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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Good ol’ Shaner
The following story was published in The Oklahoman in August 2003. At that time, Shane Drury had been deemed healthy by his doctors after battling cancer. He was back to riding bulls.

By Ted Harbin
The Oklahoman
Aug. 6, 2003

Life threw bull rider Shane Drury some tough breaks the last two years. A rare type of cancer formed near his chest, threatening not only his career but his life.

Sickening treatments and surgery left Drury questioning his fate. Through it all, he still had Hope.

“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Drury said of, Hope, the woman he married in December 2001, four months before he was diagnosed. “She’s with me every minute of the day, through all the ups and downs.

“And there have been a lot of downs.”

Drury’s comeback continues this week when he competes in the Rangers Rodeo, a key stop on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit, east of Lawton at the LO Ranch.

To get to this point, Drury used all the science available to ride through the turmoil, from chemotherapy treatments to surgery to more chemo. He was already sick, and he became more ill in the process of defeating the tumor.

All along, Hope was there offering all she had. They met as students at Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, and she was with him when he was one of the best bull riders in the PRCA.

He qualified for the 2000 National Finals Rodeo and barely missed in 2001, all while riding through some intense pain on the left side of his back. After numerous doctors visits, the Drurys learned what was causing all that pain.

Cancerous tumors were found in the back of Drury’s chest cavity and diagnosed as Ewing’s sarcoma, which usually develops in or near the bone and is often in children between the ages of 10 and 20.

“I know it was tough for him,” said his oldest brother, Jesse. “Of course, he has wonderful Hope. She’s a phenomenal person and has been a blessing for him. For all of us, really. I’m not sure how we’d have done this without her.”

A big heart
Shane Drury is not a big man. He’s 5-foot-2, and bulked up he tops the scales at 130 pounds.

Those closest to him knew he’d beat cancer, and they knew he’d return to the rodeo arena. Most just didn’t know when.

He answered that question July 17, when he attempted to ride his first bull at a PRCA rodeo in Pretty Prairie, Kan. Drury was bucked off before making an eight-second qualified ride that night and the next, but that didn’t last long.

“I don’t think anybody, including myself, thought he’d be riding this summer,” said Corey Navarre of Weatherford, one of Shane’s best friends and a former traveling partner. “He just got off chemo, and he went from laying on the couch every day being sick, having no muscle and not being in shape back to riding bulls within just a few weeks.”

On July 19, Drury was the only cowboy to hang on for eight seconds at the Woodward Elks Rodeo. He finished the four-day event tied for sixth place and won $850.

“Shane’s one of those people who never gives up,” said Case Drake of Sayre, another friend. “I saw him get knocked out five or six times our rookie year, but he never gave up. I just admire that about him.”

As soon as he could, Drury began running and lifting weights. His last chemo treatment was in April, and by the end of June, he was running up to three miles a day.

“He’s good at whatever he wants to be good at; he’s got that kind of attitude,” Jesse Drury said. “If I could describe him with one word, it would be try. With life in general, he’s got more try and faith — faith not only in himself, but in God, too. But that’s what it takes.”

There’s been no easing back into rodeo. Shane rode last week in Dodge City, Kan.; Kearney, Neb.; Hill City, Kan.; Phillipsburg, Kan.; and Abilene, Kan. He just missed making the short go-round in Dodge City.

This week, Drury was in Iola, Kan., on Tuesday and is in Sikeston, Mo., tonight. Thursday he competes in the first round at Lawton, then will head to Dalhart, Texas, on Friday. He hopes to return to Lawton on Saturday for the short round.

The top 12 contestants in each event after preliminary rounds qualify for Saturday’s short round. The top 12 in points at the end of the 10-rodeo tour qualifies for the tour finale in Omaha, Neb., which has a $500,000 purse.

A family affair
The Drury boys were raised around rodeo. Chad and Shane rode calves, then steers, then bulls. Jesse roped. All three attended college on rodeo scholarships, Chad and Shane at South Dakota State-Brookings and Southwestern Oklahoma State and Jesse at National American University in Rapid City, S.D., their hometown.

