Saturday, August 13, 2016
Molly Hermelbracht knew she would return to rodeoing, even when it became clear her thumb would have to be removed.
Hermelbracht, 22, a rodeo competitor on the Hastings College team, injured her right thumb while roping a steer at practice last fall.
An attempt to reattach the mangled thumb failed, and it was amputated about a week later at Creighton University Medical Center. She started throwing a rope at a dummy soon after the amputation and is back competing in rodeos and roping events this summer.
Molly Hermelbracht, 2, roping from her toy bouncy horse.
A rodeoer and surgeon in Colorado said any time you go to a roping competition, there’s a good chance you’ll shake hands with a person who is missing a thumb. Amputated fingers and thumbs aren’t common, but competitors in the sport know the risk is there.
Rodeoers see their game as rough and loving at the same time. The sportsmanship of rodeo competitors, Hermelbracht’s father said, is real. If a rider’s horse is sore or injured, his rival most
likely will share his horse. Their appreciation for each other isn’t like the lineup for obligatory high-fives that follows a softball game.
“This is a second family,” Wes Hermelbracht, a roper himself, said of rodeo competitors. “It’s a pretty special world.”
Late last month, the Hermelbrachts — Molly, Wes, mother Jeanne, brother Ty, Ace the dog and three horses — arrived at the Washington County Fair for a night of rodeoing. Cicadas rang out, the sun fell in rose hues, the air smelled of popcorn and hay, funnel cakes and manure. The temperature dropped into the low 70s, a perfect midsummer’s rodeo night.
“Ready to go, as always,” Molly said before her event.
She took some practice tosses at a dummy and roped it every time.