By Kendra Santos
The $360,000 Cowtown Christmas is Beaumont, Texas bulldogger Daryl Elliott’s National Finals Rodeo. The last major of the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s 2022 season will come to a climactic close tonight here at Cowtown Coliseum in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards with both the Showdown and Triple Crown of Rodeo rounds. California bareback rider RC Landingham will ride to make $1 million history. Elliott will wrestle for his big brother and brand new guardian angel, Chico.
“Chico was leaving an NFR watch party (after Round 2) late the night of December 2,” said Daryl of his big brother Gregory Jackson, who to family and friends was Chico. “It was so foggy that night that you couldn’t see five feet in front of you.
“Chico got to a stop sign, and it was so foggy he missed his turn. When he tried to turn the corner, his tires hit the wet grass and started sliding. He ended up upside down in the bottom of a big ditch.”
All five airbags deployed to try and save Chico. But tragically, they locked him inside his overturned vehicle that filled with water. Chico drowned. Daryl was with the policeman who discovered his body.
“That was the worst moment in my 39 years of living,” he said. “When they first found the car, they didn’t think anyone was in it. But Chico ended up in the back seat. He wasn’t banged up or anything. He just couldn’t get out.
“I just lost it. This one hit home. This is a big dagger to my whole family.”
Daryl’s wife, Traci; their kids, Jaci, Trinity and Jay; and granddaughter, Kinsley, are his life. But when you saw him point straight up to the stars above after that 4.92-second run that advanced Elliott to tonight’s Showdown Round—that was for Chico.
“The support I’ve had from everybody at home has been unreal,” Daryl said. “I’ve been busy working on my brother’s funeral, but my friends kept my horse (Stella) in shape for me, and gave me a rig to get me here. I had no idea this many people were rooting for me.”
NFR steer wrestler and hazer Matt Reeves lent Elliott a hand over on the hazing side, and went 1-2-3 in the assists department last night lining them out for Daryl, Sam Powers and Josh Hefner.
This is Elliott’s second brush with the WCRA. He competed at Rodeo Corpus Christi earlier this year, but didn’t make it out of the preliminary round.
“The WCRA did not make sense to me until I met this perfect angel who took the time to explain it to me,” Daryl said. “(Virtual Rodeo Qualifier Coordinator) Whitney Lloyd works for the WCRA, and she called and told me all about it. She asked me, ‘How could you not bet on yourself?’ She keeps me updated on everything with the WCRA now, and pulls for me. I can’t chase every rodeo, but I can nominate the ones I already go to.
“This is my NFR. The WCRA gives me something to look forward to, and the support this organization gives its athletes is just unreal. I’ve never had a sponsor, but I feel so good about rodeoing for myself now. The biggest thing for me is making the people of my city of Beaumont proud.”
That he does, and Daryl’s circuits of choice include the Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association, Louisiana Rodeo Cowboys Association, United Professional Rodeo Association, South Texas Associated Rodeos and the Anahuac Salt Grass Cowboys Association, where it all started for Elliott in the first place.
“Bulldogging was everything in the world to me until I started this new job a couple months ago,” Daryl said. “Rodeo got me through college, and got me this job, where I work with another rodeo buddy. I repair dental chairs and all dental equipment. It’s in me now, and I love my job. I’m good with my hands, and I love fixing things.
“I worked for the railroad for 18 years, and when COVID hit, I got laid off. I was just a number. This job gave me a family. They call and check on me. It’s unreal. It’s similar to rodeo like that. Great things have been happening in my life here lately, and I’m loving it.”
If only Chico was here with him, like he usually is.
“That hat toss last night was for him,” Daryl said. “Chico roped calves, and he threw his hat every time, whether he caught or missed. So that hat toss was all him. Everybody at home knew exactly what it meant. I’m here for Chico.”
Elliott’s brand new guardian angel will be in the house again tonight.
“Chico was my biggest fan,” Daryl said. “He’s normally with me at the rodeos, and I keep looking for him and waiting on his phone calls. His funeral’s Monday. Meanwhile, he’s right here in my heart and with me in spirit.”