Wild West Willie to take a stroll in Rose Bowl parade

The little old lady from Pasadena and her Superstock Dodge have nothing on this man’s ride.

Doug Rogers aboard Wild West Willie in the 2005 Calgary Stampede parade.

Doug Rogers aboard Wild West Willie in the 2005 Calgary Stampede parade.

The little old lady from Pasadena and her Superstock Dodge have nothing on this man’s ride.

Doug Rogers, owner of a half-Brahma saddle steer named Wild West Willie, hits the highway on Boxing Day to haul his bovine buddy to Pasadena, Calif., for the 2011 Rose Bowl parade.

Rogers, who lives in the hill country between Bentley and Rimbey, purchased Willie five years ago, after seeing him perform for a movie shoot on the John Scott Ranch in Southern Alberta.

“He is very friendly. I always thought it would be cool to have an animal that size and tame,” said Rogers, a former bull rider on the amateur rodeo circuit.

Willie was raised and trained by Saskatchewan breeder Tim Edwards, who kept the young animal sexually intact until he was about three years old so he would reach the size and shape of a mature bull. The young bull was then altered to keep his attitude in check.

Edwards did all the work, ensuring that Willie would be a gentle and manageable riding and driving animal, said Rogers.

“He came with all the bells and whistles.”

Willie matured into a gigantic black beast, trimmed out with a few splashes of white and weighing in at 1,270 kg — almost three times the size of an average saddle horse.

Rogers had to sew two horse cinches together and build a three-metre-long latigo to strap his saddle on to the big boy’s powerful back.

“He is over nine feet at the girth. Any saddle you put on him looks little,” said Rogers.

The pair have been a crowd favourite at rodeo parades throughout Alberta, including appearances in each of the last five years in the Calgary Stampede Parade.

It was the Calgary appearances that drew interest from the chairman of the Rose Bowl Parade — one of the top five parades in the world, said Rogers.

“It’s quite an honour. There are only 20 invitations extended. Everyone else goes through the application process.”

Rogers doesn’t seem to mind that the invitation did not include expenses and accommodations.

He estimates the trip will cost roughly $10,000, including incidental expenses. He and his friends have been fundraising for the trip and have received support from individuals and local businesses.

Rogers, two family members and a family friend have set out an itinerary that will take them south through Coutts and into Montana and Nevada on the way to California. Their travel schedule is organized in five-hour legs so Willie can get some rest on the way down.

Anticipating bad weather for the first part of the journey, they’re leaving early in the morning on Boxing Day, with plans to reach treacherous mountain passes during daylight.

“I’ve had lots of people tell me there is a couple of passes we should take definitely during the daylight,” he said.

It’s the furthest Willie has ever travelled. Rogers has faith that his four-legged friend will make the journey in good shape and in good humour.

Rogers, Willie and company plan a very brief visit to Pasadena, expecting to arrive home on Jan. 4.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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