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Category Archives: Professional Bull Riding

“Cowboy Christmas”

It’s the term that professional rodeo cowboys call the week of the 4th of July. From this time through the end of August is about the busiest time for rodeo pros traveling all over the USA garnering points and dollars in their quest to move into the top fifteen in their particular events so they can compete for the BIG money at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. Cowboys can compete in 2 rodeos a day if everything works right and there’s even an opportunity to make 3 in the same day. Those 3  would be Cody, Wyoming, Red Lodge and Livingston, Montana. I made those 3 a time or two back in the ’70’s, and early ’80’s. Many cowboys in those days, and probably today as well, include the use of an airplane to make the rigorous travel schedule even more feasible. I also did that myself, being licensed private pilot, for a few years. There’s lots of money to be awarded through July and August. I always won good money over the 4th but never really had the kind of run that a guy dreams of. There’s alway a myriad of variables to deal with when you’re rodeoing at that pace; the draw, travel restrictions, the weather, injuries, scheduling conflicts, etc. But, in my 20’s, looking back I don’t guess I minded any of those things that much.

It’s been 35 years since that was my life but I still think about it often, and especially over the 4th of July holidays. I think about the travel, the rodeos, the challenges but most of all I think of the camaraderie amongst all my rodeo friends. It was, and still is, something very special! So, if you’re out there as a spectator at St. Paul, Prescott, Greeley, Pecos, Cody, Red Lodge, Livingston or any of the other dozen or so rodeos happening simultaneously, enjoy the show….and try to appreciate the truly, last individual professional sport in America!

Here’s a couple of ‘Cowboy Christmas’ memories: One from Pecos, Texas, one of the oldest rodeos in America. The big, black bull at Pecos, FH of Steiner’s, threw me off so hard there’s probably still a dent in the arena dirt where I landed. The other pic is from Springdale, Arkansas. Sure doesn’t seem like 35 years ago!

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If you like rodeo stories, check these out:

8378 Zulu ….. and the Flight That Was Almost the Last One!

First Trip to Calgary!

“The Best Straw Hat I Ever Had!”

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It Ain’t as Easy as It Looks!

About a year ago were was a young guy, I’d say in his late 2o’s, who wanted to get on some bucking bulls. Professional Bull Riding, the PBR, has come to the forefront over the last decade or so and is finding a strong fan base similar to other professional sports. So, this young guy obviously was captivated by the mystique, machismo and the sheer danger of it. He’d never been around it….but he did know a little (very little) about it.

He got on 3 or 4 bulls back to back. He didn’t ride any of them further than a jump or two. I will say for the guy that he wasn’t afraid to get on! After about the fourth one he yelled at his girlfriend, who he’d brought along to watch, “It ain’t as easy as it looks on TV!” Truer words were never spoken!

And, it’s like that with a lot of things. It looks easy from a distance, or on TV, as our buddy above surmised. But most everything changes when you’re actually doing it. Ministry is dang sure like that! Oh, there’s plenty of people out there who love to make fun of ministry people. They say things like, “Yeah, he couldn’t do anything else, so he started preaching.”. That’s some of the nicer stuff. But, just like our bull riding friend said…..it ain’t as easy as it looks. I rode bulls professionally and the stress of that doesn’t even come close in comparison to this. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t griping; everybody’s got plenty of stress to deal with. And, the Lord always gives plenty of grace when it’s needed. 

Oh, and there’s a way to insulate yourself from the stress. I guess you could just look at it as job. (some do!) You could just treat it as a 9-5, not get attached to people, not deal with their tragedies, and not care whether or not they would have an authentic expression of Christianity, or have a genuine relationship with the Father….or experience a church that’s actually alive. I could never do that!

But, if you sincerely care about people, if you’re willing to do everything in your power to keep it real, if you’re determined to not be satisfied with some ‘phony imitation’, if you’re willing contend for the glory of God and endure all the criticism that comes along with it……it ain’t as easy as it looks!

