined up six or seven deep, saluting the Blackfeet, Sarcee and Stoney Indians riding by in full regalia astride their appaloosas — and quite another to be half- walking, half-running, avoiding the piles of horse dung the street sweepers had missed, trying to keep up with a herd of artificial ponies pulled by a guy in a truck decorated with thousands of paper flowers.

I had been in the hospital and missed my annual visit to the Stampede — my caramel apple, candy floss, and corn dog. That year there was no Midway rides, no visits to the Indian Village or the Big Four Building, and no seats in the grandstand to watch infield events. The chuck-wagon races rolled around the infield without me.

Years later, I saw Robert Redford in the title role of a movie called The Horse Whisperer and married a woman who whispered to her horses, and not long before I left her, I bought a bright blue short-box step-side pickup with a trailer hitch from a striking blue-eyed blonde- haired cowgirl named Randy, but my career at the racetrack began and ended on a single day at Stampede Park in Calgary.

  Canada’s Calgary Stampede Parad  

I heard about a job hot-walking thoroughbreds at the Calgary race track. The job was simple enough. Before each race, a groomer would hand you the reins of a sixteen or seventeen hands-high thoroughbred and you led him around a ring to get him ready for the race.

You could make decent money just walking horses in a circle. Even though horses intimidated me and made me apprehensive, I’m told the horses know exactly what’s expected of them and they would lead me around the ring.

One reason I had stayed away from real horses was that I had a childhood allergy to horse dander. So, less than two hours on my first day, my nose ran like an open tap, my eyes puffed up and filled with tears. I could barely breathe.

“I don’t think you’re cut out for this, son,” said my boss, who took the reins from me and just like that—the morning my career at the track began—it was over.

~ Pat Buckna, author of: Only Children: A Family Memoir — available as a Kindle e-book and in paperback.

Check out Pat's mew album "Singing My Songs For You."






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