Coming home from a day of conducting cattle business in Montana, Clint Ridley knew he needed to see a doctor. Acidic headaches he had been experiencing were intensifying and he knew something was wrong.
What followed was a medical scare in the highest use of the term. Several weeks and numerous doctors later Clint would find himself in surgery at the Mayo Clinic for a brain tumor on Feb. 5, 2015.
With his girlfriend (now wife) Lexi Wolfswinkle and other family by his side, he endured major surgery and stayed in a coma for six days. He eventually came out of it but only to find his speech greatly impaired and his body paralyzed on the right side.
“One of my biggest worries was about not being able to ride my motorcycle,” says Clint laughing. “It’s been two years, so I can say what I feel now.”
He would go on to stay at Rochester for a little over a month, doing rehab to get his body and mind back working again. When he returned to his home in St. Onge, S.D., Lexi and he then began a very intensive routine of traveling to Rapid City almost every day for physical therapy, chemo and radiation treatments. That lasted into the summer 2015.
“Every time I got a chance I was working my hands or something,” Clint says.
“It was like starting over. When you learn something for the first time what makes you better? Practice,” adds Lexi. “So it was practice. Practice always makes it better.”
The continuous rehab and treatments got rough the couple admit. Clint says there were times he would just have to think, “By God I’m not going to quit this. I want to, but I’m not going to.”
Clint the Cattleman
Clint grew up washed in western South Dakota’s ranching heritage. And with St. Onge livestock auction just down the road from the family ranch it was easy to get the cattle buying bug – which he did – and turned it into a career for himself as a livestock broker and cattle rancher. Later he would add host of the market news program, the “Ridley Report,” on KBHB Radio to his resume.
Clint knows a wide circle of people because of his cattle dealings, his family’s long history, the radio program and his easy-to-get-along-with personality. So when news broke of his medical situation it took western South Dakota by storm.
Fundraisers were created, cattle were auctioned off, a Clint Ridley Day was proclaimed and by the end of it, people in a five-state region had donated to his cause.
“It’s just, wow, I didn’t know I had that many friends. It’s pretty nice and pretty humbling,” Clint says of the support he and Lexi have received.
Clint also had the support of his friends at KBHB radio. Owner Dean Kinney told Clint to “go get healed up.” That it would always be the “Ridley Report” and they would be waiting for him.
“And that really touched me. Dean, Toni, Bob, Gary and the rest of the crew at KBHB… I can’t thank them enough for their support,” says Clint.
His RecoveryIn August of 2015, Clint and Lexi said, “I do” in a little country church outside St. Onge. Before Clint had fallen ill they had talked about marriage, having weathered the storm together they knew for certain they wanted to be man and wife.
Do they now have a bucket list life mentality? “Not really, but don’t waste any days,” Clint says. “If there is something you want to do, do it.”
Not surprisingly his faith in God has increased. “I honestly believe without the good Lord I would be dead. I’m not taking away from Dr. Meyer and his hand, but he had some help and it was from the Lord up there.”
In fall 2015, Ridley found he felt somewhat well enough to get back out in the country to procure cattle, but now he had a sidekick – Lexi.
“Without Lexi, Ridley Livestock would not be what it is. She can work cattle, and does all the bookwork,” says Clint.
On the one-year anniversary of his surgery Clint stepped back up to the mic in the KBHB Radio booth at the Black Hills Stock Show. It wasn’t perfect, but it felt good. Still, he knew he wasn’t ready to be back on the “Ridley Report” fulltime. What had once been a 10-minute job that he could juggle while sorting cattle had become something more laborious and he knew he needed more time.
He says he felt like his health took a turning point for the better around May 2016. “That is when I started to really notice things,” Clint says.
By November he was ready to try the radio again. Every day he would compose a report and tape it like it was going live on the radio and send it to KBHB. Those were just practice sessions, but they were confidence builders.
Clint was told regaining his health would be a five-year recovery process. At his checkup right before Christmas 2016 – two years into recovery – he surprised his doctors in Rochester with how well he was doing. One of them, who was the most realistic and truth telling during Clint’s initial days, couldn’t believe he was alive. “He brought in hospital staff and told them, ‘This guy should be dead.’ He was just totally amazed.”
Another doctor who has seen lots of cases like Clint’s confirms he is a rare statistic.
“In the years and years that he has been doing this he has seen two miracles and Clint was one of them,” Lexi says.
“That makes you sit down and think about things,” reflects Clint.
When 2017 rolled around it was announced Clint would be back on KBHB doing the “Ridley Report” in the 12:40 time slot. His first report on Jan. 3 went amazingly well – though not perfect he knows. “Once I got it done I looked over at Lexi and she was like ‘yeah.’ I felt pretty good about it, but for her to feel pretty good about it too, that is what I was after,” Clint says. “It’s getting better ever day.”
He received lots of phone calls, texts and messages with congratulations from friends and listeners. “I can’t tell you the numbers, but just off of Facebook I could tell people were excited. I’m lucky to live in a place like we do. I’m fifth generation and know a lot of people that listen to KBHB by first name. I told Dean that if it’s not perfect they won’t care. The listeners know me and know what I have all been through and they will just be happy to hear me. It feels good, really good to be back.”