Obstacles are either problems or challenges

(June 19, 2006) — I haven't written since the week of my bull riding, so I have a lot to catch everyone up on.

The week of my bull riding was crazy because we had a lot of stuff to get done in preparation. The Monday evening before, my Dad, Johnny Hendricks, me, and a couple of other guys were going through all the steers that we were using for the junior steer riding which was held on the Friday night before my bull riding.

We were getting on them with slick heels and a flank strap, bull rope, or whatever we could find to stay on with. Well, after we had been riding steers for about an hour, my Dad, who has ridden roughstock in rodeos his whole life, gets on this little steer. He comes off and is just lying there in the arena. We were all laughing it up pretty hard for a little while until he yelled from the other end that he thought his leg was broke.

So we ran down there and when we looked, his right foot was facing the complete opposite way that it should be. It was very nasty to look at. I felt so helpless because I had never seen my Dad, who is the toughest man I know, just laying there and me not be able to do anything about it.

He was telling us to drag him out of the way and finish bucking the steers. So I knew he would be OK. They took him to the hospital and he ended up getting a plate and several screws put in his leg. He was in there for about four days until he was up and out of bed.

From Tuesday on, I had a million things to do before the bull riding, and I had three great people helping me out. One was my girlfriend, Morgan Montello. She was a blessing. She was painting and weed eating and did whatever else needed to be done. She just pitched in and did a wonderful job.

Johnny Hendricks and Rowdy Rathmell also helped me the whole way through. We were there working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday.

We had to do some autograph signing sessions toward the end of the week at Longhorn Ford, Wal-Mart, Circle B Western Wear, and Lonestar Dodge. I had Cody Hancock, Tuff Hedeman and Colby Yates there signing autographs and helping out too. My Mom took care of getting t-shirts ordered and was a huge help.

The steer riding went great. The stands were about half full and we were just tickled that so many people came out to support those kids. All 40 kids did an excellent job and they all tried their guts out. It was awesome to see those kids ride the way they did.

The bull riding was on Saturday night. I think I was a nervous wreck because I wanted everything to go right and I wanted the stands to be packed.

By the time it was over, I got my wish. Everything went great and I don't think there was a seat left in the house. There were over 3,500 people there. The bulls from Harlin Robertson, Kevin Laderme, and the great Sammy Andrews were awesome and there were some great rides. Colby Yates and Bryan Richardson ended up splitting it, but the back judge's score broke the tie so Colby actually won.

I couldn't have asked for a better bull riding. The sponsors were ecstatic about the turn out and I am so thankful for them. I am almost ready to have another one!

On Sunday, it was a much-needed day of rest. But first, my Dad and stepmother Amy, along with Morgan, helped me put my camper back on my truck to get ready to go for the summer.

On Sunday evening, we went to my Nana's house to go see my Mom and stepfather Doug, my Nana, my Uncle Billy, and my Aunt Brenda, along with the rest of the family. We ate fish all afternoon and then got to playing some poker.

My Aunt Brenda and Uncle Mark (I spoke about him last time) have this funny family feud going on against each other all the time. She gave me heck for talking about him so much last time, so we all had a good laugh about it. My Aunt Brenda is a crazy one, but I love her to death and she is always a fun time to be around. So, Aunt Brenda, this one is for you.

On Monday, Morgan was headed back home to Wharton to start summer school. I helped her load up her trailer and sent her on her way. I was still pretty tired from the bull riding as well so I tried to catch up on my rest.

We left Tuesday morning after Clayton Williams got to my house. We picked up B-Rad (Brad Knowles who is Matt's driver) and headed to Fort Smith, Ark. I slept the whole way there. I didn't do any good there, so we left after the rodeo and drove on out to Silver City, N.M.

I had a really good bull drawn that I had gotten on before and covered. He was a hard bucking bull of Harlin Robertson's called Vertical Limits. I was really looking forward to getting on him too. During the ride, he turned left and was really bucking hard and after about six seconds, he clicked my heels and I came off funny. I thought immediately that my wrist was broke. I couldn't feel my hand and didn't know what happened. I hadn't ever felt a pain like that before riding bulls.

There were some Justin Sports Medicine guys that looked at it and said I needed to have it X-rayed as soon as possible and to keep it on ice.

We got to Santa Maria, Calif., the next day and I opted not to ride because it was still pretty swollen and I didn't know how that would affect me. Plus I hadn't gotten it examined yet so I didn't know if anything was broken.

The next day, we went to Palmdale, Calif., and it was feeling a little better. I rode in the camper on the way there and was practicing taping it so that it wouldn't hurt. I assumed since it was feeling a little better that I had just hurt it pretty good, but nothing serious, so I decided to ride there. Well, I got on my bull, and it killed me the whole time. The pain was just unbearable.

I was supposed to be in Vernal, Utah on Saturday, but B-Rad and I came home. B-Rad drove the whole way. I am really thankful for him. He always takes good care of me and I love having him with me all the time.

On Monday, I went in and saw Tandy Freeman. I had some X-rays and they couldn't find a break in my wrist but they said sometimes you can't see it at first. They did say there was some tissue in there that was torn and bruised though. So they sent me to a hand specialist. The doctor told me to sit off for a month or so, which I hated to hear with the busy rodeo season right ahead. But, I decided to take last week off and try to heel up a little.

I went to Houston to a studio on Wednesday to shoot some footage for a DVD that ProRodeo Films is coming out with soon called Cowboys of Faith. They interviewed me and several other guys about our rodeo and personal history and about our walk with God.

This past Monday, I got on a bull at home to test out my hand. I could barely lift up on my rope. It was real awkward and it still hurt pretty bad. I was really looking forward to going to Reno, Nev. I had a good bull drawn, but I had to turn out and miss the bull riding.

I stayed at home this past week and I have been working around the farm helping my Dad. I went to see Morgan for a couple of days too.

I was reading a book the other night that was talking about taking obstacles in life as a problem or as a challenge. I am accepting this injury as a challenge to me. No matter how long I have to sit out, I'm going to get my hand well because it's a vital part of what I do and I need my hand to succeed.

I'm going to get on some bulls on Wednesday and try it again before I am supposed to head out to Greeley, Colo. Hopefully it will heal before the big Cowboy Christmas coming up.

I have to go to Phoenix on Friday to the Athletes International Banquet. I won an Athlete of the Year award, which I am very tickled about. I see it as a huge honor to be recognized for riding bulls and I am very excited about the banquet.

I know that no matter what happens I'm going to keep my head up and keep having fun not worrying about the bad things. I am still very blessed and healthy enough to get out of bed in the morning. I think it might even be a blessing in disguise because it is giving me the rest I needed.

I just look forward to when I can get on the road again and I am thankful for everything God has given me. Keep my healing in your prayers and I thank everyone who has been praying for me so far.

I would like to especially thank everyone who came and helped with my bull riding, as well as all the sponsors who helped put it on and make it a great success.

Until next time, God Bless and happy trails.

In 2005, Matt Austin shattered the PRCA record for highest single-season earnings with $320,766, surpassing Ty Murray's record of $297,896 set in 1993. Austin not only won the College National Finals Rodeo and the Xtreme Bulls title last year, but also earned his first bull riding world championship and Wrangler NFR average title. Nicknamed "Poindexter" by Donnie Gay, Austin lives in Wills Point, Texas.

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