BISMARCK, N.D. – Kasey Hayes calmly sat atop Do Wacka Do on Friday night inside the bucking chutes at the Bismarck Civic Center.
His left hand was draped over the outer side of the chutes, while his right hand loosely grasped the other side of the chutes as he watched Luis Blanco attempt to ride High Horns.
For the most part, Hayes looked as cool and collected as any other day.
However, he admittedly had plenty of thoughts running through his mind as he began to warm his rosin on his left hand during then Dakota Community Bank & Trust BlueDEF Velocity Tour event.
It had only been less than two months since he was folded over like a cheap lawn chair by Panda Trax at the Des Moines Invitational and sustained three compression fractures in his back (L1,2,3).
“You try not to think about it, but you are about to get on another bull – something that hurt you really bad not too long ago,” Hayes said. “You just don’t want to worry about it. This is what you love to do anyway so go ahead and put your hand in the rope and just act like it is another bull, another night.”
“You are thinking about it when you are on a bull and in our chute procedure. When you nod, second nature takes over.”
Once the gate whipped open, Hayes instincts did indeed carry him to the 8-second mark. It wasn’t as fluid or pretty as he would have liked, but the 29-year-old rode Do Wacka Do for 82.5 points in his first ride attempt since being crushed by Panda Trax.
Do Wacka Do started out straight from the bucking chutes before turning back about halfway through the ride on Hayes.
That is when things felt a little bit rusty for the Liberal, Kansas, native.
“I felt a little out of time,” Hayes said. “When he was going straight I felt good, but when he turned back, I felt a little behind. I had to really cut that corner to get there. Then I was like alright, now show out and throw the foot. I tried to do that. I did it once or twice, maybe, and then got back out there again and was like, ‘Oh, no.’
“Maybe his timing was a little slow. It didn’t feel as fluid as it could have been.”
Hayes was bucked off by Modified Clyde in the championship round.
Hayes tried to keep his comeback low key this weekend. He showed up to the Bismarck Civic Center 30 minutes before start time, and he really didn’t want to get caught up in any hoopla or distractions. He just wanted to get his first ride back done and other with.
He was originally going to return last weekend in Moline, Illinois, but decided to take one more week off off.
Hayes is currently ranked 24th in the world standings.
The extra week off also helped him have more time to assist his wife, Leah, as she gets her new business ready for its grand opening later this month. Leah is opening a boutique in Liberal called Rockin Rumor Boutique.
“We have a lot of work this week to make it,” Kasey said. “It is going good and I think she will do good. There is no boutique like it in Liberal, Kansas.”
Kasey’s rehabilitation process consisted primarily of a series of stretches and rest. He also credits his massage therapist Abby Rorabaugh for helping him recover.
“Man, I was hurting pretty bad for like three and a half weeks,” he said. “After she worked on me, it was night and day. She explained to me that when you get hurt, your muscles tense up around it to protect it, and once she loosened up all that stuff around it I felt great.”
One of the first things he did in Des Moines following the wreck was to wiggle his toes.
“I wiggled my feet to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed,” Hayes recalled. “It really hurt bad. When I laid back, I didn’t really know how to lay. I saw them go out and I knew I needed to get up and get out of there. I think it was Jesse (Byrne) who said, ‘Stay down, Kasey.’
“I saw the bull duck out and I was like, ‘Alright, now I can lay down and relax.’ When I went to lay down it just hurt. I didn’t really know how to lay because I was like damn, this hurts. I hope I am not hurt bad.”
Coincidentally, Des Moines was where Hayes sustained a broken neck in 2008.
Hayes had some people jokingly say maybe he shouldn’t compete in the state capital anymore.
Regardless of the two injuries, Des Moines is also where Hayes rode Mississippi Hippy for 88.5 points in 2014.
“It has not necessarily always been bad, and I have fallen off every bull there before and didn’t get hurt,” Hayes said. “(This year) my bull Closing Time bucked me off 30 minutes before I got on Pandra Trax. It was just a bad night.”
Hayes is simply happy surgery was not needed this time around and that he was able to make a healthy recovery.
“I really have to thank God,” Hayes concluded. “I didn’t have to get surgery, I basically got to take time off and have a little vacation. Yeah, I missed Vegas, which paid a lot, but so what. It is better than having surgery and being out. I just know surgery is way worse. If you have to have surgery, it is no good.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2015 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.