The Ride That Changed Wade Leslie’s Life

Wade Leslie grew up in a rodeo family.

Bullriding was in Wade Leslie’s blood

Editor’s Note: Wade Leslie, of Quincy, Washington, is the only man in the history of bull riding to ride a perfect ride. He and the bull scored 100 points each – all the points that can be scored by the bull and the rider in professional rodeo bull riding. Some say there is no possibility to score 100 points for a bull ride. Others who have seen the ride on video say that Leslie should not have been awarded 100 points for his ride. But the fact remains that in open competition against other bull riders in a professional rodeo event, Leslie and the bull, Wolfman Skoal, for 8 seconds were as perfect as they possibly could be. As a matter of fact, this year Leslie was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in a new category called Best Score. But what has happened to Leslie since that unbelievable ride? What does he ride now? What is his life like? Whatever has happened to the best bull rider in the history of the sport? This week we will learn about Leslie’s ride, the tragedies he’s suffered, the endurance he’s demonstrated and the world of the man who has ridden the perfect ride. Part 3 of a 5 part series

Leslie continued to ride bulls until 2000. He broke his leg after a bull stepped on his leg during a ride and decided to put on a bull riding event to help raise money to pay his hospital bills and living expenses. On April 27, 2000, Leslie was driving from Wyoming to Montana, where the event was being planned. He’d been putting in a lot of long hours and fell asleep at the wheel on the way home. He drove his truck off a bank, flipped it over a couple of times and landed upside down in a creek. Leslie jokes, “I tried to wash my pickup truck upside down in a creek, and it didn’t work so well. I also learned that trucks don’t get so clean when you try to wash them like this.” When the truck flipped over, Leslie was thrown out and landed in 3 feet of water. No one knows why he didn’t drown, or how he was able to pull himself out of the water and up on the bank. “All I remember is that some guy woke me up and told me I had wrecked my truck,” Leslie explains. The people at the scene said that Leslie had been in the creek but somehow got himself to the bank. A helicopter had to be brought in to fly Leslie to a hospital in Butte, Montana.

Leslie remembers, “When I woke up, the surgeon told me that the CAT scan showed that my spinal cord was severed at C3 and C4. The surgeon said that there was a good possibility that I never might walk again and that I might not even survive the surgery. He had made the decision to fly me to a doctor in Bozeman, MT., who was a specialist in spinal cord injuries. He also explained that I had broken my sternum all the way across at the same point where I’d broken my backbone. He said that the only thing holding the upper half of my body to the lower half of my body was my skin and muscles. The doctor explained that my sternum probably would shift when they relocated my spine and that there was a good chance my main artery could be severed, and I’d bleed out before the surgeons could roll me over and stop the bleeding. In a nutshell, I had a real good chance of being dead in just a little while. When the spinal cord specialist came in, he told me the same thing that the other doctor said. My family showed up about that time, and many of my rodeo friends came to see me before the operation. They also were informed of my dismal situation. Most of my friends thought I wouldn’t come out of the surgery alive, so they wanted to come by and say goodbye. I was very aware of what was going on, and why they were there.”

Wade Leslie miraculously survived this crash.

Wade Leslie miraculously survived this crash.

Leslie he knew everyone thought he was going to die. “When the nurses arrived to wheel me into surgery, my wife, Trisha Anne, and youngest son, Dallas, were standing in the room trying to help me get ready,” He explains. “But, my oldest son, Dillon, was out in the hall crying. I told the nurses who were rolling me out of the room to stop and give me a minute with Dillon. I told Dillon come over and gave him a hug and said, ‘I’m not planning on going anywhere. But, if something does happen to me, you’re going to have to be the man of the house and help take care of your mom.’” Leslie paused for a minute and admitted that he always got choked-up when he talked about this portion of the story. Although he was staring death in the face, he said, “The worst part of the accident was seeing the tears and horror on my wife’s face and on my little boys’ face. This was much worse than what I thought might happen to me on the operating table. Just before I got into the operating room, and I met the surgeon who was going to do the surgery. I knew he’d been raised on a ranch and had lost one of his fingers in a rodeo accident, and I looked up at him and said, ‘You know doc, I can’t believe I’m letting a ‘timey’ guy operate on me. The other cowboys and I who rode the rough stock, called these guys ‘timeys.’ The doctor looked at me and said, ‘If I were you, I’d rather have a timey operating on me than some dumb bull rider. Don’t you think?’”

In the operating room, Leslie’s spine was relocated, and two metal rods were placed in his back. “The next thing I knew, I was in my room and excited that I survived the operation. I wasn’t dead. I had made it.” But, after the excitement of surviving the operation was over, Leslie remembered that he still had a bull-riding event in 3 weeks in Butte, Montana, and there were a lot of details that needed his attention. “I started calling my sponsors and making sure that everything was taken care of and moving forward for event,” Leslie remembers.

After Leslie was released from the hospital, he was sent to Saint Luke’s Rehab Center in Spokane, Washington. Leslie says, “The folks started to put me in the ambulance to take me to Saint Luke’s, but I told the nurses, ‘Wait a minute, my insurance is no good, and my expenses are bad enough with all that I’ve been through. I’m not willing to pay for an ambulance ride from Montana to Washington.’ I’d met a fellow bullrider who lived in Butte, and he came and got me in his van. He and my wife hauled me to Spokane with me lying flat on my back.”

To learn more about Wade Leslie, go to, Go to to see “The Perfect Ride.”

Next: Wade Leslie Returns to the World 


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

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