The "Midnight Cowboy" Troy Dennis demonstrates an apparatus which allows him to stand and work for up to two hours at a time. Dennis obtained the device with the help of Active Re-Entry and the Utah State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. The mobility it provides not only allows Dennis to get around his shop but the stance it allows him to take greatly relieves the skin problems he faces due to the amount of time he must spend in his wheelchair.
While the American Cowboy is a mythical icon for many across the United States, in the Castle Valley these hard working men and women are simply part of the population. Price's very own "Midnight Cowboy" Troy Dennis fits in among these farmers, ranchers and rodeo participants as easily as a glove, with a work ethic and attitude that make him instantly likable. On May 1, Dennis' biggest dream will come true as he opens his very own saddle and tack shop, a shop which will allow Dennis a chance at increased independence by simply doing what he loves.
The life-long Castle Valley resident's life took a sharp turn at the age of 25 when a bull-riding accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. While some would have let such a devastating event define their life, Dennis did not. He rebounded to become an inspiration to many in the area facing physical hurdles.
When talking with Troy, it becomes quickly apparent that while his injury does affect most aspects of his life, it does not affect his attitude.
"I have always loved being around animals. When I was a kid we used to go and bale hay at Ricky Olsen's place, and my dad, he used to break wild horses," said Dennis, remembering his first experiences around a farm. "In grade school we started riding Wanda Melow's calves, but me and Bobby got into a little trouble for that."
What started as trouble became a high school career in rodeo and a promising amateur start which saw Dennis make some money before fate changed the direction of his life. As it turns out, fixing saddles became a great way for Dennis to stay involved with a sport which is very dear to his heart.
"I started at Charlie's Shop, he just wheeled me into the back and I watched him, I picked it up real easy from there," said Dennis, discussing Charlie Roedel and his introduction to saddle work. "I stayed with Charlie for two years and then spent another year with Steve Melow."
After Steve left to pursue other opportunities, Troy was left without a place to ply his trade and began looking into starting his own business. Just over three years ago, the area cowboy was taking a AAA Business Class from USU Extension's Ellen Serfustini, who made him aware of the Utah Individual Development Account Network. These IDAs are matched savings accounts that enable low-income individuals to save, build assets and enter the financial mainstream. The Utah program rewards savers with $3 for every $1 deposited into their accounts. The grants can then be used toward several purchases, including the start up needed for a small business.
"I was put in charge of managing Troy's saving account," said Delores Roberts of the Business Expansion and Retention Project. "He never missed an opportunity to save. Troy has had a lot of help but this man did all the saving himself and stayed dedicated to this project."
Dennis will repair, clean, provide saddle pack work, canvas work. He has learned to repair and restore the most expensive of saddles. He also works with bridles and tack.
"I love the smell of the leather and working with the gear," explained Dennis, who uses some very special equipment to get around while fixing the saddles. "Active Re-Entry helped me to get this stand and it has made a major difference in my life."
According to Vale Himonas, who is a long-time friend of Troy, the stand is vital not only because of the mobility that it provides but because of the relief it gives his skin. Those in fixed positions often develop sores on the portions of their bodies which stay at rest for long periods against either a chair or bed. At times the sores Dennis has endured have kept him out of action for up to a year.
As he continued to save toward the business with Roberts from the BEAR project, Troy also received assistance from Dorothy Carter, Jennifer Baletka, Ethan Migliori and Barbara and Joe Piccolo, who provided Dennis with a place to start his shop in the back of their Fat Man Paintball location on Main Street in Price.
"I couldn't have done this without all of the amazing help I have been given," said Dennis. "I feel very blessed."
After saving every dollar for three years and enduring multiple battles with the break down of his skin, the payoff has come and Midnight Saddlery will open on May 1.
"You can't put a price on seeing someone achieve their dreams," said Roberts, who took a personal stake in Troy's case and helped out wherever she could. "This young man has worked so hard and it's a testament to all those looking to start their own business. If you really want it there is no reason you can't make it happen."