Related blogs:

Critics……..There’s One Around Every Corner

What If I’d Said, No?

I’m Just the Messenger

 

 

 

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A Lot Can Change in a Couple of Months!

If you want to get the full impact of this story then you really need to read my post from exactly 2 months back….and read it before you read this one. (Even if you read it before…you should re-read it) You’ll appreciate it a lot more. “Why I Say, “Thank You, Lord”, When I See the KOA Sign!” *(Click on the highlighted link)

That was a day I’ll never forget! Having a brand new grand baby on one side of the hospital…then having one of our sons coming into the ER on the other side. But to get the real crux of this story I need to go back at least a year from the day the wreck happened with the lift truck…and the KOA sign.

Our son, Cole had started his professional rodeo career a little over a year before. He had a great rookie season as a professional bull rider in the PRCA, winning over $45,000 in that year. He qualified for the Prairie Circuit Finals where he won the Finals average earning a trip to the Dodge National Circuit Finals in Pocatello, Idaho. In addition to his PRCA accolades he was also winning in the PBR’s Touring Pro Division and had just barely missed the TV cut for the Built Ford Tough Tour.

One of the common adages in professional bull riding is, “It’s not ‘if’ you get hurt,….it’s ‘when’, ….and how bad!” Well, because of an elbow injury that took him out of competition for a few months he had to miss the Dodge Finals. And, unable to compete in the PBR he lost his standing there, as well. He had worked so hard for his dreams only to have them snuffed out! Seemed like a lot of hard luck in a short period of time. But, Cole kept a good attitude about it all.

Then there was that fateful day in December of ’06! We still realize that it was a miraculous thing that he wasn’t killed that day. The initial surgery was followed by perpetual trips to orthodontists that would continue for a year or more.

One of the PBR’s premier events in ’07 was the Copenhagen Skoal Challenger Finals in Oklahoma City in February. A qualifier event was to be held at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma the week leading up to the Finals. Entry fees for the event were $800. Our youngest son, Clay, did his best to talk Cole into entering the event along with him. But money was tight for Cole & Kelly who’d just been married the year before. So, it was a flat out, “No”! Clay wouldn’t leave it alone and finally talked him into it. He and Kelly put just about all they had together for the $800 entry fees. I guess you could say that everything was ‘on the line’!

When the event rolled around Cole placed deep in three of the four go-rounds ending up in the top three and winning over $16,000! It also earned him a berth in the Challenger Finals on the weekend in OKC. All the top PBR Bull Riders in the world were there and the go-round winners would win a smooth $50,000!!

Cole got bucked off his first two bulls. His third and final bull, Rattler, was one that was very difficult to ride, and had a reputation for bucking off nearly everyone who’d been on him before. He was the first bull rider out that day. I left church that Sunday and made the two hour drive to OKC. I made it there to the Ford Center and up on the back of his chute just in time to pull his rope and give him some ‘big time’ moral support. The bull performed to his expectation and Cole rode as good as I’d ever seen him ride before. It was an incredible ride! His score, 90.5!  **(A little ‘side story’ below if you want to check it out!)

I can’t explain how intense it was for me as 45 of the best bull riders in the world competed….just hoping that Cole would win a good chunk of the money. When it was all said and done that day…..he won the go-round……..and $50,000!!

*That was exactly 9 years ago today!

**Exactly 2 months from the day of Cole’s accident at the KOA sign!

Cole was immediately put on the Built Ford Tough PBR TV Tour, made the PBR Finals and won well over $100,000 that year! 

A lot can change in a couple of months!!

**A little ‘side story’:

**Cole and Kelly were getting ready to leave the Motel 6 for the Ford Center when a couple of our great friends, Mitch & Sherrye Louis called Cole. They were sad that they couldn’t be at the event that day due to other obligations. Mitch said he’d been up praying all night and said the Lord spoke to him saying today would be a good day for Cole! Before the call Cole was discouraged to tears from bucking off his first two bulls…feeling like he had let himself,…and everyone else, down. *That phone call changed his entire attitude as he headed to the arena!!

