Every sport has its share of characters and writer Don Fleming provided an entertaining element in his coverage of harness racing. It was said that he was such a great writer that he could even make curling seem interesting. So, when horse racing was added to his beats during the resurrection of Alberta harness racing in the late 1950s, the minefield of human interest stories that is horse racing proved to be a natural fit. For nearly 40 years Fleming covered the sport, much of it with the Edmonton Journal, before retiring in 1983. He added color and imagination to the sport. Quite simply, he loved the game and told racing’s story to an entirely new generation.
Nicknamed “Buckets”, Fleming gained that unlikely moniker in the late 1950s after a fire in the Georgia Hotel in Vancouver. The hotel had supposedly been cleared of all guests. A hotel official, who had personally called every room, was on his way out himself when he saw the switchboard light for room #1418 blink. “Say, could you send up a couple of buckets of ice?” asked Fleming when the astounded clerk answered. It was later learned that Fleming was involved in a serious card game and was not about to let a fire allow his “pigeon” getaway. Since taking his first job at the Nelson Daily News in 1938 for the grand wage of $5.94 a week, Fleming had more than his fair share of feuds with racing. It was therefore ironic that upon his retirement he assumed a post as track publicist with Edmonton Northlands. During the 1990s he served as the track’s archivist and contributed his daily articles and selections for the thoroughbred and standard programs. His selections were penned under his alter egos – Willie Ketchum, who played favorites, and Shudda Haddim (a longshot picker).
He was a partner (with Hall of Famer Ray Remmen) in the West’s first 2:00 minute pacer, Smoky Affair. But he was far more important as a writer than an owner.
Fleming was a regular contributor to The Canadian Sportsman and Daily Racing Form. He was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 2005 in the media category. Fleming died in Edmonton in August, 2006, at the age of 87.