For some reason, which I am not quite able to explain, I am fascinated by farm animals: Horses. Cows. Bulls.
Recently, the men who are just crazy enough to ride the bulls have also caught my attention.
So, after watching Professional Bull Riders a few times on TV, and discovering that I quite liked this down-home form of entertainment, I decided to check it out. When advertisements announcing that the PBR was rolling into Madison Square Garden in New York City, of all places, I couldn’t pass up the chance to experience the “thrill of the ride” up close and personal!
For three days, the arena in which we are most accustomed to watching NBA teams go head to head, was transformed into giant rodeo grounds. It was complete with 700 tons of dirt floor! The smell of “farm” filled the air, while fans decked out in western gear, cowboy boots and hats filled the stands. I wore my jeans and boots for good measure. (I thought the cowboy hat might just be a tad bit too much.)
Being that I am a newbie to the sport, here’s how it works: The bull rider’s goal is to stay on the massive beast for at least eight seconds. Normally, that’s not a lot of time. But when you’re mounted on several hundreds pounds of powerful and potentially deadly animal, my guess is, eight seconds probably feels like a lifetime!
With the assistance of a team of cowboys, the riders climb onto the bulls from a platform, anchored above the holding pen.
Once they’re positioned, roped in with just one hand, the gate to the holding pen is opened, and the bull tears out with one objective: to buck off the cowboy as quickly as possible. It’s a case of man against beast at its finest. It’s not just the cowboys, complete with fringed chaps, snazzy shirts and oversized belt buckles who are the stars of this event. Nope, it’s the bulls as well. They are powerful and well-groomed animals with names like Wreaking Havoc, Land Shark and Voodoo Child, all with their own personalities and styles of bucking. It’s not every day you see an animal kick hard enough to catch air, and send his rider airborne before slamming to the dirt ground. Wow!
Standing on the platform alongside the riders, and looking into the bulls’ holding pen as they grunted and snorted in anticipation of the ride, I received a whole new appreciation of just how big and strong these animals really are. They are NO JOKE!
And the cowboys who ride them? Well, I think they have to be just a little bit kooky to willingly climb onto an animal that has the potential to gore, kick or crush you, but ask any one of them why they do it and they’ll tell you they love the thrill of the ride.
I guess I’ll have to just take their word for that.
For more information on Professional Bull Riders, go to www.pbr.com.
Editor’s Note: Julia Yarbough, a former news anchor at NBC 6, writes periodically on her outdoor and other adventures. To read more of Julia’s columns, log onto SFLTimes.com.
Photo Courtesy of Julia Yarbough. Julia Yarbough, left, and bull rider Brian Canter, right.