Check out this blog from a week ago:*(click on the highlighted link to read!)

The Bible Does Not Have All Your Answers!

A month ago:

If He Can Fix My Life…..I Know He Can Fix Yours!

A year ago:

Lady Gaga, Little Monsters & Jesus!

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It Was A “Test” of Epic Proportions!

Well that might be exaggerating just a little bit….but at the time, ……and considering my ‘new’ standing in the Lord, it really was quite the test. It was in 1985 and my good friend, Danny Mason, invited me to judge his annual bull riding in Mineral Wells, Texas. It was a big event; lots of money up, and some of the best riders in the world were competing there. The crowd was huge. I’m standing inside the arena and Cade, my 2nd son who was about 3 at the time, was sitting in a box seat where I could do my judging job and also keep a close eye on him.

The first section of about 12 riders was completed, there was a 10 minute break and we were about to start the second section.About that time I hear a loud voice coming from the grandstands griping and cussing about the judging. Well , immediately, I assumed that it’s someone that I know just kidding, and giving me a hard time. But I finally saw the guy coming up the walkway to where I was…..and I’d never seen this guy before! He swiftly walked my way and into the box seat section where Cade was sitting…..still yelling and cussing at me. By now he’d drawn the attention of everyone at the event. If not for his yelling voice, you could’ve heard a pin drop….and every eye in the place is on us!

I said to him, “If you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me!” But he just kept on! Now, I’ve never considered myself a ‘fighter’ but I’ve also always had a resolve to not let anyone push me around, either. In professional rodeo in those days I had to ‘stand my ground’ many a time. And what made this situation even more difficult was the fact that my life had, just less than a year before, been turned around…..and I was growing in my relationship with the Lord. So I knew, to handle things how we used to handle them,….would not be the ‘right’ thing to do.

Still yelling and cussing at me, I told him again, “If you want to talk to me, you get down here and talk to me!” He’s by now leaning over the top rail on the fence and I somehow resisted the opportunity to knock him plumb out, like I would’ve done only a few years before. And without thinking….I grabbed the hat off his head and just whipped him over the head with it! I then pitched it behind him in front of the grandstand and most of the 300-400 people were laughing uncontrollably…..and all my friends….well, they were laughing harder than that! When I did that, I said to him, “Now, I’ve told you about three times….if you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me! You got anything to say to me?!” He pressed his lips together….shook his head “No”, picked up his hat (amongst all the laughter) and made his way into the distance!

Now that probably ain’t the best way to handle a situation like that….and I doubt that Jesus would’ve whipped him over the head with his hat…..but considering the alternative….I think I did pass the test!

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*If you like Rodeo Stories, you’ll enjoy these: 

*(click on highlighted link to read)

VIP #1 Booger Bryant

VIP #2 Sarge Cook

VIP #8 Monty Taylor

8378 Zulu…..And the Flight That Was Almost the Last One!

First Trip To Calgary

August 12….A Day That Lives in Infamy…..*at  Least For Me!

Avoid the Vending Machine, Microwave, Green Chile Burritos in the Albuquerque Airport At All Costs!

 

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Now, If I Were a Lawyer…..

…..which I ain’t…..but I almost was. I went to college right our of high school on a rodeo scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. My grades were good enough but It was mostly all about college rodeo at the time and not much about education. Looking back…not very smart but it was what it was. We did have a very competitive team at Eastern. I was second in the bull riding in the  region with a lot of good bull riders….and our team was 3rd nationally at the College Finals in Bozeman, Montana. But after a year there I’d had enough of college life and headed back to the ranch and to rodeo full-time.

