Feb 25, 2022
Lane Frost Award
By Susan Kanode
If bullfighter Dusty Tuckness doesn’t walk out of the arena, something is really wrong. That happened during the ninth round of the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Dusty had gone in, just like he has thousands of times before, to help a bull rider get away safely. The bull rider was Braden Richardson who had just ridden Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetic’s bull named Bouchon for 89-points.
That ride was good for the win for Braden who was riding with broken ribs. He came off close to the bull, Dusty went in for the save just like always. The bull’s front leg came down on Dusty’s calf which resulted in a compound fracture of his lower leg.
When Dusty didn’t jump back up everyone knew that something was definitely wrong. Fellow bullfighters Nathan Harp and Cody Webster knew it too. Arena and Justin Sportsmedicine personnel were immediately on hand. They took him out of the arena on a backboard to immobilize the leg. He was transported to a hospital where they did surgery that night. The next night, he was back at the Thomas & Mack Arena as a spectator.
It was Dusty’s 130th performance at the NFR, and his first from the sidelines. He has been selected by the bull riders 13 times for rodeo’s championships. He has also won the bullfighter of the year award ten times. He has changed the world of protection bullfighting with his incredible sense of timing, athleticism, and ability to read large farm animals. He has changed it outside of the arena with his faith, dedication, and love of the game.
It is for those reasons that Dusty was the 32nd recipient of the Lane Frost Award, presented during the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo in front of the bucking chutes that he is so very familiar with. The native of Meeteetse, Wyoming, now lives in Oklahoma and made the trip down to see friends and check in with the Sportsmedicine Team.
After two surgeries on his leg, he has basically been home, a hard pill to swallow when he should have been at rodeos in Odessa, then Fort Worth. Dusty had thought about making the trip to Dickies Arena for a visit. A phone call from Tom Feller, director of event marketing for Justin Boots asking him to come confirmed his plans. Tom then asked him if he would be willing to help with an awards presentation to Brad Barnes, president and general manager.
Mr. Barnes was the one that hired Dusty to work at Fort Worth 13 years ago, so of course Dusty agreed and never thought anymore about it. He got to Dickies Arena, visited with friends, then they told him it was time. He put his feet on dirt for the first time since the NFR when he “crutched” himself into the arena.
There were several dignitaries in the arena, and Dusty was tempted to just crutch back out. Announcer Bob Tallman started talking about Lane. Dusty was listening, but still didn’t know what was going on. For the past 31 years, the Multiple Sclerosis Society has had an award that honors Lane. Until Dusty was in the arena, looked up at the big screen and saw his picture there, did he realize that he was the recipient of the prestigious award.
“I’ve seen other people get that award,” Dusty said. “I’ve known Lane’s parents and the true part of Lane from Elsie and Clyde. What he brought to the arena and was outside of the arena, those qualities, to be honored for that is really humbling.”
The presentation was made even more special when Dusty looked behind him and saw the barrelman and his bullfighting brothers standing behind him. It was the first time in 10 weeks that his feet had been on the dirt and he had been eye-level with a bull. He has been doing therapy and following doctor’s orders and just got cleared to put some weight on his leg.
“That lit a fire in me,” he said. “When I got home and looked at people on the list, it was filled with people that I’ve looked up to my whole career. It was a great moment and was pretty emotional. It was cool for it to happen at Fort Worth too. That’s one of my favorite rodeos just because it tests you. There are so many performances and no days off. For anyone to work at a rodeo like that in any capacity shows how much they love their jobs.”
There is no doubt how much Dusty loves his job and he is committed to coming back better than ever. Not only has he been doing therapy, he has also been working on his mental game. A man of faith, he starts each morning with a devotional, and since the wreck he has been journaling as well adding daily positive messages.
“It adds fuel to the fire. Being able to write stuff down, then go back and look at it and find something positive really helps,” he said. “It’s a way to challenge yourself. It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay there.”
This is Dusty’s first major injury that has kept him away from fighting bulls for more than just a couple of days. Others have been above the hips, so he still could move around a bull. This one has taken a toll, but again, he’s looking for the positive.
“If I can take my experiences and use them to motivate and inspire others to overcome difficulties, it’s worth it,” he added. “God’s going to work through this season in my life. My 2022 was going to be my best year so far before I broke my leg. It will be different now, but it’s still going to be the best.”
When Dusty didn’t bounce back up in the Thomas & Mack Center, Carla Harrison, wife of barrelman John Harrison, stood up in her seat and started praying. The family stayed in Las Vegas after the NFR to make sure Dusty had everything he needed. Michael Gaughan and Ryan Growney of the South Point Hotel and Casino also came to their aid in Las Vegas.
Nikki and Maury Tate of Mo Betta Rodeo Company took care of Dusty when he got home and have been a phone call away or by his side through every step of the journey. His sponsors, the state of Wyoming, Wyoming Downs racetrack, Cinch, Justin Boots, Montana Silversmiths, Renewal by Anderson, American Hats and Bar S Bar Cattle Company have stuck by him.
“The outpouring of love, texts, calls and even mail has been overwhelming,” Dusty said. “It’s all more motivation, inspiration and fuels the fire to come back better and stronger.”
When Dusty returns to the arena remains to be seen, but he is determined to make good on his promise. And that is just part of what makes him the G.O.A.T!