Jack Daines


The Million-Dollar Voice

Alberta auctioneer and living legend Jack Daines captured spurring his winning bronc ride in the 1954 Novice Saddle Bronc at the Calgary Stampede
Photo courtesy of The Daines Family

“This is Jack Daines,” he rasped into the telephone, meaty elbows planted firmly on his desk, linebacker shoulders hunched.

His one good eye squints as he listens intently to the caller on the other end, slicing through questions from stock contractors, champion rodeo riders and sponsors. Each had his total attention. Each ended the call feeling that whatever their concern, it was dealt with. Wherever you are, charity event, auction ring or Innisfail’s big rodeo, Jack’s rasp-over-molasses voice is his signature and what you remember. This bear of a man is focused, precise and inspirational-and the most recognized voice in Alberta.

The Daines family came to Canada when his grandfather emigrated from England in 1911 to operate a blacksmith shop; his father Snowden was three at the time. Snowden and Ethel (nee Niblock) Daines married and had a mixed farming operation. They had seven strapping boys; Jim, Jack, Norman, Glen, Ivan, Franklin and Danny. Jack was born at the Innisfail hospital in 1936.

With so many friends, accolades and a lifetime of experience, what is his best advice?
“Be honest and a straight shooter. Don’t misrepresent. Even when you’re selling, don’t try and sell an old horse as a young horse. Sell it for full value, but don’t stick somebody ’cause there’s no good feeling in it.”

“I would be the girl,” Jack said with a straight face. “I had to do all the housework. I tell you what, I can still run a vacuum cleaner, I can wash dishes, make the beds, I can do just about anything, you name ‘er. And I did all the other work too.”

At a young age, Jack braided his own rope and hitchhiked to Olds to enter the boy’s steer riding. “I didn’t even know how to hold the rope,” he says. The cowboys showed him the grip and he won that day. He was hooked. He hitchhiked to Calgary and worked exercising chuck wagon horses – all to enter up in the steer riding.

Luke Ouelette, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake presenting Jack Daines with the commemorative plaque celebrating Innisfail Auction Mart’s 50th anniversary. Fittingly, the ceremony was staged in front of Snowden Daines’ photograph. Photo by danny gibson

In 1955, his father and three other partners started the Innisfail Auction Market. “The first sale had 35 head of cattle; today we market 80-100,000 cattle and some 4,000 horses a year. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary Aug 17, 2005,” Jack states. Soon Snowden bought out the other partners with his sons and they all worked at the auction. After five years, Jack was promoted to general manager, a position he holds to this day. “I know every part of this place,” he said with pride. “I’ve worked here for fifty years and there isn’t a job here I’m not pretty familiar with.”

The most influential figure in his life was, not surprisingly, his father. “When my dad started auctioneering he started getting some farm sales,” Jack reminisced. “I would sell the junk, they call it miscellaneous now, and you would really learn how to sell. I copied my dad’s style of auctioneering. As a boy, I travelled with him. He molded me, good or bad, work was first and there wasn’t a lot of play. You played with your way of life, like rodeoing,” Jack said.

Marty Ward – cattle buyer – Cremona, AB
“Jack is a cattleman and a cowboy and I don’t think there’s any other way to know him. That’s who he is and that’s what he preaches. He’s a very shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy. He’s the eternal optimist-the [U.S.] border was going to open from the day it closed-it’s just the way he is. He thinks nothing but good and prosperity and he’s a promoter. He’s a straight shooter, whatever he believes in he stands behind it, and you’re going to have a heck of a time ever changing his opinion. He takes such an interest in other people, but his family is definitely the most important thing in his life. From Duane to his grandchildren-they’re everything to him.”

Jack graduated to bronc riding and bull riding, winning the Canadian Novice Saddle Bronc title in 1956 and 1957. His natural gift of patter and phenomenal memory often landed him rodeo announcer jobs, while competing in the same rodeo. “Eventually my announcing career took over from my bronc riding career,” he said.

It was during this time that he met his future wife Audrey Severtson. Jack purchased her wedding ring with the money he won bull riding in Edmonton. “That’s why the stone is so small,” he chuckles.

They married Nov 16, 1957 and went to Disneyland for their honeymoon. “I borrowed my dad’s car,” Jack reminisced. “A mile south of Innisfail I turned to Audrey and said, “How much money did you bring?” he laughs. With a smile, Audrey interjects, “I knew right then bookkeeping was ahead of me.” After a career at the auction market, Audrey was the legal administrator for a law firm in Red Deer. (She is now retired and enjoying time with their children and grandchildren.)

Duane Daines – auctioneer, son – Innisfail, AB
“Well, he’s my dad so we work together everyday doing business, having fun. Dad’s a good friend of mine. I admire his drive-he’s not young but he thinks like he’s 20 years old. Sometimes we’ll get into a conversation, he’ll say black and I’ll say white just to keep it going. Some people think he might be tough to deal with, but I can hold my own.

When I was rodeoing, I’d call him up and say, “Get on a plane and get down here.” He’s been down to all the big rodeos [in the U.S.] But he’s easy to take care of. You don’t even see him. I’d been going to Fort Worth for over 10 years and we weren’t there half and hour and he was up there with all the Texas big wigs and directors behind the glass in a private box. He just fit right in with them. He’s easy to take and fun to travel with.”

Soon their family was growing; Duane is the oldest, followed by Brenda and Joanne.

