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University of Wyoming cowboy Bucky Dickson won't be able to talk or eat solid foods for the next several weeks.
That's not so bad when you consider the alternative.
"He's just fortunate to be alive," UW Rodeo Coach George Howard says.
Dickson, an undeclared freshman bareback rider from Port Townsend, Wash., will have his jaw wired shut Thursday, five days after being kicked in the face by a bucking horse at the Ropin' and Riggin' Days collegiate rodeo in Casper.
Unlike most rodeo contestants, Dickson won't ride without a helmet. Now, he says, you know why.
"The helmet saved my life and it's about the fifth or sixth time it has. I took the full kick of a horse to the face, but I'm still alive," Dickson writes in an e-mail. "Without the helmet, I know I'd be dead because as it was, I was unconscious for three minutes but I don't remember anything for about 20 minutes.
"I have had multiple doctors tell me that the helmet was the only thing that saved me."
Dickson's jaw will be wired for four weeks, then set in place with rubber bands for an additional two to four weeks. He will not require any major reconstructive or plastic surgery.
"If you looked at him today, you wouldn't know his jaw is broken," says Howard. "Until he opens his mouth."
Dickson hopes other cowboys will learn from his experience and consider wearing protective headgear. While he says he gets grief from other contestants because wearing a helmet is not "a cowboy thing," Dickson adds, "No one seems to make fun of you if it saves your life, or if you beat them."
Dickson also writes, "I have never been on a bucking bull or bronc without one. I was raised with one and now feel that I need it for my safety. I figure as long as I win, I will influence others to wear one as well."
The scary accident, caught on video by the Casper Star-Tribune (www.trib.com) and KCWY TV 13 (www.kcwy13.com), casts a shadow over Dickson's finest performance of the Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) season.
At Casper, Dickson finished second in the bareback standings to Eastern Wyoming College's Ty Kenner, amassing 145 points on two rides. His previous best finish was seventh at the Skyline Stampede earlier this month in Fort Collins, Colo. He now sits 10th in the CRMR overall standings.
But Dickson won't ride another bucking horse this season. He'll focus instead on finishing spring semester classes and adjusting to a liquid diet.
"The doctors are telling me that I'll lose about 15-20 pounds throughout this whole ordeal. But I've spent my life working out to get bigger and I'm not about to slow down now," Dickson writes. "I've tried the blended solid foods and they're edible, just not very good. Protein shakes are going to make up a huge part of my diet through all of this."
He adds, "If my experience convinces someone else to wear a helmet when they ride, then this will totally be worth it."