All-around cowboy Jesse Bail found a perfect way to kick off 2005 a big win at the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo in Denver.
Bail rolled to the saddle bronc riding aggregate title, winning the second round and the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour round, en route to a check for $16,032.
"After last year and missing the (Wrangler National) Finals in bronc riding, it was great to start back in Denver and win something. It was awesome," Bail said.
Just a week later, though, Bail's promising season came to a jarring halt. He suffered a broken right leg when Guidry Rodeo's bull Western Hauler stepped on him during the second round of Bullnanza, part of the Xtreme Bulls, presented by Coors, at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., on Jan. 29. The blow snapped Bail's leg above the boot.
Despite the pain, Bail insisted that he be driven to Rapid City, S.D., closer to his home in nearby Camp Crook, to have the leg treated. So, Bail hopped in the truck with traveling partner Cody Buller, and headed north.
"It wasn't too bad," Bail said. "Every once in a while it hurt, when I got to jostling it around a little bit. The bones started rubbing together."
Bail underwent surgery on Jan. 31. During the procedure, surgeons inserted screws to stabilize Bail's leg. They performed an additional procedure on Feb. 2, before sending Bail home.
How long Bail will be out remains in question. Bail admitted he didn't know.
However, the optimism Bail had after his big win in Denver was still apparent, even the day after surgery.
"Sure, it's frustrating to have something like this happen," Bail said. "But heck, after winning in Denver, I still think I've got a shot at making the (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo). I hadn't won this much (in saddle bronc riding) until Deadwood (S.D.) last year (during the Fourth of July weekend)."
The way Bail sees it, he'll be recovered in a couple of months and still have plenty of time to earn his ticket to Las Vegas.
"It's just one of those things," Bail said. "My luck hasn't been so good for the last two or three years."
Some might argue with that.
Since turning pro in 2000, Bail has been one of ProRodeo's brightest stars. He qualified for the Wrangler NFR in saddle bronc riding from 2000-03 and in bull riding from 2000-04.
In that short time, Bail has surpassed $1 million earnings, winning more than $500,000 in both saddle bronc riding and bull riding. He also has competed in steer wrestling, winning the coveted Linderman award in 2000-01, which is presented to the top-earning cowboy who competes in three events with at least one event being a timed event and one event being a roughstock event.
In 2002, Bail came within $14,000 of winning the world all-around title.
Whatever his luck, Bail figured his fortunes were on the upswing after Denver. Now he realizes that he'll have to battle his way to Las Vegas just like always.
Bail and Western Hauler had met once previously, in Round 6 of the 2004 Wrangler NFR. Bail didn't post a score during that encounter, but at least he survived the ride intact.
The broken leg is the worst injury Bail has suffered as a pro. But he isn't complaining.
"It hurts a little," Bail said. "It's not too bad. I'll be all right."
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