The first thing you notice about a Stampede chuckwagon is the colourful tarp with the sponsor’s name prominently displayed – and so you should, because that sponsor paid a lot of money for it. Look closely, though, and you’ll see that every wagon box is different. That’s because, while sponsors may move from team to team, the wagon is an expression of the individuality of each driver.
Until about four years ago, Hugh Sinclair’s wagon wasn’t really a personal statement. That changed when a friend took him to the Indian Village at the Stampede and arranged a naming ceremony. As Sinclair and his friend sat in a circle and bathed in the sweetgrass smoke, the elders gave him a native name that meant ‘hummingbird’. Since then, Sinclair’s wagons have always had the image of a hummingbird on them.
In 1948 Ron Glass, grandfather of Jason – who drives the Glass family wagon today – had suffered some damage to his wagon when one of his horses kicked it. On the way home from the Hand Hills rodeo, he spotted a piece of wood in the ditch that looked like the right size for a patch. The stray panel was painted in a checkerboard pattern. The wagon was painted to match the patch, and so has every Glass family chuckwagon since.
Outriders don’t have wagons to decorate, but they have helmets. Veteran outrider Eddie Melville’s lid is one of the most easily-seen as it carries the emblem of the four suites of a deck of cards – club, diamond, spade and heart. For Melville, it’s kind of a family tradition, because the four suites were the motif on the chuckwagons raced by his grandfather – wagon legend Orville Strandquist. Melville’s first year as an outrider in 1991 was his grandfather’s last on the wagon, so keeping the design at the front of the GMC Rangeland Derby is something near and dear to Melville’s heart.
Stay tuned for more fun facts about the chucks!