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Paralyzed rancher is back in the saddle
"After the accident doctors said I'd never ride a horse again. But, in three weeks, I was out of the hospital and began lifting weights at home. I did the same therapy and exercise program at home as I would have done at the hospital, and within six months I was riding my horse again," says Kelly Bess, Lincoln, Calif.
He's still able to work cattle, thanks to a custom-built saddle that consists of the back from an old school chair with pipes bolted onto the back. The pipes slip into holders mounted on the back of the saddle, and on the back of the "chair" are sewn two large straps of Velcro that wrap around Bess' midsection.
Bess is able to pull himself up onto his horse or into his truck and can lower himself back into his wheelchair. "I never thought this cattle operation was too much for me. Whatever I wanted to do, I found a way to do it and got it done," he says.
Bess, 23, has been a paraplegic since a truck accident four years ago. He was on his way home from a basketball game until, three miles from his home, he fell asleep behind the wheel of his truck.
Both Bess and his wife Karen are actively involved in the cow-calf operation. During the school year she teaches sixth through eighth grade physical education in Marysville and helps Kelly during the summer.
"We can take care of things during the evenings or weekends, and I have a ranch hand working with me during the days, so I get things done," he says.
Bess began cowboying before high school, but after his accident he decided to return to school and pursue a career in business. He hopes to find job in agribusiness.
Bess now has a two-year degree in finance and is less than two years away from his bachelor's degree in business.
"The biggest obstacle I've had to overcome is not being able to get out and cowboy or team rope as much. I can't push it as much anymore I've learned to take things a little slower," Bess says.
Story and photos reprinted with permission from Ag-Alert, Sacramento, Calif.


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1985 - Volume #9, Issue #6