Author: Norma Gonzalez
Source: Arizona Daily Star
Date: Feb. 23, 2018
Prior to Friday’s first event, Cody Kiser stretched and danced around the dressing room behind the chutes. Kiser was nothing but smiles as he loosened up for bareback riding at the 93rd annual La Fiesta de los Vaqueros.
While in high school in 2006, Kiser suffered an injury competing in bull riding. The bull stepped on his face, breaking all the bones in its left side. Kiser’s jaw was broken in two places and had to be wired shut. Through plastic surgery, Kiser had his face put back together.
Now, Kiser’s smile is more than just a gruesome injury story. The 27-year-old from Carson City became a spokesperson and role model with the Oral Cancer Foundation in 2014, and is the first spokesman to be affiliated with the rodeo.
“My side of it isn’t giving out a lot of facts,” he said. “Everyone knows smoking and chewing is bad. If you do it long enough, it’ll kill you.”
Kiser has never smoked or chewed. He simply doesn’t like it.
“I was never part of that,” Kiser said. “I just like to lead a healthy lifestyle and it just worked out so perfect to get involved with the foundation.”
So now, the bareback rider lends his voice to the foundation and helps in the prevention of tobacco use. According to oralcancer.org, as many as 15 percent of high school boys use smokeless tobacco in the United States. The nicotine content in a can of dip equals approximately 80 cigarettes, the website says.
The foundation’s slogan “Be smart — don’t start” could be seen embroidered down Kiser’s right sleeve.
“My part is the anti-tobacco, chewing or smoking, for the kids,” he said. “So I go around and represent the Oral Cancer Foundation and try to spread the word to these youngsters coming out to the rodeo that you don’t need to smoke or chew to be cool or to be a cowboy.”
At rodeos, Kiser hangs out with children and will have autograph sessions at times. Even if he finds kids hanging out nearby, he’ll reach out to the children.
Kiser said he knows plenty of cowboys who started using tobacco at a young age, so talking to children is important.
“It’s not so much smoking, but everyone’s chewing. It’s so prevalent (in the rodeo community),” Kiser said. “You talk to guys and they say they started chewing at 13 because their dad would do it.”
Kiser’s rodeo career has taken him all over the United States. He worked as Bradley Cooper’s stunt double in “American Sniper.” When Kiser stops to think about everything he’s been able to do at such a young age, he says he knows he’s been able to live an amazing life.
“So when I talk to younger people, I tell them not to smoke or chew, but I also tell them they need to travel — even if it’s just in the United States,” Kiser said. “I’m just the luckiest guy to be able to do all that, and rodeo has been the gateway to that.”
La Fiesta de los Vaqueros
- Meili Chuinard Hepner, a 12-year-old student at Miles-Exploratory Learning Center, was honored after the bareback riding event. Meili, who came out to the Tucson Rodeo through the Children’s Western Wish Foundation, was named an honorary princess and was presented with a sash, buckle and cowboy hat signed by contestants. Meili, who was accompanied by her mother, Lisa, and siblings Noah and Amira, has neurofibromatosis (NF2), which causes tumors to grow on nerve endings. Lisa Chuinard said Meili was already suffering from hearing loss when she was adopted from China, but wasn’t diagnosed with NF2 until 2016. The 12-year-old said she was happy to be able to come out to the rodeo.
- Evan Jayne made his seventh appearance at the Tucson Rodeo when he competed in bareback riding on Friday. Jayne was inspired by Louise Serpa’s book of rodeo photographs as a kid and eventually moved to the United States from France to pursue rodeo. The 35-year-old met Serpa 10 years ago and was photographed by the Tucson icon.
Jayne finished Friday’s run with a 73.00 score.
- Riker Carter was the first bull rider to compete Friday, and the only one to have a qualifying run. Carter was awarded an 86.50.
- The Tucson Rodeo announced a crowd of 9,000.