WACO (October 11, 2012)-If you've been to the Heart of Texas Fair this week, then you may know that there are some pretty big names from the pro rodeo circuit competing this year.
At the young age of 53, Mary Walker is the No. 3 barrel racer in the world. It's a Cinderella story, she says, that has been years in the making.
"I've worked hard for this my whole life, and to be where I am is really exciting," Walker said.
But Mary's Cinderella story didn't have a happy beginning.
In April of 2011, Mary's 21-year-old son Reagon was in a horrible car accident in Jacksboro, TX. He was immediately flown to a nearby hospital.
Mary recalls when she first heard the news.
"To know that your child was in an accident, you don't know how serious it was, but you know he was CareFlighted to a hospital is the worst nightmare a parent can ever imagine," Walker said.
Mary and her husband rushed to the hospital, but when they got there it was too late.
"The doctors came in the room with us, and said Reagon had died," Walker said.
"We miss him everyday."
As Mary grieved over her son's death, another hardship came her way.
Her horse "Latte" fell on her while she was racing in Crosby, TX.
"I shattered my pelvis and I fractured two vertabrae in my back," Walker said.
Mary was in a wheelchair for four months, but it wouldn't take her long to get back on the horse.
"The best advice I got was from my surgeon. He said 'I put you back together, it's between your ears what you do now,'" Walker said.
Mary began racing again, but this time she started winning more than she ever had before.
She's even qualified for the National Barrel Racing Championships in Las Vegas. Mary says she gives the credit to Reagon.
"He wouldn't have wanted me to get to the point where I was sad," Walker said.
"You take things day-by-day. I thank myself everyday that I enjoyed every moment of his life with him."
This weekend, Mary will race in the All-American Finals at The Heart of Texas Fair.
She goes into the competition with not just a chip on her shoulder, but also an angel.
An angel, who Mary says, has gotten her so far.
"He rides with me, he's on my shoulder, he protects me, and I know he's going to take care of me," Walker said.