Tuckness leans on his faith

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Cinch bullfighter Dusty Tuckness, a 10-time PRCA Bullfighter of the Year, slips between a bull and the barrel during the 2021 National Finals Rodeo. He suffered a serious leg injury a few nights later during the ninth round and just returned to action in June.

Bad break during NFR slows bullfighter but doesn’t derail his dreams

Dusty Tuckness didn’t have to look down to know something dire had just happened.

It was the ninth night of the 10-round National Finals Rodeo, and the Cinch bullfighter had just helped bull rider Braden Richardson escape harm after making an 89-point ride on Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics’ Bouchon. As Richardson scrambled to his feet, Bouchon took one step toward the bull rider and Tuckness.

The bull’s hoof landed on Tuckness’ left shin, breaking both the bullfighter’s fibula and tibia.

“Instantly I knew it was something pretty bad,” said Tuckness, who has worked 13 straight NFRs and is a 10-time PRCA Bullfighter of the Year. “I didn’t have to look down for any clarification, but when I looked down, it was noticeable to any eye what had happened.

“At that moment, I instantly started praying and trying to have peace about it.”

The damage was done, and the prayers continued. Tuckness knew his NFR, and a good portion of the 2022 season, was done.

“The biggest thing about it wasn’t the physical pain,” he said. “The physical pain was definitely there; it definitely hurt. The heartfelt pain is what hurt the most. So many times, I could tough out and fight through the injury and finish my job, but I knew this was something I physically couldn’t do, and they weren’t going to let me.

“That was the thing that probably stung the most, knowing I couldn’t finish out that round and the next round. But you’ve got to take the good days with the bad days and build from them.”

The injury was bad enough that doctors initially wanted to do surgery that night, but traumas at the Las Vegas hospital delayed the repair work until the next morning, Dec. 11. After the operation and with pain medicine coursing through his veins, Tuckness returned to the Thomas & Mack Center to honor all that had earned the right to be at ProRodeo’s grand championship.

“It was good to see those guys,” said Tuckness, 36, of Meeteetse, Wyoming, now living near Purcell, Oklahoma. “There were a lot of emotions to be there that night.

“Even laying in the hospital (Friday) night, I believed God was going to heal me, and I’d be back there the next night and go back to work. That didn’t happen, so there were some crazy emotions in a crazy situation.”

It was just the first of many emotional days. It’s the nature of his injury, but a few weeks after his first surgery, Tuckness noticed something hinky with his leg. There was movement where there shouldn’t have been. That was disappointing, because he was ready to get back to work and shock the rodeo world by returning to the arena sooner than anyone had ever expected.

Upon seeing doctors closer to where he lives in Oklahoma, it was determined that a second surgery was imperative if he were to heal properly. That delayed the process a bit more, and doubt started to set in.

“I felt like I was almost three weeks into my recovery, so that information stung,” he said. “For probably three or four hours, I was pretty down.”

Then he remembered something he’d learned from one of his mentors, the late Rex Dunn.

“He would always say, ‘Life’s problems and issues are like a flat tire; you can get out and throw dirt and kick it, or you can change it and move on,’ ” Tuckness said. “As soon as that crossed my mind, I knew that was exactly right.”

A bigger rod was put in place with more screws. The surgeon, Dr. Sean Bryan in Oklahoma City, also realigned the bones to make sure the healing process would improve.

“The next day, I noticed how much more stable it was,” Tuckness said. “Those that know me know I’m pretty dedicated to my fitness and my nutrition. Instantly I knew and believed it was a better choice. God’s got a plan through this, and I’m going to trust in it and believe in it, and I’m not going to let my faith falter.”

The work was intense, but that’s just the way Tuckness would have it. A man doesn’t become the best at his profession without a tremendous work ethic, and his is better than most. With the help of physical therapist Kevin Taylor in Oklahoma City, Tuckness was taking all the right steps.

“I looked at it as a step process of 10,000 steps,” he said. “The steps I don’t take today I’m going to have to take in the future. If I could maximize every minute, watch what I eat, watch what I allow my mind to consume and put in the work, I could not only come back quicker than anybody thought, but I could come back physically stronger than before.”

That’s what he did. When he wasn’t allowed to put weight on his left leg, he did everything else he could to build his mind and his body. He knew there would be some steps backward in his recovery, so focused his attention on the positives.

“Sometimes it felt pointless, but I kept telling myself there’s a reason they’re giving me this, and it’s going to benefit me when I’m off my crutches or out of my boot and when I’m running and jumping,” he said. “There were some long, hard days, but I would try to reverse the thinking on it. The time I was putting in was going to allow me to come back and be mentally and physically strong and be able to handle it.”

Always faithful, Tuckness took the words from James 1:2, which he translated in a way to help him through each level of the rehabilitation: “Consider it pure joy when you go through trials and tribulations, because the testing of your endurance will improve your faith.”

“This is part of the challenge,” he said. “Jesus told his disciples that He would see them on the other side of the river. He didn’t say there wouldn’t be any storms or bad waves or anything like that, but he did tell them that that He would see them through it.

“I knew God was going to walk through it with me and be there every step of the way.”

Each led to his return to action at the Reno (Nevada) Rodeo, which took place June 16-25. He took advantage of his relationship with Maury and Nicky Tate and worked on a few things prior to arriving in Reno at the Cody (Wyoming) Night Rodeo, then was put through his paces during the Reno Xtreme Bulls to open things in western Nevada.

His faith has continued to drive him. He’s worked dozens of performances since his return two months ago and has maintained a stern focus; from what he needed to do to get back to work to returning to elite form.

“Ultimately it’s just a reflection of God and Him working through me,” Tuckness said. “If me going through something like this can help someone or inspire them get through something and make their life better, it was worth it.”


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