That awful moment during the 1989 Cheyenne Frontier Days Finals when Takin’ Care of Business tossed bull rider Lane Frost into the air, then hit him in the ribs with a horn that killed the rodeo star, is still keenly felt by the doctor who treated him.
Most of the men riding bulls today weren’t born when Frost died, but they all owe him and know they are safer in the arena because of what happened at Cheyenne 34 years ago.
On July 30, 1989, a cool, rainy day, Frost rode Takin’ Care of Business, scoring an 85. But he had a poor dismount that put him in front of the bull, which stepped on his chaps and hooked the young cowboy with a horn to the ribs.
After the blow, Frost rose from the arena dirt, took a few steps and motioned to the sidelines that he was hurt before he collapsed face down.
He Couldn’t Fix It
Dr. Skip Ross was the first responder to attend Frost after the bull pounded into him.
Frost had broken ribs that tore through his heart.
Still visibly moved by recalling the events of that fateful day, Ross now quietly says he knows the injury was something “you couldn’t fix.” But he tried for 90 minutes before reluctantly agreeing with other members of the medical team that Frost was gone.
‘A Terrible Deal All Around’
Parker Breding of Edgar, Montana, who qualified for the semifinals at CFD with his bull ride on Wednesday, wasn’t born when Frost made his last ride in Cheyenne, but Breding has often heard of the day from his parents. His father, Scott Breding is a five-time NFR qualifier who often competed against Frost.
“Dad was actually there that day when Lane got killed,” Breding said. “It was one of those terrible deals. My mom didn’t know, they just said a bull rider got killed, she didn’t know who it was.
“And back then you had to use pay phones. And he didn’t get to call home for quite a while, so that was a pretty scary deal, just a terrible deal all around.”
Breding said his mother “sat by the phone all night long until he was able to call her. She got the news she wanted, but somebody else didn’t. It was just a terrible day.”
“I grew up watching Lane Frost. … So that’s pretty much how I learned how to ride bulls,” J.B. Mauney, one of the most successful riders in the sport, said Thursday before he prepared for his own ride on Two Socks. “It was unfortunate it happened here. But it kind of trademarks it for bull riders.”
Frost’s friend and traveling partner Cody Lambert developed a protective vest that the bull riders started wearing “and that’s saved me a bunch of times,” Mauney said. “It’s unfortunate that things like (Frost’s death) have to happen to turn it around and get something like that, but you know it’s all a part of the game.”
Mauney, who rode some of the rankest bulls in the sport during his years with the PBR, made history in 2016 as the first bull rider to reach the $7 million mark in career earnings.
He retired from PBR two years ago and started riding in the PRCA, earning a trip to the National Finals in Las Vegas his first year in pro rodeo.
He said Frost’s death had a profound effect on the bull riders because, “It got them to wear the vests.”
The doctor and cowboys agree that a vest might have prevented Frost’s injury from being fatal, and more important that in the years since, the protective gear has kept other cowboys from severe injury.
‘Still A Reminder’
Most bull riders also wear helmets instead of cowboy hats.
Ross said all high school bull riders are required to wear helmets. That means they learn to ride and balance their body with the headgear on, so they continue wearing a helmet when they advance to college and pro ranks.
But Frost’s accident is “still a reminder to bull riders that the sport is dangerous,” said Breding, a four-time NFR qualifier. “It’s dangerous, we all know that. We’re all just riding on God’s time and asking for his protection when we’re doing this.”
But cowboys also take care of themselves, and Breding said after Lambert came out with the leather vests for guys to wear his dad was one of the first to wear one.
“Thank God that we have those, because they’ve prevented a lot of bad things,” he said.
The movie “8 Seconds” about Frost’s life — starring Luke Perry as Frost, Stephen Baldwin as Tuff Hedeman, Red Mitchell as Lambert and Cynthia Geary as Lane’s wife, Kellie Kyle Frost — grossed more than $19 million at the box office and inspired a generation of bull riders.
For River Mossberg of Cheyenne, who competed in bull riding in high school rodeo but has not yet at the college or professional levels, “8 Seconds” was an inspiration.
“It was a movie that was around and always in the movie case,” he said, adding the film was a “good story with a good meaning behind it.”
Mossberg’s goal is to ride at Cheyenne Frontier Days someday.
Bull riding is a culture unto itself. The boys who do it usually start when they are little as mutton busters (riding sheep), then they ride calves and steers before finally getting on bulls.
One little boy in the cowboy ready area at CFD on Thursday, wearing his chaps, boots and cowboy hat, had his own bull rope.
As the cowboys prepared for their rides, he wrapped his bull rope around the seat of a picnic table and practiced his own riding. No doubt, he was dreaming just like Mossberg of one day getting on a bucking bull and hearing the announcer call his name as he enters the arena at Cheyenne Frontier Days for an 8-second ride.
“Champion Lane Frost” a 15-foot tall, monumental bronze sculpture by Casper artist Chris Navarro, is a permanent memorial to the bull rider and the location where “behind-the-scenes” chute tours begin during CFD.
It stands in front of the CFD Old West Museum, which has its own tribute to Frost.