PUEBLO, Colo. – Darcy Flad envisions his father, Herman, nearly every time he climbs into his chuckwagon, and especially whenever he crosses the finish line in blazing speeds at the Calgary Stampede this week.
There would be no better way for him to honor his father than to win the Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby almost 10 years after Herman tragically passed away.
“It would mean everything to me,” Darcy said. “That is why I came here. To compete. I didn’t come here to be second. As a winner you have to be gentle, though. You can’t be too cocky. Win, lose or draw, you have to be grateful, and hopefully Lady Luck shows up and you are standing in the winner’s circle. It is tough to do that, but it is important to me. You have to have a very positive attitude. Dad was a thankful guy. As soon as my dad (won), he rubbed it off his shoulders.”
Herman died on August 5, 2008, in a two-vehicle collision while he was on his way to a World Professional Chuckwagon Association event in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Only one of Herman’s 15 horses survived the accident.
He was 67 years old.
The tragedy rocked the chuckwagon racing world as Herman had a history of success in the business.
Herman was so passionate about the sport that he continued to race chuckwagons even after he was no longer eligible to compete at the Calgary Stampede because he was too old.
The father of three had over 35 years of experience in the business and won several major and prestigious chuckwagon events, including the inaugural WPCA Pro Tour Championship, the 1980 Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby, the Grande Prairie Stompede, the Klondike Chuckwagon Derby and twice the Cheyenne Frontier Days championship.
Darcy continues his father’s legacy the best way he knows how to – by racing.
The 47-year-old is driving the PBR-sponsored chuckwagon at the Greatest Show on Earth this week and his father has remained on his mind.
Darcy became a driver in 2004 after first competing as an outrider in 1986.
“Every time I crawl in there, I think of him,” Darcy said. “Guaranteed. Especially if I have a good run. He is the first guy I see.”
Fans can watch all of the chuckwagon action on RidePass every day of the Calgary Stampede at 9:45 p.m. ET.
Flad heads into Wednesday night sitting in 17th place in the aggregate (6:11:17).
The Richard Cosgrave Memorial Trophy, symbolic of the Calgary Stampede aggregate winner, will be declared after eight nights of competition on Friday.
The Top 8 in the aggregate on that day will go into “Semi Final Saturday.” The Top 4 times from the two semifinal heats Saturday will advance into the winner-take-all championship final heat. The winner of the final heat will be declared the 2018 Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby Champion.
Darcy is not only riding in memory of his dad, but he is also representing the late Ty Pozzobon.
A portion of the PBR tarp on Fald’s wagon is promoting the Ty Pozzobon Foundation, which was founded following the death of the 25-year-old bull rider in 2017.
The Ty Pozzobon Foundation looks to protect and support the health and well-being of rodeo competitors inside and outside the arena.
The PBR is hosting the Ty Pozzobon Foundation Night on Thursday evening at the Calgary Stampede. A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Ty Pozzobon Foundation.
“It is quite an honor to do that,” Flad said. “It is sad with what has happened. To raise money for that means everything. When there is trouble out there in the world, we want to fix it and cure it. It takes a lot of money to do that. To do that is quite an opportunity. I never got to meet Ty, but I watched him lots on TV and in the bull riding. He made Canada so proud. He was such an athlete. It is just so sad with what has happened.”
Flad never rode bulls for a living, but he did aspire to be a rodeo champion.
The Bodo, Alberta, native used to ride broncs before realizing chuckwagons was where his focus in the arena should be.
“I rodeoed for quite a while and tried to ride broncs, but I knew I wasn’t going to become a World Champion, so I decided I better do something where there is a better chance that I can win a world title,” Flad said. “That is why I climbed into that wagon box.”
The 2004 World Professional Chuckwagon Association Top Rookie Driver is ranked 22nd in the 2018 WPCA world standings.
Flad understands he is in a different sport than bull riding, but he does feel he can relate to the mentality the PBR bull riders.
“That is one thing between me and bull riders – I think that attitude is the same,” he said.
PBR CEO Sean Gleason told the Calgary Herald in March that Flad’s personality impressed him at the Rangeland Derby tarp auction.
“I was surprised because this is a big day for those (drivers) and most of them came out with their hands in their pockets and stood on the star. Nobody did much to get that price up,” Gleason told Scott Fisher. “Then (Flad) came out with a grin on his face that was ear-to-ear and said, ‘Come on!’ I said ‘that’s my guy.’ ”
Flad still can’t truly put into words the emotion he felt when he heard the auctioneer announce PBR as the winning bidder.
“I will tell you what, it was like me winning the lottery or anyone winning the lottery,” Flad concluded. “Your blood runs pretty warm when that happens.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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