Chainsaw and Dave Johnston

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    Chainsaw and Dave Johnston
    Chainsaw in action. Photo credit Kenyon Sport Photos

    Chainsaw and Dave Johnston. One is known as Australia’s No.1 bucking bull, 8 years in a row. Regarded worldwide for his athleticism that set the benchmark for the new generation bucking bulls we see today. Dave, the man that rode a 90 point score on Chainsaw for the first time breaking the bulls unridden status, a legend in the elite bull riders.

    I have a passion for incredibly athletic animals, mostly horses but, I can’t ignore great bucking bulls.

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    I’ve sat on the fence and often heard the animal welfare people talk about the suffering and offensiveness of bull and bronc riding. They get hurt doing what they do. Equally they get hurt in the paddock.

    Personally I’ve never seen better treated stock than you find in the professional circuit. They are fed to the eyeballs, they need to be. They are fit and strong because they are exercised. They are rested. They are bred for the purpose in strict breeding programmes. They are constantly vet checked. Frankly they live “rock star’ lives.

    The other thing that can’t be ignored is those great moments when these extraordinary animals are ridden. Man meets animal at the pinnacle of what bull riding is all about.

    Fearless men. Until you’re standing alongside one of these 1800lb (820kgs) animals you have no idea of the power they exude, let alone what it takes get on one of them. These are men made of maybe some insanity, potential big egos, but it has been said more than once, they are adrenaline junkies. They are generally very humble human beings. Maybe that’s what riding bulls does. It’s a measure of the man.

    Chainsaw himself put chills through the spines of many cowboys facing a ride. Everyone feared him, respected him, but wanted the chance to ride him. If they rode him they became one of the “elite”. Such were the credentials earned by an 8 second ride. You just had to stick it out.

    He was well reputed worldwide in the pro rodeo circuit of PBR (Professional Bull Riders). Chainsaw has the tag of Australia’s No 1 bucking bull for 8 years and only 5 qualified rides.

    I found this piece on Facebook recently, it’s a great read honouring a great bull and a great man.

     If you ever had the chance to see Chainsaw, then you were privileged. If you witnessed Dave Johnston riding him you were honoured.

    Dave Johnston reflects on ‘that’ ride he made on Chainsaw

    Chainsaw and Dave Johnson: Written by  Brent Langley and with kind permission published here.

    TAKE A MOMENT and enjoy reading about the great bull, Chainsaw, thanks to rodeo enthusiast, Brent Langley.

    To some young bucks he might be an older bloke getting in the way behind the chutes at one of the local Rodeos. But go back more than 30 years and a young Dave Johnston had just pulled off one of the most remarkable rides in Australian rodeo history, a 90 point ride on the previously unridden bull Chainsaw.

    A ride that would put Davey Johnston into rodeo folklore. Even Country singer Reg Poole would sing about that ride in a song he covered about the famous bull.

    Trish Johnston, Davey’s wife of 33 years said, “You get these young boys (behind the chutes) who haven’t got a clue who he ( Davey)  is and think, what’s this idiot doing here, sort of thing.”

    “And I can’t stand that. He doesn’t see it but I do.”

    Trish speaks passionately about her husband and perhaps even defensively because she has seen first hand the sacrifices he has made about a sport he has passion about.

    Including a twist of fate that would almost cost Dave Johnston his life.

    In 1991, four years after that incredible ride on Chainsaw, a 34 year old Johnston was tossing up the possibility of retirement but fresh off a win at Mt Isa he thought he would toss his hat in the ring again this time at a rodeo at Sale, in Gippsland, Victoria.

    Davey drew a bull called Vibrator. And that last ride would change his life forever. Dave Johnston would spend that night clinging to life and the next two years trying to walk and talk again.

    “The bull ripped me down and threw his head back at the time. His horn went into my mouth, knocked teeth out and up through the pallet (palatine bone).” Dave said of the incident. 

    The tip of the horn almost came back out through his forehead.

    “They didn’t expect him to live,” said wife Trish.

    “I was sitting in there (Sale hospital) with him and he had a big blood clot in his nose and his face was swollen. 

    “They (doctors) said, if the blood clot loosens it will bleed out. 

    “That’s why they didn’t move him that night because they thought he was going to die that night but then they air lifted him to Melbourne the next morning,” said Trish.

    Dave was in a coma for over a month following life saving operations and in time showed signs of improvement.

    What would then follow would be two years of rehabilitation. Learning to walk and talk again. Getting to know his young family all over again. 

    Not only did Dave have a young wife, but also a five month old daughter, Tayla.

    “He went back to being a baby. He didn’t know me. He thought his mum and dad were still alive and he used to talk about his little dog (from his childhood). 

    “He didn’t know us (family) at all but grew into it,” said Trish.

    Dave still struggles with short term memory loss but the back part of his brain remains in tac. Enough to remember that famous win at Tamworth back in 1987 where he would ride the unrideable, Australia’s greatest bucking bull Chainsaw.

    “He was a good bull, been getting around for a little awhile, a lot of people had tried to ride him and no one had made a successful ride on him at a rodeo.

    “I use to watch him (Chainsaw) all the time because no one had rode him and (I) tried to work him out and then I found out I’d ride him at Tamworth which was pretty big rodeo, always pays good, gets a good crowd.” Dave said.

    But what could Dave Johnston do different that so many others had failed?

    “I sort of figured on a plan on what he’d do and hope he’d do it and lucky he did.

    “I got him started and I thought this isn’t too tough, he’s not too bad and he sort of settled into a pattern which made it easier.

    “Everything I did worked. It was just lucky. More luck than good management.” Johnston recounts humbly.

    But Chainsaw was like no other. Completely unpredictable where you didn’t know if he was going to spin or lunge forward out of the chute to kicking all four legs off to one side where he would almost go into a barrel role.

    And an athleticism way before his time. Perhaps like looking at some of the very best bulls of the PBR today.

    “He could get up high. Flick his feet up higher than his backbone. Like a cat and still land on his feet.” Johnston said.

    Nobody will dispute how good Chainsaw was with an unmatched 8 time Bucking Bull Of The Year Awards.

    They won’t dispute the showmanship of the bull and the way he ran around the arena fence after throwing a luckless rider to the ground, most say that was how he celebrated, almost like a victory lap.

    But what does differ with people and the one’s that knew him best was his temperament. Some say he had a nasty streak and then some say he was gentle.

    Dave Johnston has his own view.

    “He wasn’t a bad bull, but he wouldn’t run around you like if you were in front of him and he was going that way he would go over the top of you.

    “He wasn’t nasty. Like some bulls will go hunting for you. He wasn’t like that. 

    “Some of them (riders) would fear him. But that was only because of their ability.” Johnston said.

    Johnston is now 63 years of age and still carries some of the trauma from the horrific injuries he sustained almost 30 years ago including poor vision which makes him carry a walking cane wherever he goes.

    What remains is his witty sense of humour and positive attitude toward life. He loves talking to people and spending time with his grandchildren.

    So, if you’re a young rider coming through and you see Davey Johnston around the yards or behind the chutes don’t hesitate to have a chat. 

    You might learn something and legends like that aren’t around forever.

    If you have a story about Chainsaw or have an old photo of him, please get in touch with Brent Langley bim.langley@gmail.com or us here at editor@bingaramagazine.com.au

    We acknowledge the Facebook post source form the Australian Pro Rodeo Association australianprorodeoassociation.

    VIABrent Langley
    SOURCEAustralian Pro Rodeo Association
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