The Casa Ford Tuff Hedeman West Texas Shoot Out will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at the El Paso County Coliseum.
RUDY GUTIERREZ/EL PASO TIMES
Native El Pasoan and former four-time world champiion bull rider Tuff Hedeman held a media event at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino Thursday, Jan. 19 to announce the Tuff Hedeman West Texas Shoot Out.
Feb 2, 1990
Despite friend's death, life goes on for world champion bull rider
El Paso Times
Rodeo cowboy Tuff Hedeman spends many nights thinking about life without his best friend. Hedeman, a graduate of Coronado High School, has a special bond with Lane Frost. Hedeman and Frost were pals, rivals and traveling partners on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit. They were also world champion bull riders.
That was before Frost was killed during a rodeo competition last July in Cheyenne, Wyo. Thrown from his bull and gored in the back, he bled to death in a matter of minutes. Rodeo competitors are a special breed. Unlike many sports, they cling together in the best – and worst – of times. Traveling the long, lonely roads of the professional rodeo circuit, it’s nearly impossible for rivals to become enemies.
Hedeman and Frost were the best of their craft. Hedeman, originally from El Paso, is a two-time bull riding world champion. When he captured his second title in December, he dedicated it to Frost.
“Friends in this business are very important,” said Hedeman, who will compete at the Southwestern Livestock Show, which begins today in El Paso. “Just to have someone around who understands sometimes is the only thing you have to get through.”
Hedeman, Frost and Jim Sharp were those type of friends. They spent more time traveling together than they did perfecting their sport. “I probably spent more time with Lane the last four years than I did with my wife,” said Hedeman, who is scheduled to compete on the final day of the El Paso rodeo, Feb. 11.
Frost’s death magnified the brutal, often dangerous sport of rodeo. Bull riding, the toughest of all rodeo events, is still in Hedeman’s blood, even in the wake of his friend’s untimely death.
“Lane was my best friend,” Hedeman said softly in a recent phone call from his home in Bowie, Texas. “But if I had quit when he died, I wouldn’t have been happy. I surely wasn’t happy about losing him, but to say I wouldn’t do this anymore wouldn’t make any sense.
“I feel so empty sometimes. There were very few days the past four years when I didn’t see or talk with Lane … There’s not a lot I did without him.” But Hedeman and Sharp picked up the pieces, and with the support of bull riders Cling Branger and Cody Lambert, two other traveling partners, and many other cowboys, they pulled their lives back together.
At the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December, the world championship came down to the last two bulls. The title would belong to either Sharp or Hedeman. Sharp had a slight lead going into the final go-round, but was knocked out of the running when he was knocked off his bull.
A successful ride for Hedeman would give him the world title. He rode the bull beyond the eight-second buzzer to gain his second championship in four years. “At that moment, I was thinking of Lane,” Hedeman said. “During the summer, he told me this was my year to win the world championship. He was such a big part of my life, and suddenly he wasn’t there to enjoy it with me. Losing him gave me more incentive to win. It wasn’t hard to move on, because I know he’d have wanted me to.”
It was an emotional moment. The first hug after Hedeman’s victory ride was for Kellie Frost, Lane’s widow. Frost’s parents also were on hand. For Hedeman, life - and a career in the rodeo – will go on. This year, Hedeman and a few of his friends plan to travel to 120 rodeos.
The hard work pays off. Last year, Hedeman earned $122,000 on the rodeo circuit, a good figure for his sport. Although about half of it goes for travel expenses, he makes enough to live a comfortable life in Bowie, located about 100 miles northwest of Dallas.
If he stays healthy, Hedeman, at 26, hopes to prolong his career another five or six years. He’s been active in bull riding since his days at Coronado High School and Sul Ross State University, where his team won a national rodeo team championship.
A year after the college title, Hedeman joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In his first pro season, he met Frost and Sharp, and quickly emerged as one of the world’s most skilled bull riders. “Really, I’ve never considered this a job, although I feel it’s sort of like a business,” Hedeman said. “I ride bulls for the same reason Joe Montana plays football – because that’s what we both like to do.