To his credit, the logs stayed on the truck, the truck stayed on the road.
And he stayed somewhat coherent.
But it wasn’t easy.
After all, it’s not every day you get a call informing you that a life-long dream has been realized.
But there Dustin Gorst was, going about his work day in Meadow Lake, Sask., last fall when his phone began to buzz.
Sure, he’d been hoping. Sure, he’d had a hunch.
But he was itching for official word.
This was it.
Catherine Laycraft, rodeo program co-ordinator of the Calgary Stampede, provided the blockbuster bulletin, telling Gorst that he was one of 36 chuckwagon drivers invited to the 2017 GMC Rangeland Derby.
For Gorst – and fellow newbie Cody Ridsdale – this is scrapbook territory.
“I was so excited I could hardly drive – I was sweating,” he says with a laugh. “I just thanked her. She started talking about barn stalls and stuff, and I said, ‘Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if you park me in the river. I’m going. I’m happy.”
“I’ve arrived – that’s the perfect word for it. I’ve been waiting for this week my whole life. I’m very excited.”
Calling his wife Jaycee.
“It was pretty cool,” says Gorst. “It was pretty emotional. I remember coming here as a seven-year-old, thinking, ‘Man, that’s cool.’ And here we are.”
Not that Gorst’s inclusion came as a shock to the chuck community.
Last year, he’d been slotted 22nd on the World Professional Chuckwagon Association rankings. He also picked up the circuit’s clean-driver award.
“So I thought I did everything I needed to be here,” says Gorst. “You’re waiting for the phone call, but you’re still just waiting – it’s out of your control if they want you to come.
“I’m glad they invited me.”
A superb outrider – he was named the Stampede’s outstanding outrider for the second time in 2014 – Gorst nevertheless had a notion to get himself into the wagon box.
Despite being the grandson of Art, the son of Gary, the younger brother of Logan – all of whom are drivers of note, all of whom have competed at the Stampede – he was determined to do it his way.
To forge his own path.
“I wanted to stand on my own two feet, you know what I mean?” says Gorst. “I didn’t want to have to go in my dad’s liner. I didn’t want to have to use my dad’s horses, use my dad’s wagon, use my dad’s one-ton. I wanted to own an acreage. I wanted to own all the horses myself.”
Plan set, Gorst refused to rush.
He started by buying 40 acres 10 minutes south of Meadow Lake. He built corrals exactly the way he wanted them.
Then – and only then – did he think about filling his barn.
“I’d say I’m very proud,” says Gorst, 31. “I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted it to be me. That’s why (I got) the late start, because I wanted to be in control.”
And, impressively, he earned his way to Calgary in smart fashion – after only three years of driving.
That said, Gorst did have to overcome nitpickers, who, for whatever reason, were doubting him and doubting chuckwagons.
He shrugs off skeptics.
He has no time for negativity.
“There’s always the naysayers,” Gorst says, “but I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It frustrates me when people are down on the sport … (because) that’s the last thing on my mind. I love the sport. I get to call myself a chuckwagon driver. I’m getting paid to be here this week. I’m here to stay, personally.
“How proud I am of this sport … I want to stay. And any naysayers along the way, well, I didn’t let it bother me.”
Gorst already knows that outriding here is an amazing experience. But it’s not the nightly hotseat that driving is. Taking hold of those reins piles up the pressure – and the potential for glory.
“A very different vibe, yeah,” says Gorst. “As a driver, you’re actually the event. As an outrider you’re part of it, but you’re always the side (attraction).
“But as a driver? You’re it. And it’s finally my name up there.”
Wisely, though, Gorst shies away from bold predictions.
“I’ve watched many rookies come into the Calgary Stampede and they were going to tear it apart and beat everybody,” he says, shaking his head. “I have a full understanding that I’m with the best 35 best wagon drivers there are and I am a rookie. I want to go have fun. I want to be competitive on a nightly basis.
“But I ain’t going to set no high goals for myself. I just want to be as competitive as I can be with the four horses I hook on a nightly basis and enjoy it.”