Tribute to a Rodeo Journalist

In the late ’90s, issues of Western Horse Review sported a separate section devoted to rodeo, entitled Western Sport News. The pages were edited by Laureen Heggie and one of our contributing columnists was Dwayne Erickson. He also helped out now and again with rodeo-related profiles of one sort or another. At the magazine we knew him as the “human rodeo encyclopedia.” And, so he was, with literally generations of rodeo stats and stories stored in his brain.

We lost Dwayne yesterday at the age of 75. He will be oft-remembered by those of us who staff Western Horse Review. He was a fantastic supporter and contributor to the world of rodeo and will be sorely missed by all.

There’s a great story about Dwayne’s recent honor on the Calgary Herald website, telling about his receiving the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Media Award for Excellence in Print Journalism, a prestigious accolade, given he was only one of three writers to receive the award twice in his lifetime.

I’m grateful to Laureen Heggie for sharing her memories in this personal account of a great rodeo journalist and writer.

Dwayne Erickson photographed at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo infield late December, 2012. Photograph by: Gavin Young, courtesy Calgary Herald.

BY LAUREEN HEGGIE

Not too many people can be labeled as an icon in the rodeo world without having mounted a horse or bull. But long time journalist and rodeo reporter Dwayne Erickson has done just that by earning the respect and trust of many professional cowboys who gladly shared their life stories with him.

Unfortunately, the keys of his laptop were silenced on April 22, 2013, after he passed away in Calgary, Alberta at 75 years old.

Erickson was the best at what he did and was referred to as a ‘human rodeo encyclopedia’. With decades of rodeo statistics and tales stored in his writer’s mind, he was the go-to-guy for rodeo media in Canada.

He covered events from the rodeo trail to the press rooms across North America and was most noted for his work at the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Journal. He was also a contributor for the Pro Rodeo Sports News, the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC-TV and countless other media sources, as well as gracing the pages of our own Western Horse Review with a monthly column.

The Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Famer covered his first Canadian Finals Rodeo in 1979 and every National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas from 1985 until 2011. He was known as a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, a Calgary Stampede Pioneer of Rodeo, and a two-time winner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Media Award for Excellence in Print Journalism (2003, 2012).

Erickson had a quiet disposition with a feisty, gruff attitude that would explode in the press rooms when facts or equipment weren’t sufficient. He was as tough as many of those competitors in the arena he covered, and would never fake it for anyone.

He wrote with flare and cussed with dignity.

He was the summit of Canadian rodeo journalism that many tried to reach; a mentor to those that followed in his writer’s footsteps, and when a cowboy received a call from Erickson for an interview, they knew they had made it.

When Erickson received his first rodeo assignment more than 50 years ago at the Edmonton Journal, he was more than a little intimidated by the task as he was strictly a sports writer at the time. He learned the ropes with rodeo legends such as Harry Vold, Reg Kesler, Herman Linder and Keith Hyland.

He took this new path with seriousness, studying and absorbing the lives of the cowboys and would work endless hours to pump out amazing material that captured the cowboys and cowgirls he interviewed precisely and intimately. He was blessed with a gift to tell a true story in a positive light.

He told it like it was – a straight shooter with kind bullets.

When inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame, Dwayne summed up his philosophy: “What I have tried to do is explain that cowboys are not million-dollar hockey players or football players. They are good, everyday people who have the greatest sense of community that I have ever seen. It makes me so proud of this sport, because there isn’t a moment when they wouldn’t stick out their hand and help, in competition and in life. Rodeo is a life teacher.”

He will be remembered as a man that asked so little and gave so much to the rodeo world.

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