Dusty and I met through mutual friends at our local vet clinic. After a couple months of group get-togethers, I finally asked, "Why was he only around on weeknights?"
The entire room grew silent and everyone stared at me. My friend said, "You don't know?" As if Dusty was a weekend werewolf or something. To my surprise, I was informed that he rode bulls for a living. I was raised on a farm in a tiny rural town and have been around horses and cattle my entire life. I considered the purpose of a bull to be for breeding, certainly not riding! Dusty was well into his career, but I didn't follow the sport, so I had never heard of him.
Our friends thought we were a perfect match because I am a nurse and he is constantly injured. I swore our relationship wouldn't go past friendship, but he started calling me, "Sugar," and before I knew it, I was driving fuel-efficient cars, packed down with dirty gear bags and random men, all over this country. It wasn't long before those random men and their, "Sugars," became my second family.
Matt Bohon was the first one that I met. We were driving home through a town called Yellville, Ark., in the wee hours of the morning when Matt opened the sunroof, stuck his head out, and starting screaming at the top of his lungs. Then Dusty joined in. Sure enough, they made me do it, because after all, we were driving through Yellville! And although it wasn't pretty, somehow Skeeter Kingsolver talked me into riding a bull at the practice pen - one and done I might add! What a way to break a girl in.
One night, after winning an event in Harrison, Ark., Dusty took the microphone and started talking, which he never does voluntarily. Anyone who knows Dusty knows the lights are not where he is comfortable. He popped the question right there in front of the crowd, down on one knee in the manure-filled dirt - chaps, vest, sweat and all! Nothing any girl would ever think of as a dream proposal, but it was perfect!
Being a bull rider's wife was certainly nothing I ever thought I would be, and it turned out to be nothing like I had expected. Suddenly, every Chris LeDoux, George Strait, and Garth Brooks song I had ever heard had a whole new meaning. I admit, I often found truth to the Waylon and Willie lyrics, "Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys."
I would often find myself alone on our farm. I work fulltime and I'm in graduate school getting my master's to be a Nurse Practitioner. There were several 4 a.m. mornings and 11 p.m. nights, plowing snow, fixing fence, feeding and breaking ice for the horses, etc. Traveling with him wasn't feasible because of my schedule, and as a married couple with new responsibilities, I decided it wasn't cost-efficient either. I've always been the type of person that thinks everything through and makes decisions based on what I "should" do, not what my dream was. Had I done that, we'd be living on a pet rescue farm full of random animals! So, building a life with a person who lives week-to-week proved to be pretty trying.
One day it hit me. It wasn't that I was frustrated with Dusty for living this crazy, unpredictable, action-packed life. I was mad at myself for trying to make all the right choices and not letting myself enjoy this experience with him. In Dusty's favorite words, I needed to "just go with it," and stop trying to plan and predict everything.
Looking back, the whole "cowboy" way of life is part of what attracted me to Dusty (well, that and his devilishly handsome good looks in those chaps!). I admire the cowboys of the Professional Bull Riders for having a dream and following through with it. I have realized that following your dream takes more "cowboy" than always doing what you think you ought to do. This sport is the true test of heart, guts, will and courage. Your paycheck is never guaranteed and your health is always at risk. Riding bulls isn't just a way to make a living, it is a way of life. It is a mindset; an attitude. It's something that never goes away even when the inevitable time comes to hang up the spurs. This is why retiring from the sport is so hard. It's like losing a little piece of your life.
For Dusty, it has always been about the love of the sport. A pure love of riding bulls - nothing else. He started riding steers when he was 13, and the PBR is the only place he ever wanted to be, because as he's always told me, the PBR is where the best ride. He has ridden professionally with the PBR for 16 years, since the day he turned 18. He has always told me how thankful he is for the PBR and where the founders have taken it, because of the opportunities it has provided him. However, like all the cowboys who've come before him, there is a time when you know the ride is over.
Dusty riding his first steer at the age of 13.
or Dusty, the love is still there, but as it goes with many cowboys, the injuries have taken their toll on his body. One of his doctors described his collective leg muscles as, "a bunch of golf ball-sized scar tissue that tears away from the muscle every time he rides." Countless surgeries, muscle releases (actually cutting the muscles loose), concussions, broken bones, physical therapy sessions, etc., have made for a great learning experience for me, but Dusty has decided it's time to heal for good and move on to the next stage of life.
The crazy thing is, I care for people for a living, and I never even know when he is hurt. He is tough. If you have ever had the opportunity to meet him, you know what I'm talking about. He always expects the best out of himself, never makes excuses and never complains. That's part of being a real cowboy. And for Dusty, being a true cowboy has always come naturally.
His ultimate goal, as is with most riders, was to be a World Champion. That wasn't God's plan for him though. Instead, He used Dusty to show that success doesn't always happen in a way in which we choose to measure it. Dusty accomplished the ultimate goal of being a cowboy, through-and-through, by never giving up on himself, never wavering in his character, and never losing his optimistic attitude. In doing so, he has proven to everyone what a great man he is.
Dusty rode Cripple Creek Promiseland for a career high of 95.5 points in 2001.
It is a blessing to share my life with a man of such great integrity and strength. I am so thankful that I have been able to be a part of this journey with him, and I will treasure every memory and friendship made. Who would have thought a small-town girl like me would have friends literally from coast to coast, and all over this world? My only regret is that I didn't travel with him more. So, to any other PBR wife out there: I know it can be tough, but go whenever possible!
So, what's next? Dusty will ride at a few more events this year to give his family and friends the opportunity to be there to support him, but he hasn't yet decided when. He has a true gift for horsemanship, so he will always be involved with that. For now, the job hunt begins. I will say he's only been home for a few weeks without travel and he's already getting cabin fever. He's gone through an unbelievable amount of Copenhagen, and at one point he decided every conversation between us had to be sung, not spoken. Don't worry, Justin McBride and Colby Yates, your jobs are safe!
He is currently devising a plan to move closer to his old steer-riding pard, Luke Snyder. This works out well for me, because I happen to love him and his wife, Jennifer. Dusty said the only stipulation is that we have to find a house with a finished basement… for Skeeter's room! Lord, help me. That's not exactly what I had in mind when I said I was ready to start a family. Good thing I happen to love Skeeter!
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
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