‘I have nothing but time’


  • Pistol Robinson broke both legs at the first event of the 2012 season, and has only recently graduated from a wheelchair to crutches.
  • Upon reflection, he realizes he had taken his riding career for granted.

In This Article

STEPHENVILLE, Texas - His right thigh felt like Jell-O, so he rolled onto his left side, but when Pistol Robinson tried to crawl to safety, he couldn't use his legs.

The lower portion of his left leg, from the middle of his shin down, was dragging in the dirt.

The adrenaline was so overwhelming he couldn't feel any pain.

As bullfighter Shorty Gorham stood over him to protect him from Carrillo Cartel, Robinson looked up toward the ceiling and thought, "Oh man, I just broke both my legs."

The 28-year-old from Burleson, Texas, said he had never sustained an injury as severe. He did break his neck at the 2008 PBR World Finals, but that wasn't discovered until four months later.

In the past, he's broken ribs, fingers and toes, and said he might have missed a month with a broken nose. But from the time he was 5 years old, he had ridden somewhere nearly every weekend.

This was going to be different.

Dr. Tandy Freeman and the sport medicine staff worked to stabilize both legs and position him on a backboard.  He was carried from the arena to a standing ovation and chants of "Pistol, Pistol, Pistol" from the Madison Square Garden crowd.

As the adrenaline wore off and the pain set in, Robinson thought to himself, "I'm out for the year."

The medical staff worked feverishly to remove his protective vest, chaps and boots before he was transported to Bellevue Hospital, where he spent the next week.

A few days after celebrating his birthday, Robinson had sustained a right-thigh mid-shaft femur fracture, along with a left tibia and fibula fracture, when he was stepped on after being thrown off Carrillo Cartel in the third round.

'It'll be a long time before I feel normal again. I probably won't ever feel normal again. This will just have to become my new normal.'

His femur didn't break across the bone from side to side. It broke from top to bottom, like a split log. Surgeons inserted a rod, and told him that in time the gap in the bone pieces would heal around the new rod, and become as sturdy as a tree stump or solid as cement.

Three days later, doctors used a smaller rod and screws to put together his left fibula. They said it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

It's been three months since that Saturday night in Manhattan.

"It'll be a long time before I feel normal again," Robinson said. "I probably won't ever feel normal again. This will just have to become my new normal."

The toughest part, he said, has been relying on others.

His father Darrell Robinson - known on Twitter as @PaRobinson1 - works during the day, and his girlfriend Kelsey Tucker attends Tarleton State University, so Robinson initially stayed with his grandmother.

Robinson wreck

With both legs broken, Pistol Robinson prepares for another hit from Carrillo Cartel in New York.

Unable to put any pressure on either leg for the first two months, he was confined to a medical bed, a wheelchair or a recliner.

Just getting in and out of his chair with two broken legs "was a chore."

He currently weighs 124 pounds - down 11 since the accident - and has lost much of the muscle in his legs.

A few weeks ago, doctors told him he could begin using crutches, but it took two weeks before he was able to stand up. He had to relearn how stand in one place without falling to the side.

"It's awesome to be out of the wheelchair," he said, "but now it sucks that I'm on crutches. It's the better of a different evil, but still."

Robinson still faces at least another six to seven months before he's released and cleared to resume his bull riding career. Even then, he won't necessarily be ready physically and mentally to compete with the rankest bulls in the world.

'I hadn't even been thinking about bull riding.'

"Riding right now is so far away," he said.

It's tough to watch the events.

He doesn't think any rider would want to watch if he couldn't compete. "It's not the fact that I chose not to get on," he said. "I can't."

He recently went to the Lone Star Arena in Stephenville, but because of the crutches he couldn't get a good view of the event.

He rarely watches the Built Ford Tough Series on television, although he follows his pal Harve Stewart and did watch part of the Glendale, Ariz., event to see if Sean Willingham did well enough to keep from being cut.

Other than that, he said, "I hadn't even been thinking about bull riding."

He looks at the time off as opportunity to rebuild his PBR career from the ground up.

Between now and the start of the 2013 season, Robinson said he can rebuild his body and mind, and develop into the best bull rider he can be.

He admits he doesn't have many years left, and with "nothing but time" on his hands, he's reignited a passion for the sport that had waned in recent years.

Reflecting on what would have been his fifth year on the BFTS, he's come to the realization that he had taken his place among the world's elite professional bull riders for granted, and had become complacent.

He was beginning to lose his passion.

Robsinson ride interior

Pistol Robinson had ridden something nearly every weekend since childhood, until now.

Robinson said he was tired, worn out and had lost the thrill of riding after having done it for 23 years. But when his injury took it all away, he realized, "This is my chance to start anew and figure what I want to get out of this sport."

He hopes what had "quickly turned into a job" can once again become a lifestyle.

Last weekend, former rider Dave Samsel organized a golf tournament to help raise funds to offset Robinson's medical bills. There will be another fundraiser that includes a skeet shoot on May 25 and a bull riding event on May 27.

More information is available here.

"I've gone to benefits before and didn't think anything of it," Robinson said, "but I've never been on the other end of it. It's the cowboy way to help out cowboys, but it's also the cowboy way not to want help. Times like these, you just have to have it.

"There's just no way around it."

In the meantime, he also spends time on Facebook and Twitter (@PistolRobinson) communicating with riders and fans.

"I have nothing but time," he said.

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