Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sage of the Rodeo

Counsel with a CowboyYou wanna talk Idols? Here's one of mine: Jerome Davis, bull riding icon, paralysis victim and long-term owner of a sunny disposition. I first met him in the Fall of '97, when sports goob Jay Shurling introduced him as 'The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riders. Had it not been for all the trophy saddles hanging on his living room wall, I made not have believed it. Legends don't come this humble - especially ones who make their money in eight second death-defying blasts. But Jerome was just that: mannerly, modest, mellow. Needless to say, I left his Archdale ranch impressed with the lanky cowboy's quiet vibe.

Then, it happened. An unlucky head-butt with a bull named Knock 'em Out John did just that, rendering Jerome unconscious before hurling him to the ground head first. In an instant, the young world champion's life changed forever. Broncing bulls and rodeo tours gave way to wheelchairs and hours of physical anguish. When I saw him next, Jerome couldn't even wear his cowboy hat. The metal halo screwed into his skull all but prevented it. But what struck me the most about the new Jerome, what absolutely floored me, was how his carefee attitude had survived that vertebra-shattering impact. He never planned to get hurt, of course - but now that he had, it was 'just one of them things..."

Since then, nine years have passed. Jerome's regained some use of his arms, but remains unable to walk, let alone climb aboard a two thousand pound leviathan and hold on tight. But he hasn't put himself out to pasture, either. Instead, he and his delightful wife Tiffany can be found on the family ranch - when they're not out on the road, trading bulls and motivating all those who aspire to ride them. Today however, Jerome was around the house and despite needing to cut an awful lot of hay, he huddled with me under a tree for a quick interview about his upcoming cowboy camp. As always, we had a fine visit - even when, while touring the eighty acre sprawl on his Kawasaki Mule, we plumb ran out of gas. Yippie Ki-ya...

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