Inducted in 2013
“Cowboying was all I ever wanted to do, and all I ever did,” recalls Calgary Stampede Pickup Man Gary Rempel. Rempel jokes that he was so focused on the cowboy life, “they had a hard time keeping me in school to learn to read and write.”
Gary Rempel is lead pickup man for the Calgary Stampede stock operation, one of North America’s leading rodeo stock contracting firms. Calgary Stampede Ranch will also be inducted into ERHOF August 29, as will their prize-winning bucking bronc “Grated Coconut.”
A mounted Pickup Man’s job is to assist bronc riders in safely dismounting their bucking horses and exiting the rodeo arena following the conclusion of their rides; furthermore, Pickup Men rope and herd broncs and bulls out of the arena into chutes and holding pens so the rodeo events can flow safely and without pause.
Gary Rempel is one of the most acclaimed pickup men in the history of rodeo. Born September 5, 1951 in Elrose, Saskatchewan, Rempel grew up on the expansive Matador Ranch where, he recalls, “I was raised on horseback.” Although he became an accomplished calf and steer roper, it was the pickup man’s game that drew the young Canadian cowboy to the professional rodeo road. He first learned the trade from his father John and Alberta rodeo stock contractor Wayne Vold. In 1985, he joined the team of the legendary Calgary Stampede rodeo.
In his demanding work, Rempel personally trains and travels with six horses. Some of them have been special, like the dapple dark palomino “Cowboy” and his red roan “Rainbow.” Pickup work around broncs and bulls is demanding and dangerous, and his horses must be fast. “Speed covers up so many mistakes,” he says modestly.
“Oh, there have been a lot of wrecks,” Rempel continues. “You just hope you can get ‘em handled. In a hang-up, the quicker you can do it the better.” Rempel’s stellar reputation is built on his skill in preventing or “handling wrecks.” In 2010, he prevented a disaster by roping a 1300 pound bull just as it jumped a fence and plunged into the grandstands at the Canadian Finals in Edmonton, Alberta. Four spectators were injured, but if the bull had gone on unrestrained into the audience the results would have been disastrous.
Rempel has worked all of the major North American rodeos, including San Antonio, Houston, Denver, Nampa, Omak, Pendleton, Calgary, and Ellensburg. His skills garner him regular invitations to work the prestigious Canadian Finals, Montana and Columbia River Circuit Finals, and National Finals Rodeos. The Ellensburg Rodeo is an annual stop on Rempel’s rodeo road, and Ellensburg fans, cowboys, rodeo organizers, and volunteers admire and praise his skills and sociable ways.
Gary’s wife, Jody, a former Miss Rodeo Washington, works as a Great Falls television marketer. The two live on a 140 acre ranch near Fort Shaw, Montana.