DAYTON - Until three weeks ago, Colten Bills, 16, had no problem getting back onto whatever horse threw him. He'd just pick up his hat, dust off his pants and give it another go.
Then he met his match at a rodeo in Clarksville.
"The horse launched me in the air," Bills said Wednesday as he prepared for physical therapy at Grandview Care Center in Dayton. "I landed the way I was supposed to land."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Logan Eliason, a physical therapy assistant, works with Colten Bills, 16, of Dayton, Wednesday morning at the Grandview Care Center in Dayton. Bills was seriously injured in a rodeo accident several weeks ago. The community is hosting a Cowboy Up for Colten Bills fundraiser Sunday. It will be part of the 75th annual Dayton Rodeo.
But something went terribly wrong.
Bills' leg was hyperextended and the knee joint pulled apart. When it pulled itself back together, it severed an artery.
So far, doctors at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines have performed three surgeries on the leg. Bills faces at least two more. In the meantime, he wears a leg brace and pump that drains fluid from the wound.
While Bills faces months and even years of therapy and recovery, the Dayton community has banded together to help the family financially.
Angie Kiefer is a member of the committee organizing the Cowboy Up for Colten Bills benefit. The event, which coincides with the 75th Dayton Rodeo, will feature live and silent auctions, raffles and a freewill donation pork loin sandwich lunch Sunday.
Kiefer said donations for the auction are doing quite well and that many people are coming forward to help.
"It's nice to see this from the community," she said. "The response is overwhelming."
Bills is a little shy about all of the attention, but he's very grateful too.
"It makes me feel good," he said.
On Wednesday morning, family friend Norman Vegors helped Bills train, offering encouragement and some good-natured ribbing as the therapy got under way.
Vegors appreciated what the surgeons were able to do.
"They worked like heck to save his leg," he said.
Bills is grateful too.
"The doctors said I shouldn't have a leg."
Bills credits his faith for helping him get through the ordeal.
"I thank God every night for all the blessings," he said. "It seems like he's been there."
Bills won't be giving up rodeo. He's not even considered it.
"Rodeo's been in my family since dad started," he said, referring to his father, Dave Bills.
While he won't be on horseback this weekend, Bills will be watching the rodeo.
"They can't keep me away."
Of course, keeping him off the broncos when he's healed might be a different story.
Vegors offered this prediction: "He's saying a year. His mom and dad is saying forever."