A Big Comeback

SUBMITTED BY DWAYNE ERICKSON

It was, hands down, professional rodeo’s wreck of the year last summer. The fact Chet Johnson survived the carnage is nothing short of astonishing. But, in the face of it all, the Wyoming cowboy continues to chase glory riding bucking horses in what has to be a tribute to his determination and his love of the profession.

Clearly, he hasn’t lost a step. This past weekend, Johnson won Rod Hay’s CPRA-approved $17,500 bronc bustin’ at Wildwood, then skipped over to Hand Hills and cashed third in the tradition-driven Stampede, held annually since 1917. In all, the 30-year-old bronc rider earned $5,031 and moved up to third in the Canadian standings with total income of $6,974.

Nevada’s Brad Rudolph tops the chart at $7,373 and Rylan Geiger, from Duchess, is second with $7,311 after also placing at Wildwood ($2,320) and winning Hand Hills ($1,022) with an 81.5 spur ride aboard Calgary’s Navajo Warrior.

Johnson’s journey to Wildwood marked the second time he’s won Hay’s event. He also topped the 20-man showdown in 2009, then doubled up by capturing first at Hand Hills and going on to add the Canadian championship to his resume.

But, Google his name on the internet and right there, on the top of the page, is the story and 58-second video of his epic wreck. It took place at the late July rodeo in Salt Lake City, where a horse kicked him in the back of his head as he tried to scramble to safety after being thrown out the front window. The blow resulted in a badly fractured skull, bleeding of a swollen brain, and a punctured ear drum. Johnson didn’t return to action until late January of this year.

Watch video here.

“I did exactly what the doctors told me and took about six months off,” he said. “I also healed up some other things that were bothering me — knee, foot, ankle — pretty much all leg-related stuff. I gave it time, it worked out for me and I’m feeling really good now.”

He scored 86.5 points on stock contractor Shane Franklin’s highly-regarded sorrel mare Scotch With A Twist, to win the four-man championship round at Wildwood.

“That horse one-jumped me in the fourth round of the 2008 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and I was a little nervous about getting on her,” Johnson recalled. “But, she was pretty fun. She ducked to the right one jump out, but not as hard as she did at Las Vegas, and I was ready for it this time. After that, it was straight down the pen bucking and kicking.

“I think she liked the mud because she was really good on the stuff.”

It was extremely cold and wet for the opening night qualifying round and the cowboys woke up the next morning to find three inches of snow had blanketed the area. But, the closing performance was played under sunny skies.

Johnson covered Calgary’s red roan gelding Redon Acres for 78.5 points at Hand Hills.

“There was a line of mud about 10 feet out in front of the chutes and he about stumbled a couple of times,” said Johnson. “But, once he got through that he was great. It just took him awhile to get going.

“At least I got a piece of the purse and that’s better than nothing.” Johnson plans to maintain his schedule up here and try to make the Canadian Finals Rodeo again.

“I’ll miss Brooks and Rocky Mountain House this coming weekend because I have to work a $25,000 invitational charity deal in Wyoming that is produced by (movie actor) Wilford Brimley, but I’ll get to Lea Park and all the rest this spring and early summer,” he  said.

Meanwhile, at Hand Hills, reigning rookie of the year Ty Pozzobon continued his relentless climb into the top 10 of the bull riding by cashing second with an 83.5 score on Calgary’s Edgar for $912. But, Tyler Pankewitz beat him out for first with an exceptional 87 point trip on Calgary’s Canadian champion black Speed Dial, worth $1,076.

In the timed events, two-time Canadian champion Cody Cassidy picked up his first win of the year with a 4.5-second run in the steer wrestling, though he had to share it with Wainwright’s Ty Miller. They each earned $1,319.

Cassidy’s older brother Curtis split sixth with a time of 5.4 seconds for $399 and captured first in the calf roping with an 8.4-second run that paid $1,280.

Curtis extended his bulldogging earnings to an event best $6,416 and is second with $4,880 in the roping rankings, where 2003 Canadian champion Steve Lloyd is well out in front with $7,941. He was second at Hand Hills with a time of 8.7 for $1,066.

Upcoming rodeos this weekend include the two-performance stop at Brooks, starting Friday, and three-performance shows at Marwayne and Rocky Mountain House, also beginning the same day at 6 p.m.

Please visit www.rodeocanada.com for rodeo results and standings.

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