I have tried to make the complicated Guy Weadick story into a short blog, but that hasn’t worked for me. When people tell their own stories or we tell the life stories of those we want as heroes, sometimes the complications and most interesting developments are omitted or remain untold. So, here is my uncensored, unauthorized version of events.
After extensive research, I determined that others were equally or more important in the development of the Calgary Stampede than was Guy Weadick. For instance, in 1912, the Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show, which employed Weadick, seemingly primarily because he was announcer and agent for the famous steer wrestler Bill Picket, had recently returned from a tour of Europe but with less money in pockets than expected. At the time, performers and competitors such as Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix, Flore la Due (Weadick’s wife), Bertha Blanchette, Goldie St, Clair, and Helen Gibson and other famous faces were with the show, and everyone needed money. If venues added cowboy competitions to the performances, the Wild West Shows entrants could keep their winnings as long as they paid their own fees. If the Miller Brothers paid the entrance fees, the show took 50% of the winnings. So, adding cowboy competitions to any performance or performing at an event with previously planned competitions was an enormous plus for everyone.
Generally, from May to November, the Miller brothers arranged tours throughout North America. For July of 1912, they scheduled performances in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. Also, the Wild West Show was part of Winnipeg’s phenomenal 1912 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk settlers. For such events, the 101 provided the First Nation’s village and countless parade participants, performers and competitors. Because the entire show–including over 1000 people and about 600 head of livestock–travelled by train, a performance in Calgary made sense.
Unfortunately, E.L. Richardson, long-time manager for the Calgary Exhibition, had already booked the exhibition grounds with the Western Canadian Fair and Racing Circuit. However, a later date was feasible and supported by Richardson. So, Weadick, who already knew some of the organizers from the 1908 event and from a previous visit to the province, became agent or front man to raise money for the Calgary stop.
H.C. Mullens, general livestock manager for the Canadian Pacific Railway, had much to gain by having the show visit Calgary. Texas-born, university-educated, Alberta rancher Addison Day of Medicine Hat–who would later be nominated to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame–had organized many competitions for rodeos or “stampedes.” In fact, the word stampede, itself, was an Americanized Spanish word in common use and with a history of its own stretching back to the early 1800s. Certainly, Day not only wanted a Calgary stampede, he was willing to put up $10,000 to make it happen. So, Day and Mullens introduced Weadick to men with money. And the Big Four: George Lane, Archie McLean, Pat Burns and A.E. Cross were happy to help preserve and support cowboys and the ranching way of life. They put up the huge purses so competitions could be held during the event. The Big Four had only one condition: the competitions must be open to everyone–that is to the world. So the competitions became World Championships.
Not surprisingly, competitors travelling with the 101 Wild West Show claimed most of the prize money. And fast-talking Weadick proved to be a great announcer and promoter. Later, in the 1920s when he and La Due bought a ranch near High River, Weadick was hired by the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede to announce, promote and help organize events.
In the following years, he did encourage fellow performers from 101 days to compete and perform at Calgary, but crediting the visionary Miller brothers and their show, E.L. Richardson or Addison Day never seemed to make it into his memoirs.
Yes, he loved to tell stories–especially about himself–and he could talk the ear off an elephant. As well, he could down more booze that most men. And in the 1930s, a disillusioned and inebriated Weadick stepped into the Calgary Stampede arena. He denounced the event and those who actually did the work to keep make the stampede the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” That day, he lost his job.
Having long claimed that the Calgary Stampede was all “his” doing, he filed a wrongful dismissal suit. He did convince a judge that drinking was an required part of his job, and given the partying associated our contemporary festivities, perhaps he was right. Also, he sued the Calgary Stampede, maintaining that the Calgary could not keep the name since it he owned the copyright. The judge ruled that the word stampede had long been in popular use throughout western Canada, and Weadick lost the suit.
Once Weadick’s truly talented and ever-patient wife, Flore La Due s died, he moved back to the U.S.A. rather than stay as a Calgary Stampede booster.
So, personally, I’d rather celebrate Calgary’s own phenomenal organizer and visionary Ernie Richardson and Medicine Hat’s Addison Day. Also, I’ll take our historical links to the world famous Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show over the Guy myth. In the countless books written regarding that world famous travelling show with its champion competitors, showmanship events and ranch (which became a National Historic Site in the USA), Weadick was hardly worth a footnote. But I suppose the photos of Weadick in his cowboy hat have served publicists and promoters very well. And given the work of others, today, the Calgary Stampede truly is world famous.
When writing and retelling life stories, sometimes, we prefer to see heroes rather than do all the required research to tell the stories more accurately. Often, research uncovers human failings, but they, too, are part of our history and reflect broader truths. So, if anyone wants to continue to research Weadick or search for the what you believe to be be fact, fiction or truth in the life stories, I encourage you. Remember, sometimes biographies and autobiographies seem to include a little of both. Most of us as writers, including myself, attempt to be accurate but there are no guarantees.