I’ll Be Back
I knew something was broke before my feet hit the ground.
On July the eleventh of this year, me and Stetson Vest were in Wyoming for the first go-round of the first week at the Sheridan Rodeo. I was feeling good, coming off a pretty good roll. I had wrapped up the second best Cowboy Christmas of my career and had just left the Calgary Stampede, where I won first in two out of four rounds in Pool A. That gave me eleven thousand Canadian dollars and the chance to compete in the short round for a hundred grand.
It was the morning slack at Sheridan, and they were walking fresh calves. I got a great start. My calf took off and was gonna run a little. She took a half step to the left, and I reached and roped her. I probably needed to be one swing closer, but I was trying to be aggressive and win something.
I bobbled my slack once, but just for a split second before I got it back. In the meantime, the calf had straightened up, and my rope was running right down the middle of her back. Wherever that rope pulls tight around the calf’s neck is where the calf is gonna go. As it was, she was going to come straight over backwards, and I didn’t want to get flagged out. It used to be that we could just pull the calf up in the air, bail off and tie her. But the rules changed. And you can’t make a living if you don’t get a time.
So, I needed to change the angle of the eye of my rope, needed to roll it down her neck so she would turn sideways. I went to pushing down on the rope. I kind of got strung out, but, man, I do that all the time. Everybody has his own way of doing things. I’ve never been real comfortable pitching my slack up in the air. I’ve never done that to get a go. I’ve always put my rope where it needs to be, held on to it and let it pull me down there.
I pushed away from my horse while still pushing down on the rope. The rope was coming up tight, and I was pushing down on it. Right at that moment, the calf stepped to the right, increasing the force. There’s a lot of torque right there. You’ve got a calf running away from you as fast as she can and your horse stopping and going backwards as hard as he can. I’ve seen guys get jerked down holding their slack and break their arms. I’ve seen guys cut their fingers off.
I would have been fine if the rope had been pushing on my palm. But it rolled up to my fingers and snapped my hand backwards. My roping hand.
I knew something was broke before my feet hit the ground.
This Ain’t Good
When you’re dealing with animals and a rope that’s tied on hard and fast, accidents are going to happen. But in calf-roping you don’t usually see a ton of injuries.
I’ve been real fortunate in my career. I’ve dislocated my ankle and had some cartilage tears in my knees and arm. But it’s always been when I could afford to take a little time off and heal.
In Sheridan, my luck changed.
As soon as I hit the ground, I spit my piggin’ string out of my mouth, waved at the guys to come get my horse and walked towards the edge of the arena, my armed pinned at my side. It looked strange and was flopping a bit in my sleeve.
Will Rasmussen was the Sheridan announcer. I don’t know what he was doing in the arena during the slack, but he was first guy I saw.
“Cade, what do you need?” he said.
About that same time the flagman, Lynn Smith, loped across the arena. “Cade, what do you need?”
“Man, I broke my arm,” I told them.
I can’t remember what he said or who opened the gate, because I knew my arm was broke, and all I could think was, What the heck am I gonna do now?
I realized I should holler up to my wife, Sarah, and tell her I’m not dying or anything. She was already on her way and met me at the bleachers. I told her what happened, and we walked over to the Justin Sports Medicine trailer.
There’s hardly ever a Justin guy at the slack. It must have been a God thing, because when I knocked on the door, Shawn Ready answered. For whatever reason, Shawn was in the trailer.
“Shawn,” I said. “Let’s get this shirt unsnapped before this sucker goes to really hurting.”
“Okay, let’s do that,” Shawn said. “You’re going to see it, and it might be ugly. You gonna be okay?”
“I feel it,” I said. “Trust me, I’m going to be fine.”
“It looks dislocated to me,” I said. Shawn thought so, too. I told him to go ahead and put it back where it needed to be. He grabbed my hand and pulled, but I could feel the bone moving in there and knew it was broke. I guess that had been wishful thinking.
