HIGH RIVER -- If their pre-season training regimen is any indication, Shane Cartier's lead team should be in pretty good shape.
The 35-year-old sophomore driver built a makeshift track on his farm just outside Vegreville in order to train his horses for the upcoming WPCA season.
In early May, Cartier took his top hook out to the field, set up some barrels and got down to business.
But things took a turn for the worse shortly after the horn blasted.
As his team turned the top barrel, the wagon wheels dug into the ground and flipped, sending Cartier and his brother, Bart, flying.
"We both went out on our lids," Cartier recalled.
But that was only the beginning.
The upside-down wagon landed on the spring-loaded seat, sending it upright once again.
And the race was on.
"They took off and circled the track two-and-a-half times," Cartier says. "Then, going down the backstretch, they started to veer off towards the front yard."
Outrider Wayne Wright, who came out to help Cartier train, led the pilot-less outfit away from the yard.
The hard-charging team went around a fence and down to an area where Cartier stores a bunch of machinery.
He also had stored his 1981 K-car, which was in "mint condition," nearby.
"I was going to give it to my two-year-old daughter, Shelby, when she turned 16," Cartier says of the baby blue car. "There wasn't a spot of rust on it, nothing."
The left front wheel of the wagon hit the car between the bumper and the headlight and stayed there.
The wagon -- on three wheels -- continued on.
"They kept going," says Cartier, who was picked up on a quad by a hired hand.
"They turned left, went past the pens and hit the road going north."
The runaway outfit came back in the main gate, rumbled up to the house where the leaders came up to a clothesline and stopped, one standing on each side.
"We came up and they were just standing there, not a mark on them," Cartier said.
Cartier took the exhausted leaders, Wins and Roy, back home where they enjoyed a good night's sleep.
"I didn't have any trouble getting them back to the barn, that's for sure."
His wagon, however, was totalled.
"There's a new bar in town and they wanted one of my wagons to put on the roof," Cartier said.
"I was going to give it to them after the season but I called them and said they could probably have it a little sooner."
Cartier (Kubota Dealers of Alberta) took Wins and Roy off the No. 1 barrel last night and won the opening heat in 1:20.15 during Night 3 of the North American Chuckwagon Championship in High River.
- - -
AROUND THE BARRELS: Stettler's Neal Walgenbach (Super 8 Motel) had the fastest time of the night with a 1:17.73, followed by Kirk Sutherland (Skipworth Trucking) at 1:18.50 and Kelly Sutherland (Kledo Construction) at 1:18.51 ... Rick Fraser (Kendal Pipelines) held onto top spot in the aggregate with a three-day time of 3:55.22. Heading into today's finale, Fraser sits 1.46 seconds ahead of cousin Troy Dorchester (Calbridge Fine Homes) and 1.91 seconds up on third-place Kelly Sutherland.
- - -
ON THE AIR: Catch all the action from the final day of the North American Chuckwagon Championship this afternoon live on AM910 at 4:30 p.m.