People who remember Gordon Doan’s last ride still speculate on what might have been.
Canadian bareback champion in 1945 and 1946 and Canadian All Around Champion in 1946, Doan has just been inducted posthumously into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame.
It was a long time coming for the ranch hand from Halkirk who joins his brother Urban and their nephew Phil among the ranks of competitors and stock who have bucked, roped and wrestled their way to rodeo legend.
Halkirk is where all the good cowboys come from, says Gordon’s wife, Lydia, who watched from the stands while he competed in the saddle bronc event at the 1947 Ponoka Stampede.
Gordon had finished a good ride, but got hung up on his dismount. He ended up underneath the bronc’s belly, flung helplessly between the horse’s flailing hooves, his feet stuck in the stirrups.
“He looked up for the Lord and one foot came loose,” Lydia said from her home in Red Deer on Friday.
Gordon spent the next year in hospital and never fully recovered from the beating he took underneath that last bronc. He decided that the time had come to hang up his spurs and started too look for safer work, ending up with a job as a heavy equipment operator for Bettenson’s Sand and Gravel in Red Deer.
Gordon Doan came from a family whose primary destiny seems to revolve around elite sports. Along with their own accomplishments, the Doan brothers’ descendants include cousins Shane and Bart Doan.
Still an active rodeo cowboy, Bart has travelled with world with his wife, Saskatoon-born speed skating champion Catriona Lemay Doan. Shane has earned his stardom on ice as well — as a sniper with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.
With all that talent, people who watched Gordon’s last ride still wonder just how well Gordon would have done if that wreck at the Ponoka Stampede had not put an early end to his career, says the biography created for his induction into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Established in 1981, the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame is still catching up with history-makers like Doan, who was nominated by the board, said secretary-treasurer Judy Wilson.
Memorabilia connected with the inductees is in storage at a variety of places while the Hall of Fame boards works on building a permanent location, next door to the Ranchman’s on Macleod Trail in Calgary.
Married at Halkirk in 1939, Gordon and Lydia Doan had four children during the next 22 years.
Their eldest, Richard, was killed in a work-related accident.
His brothers, Wayne and Jordan live in Red Deer and their sister, Hazel lives in Mexico.
Gordon died in 1997.