A family affair at Stampede
Now, finally, George de Jonge can let himself off the hook.
One year ago, de Jonge, his daughter Cathy Sinclair, and his granddaughter Taylor Sinclair were just seconds away from a priceless family snapshot — winning a 7 Class championship together at the Calgary Stampede’s Team Cattle Penning Competition — before misfortune struck.
Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the trio got another chance — and slammed the gate on victory.
“Last year, we entered the final in first place, and our run happened so fast . . . Taylor came up with third cow, and it was so loud in here that we didn’t know it was happening,” recalled Cathy Sinclair.
“The first cow spooked, and bolted back, and we lost those seconds we needed . . . so we finished fifth.”
“Grandpa kept blaming himself, but we told him that no one’s to blame — because we’re family,” Taylor added.
Proving that blood is thicker than melancholy, the Langley trio saddled up again on the final night of the Stampede’s Team Cattle Penning Competition — and ended up top of the heap in 7 Class, with solid runs of 38.11 seconds in the third round and 33.20 seconds in the 10-team final.
The winning team laid down an aggregate, four-round time of 137.41 seconds on 12 head of cattle, collecting a cheque for $18,081 and those coveted, hand-tooled Stampede championship buckles. Their spiffy final run triggered the fourth and final lead change of the money round, and left them standing alone among the 149 outfits that began the 7 Class showdown the week before at the Okotoks Agricultural Society.
“Every penning we go to, we ride as a family,” said de Jonge. “And we did it. We finally did it.”
“We came back to win these buckles,” added Cathy Sinclair. “It’s special, very special.”
De Jonge, 67, has been competing for nearly 20 years, while his daughter, Cathy, 44, has competed for 14 years.
Twenty-year-old Taylor has participated for a dozen years.
Team Cattle Penning, a race against the clock, gives a team of three riders on horseback 60 seconds to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30 and direct them into a 16-foot-by-24-foot pen at the opposite end of the arena. Teamwork is key, with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen.
Standing second overall entering Monday’s final, Cathy Sinclair, her dad, and her daughter had their strategy all worked out.
“We decided that even though Taylor was first in, and my dad was second rider, he would walk in softly and find his cow. And as soon as my third cow popped out at the top of the herd, I booked it to the pen,” said Cathy.
“My dad understands cattle. He’s been a farmer for 40 years.”
The Calgary Stampede boasts one of the biggest team penning competitions on the continent.
This year, 492 teams from across North America converged on Calgary for a piece of the $225,000 in cash and prizes that were up for grabs in four classes over four nights of competition at the Saddledome.
Calgary Stampede photo
In saddle, from left, Taylor Sinclair, George De Jonge, and Cathy Sinclair, all of Langley, B.C., won the 7 Class final of the Calgary Stampede’s Team Cattle Penning Competition on Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The trio of West Coasters will split a championship cheque worth $18,081.
The family hosts weekly penning practices. The Wednesday night sessions run year-round from 7 to 9 p.m. at Fast Times Farm (6622 248 St.) Penners of all skill levels are welcome to attend the sessions. For more information, email email@example.com.