“When Duane was born in 1958, I remember we got a dresser and on the back of it I wrote; “Champion Bronc Rider.” It’s still there. He won the novice in 1978 and then he went on to be the first Canadian to win Calgary for $50,000, the All Around Champion, the Saddle Bronc Champion, qualified nine times for the National Finals Rodeo, is in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame. Here’s this little baby born into a rodeo family. Poor little bugger, he didn’t have a chance to go any other route. Then you wonder when he gets hurt so bad. I know that he enjoyed it and if he had it to do all over he’d do it again.”

Honourable Ralph Klein – Premier of Alberta
“Jack is truly a living legend. He’s a man who has brought to life the values that have shaped Alberta and the Canadian West. I’m talking about values such as hard work, respect for all living things, and commitment to family and province. Jack’s many achievements over the years have helped keep the western tradition alive and strong. And he’s done it all with good humour, a sharp eye, and, above all, a love for the land that is uniquely Albertan.”

When asked if there was a day he could live over he was quick to answer, his hand subconsciously rubbing the side of his face. “One would be the day I knocked my eye out. I wouldn’t have roped that steer to treat his pinkeye. I would re-do that day.” He paused. “I would relive the day for Duane when that horse reared over in the chute at Armstrong and broke his back. Be kinda nice to stroke that day off. The day Darcy Daines was loading grain in a grain car. He slipped off, fell to the pavement and died. Those were three lows.”

Bill Nugent – horse trader – Water Valley, AB
“I’ve been going to his sales for thirty-some years, and he’s just a real promoter. He generates hype and keeps all hyped up himself. That’s just the way he is, a real promoter. He knows what’s going on, especially about rodeo. I get a kick out of him. Most rodeos have a rodeo committee, but Innisfail, there’s only one guy on the committee so there’s nobody to argue with him. He’s quite a guy. One thing about it; when you turn on the radio in the morning you know who you’re going to hear.”

He paused for a moment. “But you know, Duane’s so strong and a great auctioneer. I think this really builds you. I know with losing my eye it’s made me a better person than if I’d never lost it. You get setbacks with a few of these things and I think it’s character building.”

How about the best day of his life? “When you wake up in the morning and you’re 69 years old, the best day of my life is today. I also think the day your children are born. That’s you being born again and carrying on. Today and tomorrow will be better and we’ll just roll on.”

Jack Daines Life at a Glance
May 18, 1936 Born at Innisfail
1955 Innisfail Auction Market opens
1956-7 Canadian Novice Bronc Riding Champion
1957 Married Audrey Severtson
1958 Son Duane born
1959 Began auctioneering career
1960 Daughter Brenda-Lee born
1961 Began announcing rodeos while still competing
1961 Built the Daines Rodeo Ranch – home to the Innisfail Little Britches Rodeo (ran for 25 years), and the Innisfail Professional Rodeo
First Annual Bucking Horse Sale held
1963 Daughter Joanne born
1967 Became co-owner and GM of Innisfail Auction Market
1969 Calgary Stampede hired Jack to teach at their first Boy’s Steer Riding School
1978 Awarded the Jimmy Brown Memorial
Presented with a trophy by the Canadian Cutting Horse Association
1985 Announced CFR
1990 Committee Man of the Year by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association
1995 Son Duane paralyzed at Armstrong Rodeo
2000 Inducted into the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall
of Fame
2004 Distinguished Service Award- Auctioneers Association of Alberta
Credited with creating Mutton Bustin’, now a staple event at North American rodeos
Auctioned the highest selling bucking horse of all time for $52,000
Auctioneer for countless charities
Honourary Kinsman for his 4-H work in Central Alberta
Board of Directors-CPRA

With so many friends, accolades and a lifetime of experience, what is his best advice? “Be honest and a straight shooter. Don’t misrepresent. Even when you’re selling, don’t try and sell an old horse as a young horse. Sell it for full value, but don’t stick somebody ’cause there’s no good feeling in it,” he finished emphatically.

“Come out to the house, Audrey has some pictures,” he instructs, getting up from behind his clean desk and heading for the door. A few miles north east of town, we walk into their spacious home. As we pour over the cookies and family photographs on the kitchen table Audrey tries to sum up her husband of (so far) 49 years.

“Jack is spontaneous,” she begins. “Life has never been dull with him. He can make you mad, but then he’s funny so you forgive him. He isn’t any different here or anywhere else. What you see is what he is. He loves rodeo, what he does and his family. He is a character.”

A tour of their warmly decorated home reveals awards, plaques and bronzes adorning the walls and tables. “I guess my favourite award was winning the novice bronc riding of Canada in ’56,” Jack reveals. “At the Calgary Stampede they invited me over to the Copenhagen/ Skoal suite. Brian Manderville was going on about this guy who was going to get this award. We were listening and it went through my mind, “Gee, I’d kinda like to meet that guy,” and they announced, “Jack Daines would you come up and get this Rodeo Hall of Fame watch,” it took me back. He made me sound a hell of a lot better than I am.”

“It was a big thrill when my son went into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame-he’s also in the Rodeo Hall of Fame-and my brother Ivan is getting inducted this year. You can’t buy ’em, and when your peers vote you in,” he pauses. “Somewhere along the line somebody thought you deserved it. It means a lot.”

“Come here I want to show you this,” he says, leading the way downstairs. Here is the biggest clue to this self-made man’s outlook on life-a room built to house a Vegas-style craps table. “There’s never been a dime bet on this table, but I taught all my grandkids how to play for fun. I give them a ten thousand dollar chip and tell ’em to bet.” He walks me through a practice game and when the dice bounce back from the felt, they come up sevens.

“It’s a good lesson for everyone. All it takes is one bad roll and it’s gone.”