Journal at the World

August 29, 2012

"They Call Me the Grizzly Guy"

Grizzly bears can't even keep Wally Cash out of the show ring.

By Allison Grayson
The American Quarter Horse Journal

Wally Cash

Wally Cash and Ima Sensational Te in the 2-year-old gelding finals at the 2012 Adequan Select World Championship Show. (Journal photo)

For Wally Cash of Gillette, Wyoming, a hunting trip with friends eight years ago turned into a day he will never forget. But he hasn’t let the effects of that day stop him from doing what he loves.

When Wally was 14, he was taken in by a rancher, the late Don Baldwin of Newcastle, Wyoming, who raised him for 15 years. That’s where Wally realized his love of horses.

“The best thing that ever happened to me was when that rancher took me in and changed my life,” he said.

When he left the ranch, the family sold Wally one of their horses. “It was a horse (that) today I couldn’t ride, you know, he was a son of a gun,” he said. “We called him ‘Smokey.’ He taught me a lot.”

In September 2004, after being sick the previous year with cancer, Wally went on a hunting trip with some buddies. Hunting was one of several hobbies he enjoyed outside of riding his horses.

“This fella and I were on a bull elk, bugling, and we were sneaking. I sent (his hunting partner) down around the hill and I snuck right up on this bear,” he said. “I was standing on her. I heard a crack and I turned around and looked and her head was about two feet around or so. She hit me dead in the stomach.”

After “playing dead” for a while, he thought he was in the clear. That’s when the bear came back.

“She never did try to eat me,” he said. “But I had my hand torn up, I had to have a hip replaced and titanium by my eye.”

“It’s something you don’t forget. I’m lucky to be here. But it’s just one of (those) things that happens, like a car wreck or anything, you never know,” he said.

When his friends found him after the attack, Wally was planning on riding the 12 miles back home to find a doctor. Luckily, the other hunters had already called an emergency helicopter and Wally settled on walking the quarter of a mile to the landing site.

“(The helicopter) took off and about 5 miles in, the helicopter shook and shimmied and I got scared,” he said. “The first time all day I was scared.”

Soon after, Wally had news organizations from all over the country doing stories on him. A family friend, who was dropping supplies in Iraq, even call him after seeing the story on the news.

“They (called) me the Grizzly Guy or Bear Man or something all the time,” he said.

Eight years later, Wally has made his mark at the 2012 Adequan Select World Championship Show. In fact, it was his very first world show in his many years as an AQHA life member.

“I showed one halter horse, (Ima Sensational Te) a 2-year-old gelding,” he said. “I’ve had him for two years. He qualified this year … so I decided to come. And I enjoyed it just fine … I’m sure I’m coming back next year.”

Wally has found that he likes working with younger horses.

“It’s more fun. And of course, with all of this bear attack stuff, I can’t ride like I used to,” he said. “When I get on now, you gotta laugh. It’s hard getting my foot over the hind end, (but) once I’m on I’m OK.”

“I might get another yearling (and) kinda see how it goes,” he said of his future show career. “I’d (also) like to bring the same horse back and try him as a 3-year-old.”

“I plan on doing this when I’m 80 if I can jog a little. I may have to get (myself) a hot-shot … to make me jog along though,” he said with a laugh.

As far as the bear attack, Wally hasn’t let it get in the way of all of the activities he enjoys. Although not in the same area of Jackson, Wyoming, where the attack took place, he still finds time to go hunting throughout the year.

“It’s changed my life a little, but not too bad,” he said of his grizzly encounter. “I’m not gonna let it get me down.”