Photo: Covy Moore/CovyMoore.com
CALGARY, Alberta — This is the fifth piece of a series this season, presented by COWBOY SH*T™️, transitioning into spring of 2021. It features a number of the key players in western sports in Canada and beyond, looking forward through the Covid-19 pandemic and a hopeful return to normalcy in the coming months.
TED STOVIN: How did you spend your 2020 away from the sport of rodeo?
DAVID POULSEN: Well, of course, leaving the house wasn’t really an option so spent a fair amount of time fixing, building, and working with our horses. Forked a ton of horse caca. And, there was always my writing to occupy the hours. Spent a lot of time with my wife, Barb, and she hasn’t killed me—I see that as a positive.
TS: What did you miss most about not going to many, if any events in 2020?
DP: The people—it’s always the people…the friends, their families, the other contract people that I spend a lot of time with. And the animals of rodeo—I love bucking horses and to not be able to watch them perform for the last 16 months or so has been tough. I didn’t miss the travel, not a bit, not the miles or the junk food or the strange beds, nope, didn’t miss any of that. But the events themselves and the people…that’s been tough.
Ted: What was your favorite moment or thing about the year you wouldn’t usually get to experience in a normal year?
David: Being home in the spring and summer when I’m normally on the road. I love coffee on the deck, I love barbecuing and I love being in the Porcupine Hills, where I live, during the hot months, June through September, which is normally when I’m busiest and away from home the most.
TS: What are you most looking forward to when we get back to events in 2021?
DP: Seeing everybody, catching up with the people of the sport and their families.
TS: What do you see as the biggest challenge for rodeos to come back in 2021 and beyond?
DP: I think the economic challenges that have been brought on by the pandemic will make it hard for committees to keep sponsors at the level they were at previously and to attract new ones. That will have an impact throughout the sport.
TS: What needs to happen to get us to the next level?
DP: I’ve been in this game a long time and have seen lots of positives over the years. But we have a ways to go. I believe television is key. The exposure, the brand recognition and the revenue that can come from a big-league television deal is huge…and vital to take rodeo to the next level.
TS: What do you think the average person involved in rodeo could learn from helping put on an event if they haven’t before?
DP: I think all of us need to gain a greater appreciation for the committees and the volunteers on those committees who give up evenings and weekends to make it possible for their communities to host that annual rodeo. And if we can’t play an active role in helping that committee with the rodeo, then we at least need to shake the hands of those volunteers and let them know how much we appreciate them.
TS: What are your thoughts on the format of events in Canada? Is this part of the reason why we lacked so many in 2020?
DP: I think it’s really tough for rodeo to happen with no crowds. Because we do not have big TV contracts and owners with deep pockets, the revenue from ticket sales is critical. I think that’s at the heart of why we haven’t had rodeos in Canada since CFR 2019 much more than the format of the events.
I know several events have postponed and pushed their dates back into the late summer and fall in the hopes that they will be permitted to have at least some people in attendance. Beyond that I’m not sure what could have done. Holding an event with no crowd and losing tons of money doesn’t seem like a viable solution. Like the committees, I’m hoping that we’re through the worst, that the numbers will continue to come down and we can get back to doing this thing we love.
TS: As we know, most rodeo athletes and production staff in Canada aren’t exclusively making their living in this sport, tell us about your “real job” or numerous “real jobs”. How are you surviving through the pandemic?
DP: Luckily for me, my writing and the school visits that are made possible because of my kids’ books have continued though they have had to go online. Before this past year the only time I used the word Zoom was to describe a fast-moving car. Now it’s a big part of my everyday vocabulary. The crazy part is that because of the adaptability of kids and the great work of the school administrators and teachers, I have probably done more school presentations than ever. We could all learn a lot from kids. I’m sure not one of them likes having to wear a mask or having to follow the restrictions in schools. But they just put their heads down and keep moving forward, with determination and very little complaining, The kids I’ve worked with over the last year have been amazing.
TS: What other career paths have you been down in the past?
DP: I started out in public relations, with the Alberta Junior Hockey League, then with the Calgary Stampede and later the Saskatoon Exhibition. I taught communications for several years at Lakeland College in Vermilion, worked with the literacy program in Claresholm and was the Program Director at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. I’ve been fortunate to have had some really cool jobs in the course of my working life.
TS: Let’s talk about your writing, have you been doing more of that in the downtime? What new works can you tell us about in the Cullen & Cobb series? Is there something else new in the works too?
DP: I have been doing a fair amount of writing—I have a goal to complete a collection of short stories featuring Cullen and Cobb and am hoping that as publishing returns to normal along with everything else that the long-awaited fifth Cullen and Cobb novel will make its appearance. I also have a stand-alone murder mystery for teen/young adult readers called The Dark Won’t Wait that is about a year away from publication. During the time away from rodeo I enrolled in the Editing Certificate Program at Mount Royal University and just completed the program and am ready to hang out my shingle as an editor.
TS: With team roping coming to the Calgary Stampede in 2020, do you think that’s the reason everything went to hell?
DP: Absolutely. You can never trust those (what my mother calls) “double ropers”.
TS: What are your thoughts on breakaway roping? Does that become the seventh event in place of tie-down at some point or is it the eighth event?
DP: I don’t see Breakaway Roping replacing one of our current events, but I certainly see it as a permanent addition to the roster of rodeo events.
TS: What events did you miss being at the most throughout last year? What did you miss the most about not being at them?
DP: I missed them all. I especially missed not being able to celebrate my 40th year at Medicine Hat but I love all of the rodeos I’m blessed to be part of—from Morris to Innisfail to Teepee Creek to Pincher Creek to Airdrie to Rocky to Calgary and, of course, the CFR. The thing is, I’ve been with most of my rodeos for a really long time and I have so many friends on the committees and in those communities—they really are like family and the toughest part of this whole damn pandemic has been not seeing family whether it’s my real family or my rodeo family. I’ll tell you one thing–I’ll never take any of this for granted ever again. This past year has shown me how precious and how fragile the things we care most about are. I won’t forget that lesson.
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