Blake Arp was competing for a national championship in bareback riding, trying to bust a bronc that was trying to bust him.
Blake held on for the required eight seconds, finishing 12th in the rankings.
But the bronc won, too.
Blake's ride ended with him taking a hard and awkward fall to the ground, slamming his head down on the San Juan County dirt in such a forceful manner that it broke his neck.
Today Blake, from Georgia, and a Louisiana cowboy Corbin Carpenter, lie recovering from serious injuries inside San Juan Regional Medical Center.
Corbin, who was thrown from a bull and then caught underneath it, had his back broken and required emergency surgery to save his life to possibly prevent him from being paralyzed. Doctors say his prognosis looks good, but he likely will remain at the hospital in Farmington for weeks.
Blake's outlook is a little better.
"Hopefully sometime this week, he'll be released to go home on a special medical flight," said his mother, Pam Arp.
It was amazing to watch Saturday night as more than $12,000 was collected to help Corbin's family during this unexpected crisis at the final event of the week-long National High School Finals Rodeo. He was injured Friday.
"What other sport would do this?" the arena announcer asked on his public address system.
A two-year college in Tucumcari offered a scholarship.
Best Western offered free rooms to the family.
Fuddruckers offered free food.
Hundreds of locals and guests donated money. One local high school kid opened his wallet and dumped everything he had into the donation bucket. A little kid gave all he had, which was $2.
My church, and I'm sure others in town, signed cards to take to the hospital and is trying to work up a meal schedule for the family.
It is Four Corners caring and hospitality at its best.
Still, as I leaned against the arena fence Saturday night and enjoyed being close enough to the action to taste the dust, hear the grunts of the rugged livestock in action and see the intensity and anxiety of the cowboys trying to make a ride, I wondered if such help would be available should another participant get hurt that last night of action.
It was the same thought I had after watching Corbin get hurt by a bull earlier on Friday.
Who wants to be the next cowboy to ride rough stock, after the ambulance just left the premises?
I was assured that two ambulances are at the rodeo at all times.
Likewise, after Blake became the second serious injury with his bronc ride Saturday night and in the shadows of Corbin's injury, I was assured that he, too, will get the help he and his family need to make it through these tough times.
"We think God was watching over him," Pam said.
She described on Tuesday how doctors placed a halo-type device around his head and neck, and how Blake is beginning therapy to heal his wounds.
"The C1 vertebra is fractured," she said. "The doctor said the C1 and C2 lined back up; the C3 was out of line, but it is back in place. If they stay lined up, he won't need surgery."
Meaning, he broke his neck, but because it's back in place and with his strength and youth, Blake may be able to recover with care and therapy.
Pam thanks God for the positive results, and sees the outpouring of care and kindness as the best medicine.
"I wanna thank God for where he is now," she said Tuesday. "They gave him a walker to use and wanted him to begin therapy, but he did so well today, they told him he no longer needs the walker!"
The first thing he wanted to do, she said, was walk to Corbin's room and meet him.
"He wanted him to know he wasn't here alone," Pam said.
"We have an extended rodeo family from around the world," she said. "We're so grateful for all the help. The community has been just great. The people here in the hospital have been just great. We love and thank everybody for what they've done."
The family hopes that if recovery continues to go well for Blake this week, they can arrange for a special medical flight home to Georgia by the end of the week.
The outpouring of support did much to lift Blake's spirits.
"Blake said, I had no idea this many people cared about me,'" a grateful mother shared.
We'll have more updates for readers on Corbin's progress, and likewise we'll keep readers posted on Blake and his efforts to go home.
The rodeo life is a tough one. It is expensive and filled with risks for the participants. Supporters, however, quickly argue that it is a great way of life in that it promotes values, hard work and many rewards for those who enjoy working with livestock and living the lifestyle of our Old West culture.
Recovery will not be easy for Corbin, nor for Blake. Both still have much work and care required before they ever get back in a saddle.
It is good to see, however, that our local community is willing to be supportive of these young men and their families while they are required to extend their stay in Farmington.
We share our prayers and best wishes with both families.
Hang tough, cowboys.
And you moms, too.
Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, NM 87499; or at tturner-at-daily-times.com. ~ read original