Raised in a Barn STARTING A FAMILY ON THE WAGON TRAIL

Tamara Fike is a strong but largely unseen force at the Calgary Stampede.

Fike's husband Jordie is one of 36 drivers who were vying for the big payout at the Rangeland Derby last week. It is his sixth appearance in the big dance in his nine-year career, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Ron David.

Tamara is one of many chuckwagon drivers' wives, mothers and sisters who play a big part behind the scenes in the barns.

“Without her around I don't know if I'd even still be doing this or if I'd have the success I've had,” he said.

Jordie said he remembers his grandmother working in the barns and said he loves having his wife by his side through the race season.

Tamara has been with Jordie from the beginning of his chuckwagon career, taking summer off work to travel with her husband from race to race.

“The first two years he didn't have any hired help,” Tamara recalled. “I knew I was going to have to help him. It was just him and I taking care of all the horses. I would do anything that needed to be done.”

“Without her around I don't know if I'd even still be doing this or if I'd have the success I've had,” he said.

The pair would set off down the road with a small herd of horses and their house on wheels every weekend.

“We head off down the road with 20 to 25 horses,” Tamara said. “He would drive the semi-trailer with all the horses and I drove a 42-foot holiday trailer with the wagon in the back.”

It's all business when they arrived at the race destination, Tamara said.

“I used to be in the barn 24/7 with him,” she said. “I'd be cleaning stalls, bedding stalls, mixing feed, doctoring, wrapping legs, saddling, taking the outriders horses over for the races.”

Two years ago the Fikes were able to hire a family friend to help out on the road and Tamara continued working in the barns alongside her husband.

This year they have two hired hands and added two tiny hands, as well.

On May 21 Teal Breecie Fike was born. It was a day before the chuckwagon races in Grand Prairie. The Fikes took their daughter's arrival in stride.

“Jordie left the next day and I left when she was three days old,” Tamara said.

The schedule has admittedly changed, but Tamara is still in the barns lending a helping hand.

“Now I do make it down to the horses,” she said. “I still do the grooming and doctoring.”

She said Teal spends time with her dad while mom makes sure the horses are in the best shape possible.

“They are our livelihood,” Tamara said, adding there is a special bond with their team of horses. “They are like family to us.”

Nowadays Tamara said she is usually up at 6 a.m. when Jordie and the baby wake up. Instead of heading to the barns, she spends time with the baby and then she makes a big breakfast for their crew. She said sometimes she takes turns with another driver's wife, and a close friend making the crew breakfast.

“I make breakfast for four to 12 people,” she said.

After breakfast she cleans up, does laundry or goes on a grocery run for humans and horses.

In the afternoon Tamara and Teal tuck in for their afternoon nap.

After mom and daughter's shuteye, the whole family heads down to the barn, when Tamara gets her time with the horses while Teal hangs out with dad.

At race time Teal and Tamara are his biggest cheerleaders. At the end of the day it is bath time and bedtime. Admittedly it's a late night, but Teal is adapting like a trooper, Tamara said.

“I'm actually worried for when we go home,” she said of their acreage east of Blackie.

“This is all she's known. It's a great lifestyle to have a kid grow up in.”

Story by Darlene Casten - Photos by Brent Calver

Created By
Brent Calver and Darlene Casten
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