A cowboy's life is never easy. Ten-year-old Lane Smith-McLain can attest to that.
Named after the late, great bull rider Lane Frost - whose unfortunate death was made famous by the movie "8 Seconds" - Lane Smith-McLain has loved the rodeo scene for as long as he can remember.
"I like the bull riding and the horse broncs," Lane said. "I like it when the rider gets bucked off."
At the conclusion of the “Last Cowboy Standing” competition, Lane Smith-McLain, left, was honored to pose with Luke Snyder, winner of the “Last Cowboy Standing,” at the Mandalay Bay Event Center. Snyder earned $200,000 for his victory.
Lane lives with his mom, Sherry Smith, in Gary, S.D., where rodeos are part of the town's history. She admits she admired bull riding legend Lane Frost.
"I think I had him named for 10 years before I had him," Smith said about her son. "He was born a month early and his birth weight was low, but I brought him home within 24 hours. It seemed fitting. He was a such a little fighter."
Within eight months, Lane was at his first rodeo, in Clear Lake, S.D.
"Lane has been around rodeos and horses all of his life," said Smith, who grew up in Marshall, where her dad (Eddie Smith) still lives. "We go to rodeos all summer long and watch rodeos on television. He loves them."
While Lane's passion has been easy to cultivate, the rest of the young cowboy's life has been much more complex. Lane suffers from a number of disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), which is a form of autism. He has also been diagnosed with severe separation anxiety, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) and phenylketonuria (PKU).
"Because of the PKU, Lane's body cannot break down protein, so he's on a metabolic diet," Smith said. "We have to keep a diet diary for him. The EDS attacks his ligaments and joints, making them super loose. It's a rare thing. He also has mild to moderate cognitive impairment."
Lane's doctors are at the Shriner's Hospital in Minneapolis and the Sanford Children's Hospital and Clinic in Sioux Falls, S.D. While traveling for doctor's visits can sometimes be a burden for the family, so can the educational system.
The family encountered problems with one local school district where Lane was bullied, his mom said. Frustrated, Smith decided to homeschool her son.
"I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I can teach him," she said. "He's happier not going to school."
But Smith admitted that Lane missed having kids around to play with, though he has lots of pets. In addition to three dogs, two parrots, three red-eared slider turtles, three horses, a ferret and a chinchilla, Lane also has a few cats.
"I love the animals," Lane said. "I've got a zoo full."
Smith also wanted Lane to have more friends. So she made the decision to allow Lane to get a Facebook account and hooked him up with some rodeo people she knew.
"The first night, he had 175 friend requests," Smith said. "They were mostly Christian cowboys and cowgirls, bull riders, and clowns. He has over 500 friends now. I go through everything first to make sure it's appropriate."
One of those friends - Collin Hughes, who founded Wings of Western Wishes - recently made a dream come true for Lane, who really wanted to go to the Professional Bull Riders "Last Cowboy Standing" event April 16 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"Collin set it up," Smith said. "Lane was his first recipient. The PBR donated the tickets and a stock contractor paid for the airline. We were three rows back from the arena floor, the best seats they had."
After somewhat of a nerve-wracking airplane ride, Lane and his mother arrived in Las Vegas. Lane said he liked earning his flight wings and getting to make an announcement from the cockpit.
"I liked the airplane, except for the tram," said Lane, who didn't care for its wild, herky-jerky movements.
After the rodeo competition at Mandalay Bay Events Center, Lane was able to go behind the chutes and see the bulls, clowns and cowboys, including Luke Snyder, the winner of "Last Cowboy Standing" and Cody Lambert, a friend of Lane Frost.
"It was cool," Lane said.
Lane got autographs from many of the cowboys, but was disappointed that his favorite bull rider - Ben Jones - didn't make an appearance.
"He makes bull riding look easy," Lane said.
Other friends have also tried to make life easier for Lane. Joey Dumas and RodeoRadio.net donors gave a new specially-designed trike to Lane in March.
A friend in Oregon donated a border collie to Lane. After "Indian Outlaw" traveled from Oregon to Montana, Dale Vig brought the pup to Faith, S.D., where Smith went to retrieve him. Facebook friends also paid for a hotel room along the way.
"Lane got a fishing pole Friday, now he can put his tackle box and his puppy in the basket and go," she said. "He's a wonderful little dog. I cannot put into words what the overwhelming outpouring of friends and gifts has meant to us. Lane has changed in so many ways due to his new friends."
Lane has numerous bull riding videos, including some depicting the real life of Lane Frost. He also received a "Cowboy Bible" and a letter from Clyde and Elsie Frost, the bull riding legend's parents. For his birthday, Smith also surprised Lane with a Nintendo Wii system and bull riding game.
While Lane may never climb atop the back of a rodeo bull, he does have other dreams to fulfill. Not surprisingly, most of them revolve around his love of being a true cowboy. Smith said Lane would like to be part of the Gary cattle drive some day, moving cows the old-fashioned way. He also wants to have his own stock someday.
"I help my dad (Pat McLain) load bulls and cows," Lane said. "I want to be a stock contractor and haul bulls around. I could easily do that."