The December phone call was devastating.
Ryan Mapston had diligently spent the last four months in rehabilitation, trying to get his ankle back in shape to ride bucking horses. Mentally, he was gearing himself up for a comeback.
The 37-year-old Mapston, of Geyser, had suffered the gruesome injury in August at a rodeo in Fort Dodge, Kan. The force of the injury to his right ankle turned it inward, ripped open about a 21/2-inch hole in his skin, dislocated some bones and broke some others. It was a mess.
He watched last year's PRCA NILE Rodeo on crutches.
On the other end of the phone that day was Dr. Tandy Freeman, the doctor for professional rodeo cowboys. After looking, along with other foot injury experts, at an MRI of Mapston's progress, Freeman delivered the disheartening news.
"Tandy didn't give me a favorable report," recalled Mapston. "They said it was 25 percent healed and I might not ride again. It was pretty devastating.
"I was worried. I didn't know if it was a career-threatening injury."
Eight months after the phone call, Mapston was back in Billings. Not on crutches, but this time to ride a saddle bronc horses owned by the Sankey Rodeo Company.
Friday's performance of the PRCA NILE Rodeo at Metra was a final opportunity for cowboys and cowgirls to move into the top 12 and qualify for today's championship go-around.
The final round, with the top 12 qualifiers in each event, will begin at 7:30 p.m. The round will be televised at a later date this November in ESPN2 as part of the PRCA program, "Road to the NFR."
Mapston, however, won't be back. He had a modest 70-point ride on the horse, Loui.
Despite the low score, the Geyser cowboy was just glad to be back on his own power.
After the phone call, Mapston entered a bunch of rodeos in the south at the start of this year. He stopped in Dallas to visit Freeman for a final check-up.
"They were amazed how it healed," said Mapston, now well-versed in medical terminology. "Everything was just fine."
Mapston's first rodeo was in Fort Worth, Texas.
"I had a horse Rance Bray was 89 points on. I was just hoping to have a nice little hopper," said Mapston with a small smile. "To be honest, I had a pretty dry mouth when I crawled down in there. But everything went fine."
Mapston was more than back. He had strong winter to jump into the top 10 of the world standings.
"It took me a while to work some bugs out and get my confidence back," he said.
But a slow summer dropped Mapston below the top 10. He currently holds the final and 15th spot to qualify for the National Finals rodeo. Mapston is a five-time qualifier for the NFR.
"I drew a bunch of dinks," Mapston said of his summer. "This fall, I have to rodeo hard to stay in the standings. Of course, I'd rather be home. But this actually helps me. Getting on horse after horse after horse helps my riding.
"I'm just so tickled to be back. Being out gave me a good appreciation for what we do. You don't have too many years in this business. I'm just glad to be back. I still feel I've got a couple of good years left."In other events Friday: Australian Darren Clarke, who now lives in Texas, won the bareback round with a score of 84 points aboard Deuce.
Chase Krone of Augusta put his steer down in 5.4 seconds, but it wasn't enough for a check or to qualify for the final round.
Shane Eberline, of Lander, Wyo., was 8.4 in calf roping to place sixth in the second round.
World all-around standings leader Jesse Bail posted an 82-point ride in saddle bronc. Bail, who has qualified for the NFR in both saddle bronc and bull riding, withdrew from the latter Friday night because of a sore wrist. The South Dakota cowboy will compete in the championship round in saddle bronc.
The final round of team roping will be a Tryan family reunion. Father Dennis and partner Blaine Linaweaver lead the average with 11 seconds on two runs. Travis Tryan and Matt Zancanella have qualified second, while Caleb Tryan and Caleb Twisselman have qualified 10th. Both Travis and Clay Tryan are among the top 10 in the world team roping standings for headers.
McKenzie Miller was 14.36 seconds in barrel racing, but not fast enough for the final round. The first round was won by Brandie Halls, of Cheyenne, Wyo., who is 12th in the world standings.
