By any reasonable standard, that should have been the end of the ride for him. His name was officially added to the injured list. But not one of the cowboys on that list withdrew from the competition.
"I'm sore, but soreness is part of the game," he said. "Since I've been in high school, what have I talked about? I want to win a world championship." His hand injury needed surgery, but Chris would continue to ride. How could he hold onto a horse with that hand? "Heart, that's how," he said.
On the next night, his hand was so useless that he had to tape it closed. But he got the top score, and vaulted from last place to the middle of the pack. Now he was a legitimate contender.
The odds were against him, but he didn't care. "There's a saying called 'Cowboying up,'" he said. "When the odds are against you, you put it all in the back of your head and you nod with your heart."
But sometimes, the pain flared. "You always feel it, but you feel it when you get off. Not during the ride," he said with a grimace after one ride
"A concussion is just like having a Band-Aid in this sport," says Brett Hoffman, rodeo beat reporter for the Fort-Worth Star Telegram. "This is no sissy sport. I mean, this is a sport where you do not get paid unless you get on and ride and finish in the money."
Former cowboy champion Monty Henson knows how Harris feels: "When I was 24 years old you couldn't hurt me with a hammer either."
By the time the week was over, he was in second place, with one round to go. He said that he had never wanted anything this badly in his life. "Except this girl I dated in eighth grade," he added, and laughed.
The final round began on a Sunday, at high noon. To win the championship, he had to win the round. But the exhaustion and injuries caught up with him. He got his lowest score of the entire rodeo, and came in third overall.
"Should I bitch? Hell no, I shouldnt bitch," Harris said. "This is great! I have a family that can give me any job I want in the world, anything I want. This is what I love. I love it more than anything."
Harris had won $72,000. With his injured hand, he could hardly sign for his check. "My handwriting ain't working right now," he said. Between his expenses and his coming hand surgery, the money was already spent.
But Harris is not focusing on the money. Henson understands this mentality. "Most people who do this do it because they love it," says Henson. "They cherish it. They eat sleep and breathe it every day or they wouldn't be here."
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