By Ewa Chwojko-Srawley
Doug Doner is a true rodeo legend who left a lasting mark on the sport.
Now into his tenth decade, he still walks the streets of Georgina wearing his trusty cowboy hat with a wide brim to keep the sun out of his eyes, and a sturdy crown that’s perfect for tipping to the ladies.
Bandana, jeans jacket, and a pair of boots complete the unmistakable rodeo flair that lets everyone know he is a cowboy through and through.
Doug Doner was born in August 1932 on a farm in Newmarket, close to the intersection of Yonge and Davis, and later moved to Pefferlaw with his parents.
“I was put on a horse probably before I could walk.” – he recalls. At twelve he won a competition against adults; at fourteen he was awarded a silver plate for 1st place in a jumping competition in Aurora; and after that he just kept winning.
“My father promised that he would match the amount of the award if I won 1st place. My first big prize in early 1950s was $350. That is the equivalent of $4000 today. My father never made a promise like that again.”
Doug Doner was already a seasoned competitor when the Ontario Rodeo Association was established in 1957. He was one of the founders, with member card #8. A year later he won the Rodeo Championship in Georgina.
Numerous trophies from Canadian and USA competitions grace the shelves in his apartment. The latest is for a team event he won when he was seventy.
“I had already long retired from competition but could not let my youngest boy down. When he needed a partner, I joined him,” he recalls. The father and son team emerged victorious, of course.
And if that wasn’t impressive enough, Doug Doner has also been known to crash restaurants on his horse, much to the shock and amazement of the patrons.
“One Friday night I rode a horse up to the bar at the Belvedere Cookhouse in Pefferlaw. The restaurant was packed, not one chair empty. I said to Larry, the bartender, ‘you give me a double shot of whisky and I’ll get the hell out of here.’”
Apparently, it wasn’t the first time he pulled that stunt. He recalls riding his steed past security through the doors of the Royal York hotel and on to the shiny marble floors. He was a teenager at the time.
His wife, Shirley was also a rider, and a rodeo enthusiast. Together, they raised five sons, all many-time-champion bronc riders.
Today, Doug Doner is a cowboy without a horse, but he is still holding on to his trusty cowboy hat. In fact, he is convinced it’s the secret to his longevity.
“It’s like a magic hat,” he says with a grin. “Keeps me young!”
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