Canadian Garth Oldfield had the best among three qualified bull rides. His 76 points advanced him to the final round.Friday's results Bareback - Darren Clarke, Denton, Texas, 84; Forest Bramwell, Pagosa Springs, Colo., 83; Bobby Mote, Redmond, Ore., 78; Chris Timberman, Casper, Wyo., 78; Cody De Mers, Boulder, 78; Tim Shirley, Conifer, Colo., 77; Andy Bolich, Bozeman, 76; Wade Sankey, Joliet, 76; Michael Miner, Helena, 74; Bronson Burbach, Bailey, Colo., no score.
Steer wrestling - Chase Krone, Augusta, 5.4; Dane Hanna, Berthold, N.D., 6.2; Ken Holland, Dillon, 6.4; Will Meyer, Selfridge, Colo., 7.3. No time: Ryan Hanna, Watford City, N.D.; Jeremy Marn, Belt; Denver Gilbert, Gillette, Wyo.; Birch Negaard, Buffalo, S.D.; Jace Honey, LaJunta, Colo.; Jesse Peterson, Dillon.
Calf roping - Shane Eberline, Lander, Wyo., 8.4; Garrett Nokes, McCook, Neb., 8.9; Troy Pruitt, Minatare, Neb., 9.3; Tate Woodard, Miles City, 9.9; Justen Nokes, McCook, Neb., 9.9; Curtis Cassidy, Donalda, AB, 15.5; J Billingsley, Glasgow, 16.6; Coy Kummer, Briggsdale, Colo., no time; Travis Caldwell, Billings.
Saddle bronc - Jesse Bail, Camp Crook, S.D., 82; Mike Outhier, Utopia, Texas, 73; Cody De Mers, Boulder, 73; Ryan Mapston, Geyser, 72; Dan Erickson, LaJunta, Colo., 70; Branden West, Philip, S.D., 68. No score: Ramos Benny, Fredonia, Ariz.; Jon Clark, Alva, Okla.; Kyle Whitaker, Chambers, Neb.; Rod Warren, Big Valley, AB.
Team roping - Clay Tryan, Billings-Caleb Twisselman, Santa Margarita, Calif., 6.3; Travis Tryan, Billings-Matt Zancanella, Aurora, S.D., 7.1; Donny Guardipee, Cut Bank-Rafael Paoliello, Dillon, 8.6; Bill Lynn, Billings-Shawn Billy, Box Elder, 11.9; Tyler Dempsey-Charlie Briggs, Bozeman, 15.8; No time: Shane Schwenke-J.B. Handy, Harlem; Jason Handy, Scobey-Clint Harry, Monroe, Wash.; Mark Salmond, Choteau-Ty Steinbach, Wolf Creek; Wes Tinsley-Shane Bessette, Belt; Ted Hoyt, Browning-J.C. Guardipee, Cut Bank.
Barrel racing - McKenzie Miller, St. Anthony, Idaho, 14.36; Carol Breuer, Fairview, 14.39; Shelly Anzick, Livingston, 14.47; Christy Gamble, Bozeman, 14.56; Denali Solomon, Havre, 14.73; Diana Morris, Silver Bow, 15.01; Shelly Risner-Vossler, Cheyenne, Wyo., 15.21; Lisa Scheffer, Hamilton, 24.70; Darcy Mapston, Geyser, 25.29.
Bull riding - Garth Oldfield, Milo, AB, 76; Blue Stone, Ogden, Utah, 71; Josh Carter, Piedmont, S.D., 67. No score: Jerry Shepherd, Levan, Utah; Rusty Patrick, Bassett, Neb.; Rusty Friend, Stockett; James Warfield, Helena.First round payouts Bareback - Darren Clarke, 84, 1,841; Clint Corey, 83, 1,199; Forest Bramwell, 83, 1,199; J.D. Garrett Jr., 82, 669; Jason Jeter, 80, 334; Scott Chesarek, 80, 334.
Saddle bronc - Scott Johnston, 84, 1,862; Rod Hay, 82, 1,034; Dan Mortensen, 82, 1,034; Jesse Bail, 82, 1,034; Bart Nichols, 81, 395; Jake Costello, 76, 94; Justin Arnold, 76, 94; Bret Franks, 76, 94.
