Spina Bifida Didn’t Stop Tony Bell From Becoming A Professional Bull Rider

Editor’s Note: Tony Bell of Harveyville, Kansas, was born with partial spina bifida and imperforate anus. Doctors removed his tailbone right after birth and gave him an ostomy and later a colostomy. Doctors at Bell’s birth predicted he never would walk, he only had about 2% bowel control, and doctors didn’t believe he would survive past his 1 year-old birthday. According to Bell today, “All the odds were against me, and doctors told my parents that they’d better not get attached to me, because I wouldn’t be around for very long.” So, from birth,Bell had to learn to fight to survive. Part 1 of a 5-part series.

Ostomy surgery didn't stop Tony Bell from professional bull riding.

Ostomy surgery didn't stop Tony Bell from professional bull riding.

Bell: The most memorable bull ride I ever made was in Alva, Oklahoma, while I was in college while at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. The bull I had drawn to ride was named T22 T Rock, one other strangest bulls I’d ever ridden, because he was a Texas longhorn bull. In all my bullriding, I’d never ridden a longhorn before. Occasionally you’ll find a longhorn bull in college rodeo, but never in professional bull riding. This bull had every inch of his longhorns on his head with each horn 2-1/2- to 3-foot long. When the bull came into the bucking chute, he had to turn his horns sideways to fit in it. Before I went to the chute, I had looked the bull up in the program, and I said to myself, “Look at those clown stickers because of the size of the bull’s horns and how bad that bull could hurt a rodeo clown, also known as a bull fighter, with those horns.”

When the bull entered the bucking chute for the night performance that I was riding in, I couldn’t believe how big he was. I was on the mend then from a previous wreck I had experienced while riding another bull. The week before this ride, I had sprained my wrist. I also had a very bad sprained ankle due a bull stepping on it, and my foot still was very tender.  I had my ankle taped before I put on my cowboy boots. I thought I still could make a good ride and get a paycheck on this night. But when the chute opened, that ole longhorn started to buck, spun to the left and made about three jumps before straightening out.

Then T22 T Rock started spinning in the opposite direction. The bull straightened up again and started belly rolling. I heard the 8-second buzzer and knew I’d made the ride. So, I started looking for a spot to get off the bull. However, at that same instant, I lost my footing–the tight leg hold I had on the bull–and went forward and got dashboarded, or hit in the face by the bull’s horns. I lost my grip on my bull rope and found myself on top of the bull’s head. The longhorn threw me up in the air, and for a split second, I thought I’d be able to land and get out of the arena. But instead, I landed back on top of that bull’s head. The next thing I remembered was standing up on the dirt floor of the arena and seeing the rodeo clown running straight for me. The clown threw me to one side, so the bull wouldn’t run over me. I remember looking down at my boots and suddenly became aware of blood pouring down my face, my shirt and my chaps.

Longhorn bulls are meant for professionals only! Check out those horns!

Longhorn bulls are meant for professionals only! Check out those horns!

When I was taken to the doctor, I had a metal plate inserted above my eye socket and another metal plate put on my cheekbone, because my eye socket had been crushed. But in spite of these injuries, I considered the T22 T Rock one of the best rides I’d ever made in my life. I scored 96 points out of 100 points for the ride, however, I couldn’t go to the final money round because I was in surgery. The doctors couldn’t believe that I was riding bulls after having had an ostomy.

Next: Tony Bell’s Worst Wreck While Bullriding

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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