Wednesday, May 08, 2013

I'm a Fan

I wrote this blog entry on another blog some years ago when Doyle *Doc* Mullaney had to pull out of the 2005 season.

I've edited it a little to clear out some snark about links and such like as they have no place in this tribute.

Doyle Mullaney passed away a couple of days ago. I read that he was fighting a grass fire on his land and had what was apparently a heart attack.

I've seen lots of tributes to him, one of the posts on Facebook definitely made me catch my breath on a sob.  "The shamrocks are flying somewhere else today". If you know chuckwagons, then you know what that means.

His service announcement  is here.


Doc Mullaney has been a fixture of the Chucks for 42 years, and for health reasons has had to leave the Rangeland Derby this year, in midstream. That seriously sucks. Now in that great article (the writing was good, the online department *comment removed in the interest of good taste) it was mentioned that it hadn't yet been decided whether Doc's wagon would be driven by other drivers (a not unprecedented occurance; the most well known incident perhaps when Richard Cosgrove's wagon was driven for the entire week following his death during a race in BC shortly before the Stampede), or whether the next ranked driver would come up the ranks.

None of that matters, although from a what's really right in my personal viewpoint, the former is the most appropriate solution.

The Doc is gone... maybe for good, from the chucks and that's the important part. While he might not be as famous as Micheal Jordan or various other *sports* figures, he's a local legend around here.

Being a lover of all things Irish, I was quite enthralled by the shamrocks on his wagon, the leprechaun remarks and good natured jokes about his Irishness, when I first arrived in the big city (aka Calgary) in '79. Chuckwagon racing has to be experienced to be understood, and not just from the grandstand my friends. Not necessarily from the seat of the wagon either, but there's a certain *feel* that you either have for it or you don't. And by the way, if you don't get chucks and rodeo, please don't clutter up my comments with pita/peta remarks, 'kay? I couldn't freaking care less what those folks have to say.


Back to Doctor Doyle. He's never been a *star*, not going to hold the records, or post the times of the Bashaw Flash, and he doesn't have the 4 generation standpoint of the Glass family but he's been my favourite driver since '79 and since this is my blog that counts a lot. :P

His career thus far

In the early '90's not only was he my favourite driver, but he was also my favourite veterinarian. I doubt he recalls the hug I gave him following a fellow driver's untimely death, when I arrived at his clinic that monday to pick up some meds for a pet. There he was, a giant of a man, with tears in his eyes, doing what he did because what else was he to do. His friend had died, that was the chance they all take.

But I can sure tell you I recall the one he gave me when he put down our cat (he'd been severely injured and we'd waited some time to see if the injury would heal); enfolding me in his large arms and holding me close as I sobbed like a 5 yo who'd lost her best friend. Telling me all the while how hard I'd worked to save him and how I'd given him more chances than most would have to get well and that yes, this had been the best solution and I was brave to have done it.

I'm also not likely to forget the tears in his eyes when I told him that the pug puppy he'd saved from parvo had been killed by smoke inhalation during a fire at the campground we were at. This vet who has been described to me as unfeeling, rough handed and abrupt (by some) held this tiny dehydrated puppy in his hands, putting in a line, swearing a blue streak I'll give you that, but the hands? The hands were as gentle as if he held a newborn babe. He fed this pup baby food by finger tip and his assistant even told me he'd taken her home to give her extra TLC. The bill? It wasn't much, Tushi survived and loved to visit the Doc.

This is the fellow that I recall a few years ago, after a rather bad wreck at the Stampede, shouldering past the eager reporter who put a mike in his face to get a sound bite. Doc growled, something to the effect of: do you mind, a friend of mine is hurt. The friend he's referring to? His horses. Quite a sound bite if you ask me.

Doc has been graced with the following awards:

1980 Battle Of The North Champion
Meadow Lake Stampede Champion
1982 WPCA Active Supporter Award
1983 WPCA Active Supporter Award
1984 WPCA Active Supporter Award
1985 WPCA Most Improved Outfit Award
1986 WPCA Active Supporter Award
1993 WPCA Chuckwagon Person Of The Year
1995 Fort Nelson Chuckwagon Champion
1996 Fort Nelson Chuckwagon Champion
2002 WPCA Clean Drive Award

Not a bad record for 42 years by any one's standards.

Here's my hat, Doctor Doyle. Here's my cheer when you leave the barrels and here's my thanks for being my favourite driver for all these years.

EDIT to add:  He celebrated his 50th year in Chuckwagons recently.  Please see the website for more information on Doc and other drivers as well as the current season.