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Shoulder Tap

3/4/2005

David Quirin's first-place steer wrestling run of 5.6 seconds at the Georgia National Junior Livestock Show & Rodeo in Perry, Ga., was probably passed over by most of the rodeo world.

Not by Quirin, a 31-year old from Brandon, Miss., or those who know his ordeal over the past year.

The last thing Quirin remembers about March 17, 2004, is watching fellow steer wrestler Ronnie Fields compete in the first round of the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho.

Quirin followed Fields, and the events of that run changed his life forever.

He just doesn't remember. He's glad he doesn't.

Instead, he recalls the voices of steer wrestlers K.C. Jones (Las Animas, Colo.) and Darby Hunt (Jacksonville, Fla.). Except Quirin couldn't see his friends.

Then he passed out. The next day, he woke up. Jones and Hunt were still by his side in the intensive care unit at Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello.

Quirin doesn't remember his freak accident that resulted in 13 broken bones, a bruised kidney and a concussion that resulted in swelling on the brain. The list of broken bones by itself is amazing — a fractured right eye socket, right cheekbone, five ribs, two ankle bones, two fingers and two toes.

It all took just a matter of seconds.

"I've seen it on video about 1,000 times," Quirin said. "My steer ran underneath the front of my horse. Basically, my horse couldn't get out of the way. When the steer hit my horse, my body shifted to the left. The horse tripped and flipped over, and the impact of the horse landing on my leg crushed my ankle.

"The impact of running wide open, my face slapping the ground, that's what broke the rest."

Quirin was flown back to Mississippi for treatment. Meanwhile, Hunt and a circle of friends teamed to drive Quirin's rig nearly 2,000 miles from Pocatello.

"Thank goodness for good friends," Quirin said."

Before doctors could think about surgery, the swelling on his brain had to diminish. So three weeks later, Quirin's shattered ankle was repaired with a plate and 12 screws, three of which went through the joint. That was followed by more than two months of bed rest before starting aggressive physical therapy.

Quirin gradually regained strength and flexibility in the ankle while the other injuries healed on their own. First using crutches and then a walking cast, Quirin returned to his full-time job as a human resources and safety director at a truck refueling company.

When healthy, Quirin oversees human resources, department of transportation compliance, truck inspections, certifications and maintenance in an 11-state region covering the Gulf Coast. But for six months, his company allowed him to perform a sedentary job in the corporate office in Jackson, Miss.

"The entire time, I never missed a paycheck," Quirin said. "I couldn't go into the field to do any training for quite a while. Other guys did extra and were my eyes and ears out there. I have a lot of people to thank while I recovered."

It took 10 months for Quirin to fully recover. During that time, he certainly had his share of doubts on why he should return to rodeo and why he was the victim of such a freak accident.

"My wife would like to see me quit, and I questioned if I'd ever physically be able to make it back," Quirin said. "There was some concern that if the breaks in the ankle would heal enough for me to get back. Before I started back practicing, I got on a steer saver (a practice device) for an hour and had no pain. After that, I haven't had pain, although I get a little sore if I try to run too many steers in practice.

"At the time this happened, I was traveling a lot with rodeo. I was in a heated battle for the circuit championship, and I was going to every rodeo I could in the last two months of the circuit season. I was gone quite a bit. Maybe this (the accident) was a tap on the shoulder to slow down a little bit, to focus on my wife and my career. I don't regret the time off but I missed rodeo."

Quirin said he faced no mental demons as he prepared for the 2005 season. Maybe that's because he has no recollection of his ill-fated run in Pocatello.

"I thank God every day that I don't remember it," Quirin said. "I didn't have any mental blocks toward coming back. As far as being scared or intimidated, I had no problems whatsoever."

That's not to say his comeback wasn't without a hiccup or two.

"I thought it would be pretty easy coming back," Quirin said. "It was very difficult. It was almost as if I had never thrown a steer before. Once I got in a routine, things went OK. I've broken a few barriers, but I won a little money in Fort Worth (Texas), too. I guess I've been having it pretty good lately."

As for the year ahead, Quirin plans on taking the advice of his "tap on the shoulder." Sure, he'll go to a few rodeos close to home and shoot to compete in the Southeastern Circuit Finals Rodeo this fall. He just won't pursue the sport with the same tunnel-visioned approach.

"My goal this year is to just be as competitive as I can be," Quirin said. "If it brings me back to Pocatello, that's great. I've already missed a couple of months of the circuit season and will miss a few more because of work. If I don't make it back this year, then watch out for next year. I hope I'm back in full form by then."