Each qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo — Jesse in calf roping and team roping, and Chad and Shane in bull riding. Chad finished third in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association in 2000, the year Shane qualified for his first NFR.

All three are members of the PRCA — or at least were. Jesse hasn’t roped in competition since the best year of his brothers’ careers. In September 2000, Jesse Drury fought for his own life after falling asleep at the wheel and rolling his pickup.

“I was in a coma for five days,” Jesse said. “I crushed my leg, and below the knee it was pretty much shattered. I’m able to walk, but they tell me I’m lucky to be able to walk.”

The wreck happened in the early-morning hours of Sept. 15, as Shane was preparing to compete in the short go-round in Pendleton, Ore. When Shane learned of the crash, he tried to get back to Rapid City to be with his brother. But the earliest flight out was that evening, so Shane finished the rodeo.

Shane finished second. The final round was televised, and Hope noticed something on the screen about her husband.
“The telecast of that rodeo aired on ESPN, and on it you can see after Shane got off his bull, he had tears streaming down the dirt on his face,” Hope wrote in an e-mail. “His mind was not on the arena that day, but obviously some angels were taking care of he and Jesse both.”

When Shane became ill, the roles were reversed. Jesse made regular trips from Rapid City to North Platte, Neb., where Shane was undergoing treatments.

“In the back of your mind, you expect the worst,” Chad said. “But as determined as Shane is, I never had any doubt that he could beat cancer.”

Said Jesse, “He’s my little hero. After my accident, he was there for me. When we found out he had cancer, I was just in disbelief. I’ve had a lot of emotions. Mostly it’s a fear of the unknown. I would’ve rather had it than have him go through it.”

Supporting cast
The Drury clan is an extension of the rodeo family. Friends conducted a bull-riding event for Shane’s benefit last October in Weatherford, raising more than $30,000 to help the Drurys’ medical expense. A portion of the money raised went to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, which also helped with finances.

“You don’t realize how good things are until something like this happens,” Shane said. “You don’t realize how supportive the rodeo community is until something like this.”

Phone calls, letters and e-mails have flooded Shane and Hope’s Nebraska home.
“It’s all him fighting,” Navarre said. “All I could do, or anybody could do, was call him and check on him and constantly keep him in prayer.”

Lonnie Carpenter of Wichita, a Prairie Circuit bull-riding champion, did a little more. He and Drury developed a special relationship when they were traveling together.

“I’m not the easiest person to get along with, and we started getting along good,” Carpenter said. “We’ve been best friends ever since, mainly because he’s real positive and really up. That’s what I like.”

Carpenter wrote, called and visited when he could.

“When Shane was losing his hair, I went ahead and shaved my hair off,” Carpenter said. “I wanted him to know that he’s not alone, and I didn’t know how else to express it.

“I kept that head as bald as a baby’s butt for a long time.”

And through it all — the pain, the chemo, the surgery, the family, the love, the return to competition — he’s had his friends, his family and Hope. That continues.

“I’ve learned that the little things are little things,” Shane said. “There are so many things you take for granted.

“I became a lot closer with God. That’s helped me more than anything.”

UPDATE: Shane Drury lost his battle with cancer Oct. 31, 2006. I was fortunate to be at the memorial service and the touching tributes his friends gave. He is still missed by those of us who call him friend.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Record-breaking performance
The following is a story that was written for publication in the Guymon Daily Herald, but, alas, the sports editor that is just months out of college decided to cut the story where it ended on the page instead of editing the story down to size. He’s young and inexperienced, but this is basic editing 101 that the boy should’ve learned in college. I guess they don’t teach that at the University of Kansas.

So in order to get the rest of the information out there, I’ll file it here, too. I hope you enjoy.

Billy Etbauer broke a National Finals Rodeo earnings record, but Jeffrey Willert broke the bank.

