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Tuff Hedeman and Bodacious

We all know Bodacious was one bad bucker. He was rank, treacherous, dangerous and potentially deadly. No one got a closer look at the back of the great yellow whale's head - which in the end was his lethal weapon - than Tuff Hedeman. What Hedeman and Bodacious did together was nothing less than historic, and in a sense they were partners. Bodacious had a hoof in the best ride of Hedeman's career. Another of Hedeman's most memorable rides was made on Bodacious, only the ending was more of a nightmare than a dream. That train wreck dealt Hedeman an appearance-altering crushed face. It was a miracle he walked away, but then they don't call him Tuff for nothing. When Hedeman drew Bodacious again that year, he nearly died a different kind of death. Turning out a bull at the National Finals Rodeo - in the heat of a world championship race - was pure torture for the King of the Bull Riders. Luckily, Hedeman lived to tell about it all. Here's his side of their story... I drew Bodacious five times in his career, and he was responsible for the very best and one of the very worst rides of my career. Gary M. Jensen photos The first time I had him was at a bull riding in Memphis. He was unbelievable. When he left the chute his front end came up so high. I was right in the middle of him, and riding him like you have to ride a bull with a lot of downdraft. But my chest was touching his horns, and my head was right over the top of his. I couldn't keep my hand in the rope. I drew him again a month later, at another bull riding in Tampa, Florida, and I was way down over him. He was so strong that he jerked my right leg up past the top of his back and pulled me down. My hand came out of my rope at about 5 and a half seconds, and I rode him another second and a half or so just hanging onto the tail of my rope with my fingertips. But I lost my rope again, and he ejected me right before the whistle. By the time I drew Bodacious a third time that year, in November at the Bull Riders Only Finals in Long Beach, California, he had earned the reputation as the dreaded one. But I didn't feel that way about him. I knew he was the baddest I'd ever seen, and that he was bad to jerk guys down. But my style of riding fit his style of bucking. I knew I couldn't get away with any mistakes, because if he got you rocked back there was no recovering. But I thought if I could keep my hand in the rope I could ride him. That ride that day in Long Beach was, without a doubt, the best ride I ever made. If I ever made a perfect ride, that was it. There was nothing either of us could have done to make it better. He took about two jumps, then turned back to the left. The further he went, the higher he jumped and the stronger he got. I was 95 points on him, and when it was all over the judges told me they wished I hadn't been the first guy out. They were saving some room, on the chance that there would possibly be a better ride. But when it was over they said they'd have marked me higher if I'd ridden last. Sammy Andrews, who owns Bodacious, said he'd have marked me 98 or 99, and that it was the best ride he'd ever seen. That meant a lot to me. You dream of riding the rankest bull and doing everything right. Of the thousands of bulls I've ridden in my life, that's the ride that sticks out in my mind. I didn't draw Bodacious again until October 15, 1995, in the short go at the PBR Finals in Las Vegas. I was riding as good or better than I'd ever ridden that year, and I had more confidence than I'd had in my whole career. My riding percentage was in the high 80s, and I was in the lead for the world championship when we got to the Finals. But the points at the Finals were higher than usual, so you could make up a lot of ground there. J.W. Hart was hot, and had a chance to catch me if I bucked off my last bull and he did well. I wanted a bull in the short round that I could win first, second or third on, so it wouldn't matter what he did. When I drew Bodacious, I just knew I'd ride him. Boy, was I wrong. By that point, Bodacious was the bull nobody wanted. Even the guys who could really ride feared him. In all honesty, I thought I could kick his butt. But since I'd had him at Long Beach he'd hurt himself and been laid off awhile. When they brought him back he had a new move of jerking guys down, then throwing his head back to hit them in the face. I didn't notice it that much, because you rarely saw him buck more than a jump or so before bucking guys off. When I nodded for him, the first jump felt fine. Then, all of a sudden, whack! When I hit the ground, I felt numb. When I was walking out of the arena I bit down and my teeth didn't come together, so I figured my jaw was broken. I didn't realize my whole face was smashed. But when I looked at people looking at me, they looked like they'd seen the devil. They couldn't find the ambulance driver, so I sat down and watched the event on TV back behind the chutes for a little while. I told somebody to go tell my wife, Tracy, I was fine so she wouldn't worry. When I got in the ambulance I felt my eyes swelling shut, so I took my contacts out real quick. It took two surgeries and 13 hours of reconstructive work to put my face back together with five or six titanium plates. Every bone was broken. It damn sure rearranged my face and altered my appearance forever. But I wasn't real worried about that. Bones heal, and I never sit around and worry about things I can't change. If I'd been Clark Gable it might have been different. The good news was I was ugly to begin with, so it really wasn't any great loss. After watching the video I felt lucky to be alive. And I saw for myself what people had been saying about Bodacious. I was up there doing what I was supposed to be doing, and he just came back and knocked the hell out of me. That's when I knew that, because of that new trick of his, I'd never get on him again. If I leaned back to get away from his head when he threw it back, he'd just jerk me down when his front end came out of the air. There was nothing I could do to keep from getting hurt and still ride him. The game was over. When I got home from the hospital a week later, my head was so swelled up that my little boy Lane, who was 4 at the time, didn't recognize me until I started talking to him. He was there watching when I got hurt, and he jumped up in my lap and told me, "Daddy, if you ever draw Bodacious again you're going to have to chicken out.' I said, "Deal." I lost about 20 pounds between the PBR Finals and the National Finals Rodeo, which started the first part of December. I was weak, and in hindsight probably had no business riding. But I thought I could do it, and I had a legitimate shot at another world championship. After the fifth round, I went to check the draw for the next night. I joked to Clint Branger that I was going to see if I had to turn out tomorrow, because I knew Bodacious was in the draw. When I saw his name next to mine I felt sick - not because I had a tough decision to make, because that decision had already been made. It hurt me worse to draw him at the NFR and have to turn him out than it did when he hit me at the PBR Finals. The thought of turning out a bull at the NFR was unbelievable to me. But getting on him again never crossed my mind. He just got to be too dangerous. If they gave me a million dollars to try him today, I'd say no. There's an NFR rule that says you have to sit out two rounds if you turn a bull out. So I didn't technically turn out. I got on his back in the chute, then held on the back of the chute when they opened the gate. He left there without me, and I tipped my hat to him. After Bodacious splintered a facemask all over Scott Breding's face a couple nights later, Sammy retired him right there in the NFR arena. I'm sure it killed Sammy to do it. Stock contractors search for a bull like that their whole life. But the writing was on the wall. Bodacious was going to kill somebody. Sammy handled the situation with a lot of class, and I respected him for that. I'll always respect Bodacious for what he did and being one of the rankest bulls of all time, even though in the end he was basically a cheap-shot artist that would Sunday punch you. To me, drawing him was the ultimate challenge. He did things a bull his size shouldn't have been athletic enough to do. He was like a 300-pound lineman being able to play cornerback. In that respect, he was kind of a freak. But there's never been a bull that bucked any harder. My hat's off to Bodacious for being inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame this summer. There hasn't been a ranker bull in the 90s. There have been a lot of great bulls, and bulls you'd rather have drawn than him. But I know for a fact that none of them bucked and harder than Bodacious did. By: Tuff Hedeman from