Team roping - Wade Wheatley-Kyle Lockett, 4.4, 925; Tommy Edens-Coby Jones, 5.6, 766; Blaine Linaweaver-Dennis Tryan, 6.1, 606; Clay Tryan-Caleb Twisselman, 6.3, 446; Tee Woolman-Allen Bach, 6.5, 148; Jim Walz-Dallas Carson, 6.5, 148; Rob Kountz-Jesse Fleming, 6.5, 148.
Barrel racing - Brandie Halls, 14.02, 1,281; Carisa Shearer, 14.11, 1,098; Molly Powell, 14.13, 915; Maria Gee, 14.15, 793; Lisa Lockhart, 14.20, 610; Rayna Prewitt, 14.22, 488; Sharon Kobold, 14.25, 366; Angela Lockwood, 14.29, 244; June Tibbetts, 14.30, 183; Holly Hayworth, 14.33, 122.
Bull riding - Nathan Hofer, 84, 1,758; Ben Loyning, 83, 1,332; Josh O'Byrne, 81, 799; Jess Matt, 81, 799; Jason Legler, 77, 373; Marcus Michaelis, 76, 133; Garth Oldfield, 76, 133.Second round Steer wrestling - Matt Gilbert, 3.9, 1,688; Kent Mosher, 4.1, 1,468; Joey Bell Jr., 4.4, 1,248; Rod Lyman, 4.5, 697; Travis Taruscio, 4.5, 697; Joe Butterfield, 4.5, 697; Bob Lummus, 4.5, 697; Justin Davis, 4.6, 146.
Calf roping - Joe Beaver, 7.8, 1,451; Mike Johnson, 8.0, 1,201; Justin Maas, 8.1, 950; Bill Boyce, 8.2, 700; Jay Mattson, 8.3, 450; Shane Eberline, 8.4, 250.Tonight's championship qualifiers Bareback - Darren Clarke, Clint Corey, Forest Bramwell, J.D. Garrett Jr., Jason Jeter, Scott Chesarek, Cleve Schmidt, Cody Jessee, Paul Jones, Don Miller, Scott Lund.
Steer wrestling - Matt Gilbert, Kent Mosher, Joey Bell Jr., Rod Lyman, Travis Taruscio, Joe Butterfield, Bob Lummus, Justin Davis, Klate Greany, Lyman Colliflower.
Calf roping - Tim Pharr, Chad Johnson, Blair Burk, Todd Suhn, Joe Butterfield, Jeff Chapman, Justen Nokes, Bryan McClellan, Clay Cerny, Kyle Whitaker, Jay Mattson, Scott Kormos.
Saddle bronc - Scott Johnston, Rod Hay, Dan Mortensen, Jesse Bail, Bart Nichols, Bret Franks, Jake Costello, Justin Arnold, Charles Soileau, Jess Martin, Jake Hayworth.
Team roping - Blaine Linaweaver-Dennis Tryan, Travis Tryan-Matt Zancanella, Brett Fleming-Derick Fleming, J.D. Yates-Bobby Harris, Shain Sproul-B.J. Campbell, Tommy Edens-Coby Jones, Donny Guardipee-Rafael Paoliello, Camish Jennings-Randon Adams, Bill Lynn-Shawn Billy, Clay Tryan-Caleb Twisselman, Tee Woolman-Allen Bach, Jim Walz-Dallas Carson.
Barrel racing - Brandie Halls, Carisa Shearer, Molly Powell, Maria Gee, Lisa Lockhart, Rayna Prewitt, Sharon Kobold, Angela Lockwood, June Tibbetts, Holly Hayworth.
Bull riding - Nathan Hofer, Ben Loyning, Josh O'Byrne, Jess Matt, Jason Legler, Garth Oldfield, Marcus Michaelis, Steve Balgeman, Clint Solomon, Brett Crump, Charles Zoss.