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A filthy good time

Red, white and mud — rooster tails of sticky, black mud — are the official colours of Canada at this particular venue.
Corey Melnychuk of Blackfalds completes his winning run as Neil Harrison of Sylvan Lake continues his run in the final of the modified division at the Spruce View Ag. Society Canada Day Mud Bog in Dickson on Thursday.

DICKSON — Red, white and mud — rooster tails of sticky, black mud — are the official colours of Canada at this particular venue.

Oh, and add a streak of orange for the first timer from Blackfalds who had his mud bogging Ford pickup truck built with one goal in mind: To beat the pants off the high-performance Jeep owned by Jim Chamberlain of Innisfail and built by Darryl Hinz of Sylvan Lake.

Fellow competitor Garnet Hendrickson of Spruce View said Chamberlain is noted for popping his modified-beyond-belief Jeep CJ into a wheelie before hitting the bog during competitions in Rimbey last year.

It was determination to outperform Chamberlain that encouraged Corey Melnychuk to step off the spectators’ bench and join in the fun, hiring Josh Darling of Penhold to build him a truck.

So he and Darling were almost as disappointed as the Jeep’s crew when it’s transmission failed, leaving it stranded in the pit, during the very first heat of the Spruce View Ag Society’s Canada Day Mud Bog, held before a cheering crowd of more than 2,000 people on Thursday afternoon.

From the very first time it barked and clawed its way through the mud pit, everyone in the crowd knew Melnychuk and his crew were onto something truly hot.

“I came here for Chamberlain’s butt. Now, I’m hooked,” Melnychuk said after meeting and beating all comers in the modified truck division.

Nothing could touch his 1979 shortbox, whose 460 cubic inch motor had been bored to 552 ci and was churning out 850 horsepower.

It needed every one of those horses to turn the aggressive treads on its fat rubber tires, which Hinz described as something like the paddle wheels on a riverboat.

The only thing they hadn’t thought of was either fixing the wipers or finding some other way to get the mud off the windshield between heats.

Darling never doubted that Melnychuk had a winner. All he had to do was stomp on the gas and keep it running straight.

“He brought a gun to a knife fight,” Darling said after Melnychuk cleaned up his class, if cleaned up is the proper description for a competition in which every vehicle and most of their drivers end up wearing a thick coating of mud.

Keeping it straight was probably the beginning of Chamberlain’s troubles, said Hinz. Reviewing the tach recorder afterward, he saw that the Jeep’s 900 horsepower engine didn’t rev past 5,000 until blowing the heavy-duty Turbo 350 transmission that had powered it through countless mud holes over the last seven years.

Then, it hit 8,000 and immediately shut down.

Held every Canada Day for the past five years, Spruce View’s annual mud bog attracted just under 100 teams, split about equally between trucks and quads, said ag society volunteer Clayton Frost.

Possibly because the weather was a little iffy, Thursday’s crowd was actually down a bit from last year, when 2,800 people came to watch, said Frost, who helps out to earn volunteer credits toward ice time during hockey season.

The mud bog helps cover the cost of operating the Dickson Arena, which runs at about $15,000 a month, said Frost.

Spectator Randy Nicholson, who lives directly east of the arena, said his dad, Nick, donated the land in the early 1980s. Whether mud bogging is good use of productive farmland is determined by the value of agricultural commodities, said Nicholson.

One thing for sure, the mud out there really, really sticks, he said.