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Friday, August 18, 2006
Is there enough time for McClain?

By Kevin Carmody
ESPN.com ProRodeo

First, the pain was so unbearable that he couldn't get off the couch. Then, at a Fourth of July barbecue, he lasted just 30 minutes before retiring for the night. More recently, the recovering left leg of Jason McClain has afforded him more precious moments than ones that ended with an expletive.

"My son (Cooper) and I go fishing three times a week now," said Lewis from his home in the southwestern Colorado town of Lewis, about 20 miles north of Cortez. "We went to a private pond, about three minutes from our house. He caught a bunch of fish — some bluegills, walleye, pike, and trout. He likes that."

A bull named Yellow Stinger of the Big Bend Rodeo Company put McClain in this mess, his fourth broken left leg during a career that dates back to 1993. Following McClain's 77-point ride during the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Round on June 24 in Reno, Nev., he was near the wall and elected to wait another jump to dismount. Except before that, the bull reared down, threw his head back and hit McClain's shin with his horn.

Surgery was performed the next day at Washoe Medical Center in Reno, where doctors removed a plate and several screws from an earlier fracture that were displaced by Yellow Stinger. They then placed a fresh new rod and four screws to stabilize both the tibia and fibula.

After a few long weeks, McClain's leg has continued to progress to the point of resuming his quest for a world bull riding title. He plans on competing at three rodeos during the last weekend of August — Norco, Calif.; San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and Pueblo, Colo. At the time of the injury, McClain was the fourth-ranked bull rider in the PRCA world standings. As of Aug. 14, he's 10th, still some $6,000 ahead of 15th and final qualifying spot.

I've never missed this part of the year, so it's the first summer in a while I've been home to do the summer thing.

In the Wrangler Summer Tour standings, McClain has 21 points, good for a share of 14th place. With four stops remaining, McClain still has plenty of chances to regain his momentum and end up ascending back into the top 12 and riding at the lucrative Summer Tour Finale (Sept. 28-30) in Omaha, Neb.

Just a month before the injury, McClain topped the field at the Tulsa, Okla., stop on the Dodge Xtreme Bulls Ride Hard Tour, presented by B&W Hitches, launching the six-time Wrangler NFR qualifier into fourth place in the world standings.

By the time he comes back, it will have been some two months of watching and waiting.

The time off has been two-fold. Sure, the family time has been nice, but the time not spent making the whistle hurts the pocket book, too.

"I've never missed this part of the year, so it's the first summer in a while I've been home to do the summer thing," McClain said. "But that means there's no income coming in, either

McClain's wife, Laurie, works part-time at a hotel and restaurant.

It's unreal that you could do something to one part of your body so many different times.

"She puts up with a lot of stuff she shouldn't have to," McClain said. "She's been great through the whole thing. And Cooper will be upset when I have to leave again. I need to come back as soon as I can, before I drop out of the top 15."

McClain has yet to even ride a horse, but that's coming soon. If he's feeling OK, he's able to put three or four fence posts in the ground around his three-acre property. On two good legs, he said the job could be done in two days.

Still, it's progress. He just hopes he hits the ground running — and all in one piece — when he makes his return to the arena later this month.

"It's not as bad as it was," McClain said. "A few weeks ago, I couldn't get off the couch, so it's gotten a lot better. I usually come back pretty strong. You crave it so bad when you've been home and you're rested up."

With McClain's history of leg fractures, he knows a little about the recovery process. He's still amazed at his mind-numbing rash of leg injuries incurred in his career.

"It's unreal that you could do something to one part of your body so many different times," McClain said. "It couldn't be something easy. I guess there's nothing I can do about it now except to come back and try again."