I started thinking about what I would do after rodeo. Actually, looking back, not many of my rodeo friends gave much thought of what they’d do ‘after’! Again, not wise, but it was mostly a fact. I had always had an interest in law and the whole legal system, even as a young adult. I remember watching every episode I could of Perry Mason, then later Barnaby Jones and every other TV show or movie about lawyers. So, I set my mind to pursue that kind of career. My plan was to get a business degree and then on to law school. I put rodeo on the back burner, for the most part. Got another rodeo scholarship to Southwestern State in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Took some summer school classes so I’d be eligible for the fall college rodeo run. All was going right on schedule, made the Dean’s Honor Roll in both my summer and fall classes. 

When the PRCA winter rodeos cranked up I went; Denver, Ft Worth, San Antonio, Houston. I could do that and not miss too much school. I rode good, but didn’t draw good at all and up until the Astrodome Rodeo in Houston I hadn’t won a dime. But the week following Houston I ‘hit a lick’! In rodeos in Montgomery, Alabama, San Angelo, Texas and Phoenix I brought home over $5000, which was quite a bit in those days (1976). It positioned me to make a good run to go to the National Finals Rodeo. I never went back to another class at Southwestern! Again, pretty dumb (seems like I keep saying that quite a bit!), but it was what it was. My run for the NFR was squelched when I got injured at Sidney, Iowa on August 12, resulting in major shoulder surgery.

I never again pursued a law career for a number of reasons. I still think about it every week, …..sometimes daily. I still watch whatever I can on TV and movies, I read nearly all of John Grisham’s books up to a point, and I have a few friends who are lawyers. I still enjoy picking their brains about their career, it still fascinates me.

I think I would’ve made a decent lawyer. and when I’m having a bad week it does still go through my mind to go back to school and get that degree. (dumb again! Way too far behind the curve now!) But, I guess, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Although there’s plenty of people who don’t think so……and at times I really wonder, myself. But, God has a way of getting us where He wants us to be.

So, in the meantime, I’ll just have to live that life vicariously through the few I know that are actually doing it. So, David K, Abby C., Michelle R., Deb M., James W., Lynn F. or Brian H…..if I get on your nerves (it could happen!) questioning you about what you’re doing….you have my permission to tell me to ‘back off’!

*Some great timing; finishing my blog and on the Today Show there’s a story on Dickie Scruggs, a lawyer who took on Big Tobacco…and won! I’ll be busy for a few minutes!

*You might like this one too! *(click on the highlighted link)

August 12… “A Day That Lives in Infamy”….at  Least For Me!

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VIP #8 – Monty Taylor

I have an unlimited pool of people to write about when I write about VIP’s. There’s been so many people throughout the course of my life that have had a profound effect on me in one way or another. I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned from all of them and grateful for the deposits they’ve made into my life.

Monty Taylor, or ‘Mont’ as I’ve called him since we were little kids, is my brother (there’s just the two of us) but he’s been my best friend since the day he was born 59 years ago. Oh, we had our differences when we were growing up like all siblings do but neither one of us ever tolerated anybody else mistreating the other one. We’ve been ‘partners in crime’, so to speak, all these 59 years. We’ve had about every kind of ‘wreck’ with horses, cattle and bulls that you could ever imagine……and some you just couldn’t imagine no matter how hard you tried. We’ve even had a couple of car wrecks; one when we were headed to school in little Allison, Texas and hit a patch of black ice and rolled my pickup up on the side. Another the night before I got married. We’d had way too much to drink and ran off a bridge on the Oklahoma line. It was a miracle that me or Mont….or Ken Henry weren’t killed. Then there was the time when I was about a 3rd grader and  Mont hadn’t started to school yet. Dad had gone to shoe horses at a neighboring ranch and he didn’t let us go. We weren’t happy about that so we got on a big ‘ol tractor. We somehow got it started….and it took off. I bailed out! (Sorry Mont!) But Mont rode ‘er on out…until it hit a cattle guard and spun out ’til it died. It could’ve easily killed us both! And, let’s just say that Cliff Taylor wasn’t too happy when he got back to the ranch and the tractor had run through the fence.

