Still A Cowboy

Duane Daines remembers waking up in an airport one day after a quick nap. A handful of Japanese tourists were anxiously snapping photos of what might have been their first encounter with a real, live cowboy. The Alberta native took the situation in stride.

 



"I've always been proud to be a cowboy," he says. "There were times in airports that I'd get some strange looks because of the way I was dressed. Being in the wheelchair now, I guess I get even more of those looks than I used to. But I've always felt it was important to represent the sport in a professional manner."

Daines lost all use of his legs in September 1995 in a bronc-riding accident. It was easily one of the worst days for the first family of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. But Daines didn't spend too much time taking pity on himself. His youngest daughter, Sydney, was born just three months after the accident, meaning Daines needed to get back to life and find other ways to support his family.

"I had to get going and do the best I could," he recalls. "It is strange to think that Sydney's never known me any differently. It was tough on my other two daughters-they were 8 and 10 at the time-to see me in the wheelchair. Fortunately, I figured out pretty quick that I could do most of the same stuff I did before the accident. I just had to figure out a little different way to go about things."

Despite the injury, Daines won the last of his three CPRA All-Around Championships in 1995.

"Rod Warren-a good friend of mine-had a chance to win it at the Canadian Finals," Daines says. "I was still in the hospital in Vancouver (British Columbia), during the finals. I told Rod I didn't want him to lie down, that it wouldn't mean anything if he didn't try to win it. He tried his butt off to knock me out, so that makes it extra special."

The 2005 CPRA all-around buckle is often the one strapped to Daines' belt when he leaves the house each day. Heading out the door, he passes under the cardboard check that signifies his 1990 win in the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede bonus round. The $50,000 check represents one of the cowboy's best days.

These days Daines stays busy running some cattle and serving as an auctioneer at the family's livestock auction in Innisfail, Alberta. He started working there while still rodeoing-always striving to do his best for the company's clients.

"I never wanted them to feel like they got stuck with the cowboy selling their calves," Daines admits. "So I put the same effort into that-even before I got hurt-that I would into riding a bucking horse at the National Finals Rodeo. It's important to realize in that situation that I often hold a family's entire yearly income in my hands for those few minutes. So I do everything I can to get the most money for them."

Daines also still gets horseback from time to time, although he's most likely to be found cruising his pastures in a John Deere Gator utility vehicle-complete with hand controls. But just because he chooses transportation with tires instead of legs, doesn't mean he's given up on his cowboy roots.

"The best rehab I got was getting out of the hospital," he recalls. "It took me an hour to get into my jeans and boots, but it just felt right. This is who I am. I'm still a cowboy-that's one thing that'll never change."

For more on the Daines family, see "Jack of All Trades," in the May 2007 WH.