Thus far, my quest to become a Chuckwagon co-driver has been unsuccessful. Undeterred, I decided to figure out what characteristics I might need to possess in order to make my dream a reality. I caught up with Troy Dorchester to see if he had any advice for me. And, I was hoping that an affinity for corndogs was on the list, but unfortunately that never managed to come up. However, I think I’ve figured out a few things I need to work on.
Get Your Grit On
We know it takes grit; we’ve all seen those cowboys standing up on their wagons, yelling their guts out at their horses to run faster, mud flying into their open mouths, wind caught in their jackets, tugging hard on the reins as they round the final corner. I think this part looks fun, but I don’t think I’m truly tough enough. Maybe I can do better on the next trait.
The Right Roots!
Those of us that grew up in Calgary remember hearing the same names year over year as chuckwagon drivers had sons that grew up and started running their own outfit. I remember the first time I watched a race where Tom Glass was racing against his son Jason. Whereas, my Dad (an engineer) didn’t exactly encourage high-risk activities. Strike two of two!
Luck of the Draw
There’s definitely a bit of luck involved – whether it’s drawing a good barrel position, good track conditions, maybe even a lucky charm or superstition. Whatever it is, having everything fall into place for that half mile requires a little bit of luck.
Of course if you have all three you’re probably in really good shape. Or, your name is Troy Dorchester. Chuckwagon racing is in Dorchester’s blood – his father and grandfather were chuckwagon drivers, not to mention his uncles (Dallas, Dennis and Dave Lewis) and his cousin Rick Fraser (a fellow Calgary Stampede competitor). Troy won the 2012 Rangeland Derby, a feat that his father, grandfather, and Uncle Dallas have also done. For a few years the Rangeland Derby was pretty much dominated by the Dorchester clan. Tommy Dorchester (Troy’s grandfather) won in both 1970 and 1971. Garry Dorchester (Troy’s father) won in 1968, a year that was also memorable as Tommy competed against three of his sons, with Garry winning it all. Finally, Troy’s uncle, Dallas Dorchester, took the top prize in 1991.
Do Ya Feel Lucky? Well, Do Ya?
If you’re superstitious, you might think it had something to do with Troy’s cowboy hat. Let me tell you, this is a champions hat – before Troy wore it, it belonged to his grandfather. With the hat approaching 50 years of age (understandably, Troy’s not exactly sure when it was purchased), it’s now reserved for races only. The hat goes on about 5 minutes before the race, travels around the track at breakneck speed and then goes back on the hook approximately 5 minutes after the race is over.
Tom Dorchester wearing “the” Hat
The hat has been a fixture on Troy’s head since the early 90’s when he asked his grandmother if he could have it after his grandfather passed away. He did confess that he “didn’t use it for three shows” but decided to go back to it because it just didn’t feel right. Troy’s uncle, Dallas Dorchester, even wore it when he won the Rangeland Derby in 1991, eight days after Tom Dorchester passed away from cancer.
Troy Dorchester wearing “the” Hat
The hat is largely the same as it was when his grandfather wore it. There’s still mud on it from last year’s Calgary Stampede of course, and there’s a cowboy angel on the back that Troy’s cousin gave him. Troy is back this year to defend his title as Rangeland Derby champion. He’ll be wearing his hat of course, but only for the few minutes that he’s out on the track racing.
At this point I think my co-driving days are already behind me. I definitely do not possess a lucky hat, or any sort of lucky charm. I should probably maintain my amateur status so that I can continue to race for the fun of it!