Kevin Costner’s character heard a voice telling him “if you build it, they will come” in the 1989 baseball movie Field of Dreams.
Back in 1960, it seems Jack Daines must have gotten similar insight. The brash young cowboy convinced his auctioneer father to let him put on a rodeo in the family’s practice arena that had been built, not in a corn field, but a hay field, on the family’s ranch just north of Innisfail.
Now, half a century later, his memory of that very first event remains crystal clear.
“I announced the first rodeo, and I should’ve won the bronc riding,” recalls the 74-year-old legend. “I had the best horse drawn. I had that Colonel Blue of Harry Vold’s, the best bronc going. But Lawrence Lamb beat me by a couple of points. The thing was, Lawrence rode better than I did.
“The horse bucked so good, but I was so busy putting the rodeo on and everything else, and I knew I had the best horse, and I thought it was just like pushing a switch that I’d win first. There was a gorgeous buckle up. I didn’t get that buckle, strictly on my fault, because I didn’t spur that horse, toes out good enough, and I didn’t ride good enough to win first.”
“But I still remember the ride.”
And Daines is still busy putting on the rodeo, from rounding up sponsors, to calling cowboys, to making sure there’s parking people, to doing his radio ads.
At his pre-rodeo press conference, the patriarch of pro rodeo in Innisfail barely had a chance to savour the fact next week’s event will mark the 50th anniversary of the Daines Ranch Rodeo.
But the occasion is significant.
“To be here now, when 50 years ago I was riding bulls and saddle broncs in this arena, and 50 years later still producing a rodeo (is something). We’ve had every kind of rodeo here going. We’ve had professional rodeo, a Little Britches Rodeo, and a bucking horse sale.
“Mutton busting started right here at the Daines Ranch. I was the one who started it. I hope that isn’t marked on my tombstone,” he grinned wryly.
“We built the arena out of wood twice and it rotted. We put treated posts in, and then we got steel posts in.
Now the rodeo at the ranch has grown into a five day show which is a favorite of contestants everywhere on the pro trail. That’s because it has the look and feel of being an oldtime cowboy contest, and the money of a big league showcase.
Despite some lean years recently for attendance due to wet weather, the Daines’ have managed to still increase the purse, and that’s a fact the whole family is proud of.
“All the cowboys come here,” noted Jack Daines. “The money is huge. I looked at a paper I’ve got in my office from 1964 that shows prize money was 75 dollars in each event. (This year) there’s $115,000 up for prize money, but when you total it with the (cowboy) entry fees, they’re competing for $249,000 at this rodeo. Those are a dollar per point to go towards the world championship in Las Vegas or the Canadian Finals.”
Mike Whittle, general manager of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association was at the Ranch, to present Daines with a specially made bronze in honor of the 50th anniversary from artist Jay Contway.
He calls the accomplishment a big one in Canadian rodeo.
“I think it’s very significant. Particularly the fact this rodeo is put on out here on a ranch, as opposed to in a town or city. Without Jack’s involvement, we wouldn’t have a rodeo here at all.
“He’s added another $50,000, and taken it up to $15,000 an event, and that has really caused a buzz amongst the rodeo community, with the competitors and other rodeos as well who’ve seen what Jack’s done. Hopefully he’ll raise the bar for others to do the same in the future,” said Whittle.
Three-time Canadian All-Around champion Duane Daines has been coming to his Dad’s show since before he can remember. He knows, more than most, how much the 50th means to Jack.
“That’s a number, and that’s why we really want to do it up right this year,” said the younger Daines.
“We’ve had some outstanding rodeos and performances and highlights over the years, but hopefully this will be the one. Just looking on paper, it looks outstanding. I’m looking at the bronc riding and they’re all here, and the stock, I don’t think it’s ever been as rank as it is. In the timed events, it’s going to be a quick set up.”
Tie-down roper Mark Nugent agrees. The Water Valley cowboy has seen the calves, and predicts there could be a couple of runs under the seven second mark this year, and anything longer than eight seconds might not place. He notes the fact that each roper gets a fresh calf levels the playing field for all.
The Daines Ranch Rodeo begins Wednesday, June 16th, with nightly performances at 7 p.m. through Saturday, plus a 1:30 p.m. afternoon performance also on Saturday and Sunday.
l Meanwhile, the rodeo community is mourning the loss of one of it’s pioneer stock contractors. Stan Weatherly of Botha died suddenly early this week, as the family was gearing up for a busy rodeo season for Big Country stock. Weatherly was 72. There’s no word yet on memorial arrangements.
l The Rocky Pro’s Out West Rodeo goes this weekend. Wednesday night’s pony chuckwagon races were cancelled due to wet conditions with hopes of the weather improving today. Rodeo performances go Friday night at 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m., at the North Saskatchewan River Park in Rocky.
Dianne Finstad is a regular contributor to the Red Deer Advocate and is the agriculture/rodeo director for Newcap Radio/CKGY/CIZZ FM in Red Deer