Coming off his first career World Professional Chuckwagon Association Championship win Kurt Bensmiller is heading home to Dewberry, Alberta when an unfortunate flat gives the 32 year old a chance to chat with lakelandconnect.net.
This season Kurt secured a consecutive Calgary Stampede Championship and the coveted WPCA Championship title, you’d wonder what’s next for the driver, “to do it again.” Kurt, an ambitious person, says goals help him focus on what he needs to do, “a guy starts every year hoping he can reach half of the goals he sets. I was pretty close to getting all of mine.” Outside of repeating the Ponoka Stampede win from 2014, Kurt was able to achieve all of the goals he set. Which also included taking the win in Calgary and the World Champion title.
Kurt says he always knew he’d be a driver. “I outrode fairly young, but I hated it,” Kurt says with the wit he’s known for, “we all rode but, the brothers, David and Chance, they rode all the time. I stuck with a team, at 13 years old I started and stayed that way.”
The drive and ambition Kurt is known for came when he was a little older, “when I got older I focused a little more on the little things, like Dad preached from the start- that’s when I started to do better.” When Kurt speaks of his father, Buddy Bensmiller, it’s always with a lot of admiration, this time no different. Buddy, known in the WPCA as the Dewberry Rocket, is a two-time World Champion and a three-time Calgary Stampede Champion, along with loads of other accolades and awards in the chuckwagon circuit. Dewberry has an oversized, World’s Largest Chuckwagon, in honour of the driver and ten of drivers who have hailed from the town. The town prides itself on being the Chuckwagon Capital of Alberta and have had street banners made with all eleven drivers from Dewberry recognized. The banners will be unveiled next month, September, at a wagon driver appreciation event when the town will also congratulate Kurt on his successes this season.
It’s no wonder Kurt takes after his father’s determination and drive to win. Kurt says he was fairly young when he realized his father and what he did was special and different from the normal family. “When we would leave for the whole summer and be gone,” that’s how it sunk in that the other kids didn’t do the same. “You’d have your hockey and school buddies and then you’d have your wagon buddies.”
“It was special both ways,” Kurt explains, “to be able to come back and see them every year in the summer or every year when you got back for hockey. It was a cool thing, because a lot of the kids their parents kept working and mine… well they kept working but in a different way, that allowed us all to be together.”
All things equal Kurt says he’s a wagon man, but he loves his hockey. Dewberry is known to grow some amazing hockey talent. Kurt spent last winter behind the bench coaching the Dewberry Mustang to the finals in the Sask-Alta Sr Men’s Hockey League. Unsure what the winter holds for him as he awaits results from last year’s shoulder surgery. With a sly-witty laugh he says he’ll likely be coach again, “Probably, more than likely, I’ll be behind the bench.” You’ll know it’s Coach Kurt from his large black cowboy hat.
As much as Kurt is known for his humour, wit, and side smile, he’s known for the black cowboy hat. Every race the hat’s on top of his head, but by the end it’s nowhere to be seen. “When I come out, I dunno if I have a funny shaped head or what, but it always comes off,” Kurt explains the missing hat phenomenon, “instead of losing it on the track, I just started throwing it in the box. The first second I’m safe, and not close to anybody – under control, I’ll take it and put in the box.” Well… that solves that!
Even with the WPCA season over, there’s a lot left to do once the Bensmiller crew hits Dewberry, “gotta make sure everything’s ready before winter.” No plans for a party at the big wagon yet, says Kurt with a laugh, “we’ll see what happens. It’s one of those things where you’re excited and ready to party, but it’s been a long summer, so guys are ready to get home and take a rest for a little bit.” He won’t be putting his feet up in laying back in his Lazy Boy, “there’s a lot of things to do and they (referring to his three daughters) are excited to see the horses and their toys outside.”
There’s a few poker cherry tournaments to finish out the summer, so Kurt will only be home for a week or two before hitting the road again. Hopefully, the Champion will get some down time in there to appreciate everything he’s accomplished this season.