Posted: Aug 26, 2013 2:59 PM by Dustin Klemann - MTN News
Updated: Aug 26, 2013 2:59 PM
BILLINGS - With perfect posture, feeling the indescribable mix of pain and narcotics, Maggie Parker recounted her last ride on a bull whose name she can't remember.
The brace keeping Parker's surgically repaired back immobile is strong, but her passion for bull riding is impenetrable, even after her last ride put her in the hospital and under the knife for four hours.
"I don't do [bull riding] to prove anything. I do it because it's what I love to do, it's a sport I love to do," Parker said.
It was one of the final rides of the night on August 15 at the Cody Stampede Rodeo.
"I just lost my rope and he threw me up in the air pretty high. I landed on my neck and when my body crumpled, it popped and crushed my vertebrate."
The 65-inch tall, 130-pound Parker regularly takes on bulls that weigh as much as a ton. Though she's been injured before, none required two long rods and eight screws in her back.
St. Vincent Healthcare neurologist Richard Teff considered the surgery a success.
When I asked Parker the simple, arguably most ridiculous question, "How are you feeling?", she admitted it was better than vomiting on Saturday.
Even though her condition is very much in the baby steps of recovering, the road to riding again was given a boost by an influential trailblazer of the sport. That fan, and now ally in the recovery process, is Billings-native Lynn "Jonnie" Jonckowski.
"Being with [Maggie], all of a sudden I had gone into what my mom went through when she sat countless days and weeks and months watching her daughter, seeing her dreams dashed a little bit," Jonckowski continued, "She's going to up and twist them again, I'm sure of that."
Jonckowksi sees herself in Parker, the same "spunk" Jonnie carried during her run as a two-time World Bull Riding champion, even being the first woman to compete in the Men's World Bull Riding Championships in 1992. The laundry-list of Jonckowski's accomplishments didn't come without resistance from fellow male bull riders; something Parker too experiences when it comes to the professional circuit.
"Being a female... There is a lot more you have to deal with. A lot more mental attitude and stuff. You have to be mentally strong and that's why I'm the only girl in professional rodeo riding bulls because I'm the only person that can sustain it," Parker said confidently.
While the similarities between the two are striking, the gap between their careers is marked by the upgrades in safety.
Jonckowski rode naked; no helmet, no vest. Parker utilizes both. But neither could prevent the crushing force when Parker was tossed from the bull less than two weeks ago.
Prior to the injury, Parker said she felt great and gained confidence with her series of rides. Timing, however, wasn't on her side.
Her family had yet to see her compete. It was planned the week after the Cody Stampede Rodeo Parker's family would attend the next event, but it's not something Parker will dwell on.
"I've had plenty of injuries I've come back from."
She also pointed to her faith that helps guide her and creates courage to grab her passion by the horns.
"We have that heart to overcome that fear. Not many people can do that. And we give thanks when we don't die in the area," Parker said.
She expects herself back in the game by next year because the way she sees it "there aren't many cowgirls left."