Injuries and setbacks plague most cowboys on the rodeo circuit, and even the world-class athletes sitting atop the sport are susceptible to it.
For Mullen legend Steven Dent, Friday’s Buffalo Bill Rodeo marked just his second time in a bareback competition in over four months following a setback at The American Rodeo in Dallas.
"I haven’t been riding much since I broke my shoulder at the American on the first of March," Dent admitted. "This was my second time competing since then, but it sure feels good to finally be back on."
And last year’s bareback Wrangler NFR co-champion and current No. 19 world-ranked rider appeared in top form on Friday, mounting Western Ways and scoring 81 points in front of a home crowd at Wild West Arena.
"It’s always nice to be able to ride close to home," Dent said. "We travel so much that we don’t get to get this close other than this or Burwell. A lot of people here really support my career, so it’s always nice to hear the crowd cheering you on."
His performance moved him into fourth place through three days of competition, but it wouldn’t be his only event of the night. Known to double dip between bareback and saddle bronc riding, Dent settled back in the chute to take Nutrena’s Bombshell out for a spin.
"That’s a good little horse," Dent said. "I kind of held my feet a little bit too long and it cost me."
Dent added 79 points to his night in the saddle bronc event, which moved him into fourth place before being topped by a few other riders that included South Dakota’s Shorty Garrett, who skyrocketed to the top of the leaderboards after taking Nutrena’s Little Angel for 87 points — his personal best at Buffalo Bill Rodeo.
"I was a little worried about that horse, and I wasn’t sure how long it’ll take or if it’ll hurt any out there," Garrett said. "So it sure felt good that she did her job and it worked out. I’ve been here the past four years but this is definitely my best score so far. Let’s hope I keep climbing."
But whether it’s Dent’s herculean return from shoulder injury or Garrett’s control over Little Angel, showcasing toughness doesn’t just happen among those taming a bucking horse or bull at a rodeo.
Towering over most of the steer wrestling pool on Friday, the 6-foot-7 Denell Henderson of Damascus, Arkansas, looked past torn ligaments in his left hand and tied for first place after finishing his ride in 4.2 seconds.
"The steer set up on me and that inside orange folded my fingers back on Monday at a Jackpot in Sutherland," Henderson said. "I thought it was broken, went and got an X-ray and it wasn’t. It still hurts to touch anything with it, but I just have to bare down and fight through it."
Henderson, a former Oral Roberts University basketball player, picked up steer wrestling from his father, and the rest — as he said — is history.
"My parents did rodeo, and my dad steer wrestled, so one day he asked me to try it and I fell in love with it," Henderson said. "I’ve been doing it for 12 years now."
Henderson added that the plan following Buffalo Bill Rodeo will take him back home to heal his hand before returning to the rodeo circuit.
"We’ll go home for a couple of days, so hopefully I can do something about it before we get back on the road," Henderson said. "We’ve been going all winter, but now we’re really getting into the thick of things."
Much will be the case for Dent, who won’t compete again until Reno on June 27.
Results, third Performance
1. Mason Clements, Draper, Utah 82 points on Nutrena’s Little Jet; 2. (tie) Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb. and Blaine Kaufman, Pretty Prairie, Kan. 81 each; 4. Cauy Pool, Bonanza, Ore. 78.5.
2nd go round
1. (tie) Denell Henderson, Damascus, Ark. and Tanner Brunner, Ramona, Kan. 4.2 seconds each; 3. Jon Herl, Goodland, Kan. 4.5; 4. Sam Powers, Sonora, Texas 4.6.
Tie Down Roping
2nd go round
1. Blake Chauvin, Raceland, La. 7.8 seconds; 2. Todd Brown, Lamar, Colo. 9.3; 3. Morgan Murray, Colorado Springs, Colo. 13.0; 4. L.D. Meier, Limon, Colo. 23.5.
Saddle bronc riding
1. Shorty Garrett, Eagle Butte, S.D. 87 points on Nutrena’s Little Angel; 2. Brody Cress, Hillsdale, Wyo.81; 3. Cody Martin, Eagle, Colo. 80.5; 4. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb. 79.
1. Bubba Buckaloo, Kingston, Okla./Shay Dixon Carroll, La Junta, Colo. 5.3 seconds; 2. Jay Tittel, Pueblo, Colo./Richard Durham, Henrietta, Texas 6.1; 3. Denton Taylor, Craig, Colo./Dusty Taylor, Craig, Colo. 6.6; 4. Travis Bounds, Clifton, Colo./T.J. Watts, Eads, Colo. 6.7.
1. Shali Lord, Lamar, Colo. 17.44; 2. Deb Cox, Mullen, 18.06; 3. Gayle White, Dickens, Neb. 18.12; 4. Jeanne Anderson, White City, Kan. 18.59.
No qualified rides.