Cody Strandquist isn’t old enough to drive — legally — but he can handle bulls.
The 15-year-old entrepreneur from Kyle, Sask., returns to his father’s native Stettler this week as one of the stock contractors for the Stettler Steel Wheel Stampede.
“It should be pretty fun — pretty exciting,” said Strandquist, whose father Brad is a son of Stettler residents Clifford and Louella Strandquist.
“It’s Dad’s hometown, so he knows lots of people there and I meet a bunch of his old buddies. … Hopefully, the bulls do good.”
Like the bulls he raises, Strandquist isn’t a slacker. He runs his own business — CS Bucking Bulls — and works under Prairie Rodeo, one of the stock providers for this weekend’s stampede in Stettler.
When the current edition of the annual stampede began in 2009, Strandquist’s father came out of retirement from his 21-year career as a professional bull-fighter.
“The first year, to get the Stettler stampede off the ground, I volunteered to come back at 44 years old and fought bulls,” said Brad, now 48. “It helped. We got lots of people I went to high school with come to watch me get wiped out.”
Cody Strandquist was born into a full-fledged rodeo family. His father’s relatives include the late Orville Strandquist, a local legend in chuckwagon and rodeo circles. Orville, who died last January, was a first cousin of Cody’s grandfather, Clifford.
Cody’s mother, Kathy, is a former barrel racer from Kyle. She’s a sister to Stettler pickup man Wade Rempel, who works the Calgary Stampede with brother Gary.
“When me and Kathy got together in 1987, it was a big rodeo family, with her family and our family, so we’ve kind of carried on that rodeo end of things with Cody,” Brad said of his only child.
“He puts a lot of time and energy into it.”
Although he travels with his son and helps out, Brad said their stock-contracting venture “is Cody’s gig.”
He traced the youngster’s interest in raising bulls to Carl Barrett of Prairie Rodeo in Regina.
“Carl gave Cody an old, old bull that was tired,” Brad said. “He just gave it to him to be a big, old pet. The bull was thin and he was old, and Cody packed grain into him faithfully and brought him back (into action). He was in Stettler last year and bucked.
“That was three years ago that Carl gave him that old bull, Cowtown, and that got the bug in Cody’s blood of these bucking bulls.”
Going into Grade 11 at Kyle Composite High School, Cody is already on a career path dotted with bulls.
“He’s actually running about 35 head of bucking bulls now, and he also packs about 15 head of cows to these rodeos for the junior steer riders,” his father said.
“It’s an every-weekend thing. He’s gotten very popular. He’s quite in demand. He was hired for a professional roughstock challenge at Bowden (last month).
“He’s getting calls from all over. Just the next step is the PBRs (Professional Bull Riders events).”
If Brad sounds like a proud father, it’s because he’s precisely that.
“Brad was just in his glory when his son decided to do that,” said Cody’s grandmother, Louella.
As for Cody, he keeps his business venture/hobby in perspective and shows maturity beyond his years — he’s still four months from his 16th birthday.
“I play hockey and stuff through the winters when nothing is going on (rodeowise),” he said. “But in the summer, it’s pretty full-time on weekends and mainly through the week, getting ready for the rodeos.
“I go out on the quad, feeding the bulls and the cows twice a day, and checking them.”
With such hands-on care, he’s turned a job into a passion.
“I pretty much just grew up around rodeos,” said Cody, who’s five-foot-six and 145 pounds. “I love to do it, I guess. My parents and my family are all involved with it.
“I’ve got 37 bulls … they’re all named, but there’s a couple that stand out over the herd. They’re my favourites and my pride and joy.”
One of those is the aptly named Legend, fresh off an appearance in his hometown Kyle Rodeo this past weekend.
“Really good,” Cody said of his Kyle showing. “They rode five out of 24 in the bull-riding and won it on Legend with an 81.”
Real Deal is another one of Strandquist’s aces.
The kid knows what to look for in a competitive bull — “those that come out of the chute and kick hard.”
He’s become a student of the game, with a read not only on the best bulls, but also on the most competent riders.
Cody has embraced the responsibility of caring for animals — and that’s a worthy lesson for any teenager, said his grandfather, Clifford.
“There’s a lot more involved than just showing up for a rodeo on a weekend. It’s not just the glory of Saturday and Sunday.”
Clifford said activities like rodeos are healthy choices for teenagers who might otherwise land in trouble.
In Cody’s case, his entrepreneurial ways could help him gain an education fund, his Grandpa said.
Although he was too modest to talk about it this week, Clifford was a Stettler rodeo champion more than 55 years ago. He won the boys’ steer-riding event in 1956.
Although he’s very much involved in the rodeo scene, Cody said he has generally opted not to compete directly.
As for the future, “I might start riding bulls,” he said.