Well, maybe that’s a little overstated…Ok it’s way overstated. But it was kinda devastating for me in it’s own little way. It was 34 years ago today at about four o’clock in the afternoon in Sydney, Iowa. For those unfamiliar with professional rodeo Sydney, Iowa is a great rodeo. It’s one that all the cowboys like and about everybody on the trail tries to get to Sydney if at all possible. It’s a small farming town but several thousand spectators come from miles around to see the great rodeo there. The local, between performances, hotspot was Russ’s. A little, nothing special of a bar except during the rodeo you can get all the homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers and corn that you can possibly eat….and of course the beer was cold.
This was going to be my last year of rodeo. I had decided that before the season ever started. Clint was three years old and there were several times during the season that I’d leave the ranch knowing that I wasn’t going to see Julie and him for 3 or 4 weeks. I could hardly take that. When I’d be leaving on one of those month long trips there’d be all kinds of bawlin’ and squawlin’……and every now and then they’d cry too!
I was having a good year despite not drawing great for several stretches. It had been a dream since I was a kid to go to the National Finals Rodeo. (For the non-rodeo people….it’s like the World Series of rodeo) The previous two years I had been on track to make the NFR only to be derailed by injuries that kept me out of competition, once for a month and another for nearly two months. But this year was going to be different. I was drawing good and riding good and was about to be on a good roll. In the most recent PRCA Press Release I was ranked 10th in the world; I’d just won the bull riding at Yuma, Colorado the day before. I had a decent bull at Sydney that day and then I had about 5 or 6 good ones in a row. It’s a time of the season that you can compete at two rodeos a day for nearly a month. So everything was shaping up for me to make my move…and who knows maybe end up among the top 5 in the world…and pretty much a guarantee to make the NFR.
My bull that day wasn’t one of the best ones but one that I might be able to place on. He was definitely one that I should ride considering the confidence that I was riding with at the time. Well, anyone that knows rodeo knows that ‘what ought to happen’…..rarely does! Lots of variables to deal with, to say the least. The bull bucked me off extremely awkward and I landed hard on my left shoulder, dislocating it. Game over! Season over! Career over! (I laid off for a month and entered a couple of rodeos but the shoulder was far from being stable enough for me to be competitive) Interestingly enough, exactly 5 years before…on August 12, at the same rodeo a bull had hit me in the right shoulder, tore the main ligament, requiring surgery and ending my season.
It sounds strange and probably doesn’t make sense to most but I had a tremendous sense of relief as I boarded my plane in Omaha the next day. An unfulfilled dream was hard to reconcile but the reality of knowing that I was going home to Julie and Clint, for good, sure did feel good. It has bothered me some down through the years that I didn’t make the NFR. It does feel good to have the respect of the guys I rode with and against….but I never regretted coming home to be a Husband and a Dad!