Evergreen Rodeo Notebook: Concussions, cracked vertebrae take toll on Shirley

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By Michael Hicks

Tim Shirley’s fingerprints were all over the Evergreen Rodeo on June 17. The only problem with that for the 30-year-old Bailey resident was that they weren’t on what he’s become best known for the past 12 years.
Shirley, a 2001 Colorado Pro Rodeo Association bareback champion, was scratched from this year’s bareback riding competition after doctors recommended that he didn’t ride due to a history of concussions. He’d ridden in every Evergreen Rodeo since getting his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card.
“I waited until the last minute to make my decision and turned out this morning,” Shirley said. “I didn’t want to, but it probably would be better if I didn’t (ride).”
Shirley, besides having suffered multiple concussions throughout the years, including his last one in February in San Antonio, Texas, has also been dealing with a cracked L5 vertebrae.
So instead of riding, Shirley, whose family sponsored the bareback riding through their company, Shirley Septic, was relegated to, among other things, changing out toilet paper in the porta potties around the El Pinal Rodeo Grounds.
Even though sitting out was tough for Shirley it’s all part of the process of getting older, he said.
“We’re getting there. You’ve just got to be smart,” Shirley said. “With time to heal I think we’ll be good.”
RETURNING TO ACTION: The last time bareback rider J.D. Graham competed he broke his right wrist. That was nine months ago at the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association Finals in Grand Junction.
But the 21-year-old Chatfield Senior High graduate from Littleton was back on the saddle June 16.
“If I’m going to get on one it might as well be for a lot of money,” said Graham, who’s been riding for five years.
Unfortunately, Graham wasn’t shown the money this past weekend. One of just four bareback riders in the weekend-long competition, Graham failed to register a qualifying time.
“It gave me a bad shot out, but I tried her anyhow,” Graham said. “I was a little nervous, but it’s all about will and fun. As soon as that horse comes out all your fears go away. There’s nothing like it in the world.”
NOT HIS DAY: Evergreen’s Brian Gillen may have been the hometown favorite, but the tiedown roper had a tough day at the office June 17.
First, his run came on the heels of Caleb Smidt of Yorktown, Texas, taking the weekend lead with a time of 8.6 seconds. Then, Gillen broke the barrier during his run. That was cause for a 10-second penalty. Finally, the calf he was trying to tie down wasn’t about to cooperate, leading to a time of 29.2 seconds. That wasn’t going to cut it.
BOOT-RATTLING RIDES: If there was a common theme during the June 16 saddle bronc riding competition it was the bucking horses that literally rattled the boots off riders Garet Groshans (Torrington, Wyo.), Ryan Heupel (Cheyenne, Wyo.), and Mert Bradshaw (Eagle Point, Ore.). All of them lost at least one boot during their non-qualifying rides.
Groshans’ ride was a particuarly rough one as he also suffered a right arm injury. He was immediately checked out by Evergreen EMTs following his ride and released.