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The Cowboy prayer

Our Heavenly Father, we pause at this time, mindful of the many blessings you have bestowed upon us.

We ask, Lord, that you will be with us in the arena of life.

We as cowboys do not ask for special favors. We don't ask to draw around the chute fighting horse, the steer that won't lay, or to never break the barrier.

We don't even ask for all daylight runs.

We do ask Lord, that you will help us live our lives here on earth as cowboys, in such a manner, that when we make that last inevitable ride, to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green, and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear, and deep, that you'll take us by the hand and say -

"Welcome to Heaven cowboy, your entry fees are paid."

 

The birth of rodeos in Quebec

Let me tell you the story of a couple that pioneered rodeo in Quebec: My father, Henri Riderosi; and my mother, Suzanne Leblanc.

In 1964, my parents saw their first rodeo, run by the P.R.C.A. (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association), at the Painted Pony Ranch in Lake Luzerne in the state of New York, USA. As far as they knew, these events did not exist in Quebec. There were Gymkhana contests, performances… but no rodeos. For them, it was an amazing discovery. They liked rodeo so much that they spent their honeymoon there the next year.

It was in 1967 that my dad really got into rodeos, after he saw the first professional rodeo in Quebec. It was sanctioned by the A.P.R.C.A (Canadian Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) at the site of Expo 67, but the cowboys were from Western Canada, the rodeo stock contractor was from Alberta, and he brought his portable rodeo equipment (rides) and rodeo animals. That was the start of my father’s dream. My parents then decided that they were going to organize locally run rodeos so that people could practice and become real rodeo cowboys. They also wanted to make the sport of rodeo more popular in Quebec. They already had a ride, made out of wood, because my father taught gymkhana classes and my mother barrels Racing. He had to modify the ride to present a rodeo, which wasn’t easy back then, because people had no idea what bronkage, and pens were, so he had to base it on the American model. My mother’s role was to order the rules book from the Western Canadian association, the P.R.C.A., and the necessary forms and papers concerning the rodeos.

His first rodeo took place at the end of summer in 1968, at our home at Henry's Ranch, rang Presqu'ile St-Paul in l'Ermite, which is now Le Gardeur. Gymkhana and performance classes completed the program because there were not enough participants in the six main rodeo contests. My father rented animals such as bulls, calves and horses from a farmer, which was more than enough at the time.

My father took care of everything. He also competed in gymkhana classes, one of the rodeo events, the Calf roping, and was also a pick-up man. My mother was the secretary and timer. My uncle, François Leblanc (Frank), was one of the participants. He competed as a roper/dogger. He continued his career as a roper for almost 30 years, from 1968 to 1998, mostly in Quebec, but also with the O.R.A. circuit (Ontario Rodeo Association) and in Lake Luzerne, USA. He was one of the best, if not the best, roper in Quebec. Since then, he has retired his lassos in favour of playing golf. Many others left a mark in the sport of rodeo in Quebec. The only one who has, as far as I know, been active in the community since 1968 and still is, is Claude Bonneville. He is an excellent roper. So, every summer, local rodeos took place every weekend at our home at Henry’s Ranch. Everyone had fun practicing their sport, either rodeo or gymkhana.

My brother was born between rodeos in 1969. I was born a year later. Contrary to my brother, I think rodeo is in my blood. After all, rodeo is also a family affair.

In 1972, the Labbatt brewery chose our installation and rodeo cowboys to film a rodeo-themed commercial with Willy Lamothe. Lamothe had an acting double that happened to be one of our cowboys. My uncle Frank was a roping/dogging legend.

In the winter of 76-77, my father decided to build a portable rodeo ride, made of pipes welded in section, in case there was ever demand for rodeo events in festivals around Quebec. He thought more and more about that, because only running local rodeos and gymkhana were not enough for him anymore. He was right after all, because in the summer of 1977, portable rodeo equipement were essential. Someone made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The offer came at just the right time, because he had recently been fired from his job. The offer called for him to present rodeo demonstrations from May to September, every day, at the village Western in St-Tite-des-Caps, county of Charlevoix, which would open in May 1977. So, no more gymkhana for him.

