Buck Of Legends: Tuff Hedeman vs. Bodacious 21 Years Later

Twenty-one years ago, Tuff Hedeman was in the midst of some of the best riding of his Hall of Fame career.

He also had an equally-historic foil in the form of Bodacious, arguably one of the five baddest bucking bulls in the history of rodeo.

Two decades on, the pair remain inextricably linked in one of the most violent bull riding bucks in the history of the sport, one which left Hedeman on the precipice of death and pushed Bodacious into retirement and out of the sport.

"After watching the video I felt lucky to be alive," Hedeman recalled for PBRnow.com in 1999. "I saw for myself for the first time what people had been saying about Bodacious. I was up there doing what I was supposed to be doing, and he just came back and knocked the hell out of me."

By 1993, Hedeman was well on his way to earning his reputation as King of the Bull Riders. He already had won the National Collegiate Finals, was a 10-time NRF qualifier, won three PRCA World Championships and became the first bull rider with $1 million in career earnings.

At the same time, Bodacious was already establishing himself as an 1800-pound anathema to many riders including Hedeman, who failed in his first two attempts and hanging on for eight seconds.

"The first time I had him was at a bull riding in Memphis," Hedeman said. "He was unbelievable. When he left the chute his front end came up so high. I was right in the middle of him, and riding him like you have to ride a bull with a lot of downdraft. But my chest was touching his horns, and my head was right over the top of his. I couldn't keep my hand in the rope.

"I drew him again a month later, at another bull riding in Tampa, Florida, and I was way down over him. He was so strong that he jerked my right leg up past the top of his back and pulled me down. My hand came out of my rope at about 5 and a half seconds, and I rode him another second and a half or so just hanging onto the tail of my rope with my fingertips. But I lost my rope again, and he ejected me right before the whistle."

But Hedeman remained undeterred in his quest to ride out the "greatest bull to ever buck," and his third ride proved to be the charm. At the 1993 Bull Riders Only Finals in Long Beach, he not only earned a scoring ride but was marked a 95, just five points away from a perfect ride.

"That ride that day in Long Beach was, without a doubt, the best ride I ever made," Hedeman said. "If I ever made a perfect ride, that was it. There was nothing either of us could have done to make it better.

"When it was all over, the judges told me they wished I hadn't been the first guy out. They were saving some room, on the chance that there would possibly be a better ride. But when it was over they said they'd have marked me higher if I'd ridden last. Sammy Andrews, who owned Bodacious, said he'd have marked me 98 or 99, and that it was the best ride he'd ever seen."

Fast forward two years to the 1995 PBR Finals in Las Vegas, and Hedeman had not an ounce of fear of Bodacious, the bull nobody else wanted a piece of. He was riding with more confidence than ever before in his career and carried a riding percentage of 82.35 and the points lead into the competition.

"When I drew Bodacious, I just knew I'd ride him," Hedeman said. "In all honesty, I thought I could kick his butt."

Between 1993 and 1995, Bodacious was sidelined for long stretches due to injury. But the bull actually returned to action as a more difficult ride. During his absence, he developed a more devastating bucking move involving him bringing his rear up with his head to the ground, luring a rider to shift his weight forward, and then thrusting his head up full force, to smash the rider in the face.

In hindsight, Hedeman was overconfident and underprepared. He lasted a brutal four seconds.

"When I nodded for him, the first jump felt fine," he said. "Then, all of a sudden, whack! When I hit the ground, I felt numb."

What Hedeman couldn't see was how bloodied his face was.

"When I was walking out of the arena I bit down and my teeth didn't come together, so I figured my jaw was broken," Hedeman recalled. "I didn't realize my whole face was smashed. But when I looked at people looking at me, they looked like they'd seen the devil.

"They couldn't find the ambulance driver, so I sat down and watched the event on TV back behind the chutes for a little while. I told somebody to go tell my wife, Tracy, I was fine so she wouldn't worry. When I got in the ambulance I felt my eyes swelling shut."

Upon arriving at the hospital, doctor's determined that Bodacious had broken every major bone in Hedeman's face. It took two surgeries, totaling 13 hours, and six titanium plates to reconstruct his face. Hedeman said that when he returned home from the hospital, his head was so swollen he was unrecognizable to his 4-year-old son, Lane.

"It damn sure rearranged my face and altered my appearance forever," Hedeman quipped. "But I wasn't real worried about that. If I'd been Clark Gable it might have been different. The good news was I was ugly to begin with, so it really wasn't any great loss."

The incident was the beginning of the end for Bodacious.

Knowing full well the risk he was accepting, rider Scott Breding donned a hockey mask when he climbed on top of Bodacious in the ninth round of the NRF Finals a couple of nights later. The mask shattered from the force of the bull's devastating buck, and the headbutt left Breding knocked out with a broken nose and bursting eye sockets.

"He just got to be too dangerous," Hedeman said. "Sammy (Andrews) retired him right there in the NFR arena. I'm sure it killed Sammy to do it. Stock contractors search for a bull like that their whole life. But the writing was on the wall. Bodacious was going to kill somebody."

Nevertheless, Hedeman maintains a great deal of respect for Bodacious, who died in 2000 from complications from a bone infection, and speaks in reverent tones about the bull who proved to be his ultimate challenge, one he would now respectfully pass on.

"He did things a bull his size shouldn't have been athletic enough to do," Hedeman, one of only seven men ever to ride Bodacious, said. "He was like a 300-pound lineman being able to play cornerback. In that respect, he was kind of a freak.

"If they gave me a million dollars to try him today, I'd say no."

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