REVIEW: The first stampede of Flores Ladue: The true love story of Florence and Guy Weadick and the beginning of the Calgary stampede

Book by Wendy Bryden

Peter Shawn Taylor

The first stampede of Flores Ladue“It’s the broncs and the blood. It’s the steers and the mud. And they call the thing rodeo.” Or at least that’s American country singer Garth Brooks’s visceral take on the subject. Canada’s newest contribution to rodeo lore is a somewhat different go ’round, adding a petite female and a love story. In advance of the Calgary Stampede’s 100th anniversary next summer comes the story of the woman behind the first stampede and her own amazing rodeo talents.

Guy Weadick is widely known as the driving force behind the inaugural Calgary Stampede in 1912. But Bryden argues his wife, Flores LaDue, deserves equal recognition. Born Grace Maud Bensel in Minnesota and raised on a Sioux reservation, she ran away with a travelling Wild West show to become a teenaged trick roper. While roping upside down on a horse in Chicago in 1905, she caught the eye of itinerant rodeo cowboy Weadick.

They soon became a couple, performing for audiences across North America and Europe before settling in Calgary. LaDue’s roping prowess—less than five feet tall, she could lasso five galloping horses at one time and retired undefeated as World Champion Lady Fancy Roper—and her role supporting her husband’s plans for the first Stampede are fascinating additions to its lore. That her story is told at all is thanks to the memories of current Alberta rancher Lenore McLean, who grew up next door to an elderly Mrs. Weadick in the late 1940s.

Bryden weaves McLean’s childhood oral history into a semi-fictionalized account of the love affair between Flores and Guy and their rodeo exploits. Much of Bryden’s invented dialogue can seem as wooden as a split rail fence. Nonetheless this remains an attractive book for its uncovered detail, wealth of illustrations and unique subject matter. Anyone looking to get excited about the Stampede’s centennial should start right here.