-by Liz Twan
Over the years and years that Stampede has been in existence there has developed a wealth of stories and pranks that occurred at the rodeo itself or around town during the rodeo dates. Some are verifiably true and others have been told so many times that they must have gained a grain of truth over the years!
One story that was reported by an early Tribune article and again in Irene Stangoe's book, "Cariboo - Chilcotin, Pioneer People and Places is the tale (tall?) of rancher Mickey Martin, who came from the Riske Creek area.
Apparently he was a rodeo regular and on this particular day had spent a long, hot, dusty day down at the rodeo grounds. He decided a nice cold beer would wash the dust out of his system and so, mounted on his stallion, he rode uptown. Now this horse was to Mickey, what a fancy motor car was to a town fellow and he hated to be separated from the sight of this fine animal that he had imported from Alberta. Prize Appaloosa stallions were not common in the Cariboo at that time in history.
With this in mind, you can almost guess that, yes, Mickey and horse entered the Maple Leaf beer parlor together. As wild and as western as things were reported to be in those days, most people did not come into the beer parlor mounted on an Appaloosa stallion. Needless to say, the proprietor did not welcome this intrusion into his establishment and asked Mickey to take his horse back out to the hitching rail. Mickey was quite certain in his own mind, that the horse should be welcome to stay and quite a discussion ensued. The owner of the Maple Leaf at the time of this incident was a man called Benny Abbott. Benny was a well known citizen of Williams Lake and he was often instrumental in the organization and the running of the Williams Lake Stampede. Mickey was often a pickup man for the rodeo and as well, he was a a regular customer of Benny's when he was in town on business. Most likely he had stayed in the Hotel on several occasions.
The fact that he was well known to Benny made it so Benny wished to handle this incident with as little disturbance as possible and with no hard feelings. The ensuing discussion had several go rounds with Benny and Mickey arguing back and forth over the fact of whether the horse should stay or go. Mickey just refused to believe that his horse was not thirsty for a beer also. At the end of each round it was still a stalemate. Now Benny was racking his brains for a way to solve this dispute without making an enemy out of a friend. As a barman he was well experienced in persuading people to leave his establishment but his experience with horseflesh in the bar was far more limited. He retreated for a few moments thought and came up with a course of action that might mean a solution to his problem.
He marched back over to Mickey and his Appaloosa stallion, who went by the name of "Nemo" and he said to Mickey, " Mickey, would you happen to know how old your horse is?"
Mickey replied, "Of course I do! Nemo is a five year old stallion, why do you want to know?"
Benny replied, "Mickey, do you realize that your horse is not of legal drinking age? He is in fact far too young to be served alcohol in a beer parlour. He is a minor in the eyes of the law. The horse will have to leave the premises."
The upshot of it all was that while Mickey had not been persuaded by a dozen other fairly logical reasons to remove the horse, when confronted with the law of the land, Mickey saw that he had no choice but to take his stallion outside to the hitching rail. All of the logic had made no impression on Mickey, but he was a law abiding citizen and the horse was simply not old enough for a beer.
Author's note: Several versions of this story have been in circulation for years, another version has B.C. Police Constable Lon Godfrey as the "voice of reason".
Other articles by Liz Twan