St. Marys Journal Argus
CALGARY — Weekend afternoons spent doing homework in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, and evenings spent sleeping in the way back down south from Orangeville have paid off for Morgan Grant this month, as he reached the top echelon of rodeo stars at the 2014 Calgary Stampede.
“This is what I’ve been hoping for . . . it’s kind of what you dream of,” said the 25 year-old graduate of London Central Secondary School, who spent his formative years living with his family near Granton and still calls the Middlesex County village home.
Coming off a 2013 season that saw him crowned High Points Champion on the Canadian pro rodeo tour, Grant has continued in 2014 to show that he’s among the top rising multi-disciplinary cowboys in North America. Speaking to the Journal Argus on Friday afternoon from the Stampede Grounds, he was preparing for the last step in qualification rounds in two events — steer wrestling and tie-down calf roping.
He’s the only cowboy at this year’s Stampede competing in more than one event. And, going into action on Friday, he had a strong chance of qualifying for the Sunday showdown championship round — each with potential $100,000 pay-outs — in both.
Later that day, he qualified in both events.
Grant’s central Canadian roots were being played up by the Stampede media last week, as the young rider began showing signs that he might challenge for the grand prize “bulldogging” — as steer wrestling is referred to in rodeo slang — and tie-down roping. “That might be true if you grow up in Millarville or Moosomin, Kinsella or Kindersley,” wrote the Calgary Sun’s Wes Gilbertson, making reference to cowboy-worshipping towns in western Canada. “But Ontario?!? That’s hardly a hotbed for rodeo.”
There are a few people, though, who might argue differently. Ed DeWetering of Exeter, for example, who Grant credits for helping him move into the finer points of rodeo after he first perfected the fundamentals of Western style riding on the well-established barrel racing circuit here in southern Ontario.
Or Paige Van Westerop of Medina, who helped put the Journal Argus in touch with Grant and his parents during a short down-time in their busy Stampede schedule. The two families remain close because Van Westerop and Grant spent lots of time together not too many years ago, trying to hone their skills and win acclaim in any Ontario rodeo event they could get to. Van Westerop laughs when she hears how Grant has been telling the Calgary media that he got teased when he first started doing rodeo events when he was 11, because the barrel racing he had been competing in up until then was supposedly “for girls only.”
“His Mom (Cathy, who grew up in Mississauga) didn’t want him doing bronc riding at all, so when he switched to rodeo, he had to convince her that it would be okay for him to try out other event like steer wrestling instead,” Van Westerop said.
And then there’s Joe Alexander of Orangeville, whose corral Grant (and Van Westerop) would travel to twice per week during his high school years to learn, compete, and keep his horse in precision condition.
“I’d do homework all the way up and my Dad would drive,” Grant recalled. “Then on the way back, I’d sleep.”
Dad, also named Morgan, wasn’t only a designated driver and horse trailer hauler. It was Morgan Grant Sr.’s long-time involvement in riding and his ownership of the still-very-much-in-business Granton Trailers near Dorchester that ensured Morgan Jr. — and his sister, Brittany — developed a love of riding from a very young age, when the family still lived in New Liskeard in northeastern Ontario.
Years later, with Morgan Jr. having tasted success at the all-Ontario level playing for Lucan Minor Hockey teams, and swooping down ski slopes on a competitive basis, Dad sat the younger Grant down and told him he would eventually have to choose a sport to concentrate on.
“And I decided on rodeo,” Morgan Jr. explained. “For my last year of high school, I did correspondence courses and we went down to Texas and went in all the rodeos we could get to.”
He was able to raise his profile sufficiently to secure a rodeo scholarship at the State University in Huntsville, Texas. After two years, he transferred to Texas A and M University, again on a rodeo scholarship, and emerged with a degree in petroleum engineering . . . along with a whole lot of awards from pro and amateur rodeos throughout the Lone Star State and beyond.
“We’re still ‘snowbirds,’ in a way,” he said. “For the winter, we stay in Texas rodeoing, and for the summer we come up to Alberta and compete on the Canadian pro circuit.”
But, as the rodeo-mad reporters at the Calgary Stampede well know, Morgan Grant Jr. remains an Ontario (cow)boy at heart. Competing before tens of thousands of whooping spectators at what’s billed as “the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” he has been hearing lots of fan support thanks to the fact this is his first-ever Stampede competition, and he’s one the few Canadians.
And, through it all, he can still practically hear his grandparents cheering him on from Mississauga, and his one-time southern Ontario barrel-racing mates offering their encouragement — even if he is a boy.
“For me, it would be like scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime,” he said, referring to the prospects of taking home top honours in either of his events.
“It’s pretty outstanding to be able to compete against these guys at this level. Calgary’s definitely the 20 best guys in the world, and it so exciting to be here.”