Shawn put a splint on my arm. The ambulance driver said he was ready to transport me to the hospital. It was only a few blocks away. I would have rather walked than ride in an ambulance. By that time, Stetson had unhitched the truck and picked us up.
I can’t say enough good things about Shawn, the whole Justin Sports Medicine team and the people at the Sheridan Hospital. They really took care of me. I’ll never forget how the lady at the hospital was worried about cutting my shirt.
“Ma’am, I know the people who make them,” I told her. “I promise you they’re more than happy to make me another one. Cut that dadgum thing off!”
When I straightened my arm to get that shirt off—wow!—that was the worst pain I felt all day long.
They took X-rays. The orthopedist who read the X-rays said I needed surgery right away. Both of my forearm bones—the radius and ulna—were broken at the wrist.
Funny story: We got out that morning at six o’clock to tie calves. The folks at the rodeo were nice enough to serve us a complimentary breakfast. Well, I didn’t want any that morning. I just wanted a cup of coffee. I was drinking my coffee, visiting. Our buddy Clint Robinson was there, just chilling. Stetson was on me about eating. I needed the energy. Man, you need to eat that breakfast. He was looking out for me. He finally talked me into eating. Because I had food in my system, I had to wait nearly four more hours for the surgery.
I’ll never forget sitting in Sheridan, holding my arm and thinking, It’s July the eleventh. This ain’t good. There’s never a good time to get hurt, but as for me you couldn’t have drawn up a worse time. I’d been playing catch-up since winter, but I was on a roll. There was no doubt in my mind that the end result was going to be what I wanted at the end of the year. I’ve got a baby on the way. I was hoping I’d have the National Finals made by August 15.
Sitting there in Sheridan, I knew I wasn’t going to be running calves in Vegas in December.
You Just Gotta Know
After they did surgery, I was in the spirit world pretty good. When I came to, the surgeon said he had to put two pins in my radius, the big bone on the thumb side. The ulna, the small bone on the pinkie side, was shattered, and couldn’t be pinned, so he had to stitch it back together.
Two weeks later, and everything’s still up in the air. I’m just praying that the bones are starting to heal right. They said the pins might come out in four to six weeks. I can promise you one thing: When these pins come out, I’ll be the first guy in rehab every day.
As for rehab, I have bone spurs on both of my hips. My left hip hurts all the time. Even before my arm is healed, I’m going to use this time to get my body in better condition—hopefully in better condition than it’s been in for years.
Everything I’ve heard about my arm is, It’s going to be stiff. It’ll be weak. You’re not going to have the same range of motion. They say there’s gonna be a lot of pain involved in rehabbing it. I don’t mind a bit of pain to get better. If it comes down to how tough you are, I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay. I’d rather something like this happen to me than some of the other guys, because I’m just hard-headed enough to get by.
One guy told me I’ll be out for eight to twelve weeks. Another guy said it might take a year to get back to where I was. One thing’s for sure: I’m gonna be as good as I was when I got hurt, or I won’t do it no more. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I finally got it where I want it. I gotta be that good again. The fear comes from not knowing when or how long or if.
I figure you approach a setback like this the way you do rodeoing. You wake up and thank the good Lord things aren’t any worse than they are. He’s got a plan, and we’re going to stick it out. You can’t let Satan get on you. You can’t wonder if you’re ever going to do it again. You just gotta know.
As for getting by, I have some cows with calves on them and some old roping calves. I’ll sell some cattle in the fall, just like I planned on doing long before I broke my arm off. I also have good assets in horses. If I have to sell some horses, I’ll sell them.
I talked to Marcos Costa the other day. He’s had knee problems for years and is currently out for 2018 after surgery. He called to check on me. He said, “There’s gonna be good days and bad days. You’re just going to have to deal with the bad days.”
I try not to get emotional about it. It’s going to be fine. One way or another, things will be fine. I’m not done yet. I don’t think I’ve hit my full potential. I’ll be back.