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One final ride
This weekend, a Baker City native returns home for one final bull ride.
“I shattered my knee a year ago, and I decided my career was over,” said Caleb Johnson.
Riding a bull at the time, Johnson was thrown to the ground, where his knee buckled in the wrong direction.
He broke his tibial plateau in 11 places, destroying the smooth surface which syncs against the femur bone.
“I know I’m done for good — but I wanted to do one more ride,” said Johnson, who is the son of Dave and Cathy Johnson of Baker City.
That ride will be Saturday’s Baker City Bull Riding Blowout at the Fairgrounds. It starts at 6 p.m.
“I will always love bull riding, but my little girl (Kashlyn, who’s 1ﬁ) and my wife are my world now,” Johnson said. “I’m ready for closure.”
These days, Johnson manages the Comanche Ridge Ranch down in Carlton, Texas, which he described as a big cattle and white-tail deer hunting ranch.
“I’ll always be in the cow business some way,” Johnson said. “My wife Shantell and I are even raising our first bucking bull.”
In 2002, Johnson graduated from Baker High School, where his father is still the head football coach.
But he learned to rodeo with his mother’s side of the family, getting his first taste of bull riding on Eastern Oregon ranch bulls.
By 2006, Johnson had his card and was riding bulls professionally.
In attendance on Saturday will be his parents, two of his brothers and his little sister, along with family friends.
His buddies Clint Johnson and Brian Sanders (his best friend since childhood and former traveling partner) will also be riding in the competition.
When asked if he felt prepared physically for this final ride, Johnson said, “I’ve been doing tons of rehab and I feel good. I’m excited, I really am.”
Which is not to say his recovery is complete. After two plates and 13 screws, PCL/ACL surgery, plus arthroscopic surgery to clean out the scar tissue, he still has another surgery to go.
Johnson needs a bone graft which he said may come from a cadaver. He will travel to Dallas for the surgery — to be performed by Tandy Freeman, official on-site doctor for the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) since 1995.
PBR riders are covered insurance-wise when competing professionally, though Johnson was unfortunately injured at an open event.
That hasn’t seemed to dampen his enthusiasm for bull riding nor for a visit to his hometown.
Besides the bull riding, Johnson will attend his 10-year high school reunion and his grandmother’s 85th birthday party.
When considering the possibility of re-injury, Johnson said: “I just block out the chance of injury — I’m focused on what I need to do and I’m confident I’ll do a good job riding these two bulls.”