Bull riding champion still involved with sport

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Richard “Tuff” Hedeman knew he couldn’t ride bulls forever. But his involvement with the sport is a different story.

More than a decade retired and still revered, the four-time world champion bull rider is now president of Championship Bull Riding, set to hold a 7:30 p.m Saturday rodeo at the Curry County Special Events Center.

“To me, it’s pretty exciting to come back because I grew up around New Mexico and Texas,” said the El Paso native and 1981 New Mexico all-around high school champion. “I went to high school rodeos in New Mexico, I went to junior rodeos in New Mexico, so naturally Clovis was always around that.

“The people in Clovis are knowledgable. They know their rodeos at every level, from junior rodeos to pro rodeos.”

Tickets are $12 in advance at the events center or Joe’s Boot Shop and $15 at the door.

Hedeman, whose sons have competed in rodeos at the center, said the facility is great for any type of rodeo event, but he said a full arena of any kind improves bull riding.

“Whatever venue I go to, I like to be able to sell it out,” Hedeman said. “There’s no subsitute for a full house.”

Scheduled to compete Saturday are 2007 CBR World Champion Bonner Bolton of Gardendale, Texas; 2008 Reserve World Champion Cooper Kanngiesser of Zenda, Kans.; and current CBR Tour leader Ardie Maier of Timberlake, S.D.

The focus, Hedeman said, is to bring all fans of competition, not just rodeo, to the events center.

“The thing about bull riding is you don’t have to be a cowboy, you don’t have to farm or ranch, or come from a rural background to have fun,” he said. “It’s a simple event, man vs. beast.”

Hedeman retired in 1999, but still enjoys being around the sport as an administrator and a rodeo parent.

“I’ve been there and done it, so I try to be realistic,” Hedeman said. “My kids do everything. They play basketball, football, baseball, golf. I tell them If we win, we’re going to get something to eat and go home. If we lose, we’re going to get something to eat and go home.

“It’s not a lifechanging experience every time. You want to do your best, but if you don’t do well that particlar time, it’s not the end of the world.”

Hedeman is best known for his run-ins with Bodacious, the only bull retired early due to safety concerns. Hedeman was injured in a 1995 ride on Bodacious, and missed two months of action after undergoing facial reconstructive surgery.

As only one of seven riders to complete an eight-second run on Bodacious, he’s amazed how much he hears about it, 15 years later.

“I was in El Paso the week of the Sun Bowl and I got to meet (Oklahoma quarterback) Sam Bradford. There was a kid from Stanford, I can’t remember his name. When he heard I was the guy who had ridden Bodacious, he wanted to know all the details about how bloody it was and how many bones I broke.

“Here’s a guy who’s from Southern California, grew up in the bad part of L.A., and he’s asking me a question about Bodadcious. It’s funny to me. That was 1995, and people still remember that.”