It’s 7:45am in a four-bedroom basement in rural Alberta, Canada. The TV, which is always on, is playing through its perpetual loop of rodeo highlights, live rodeo, and various Will Ferrell movies (clear favorites: Semi-Pro and Anchorman).
On an ironing board next to a billiards table sits a steaming iron, a crisp still-warm pair of Wranglers, and a pink button-up cowboy shirt with SKOAL embroidered down one sleeve in overly large letters. On a wooden coffee table, copies of PSN, American Cowboy, Club, Juggs and Spank lie next to several limp reusable ice bags–the old-school, medical-blue cloth kind with a screw top–and several nearly-empty beer bottles filled with spit. The rest is bodies and boots just kinda here and there.
Ben, Blaze, Ryan, Luke, Dustin, Roy and Chet are all bored. In between a near-constant stream of calls and texts to friends throughout rural Alberta and British Columbia regarding the quality and personality of the horses they’re up-on over the next couple days; horses with names like Scary Larry, Power Supply, Fearless Warrior, Working News, Sun Devil, etc., the boys are shooting Prairie Dogs, often at point blank range, with slingshots and compound bows.
This is Hell Week: Vast stretches of driving and a unique form of redneck lounging that vacillates between R&R and creative-if-a-little-destructive timekilling, all of it interrupted at least once, if not twice (or more) a day, by eight seconds—if you’re lucky—on the back of a Saddle Bronc horse in the middle of a well-spectated rodeo ring, in one town or another, for a week in the middle of July.