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  July 17, 1999



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Stampede brings back memories
By BRET 'THE HITMAN' HART -- For The Calgary Sun
  It's been real, being home and trying to be 'normal.'

 Taping that CBC/TNN special at the Stampede with Paul Brandt turned out to be good fun because I ended up seeing all sorts of things at the Stampede that I honest-to-goodness hadn't seen before or else I hadn't bothered to pay much attention to.

 Just when you think you've been there, done that something like sheep shearing taps you on the shoulder. I never thought about it much to realize that guys come to the Stampede from all over the world to shear sheep and compete for big money. I mean, I knew that but I never paid much attention to it and I found it amazing that a guy can make four sheep bald in six minutes, and they come out of it unscathed -- the sheep I mean.

 Then there were these four little pigs in the pig races. The guy there told me they'd sell out their mothers and brothers and sisters to the slaughterhouse just for those little mini donuts. Kind of reminds me of . . . err ... I won't go there this week.

 Two of my best buds since grade school, Dean Wilkensen and Mike Bracko, showed up at Nashville North on Saturday. We were hanging out, waiting for things to get set up, and the next thing you know we were reminiscing about Stampedes gone by. I don't know if that means that we three high school chums have somehow become old codgers without even realizing it. I prefer to think our best shenanigans are still ahead of us -- which is a scary thought to have to live up to our own self-perceived image of some sort of renegade high school heroes. I'm sure it's more a case of heroes in our own mind more than in our own time.

 We got to thinkin' about how great it is that every year more and more people come to the Stampede from around the world. And we got to thinkin' how some things about it never change. And we got to thinkin' how some things about it have changed a lot. And we got to thinkin' that the one thing that is sorely missed is the old Stampede rasslin'!

 It was a really fun time for a little kid to see the big MaGuire Twins, the midgets -- Little Beaver, Sky Lo Lo I never liked the ladies wrestling, though. That was a good time to get a soda and popcorn. No disrespect to their athletic ability -- I've known a lot of great lady wrestlers outside the ring -- but not as a boy or as man do I get any enjoyment out of watching women beat on each other, pulling hair, nails flying. It's not that I don't respect the ladies, it's that maybe I respect them too much.

 The conversation turned to programs You know, the old Stampede wrestling programs that I sold for my dad, it seems, from the time I could walk. These were no mere pieces of paper. Selling programs made you part of the big show. Plus, they earned you a little money to go and make mischief . And Stampede week, you sold more programs than any other time because all the big champions were in town for a whole week --guys like the Funks, Harley Race and even Andre the Giant.

 I remember, one time, selling 700 programs -- which meant I got a bigger little commission than usual. A lot of it fell out of my pockets when I was upside down on the rides and, even though I wasn't happy about that, it was like laughing and crying at the same time.

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