The Okanagan Military Tattoo & Fort Steele

Cpl Coleman Germann

 

In the early morning of the 23rd of July, the  Strathcona Mounted Troop (SMT) began the long trip to Vernon, BC. There were many miles to cover, and hot chow waiting for us at the end of the line.  At 2100, we pulled into Armstrong, BC, stabled the horses and were fed a steak supper, by our gracious hosts at the Interior Provincial Exhibition. Cpl Landon “Hercules” Hall referred to it as, “One of the top 5 best steaks I have ever had!” Friday rolled around and the Troop prepared for the ride like any other, taking care of the horses and tack, and visiting local seniors homes to see the fans who could not attend the show. The Troop heard rumors that 4000 tickets were sold for the event and within a 45 minute span you could hear the Strathcona Mounted Troop advertised six times on the local radio! The fans were waiting for a show, and SMT was prepared to stand and deliver. The show went as planned, and the Troop performed its best show to date in front of a gracious crowd. Cpl Gregory “The Dragster” Dobson finished the show by launching a peg 20ft into the air during his Tent Pegging demonstration. Following the canter past, the Troop was honoured with a standing ovation from everyone in attendance.   
    

The following two days were spent supporting the remainder of the Tattoo. Bands from all over the area showed up to display their talents in Vernon, BC. No matter where you hid, there were bagpipers to find you and play you their favorite song for what seemed like hours. Advil was the only way to keep it bearable. After being mistaken for the RCMP a couple dozen times, SMT performed the opening and closing ceremonies, while educating our counter parts on the nature of a yellow stripe on a military uniform. The next day SMT returned to Edmonton for some much needed down time; resting and visiting family. Then it was game on again.
    

Fort Steele was SMT’s next event, but we had one important stop to make first and found ourselves at Fort Whoop Up, Lethbridge, AB. We were invited to be a part of Dave “The Manliest Old Man” Lamphee’s wedding, along with other Steele Scouts. It was a true cavalry wedding and the soldiers of SMT cheered him on as the cannon fired to celebrate the day of his union to his wife, April.
    

The road to Fort Steele was a long one, paved with tins of Citrus Skoal and every road tune you could possibly belt out, through Frank’s Slide and the Crowsnest pass, to Cranbrook, BC. It had been 17 years since Sgt Paul “2 Men Equals An Even Fight” Kruhlak had stepped into the old North West Mounted Police barracks, and those classic straw mattresses, where we stayed the night.  The boys bathed in the river to escape the heat and get cleaned up for the day, attempting to truly embody the frontier lifestyle.  Afterwards everyone got ready to head out for the evenings ride. We had a big crowd awaiting us, so we put on our game faces and began the show. The ride went as planned, until it came time for the Single Slingshot. Steele ”Sketchball” The Horse, started to panic. Suddenly SNAP! He lost it! He reared up with a front hoof flail and followed it up with a backbone buck, giving the crowd a bronk rodeo show, and Cpl Kirk “Currently Playing Airplane” Hopper an unplanned dismount. We managed to round up “Steele” and Cpl Kirk “You Will Have to Do Better Than That” Hopper mounted up and jumped back in the ride. We continued the Musical Ride and were praised for recovering so well after the interruption. We finished off the night with some ice cream from the Fort’s parlor, a quick stop at the tailors to mend some breaches, and one last dip in the river for good measure. In this authors opinion, I must say, there is no better way to spend a summer with the boys and the horses!