Morgan Grant of Granton, Ont., grabs his target in the steer wrestling event on Day 6 of the Calgary Stampede Rodeo in Calgary, Alta., on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. Cowboys compete for 10 days for a piece of the rodeo's $2 million in prize money. Lyle Aspinall/Postmedia Network
It is incomprehensible, really.
Like picking yourself up – without a little dust on your dungarees.
Like sashaying out of the arena – without a little muck on your kickers.
Like leaving the Calgary Stampede – without a little dough in your billfold.
At least for Morgan Grant.
Because in these parts?
The man gets paid. Always.
No one needs much of a memory to recall the excitable cowboy’s delightful debut at the 2014 Stampede. Beaming madly through the steer-wrestling and tie-down-roping affairs, Grant charmingly – and wallet-plumpingly – stole the show.
Last year in Calgary, pocketing only day-money scraps, he did not fare as well.
Officially, that is.
But by lending his horse – a 20-year-old whiz named Mack – to Timber Moore, Grant happily watched his earnings sky-rocket.
Moore happened to bag the $100,000 tie-down-roping jackpot. Note: the industry standard for a four-legged loaner is 25 per cent of the winnings.
Do the math. Who cares if the meaty payday didn’t count towards any standings?
“It keeps the lights on,” says Grant. “So that was awesome.”
This week, the freshly turned 27-year-old, competing in only steer wrestling, is trying to keep alive his jean-jingling reputation.
Finishing fourth on Tuesday – Day 1 for Pool B – was worth $2,500.
Wednesday, he failed to cash in.
“My steer really split out of there, caught me off guard, and I missed it a little bit,” says Grant, who’s riding Dustin Walker’s horse this week. “It’s so competitive here, you’ve got to be right on the barrier. It wasn’t the best run. I can build on it, I guess.”
Which can be rightly said for his entire season.
Bull-dogging has been decent. The roping, less so.
“Hopefully I can hit a hot streak.”
Like every cowboy, Grant would dearly love a stab at the National Finals Rodeo. But he knows he’s a long shot, thanks to his tepid spin through the Fourth of July bonanza.
“Which hurt me,” he says. “The next couple weeks are really big. If you have some luck, it can give you some momentum.”
Grant’s itinerary shoots him Monday morning to the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho.
Then, in rapid (and geographically deranged) fashion, he’s off to Salinas, Calif., to Spanish Fork, Utah, to Morris, Man., to Ogden, Utah, to Cheyenne, Wyo.
“All in a week,” says Grant. “It’s a busy schedule.”
When his lasso finally cools, Morgan plans to marry Gillian Shields – Miss Rodeo Canada in 2013 – in October, sneaking in the nuptials a month ahead of the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton.
“I made sure to give my wife-to-be a time window of no rodeos,” says Grant, chuckling, “and she made it work.”
So, after the ceremony – in Calgary, naturally – where does a cowboy take his wife for a honeymoon?
“I don’t know yet,” he says. “We’re talking about Thailand or Belize. But who knows?”
What is certain, however, is where the couple will roost upon their return. On the spread, on a quarter section near Didsbury, they purchased in September.
“Winning the Stampede helped with my portion of the down payment.”
Asked what comes to mind when he considers his triumphant week in Calgary, Grant experiences a rare moment of speechlessness. He is stumped, smiling as he mentally fast-forwards through highlights.
Grant settles on being draped in the Canadian flag while on stage after winning the tie-down crown – and $100,000 cheque.
“All such a rush,” says the Granton, Ont., native. “It all blurs together.”
In his memorable lead-up to Showdown Sunday, Grant had become a cult hero in Calgary.
Competing as a bull-dogger and a calf-roper, this was no stoic cowpoke. He was demonstrative – plenty of hooting and hollering, fist-pumping and teeth-baring (in a friendly way).
“I was on Cloud 9 that entire week, riding high,” says Grant. “It was awesome having the crowd on my side. Being Canadian, they really got behind me.”
Of course, inquiring minds wanted to know – who the heck is this grinning newcomer?
A superstitious sort, for starters.
“My week started off and I started pulling cheques,” Grant explains, “so I was trying to keep the same routine every day.”
Meaning wearing lucky shirts – his peach-coloured number got repeated viewings.
Meaning eating lucky breakfasts – Eggs a la Dagwood, with an extra cackleberry, at the Humpty’s on the corner. (His victory speech included rapid-fire shout-outs to everyone, including his favourite waitress.)
Everything about the Stampede introduction thrilled him.
Even being interviewed by Ron MacLean, which, believe it or not, had been on his bucket list.
The good fortune of two summers ago, even right after Wednesday’s sub-par showing, still has him shaking his head in amazement.
“Total rush,” says Grant. “Growing up and being a Canadian and wanting to be a cowboy, the Calgary Stampede is what you dream of winning. It was so surreal. Really cool. I felt really blessed.”