My father had bought bucking horses from a rancher in Ontario. The bulls, and calves were from Quebec. My parents recruited a good team of cowboys, selected from among those who participated in our locally run rodeos. They had to be very versatile, because they also had to act in western-themed plays. My father supervised the plays and the demonstrations. My mother was the announcer and timer. My two cousins were also part of the rodeo team: Christian (Chris) and Daniel (Dan) David. Daniel’s father, Claude, was the first in Quebec to make western saddles at home. He was also a roper. Meanwhile, my aunt, Monique Leblanc, participated in barrel events. A few years later, the youngest of the three boys, Alain, also became an excellent roper. He had his uncle Frank’s style. Dan David was the first person in Quebec to compete in the five official events of the rodeo: 3 bronkage events, Bareback riding, Saddle bronc riding and Bull Riding, as well as two other timed events: Calf Roping and Steer Wrestling. The sixth official event is the barrel racing, which is a women-only event.  Dan was what we call an all-around cowboy; he specialized in Saddle bronc riding. He won the First Frontier Rodeo Circuit championship in the United States in that event. He lived in Texas for one year in order to perfect himself in the art of hand-made western saddle making. He later moved to Alberta, in Western Canada. He also competed in professional rodeos run by the P.R.C.A and C.P.R.C.A. He made western saddles, bronze sculptures and he drew. Moreover, it was he who drew the association’s logo back when he was president. He became known as the French Connection, in the sense that cowboys from Quebec who wanted to go west stayed at Dan David’s house, while he taught them everything he knew. He was a reference in the west, an amazing guy and an exceptional cousin. He died accidentally at the age of 33, in July of 1993, the week after he participated in the famous Calgary Stampede. His brother, who participated in all five rodeo events, was also an excellent bullfighter.

My father’s contract with the village Western was renewed in 1978, but only until August, because my father loaned his portable rodeo ride to Vold Rodeo, a rodeo animal’s provider in Alberta for the C.P.R.C.A., who presented a professional rodeo at the Jarry park. About a dozen cowboys from Quebec competed in this rodeo. My mother was again hired to time and help the announcer announce the event in French.

With the experience acquired, in 1979, my parents, who were probably the first to do it in Quebec, decided to start a big adventure. My father decided to produce rodeos in Province, including the 6 official events: the 3 broncage events: Bareback Riding, Saddle bronc riding and the Bull Riding There were also 3 timed events: Calf Roping, Steer Wrestling and the women-only event, barrel racing. That’s what a rodeo sanctioned by a recognized non-profit association looks like. My father was also one of the founding members of the A.Q.C.R (Association Québécoise de Cow-boys de Rodéo). My mother was its secretary and treasurer, as well as the rodeo’s secretary, because both were pro-association. He formed his rodeo personnel among the more versatile cowboys and then founded his own company, Rodéo H.R Inc. He had to sell his first portable rodeo ride because it was too heavy. He constructed another one in tubing, so it was much lighter.

We had a good start. Some candidates from Ontario even came to cheer us on, because at that time, some of our cowboys competed on the Ontarian circuit. That gave us even more credibility with our audience. Our good relationship with Ontario was rewarded when, following an internal conflict, the president of the O.R.A (Ontario Rodeo Association) asked my father to be the rodeo stock contractor for the O.R.A’s rodeo finals. He accepted.

My father knew he could count on his bucking horses, especially since they had a month to relax. On the other hand, he thought his Quebecer bulls were not powerful enough, especially since Ontarian cowboys were much better than ours. However, he wanted to be just as good. So he decided to buy real approved bucking bulls from Western Canada. He had them delivered by train, which cost a lot of money. The bulls were guaranteed to perform or he would get his money back. Fortunately, it was a success; some people say it was their best rodeo finals ever.

Between 1979 and 1983, some became good cowboys, in particular Roger “Toto” Lacasse, who also moved to Western Canada to perfect his craft. He became a Canadian champion in the C.P.R.C.A. (Canadian Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association), in his event, the Bareback Riding. We all saw him win the famous Calgary Stampede showdown, live on TV. That was a big thing because, just like Roger Lacasse, every winner in each event won a $50,000 bursary.

 

Vieux Port de Montréal - 1983

After an 11 years break, in 1994, my father was again solicited to operate the village western de St-Tite-des-Caps, which was re-opening its doors. This time, I took the reins from my cousins to help my father, because I had some experience with rodeos. I left my job as a manager in a clothing store without any hesitation, because I knew what I was getting into. Before leaving for Quebec City, I followed a breakaway roping clinic with my uncle Frank, in order to be able to do breakaway roping demonstrations every day. It was great. I acted in cowboy plays, and at night was barmaid at the saloon. It was a fantastic, and a memorable summer.

In 1996, I once again worked with my parents. My father brought back an old equestrian centre in La Plaine, which he renamed Rodeo Dome. I was the arena director, so I took care of everything. Once again, many cowboys started there, because every weekend, we presented a rodeo. So, in the summer of 1996 at the Rodeo Dome, my father presented his last rodeo sanctioned by the association.

Since then, my parents have definitely retired from rodeos, but they still cheer me on, because I still compete in the optional women’s Breakaway roping event with the Association des Cow-boys de l'Est du Canada (A.C.E.C).

Written by : Nancy Riderosi, directrice, Breakaway roping, A.C.E.C
Translation by: Mathieu Plante, productions M3P