Etbauer earned $120,775 after 10 days at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas to better the mark of $117,745 he set at last year’s championship. Then the 23-year-old Willert one-upped the veteran Etbauer by breaking the season earnings mark en route to the world championship.

For his part, Willert also surpassed the NFR record set last December, pocketing $118,630. That, combined with his regular-season best $159,539, allowed the Belvidere, S.D., cowboy to finish 2005 with $278,169.

“I don’t think it has really sunk in yet,” said Willert, who surpassed the $236,031 Canadian Glen O’Neill set in 2002. “It is hard to beat Billy (Etbauer) and Cody (DeMoss) and them guys. I am sure that my dad, grandparents and the whole town of Belvidere is excited, but it really hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Etbauer spent time in the Oklahoma Panhandle during his 18-year ProRodeo career, traveling with brothers Danny and Robert and friend Craig Latham, who all still live in Goodwell. Willert attended Panhandle State from 2000-03, where he was a stellar athlete.

“He could’ve easily won the college championship, but he went to the (ProRodeo) tour finale instead of the college finals that one year,” said Latham, Panhandle State’s rodeo coach. “He just blossomed early, and there’s no doubt in my mind he could’ve won the college title. But he was looking to make the NFR that first year, and he eventually did.”

Like the Etbauer brothers, Tom Reeves and countless other bronc riders, Willert made his way from South Dakota to this region to ride bucking horses.

“My freshman year in high school, my cousin and I went down there to the bronc riding school,” Willert said last week from Las Vegas, referring to the Deke Latham Memorial Bronc Riding school that takes place each spring in Goodwell. “That was when I decided I wanted to go there.

“That’s what every young kid needs is getting on practice horses like we got on. I didn’t go there for school. I went there to learn to ride broncs and rodeo.”

He’s still a young kid, especially compared to Etbauer, the 42-year-old five-time world champion who finished this season No. 3 in the final standings. Only Louisianan Cody DeMoss stood between him and Willert.

“I just finally figured out I couldn’t keep up with that Billy,” said Latham, who has stepped away from competitive bronc riding to focus on his coaching duties. “It’s no wonder I had a hard time beating him. To still be going that good at his age … he’s amazing. He’s somebody you pattern yourself after.

“In my opinion, there’s not a more aggressive guy in bronc riding ever.”

Willert agreed.

“Billy is the main guy, just because he’s still going,” Willert said. “He’s still riding better than anybody else.”
Bret Franks, a three-time NFR qualifier from Goodwell who served as rodeo coach at Panhandle State for some time, recognizes the similarities between Willert and Etbauer, world titles not withstanding. Both work hard, and both are extremely talented.

“When he started at school, Jeff had the talent to ride broncs quick,” Franks said. “He rode good right from the start.
“I think ol’ Bill’s the best bronc rider that ever lived, and I want him to have more titles than anybody else.”

Etbauer’s five gold buckles trail just two other cowboys, Casey Tibbs and Dan Mortensen, who both have six bronc-riding world titles. Mortensen, 37, is still competing. Willert has played on ProRodeo’s grand stage three years, so there’s a good chance he could reach those lofty heights.

And he’s got good reason to stay out on the rodeo circuit chasing those dreams.

“This is what I love and what I want to do,” Willert said. “I want to ranch for a hobby and rodeo for a living. And my family’s behind me. My dad would rather see me out rodeoing instead of being back home haying or calving cows.”

2 Responses to “Archive”

  • kay behm:

    Hi Ted, Sorry I am just now getting around to checking out the site. I loved the story on Shane and his brave fight against his cancer. I especially loved his willingness to share his faith in Jesus on his website. Chad has been faithful in the attempt to keep the memory of his brother alive. I still wear a bracelet that has the motto: “Nothin But Try” that Corey and Chad dreamed up and Cody gave me. That bracelet is just a piece of rubber but it means a lot to me as do the men who have so impacted my life. Thank you for sending me the link to your page. God bless. Kay

  • Hi Ted,
    So glad that you posted about your recent articles in your blog. This is a great write-up about this brave young man.

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