ROBBINSDALE, Minn. (WCCO) — From the time he was a baby, Sam Bell has been attracted to horses and the cowboy way of life. His father, Roy Bell, recalls cradling his son in his arms while galloping along on a horse.
“He grew up on a ranch and that’s always been his dream. His passion was to be a cowboy,” said Roy.
That passion for rodeo and riding bucking broncos and wild bulls brought 14-year-old Sam success at his young age. For the past three years Sam has reigned as Minnesota’s state bull riding champion in the wrangler division. This year, he began competing in high school rodeo competitions.
“The caliber, the way he rides, he rides as good as any of the pro-riders for his age group,” said Katie Pitzen, his sister.
But that cowboy luck changed on Saturday night while Bell was competing in a rodeo competition in his hometown of Nimrod, just north of Wadena.
While attempting his eight second ride on a 1,600-pound bull, Sam was tossed violently to the ground. He landed flat on his back, striking his head.
Despite wearing a helmet and an armored vest, Sam was knocked unconscious. He was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale where he remained in a coma.
“Bruising on his brain, and that’s what’s prevented him from coming to,” said Roy Bell. His son has brain contusions as well as some broken ribs. But the family is optimistic as Sam is moving around in his bed and the tube that was draining fluid from one lung was able to be removed.
One glance at the belt buckles worn by his dad and sister tells you that rodeo is a family affair. Just last week, Sam performed at the Minnesota State Fair and then traveled to an event in Superior, Wis.
Even when he’s not competing or practicing his bull riding, you’ll find Sam riding a horse.
“He just loves it, breaking and training and being a cowboy,” says Sam’s mother, Avis Estabrooks.
But she admits after this scare, roping calves and riding broncos and bulls will bring new apprehensions. Until then, this ride will be a test of patience and prayers for family and friends.
“It’s like any other sport. Anybody can get hurt and his passion is rodeo and I’m sure he’ll be back at it when he’s physically able to again,” she said
Estabrooks said it’s helpful to see so many well-wishes written on Sam’s Caring Bridge website.
“Their thoughts and prayers are very much appreciated,” Estabrooks said.
To help defray the medical costs a fund has been set up. Donations to the Sam Bell fund can be sent to the 1st National Bank of Menahga & Sebeka, P.O. Box 311, Sebeka, MN 56477.