The highs and lows of Ty Blasingame’s life in 2020 have been extreme. It started off with a bad bang in February, when he lost part of the ring finger on his roping hand in San Antonio. Then COVID-19 cancelled all kinds of rodeos, and sent the two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo team roper to work running a jackhammer and hauling corn. Between wedding his wife, Kendra, on August 22 and the birth of Baby Blaster, Keenston Neil, on October 11, Blasingame’s ending 2020 on the happiest, highest of notes.
“When I lost that finger and COVID happened, my world went upside down,” said Blasingame, who roped at the NFR with Cody Hintz in 2010, then headed for Travis Graves at Rodeo’s Super Bowl in 2019. “But now it’s right back up again.”
Blaster cut his right ring finger off at the first knuckle on his third steer at San Antonio on February 12.
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“The steer was supposed to come left, and they were 3 on him the night before we had him,” Blasingame said. “We were trying to be fast, and he kind of pushed on Brandon (Bates). Sometimes I lose the rope totally out of my left hand when I reach and really open up, and there’s a lot of separation. I reached and grabbed my rope with my right hand, my slack went between my pinky and my ring finger, and I dallied.
“It cut my finger smooth off, so perfectly that it looked like you took a pair of scissors and cut it off. I don’t think anybody else knew it had happened, but I did. I stepped off of my horse and walked to the Justin Sportsmedicine Room.”
They never did find the rest of his finger, so sewing it back on was not an option.
“Some girl in the stands probably found it in her beer,” Blaster smiled. “It sounded like a gun went off when my rope popped, and that finger was long gone.”
He had surgery that night to “peel the bone back, pull the skin over it and sew it up.” And yes, it does affect his roping.
“When I get in pressure situations is when I think it affects me the most,” Blaster said. “Just my style and the way I reach. I think a lot of it’s mental, too, but it just doesn’t feel like I can keep my rope open as much when I’m delivering. Sometimes I lose contact with my rope off of that finger.
“But I’m sure some of it is mental. When you go to having trouble, it all gets mental and you start questioning everything. I actually think it’ll make me better in the long run, because it’ll make me ride my horses better. There won’t be anymore reaching, ducking and looking down at the horn anymore, I can tell you that.”
Blaster, who now lives in Casper, Wyoming, was at work running a jackhammer about a month after hurting his hand.
“I was leaving the house to go to the last set at Houston when COVID hit and they shut it down,” said the defending champ, who won RodeoHouston in 2019 with Kyle Lockett.
Blasingame considers the Houston W his career highlight.
“It changed a lot of things,” he said. “I was kind of out of rodeo for a while before that. I wanted to make the Finals again, and winning that rodeo made it possible. It was just a blessing.”
Blasingame only took about six weeks off from roping after the injury in February. He went back out there with his 2010 NFR heeler, Hintz.
“I thought I was ready to go back in March, but that’s when COVID hit,” Blaster said. “Cody and I started back at the BFI in June, but didn’t stay out there very long. We came home the first part of August, after Dodge City. It was crazy out there this year. I’d drive from Colorado to Iowa. It felt like I was going harder than ever and only going to half as many rodeos. It was time for me to come home.”
Ty and Kendra tied the knot on August 22 in Casper. He left two days later and went to work.
“I was on corn harvest in Southern Colorado driving a truck—hauling silage and corn out of the fields,” Blaster said. “I came home right before the baby was born.”
Keenston Neil—who joins big sisters Kash, 12, and Kodie, 7—was 19 inches long and weighed in at 6 pounds, 5 ounces.
“I’m happier right now than I’ve ever been,” Daddy Blaster declared. “I could win a gold buckle every year and have all the money in the world, and it wouldn’t compare to my three kiddos.”