We had no choice but to be cowboys and we took to it full blast. We started our bull riding careers on the arm of the chairs and couches in a little one bedroom ranch house on the Washita River 35 miles SE of Canadian, Texas. We graduated from the chair arm to riding on the back of our dad on hardwood floors. They don’t call ’em hardwood floors for nothin’! You learn early on to try as hard as you can to not get bucked off and bang your head off the hardwood. We went to our first rodeo when I was 8 and Mont was 5. We were determined to practice riding but we had no bucking chute….but we made do! When we’d see the dust from Dad’s pickup go over that last hill….we’d gather every cow, calf and bull we had and ride every single one of them. We’d run ’em in a big pen, rope ’em, snub ’em to a post, put our rope on ’em….and the rodeo was on!! Dad started gettin’ kinda suspicious when the cow herd wouldn’t even come in when he fed….and when he noticed how bad we were bruised and skinned up!! Rodeo was a pretty important part of our lives for the next 20-25 years. We rode in every major rodeo throughout the United States and Canada…..and won money at most of ’em! We were both inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2008.

Mont Taylor is a ‘Man’s Man’! He’s a man of his word, treats every single person with dignity, hard worker, great husband and Daddy, has a thousand really good friends and I doubt if he has an enemy on the whole planet. He’ll ‘loosen up’ with the best of ’em….but wouldn’t ever cause anybody any harm. We live 300 miles apart but I talk to him a couple of times a week. I have a ton of respect and admiration for him. His impact on my life has been immeasurable…..Mont Taylor is definitely a VIP!!

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Check out some more VIP’s:

VIP #1 – Booger Bryant

VIP #2 – Sarge Cook

VIP #3 – Ronnie Chadwick

VIP #4 Paul Luchsinger

VIP #5  & 6 – Edith Yowell & Nellie Millar

VIP #7 – Rick Hudson

 

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August 12…..A Day That Lives in Infamy……*at least for me!

Well, maybe that’s a little overstated…Ok it’s way overstated. But it was kinda devastating for me in it’s own little way. It was 34 years ago today at about four o’clock in the afternoon in Sydney, Iowa. For those unfamiliar with professional rodeo Sydney, Iowa is a great rodeo. It’s one that all the cowboys like and about everybody on the trail tries to get to Sydney if at all possible. It’s a small farming town but several thousand spectators come from miles around to see the great rodeo there. The local, between performances, hotspot was Russ’s. A little, nothing special of a bar except during the rodeo you can get all the homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers and corn that you can possibly eat….and of course the beer was cold.

This was going to be my last year of rodeo. I had decided that before the season ever started. Clint was three years old and there were several times during the season that I’d leave the ranch knowing that I wasn’t going to see Julie and him for 3 or 4 weeks. I could hardly take that. When I’d be leaving on one of those month long trips there’d be all kinds of bawlin’ and squawlin’……and every now and then they’d cry too!

I was having a good year despite not drawing great for several stretches. It had been a dream since I was a kid to go to the National Finals Rodeo. (For the non-rodeo people….it’s like the World Series of rodeo) The previous two years I had been on track to make the NFR only to be derailed by injuries that kept me out of competition, once for a month and another for nearly two months. But this year was going to be different. I was drawing good and riding good and was about to be on a good roll. In the most recent PRCA Press Release I was ranked 10th in the world; I’d just won the bull riding at Yuma, Colorado the day before. I had a decent bull at Sydney that day and then I had about 5 or 6 good ones in a row. It’s a time of the season that you can compete at two rodeos a day for nearly a month. So everything was shaping up for me to make my move…and who knows maybe end up among the top 5 in the world…and pretty much a guarantee to make the NFR.

My bull that day wasn’t one of the best ones but one that I might be able to place on. He was definitely one that I should ride considering the confidence that I was riding with at the time. Well, anyone that knows rodeo knows that ‘what ought to happen’…..rarely does! Lots of variables to deal with, to say the least. The bull bucked me off extremely awkward and I landed hard on my left shoulder, dislocating it. Game over! Season over! Career over! (I laid off for a month and entered a couple of rodeos but the shoulder was far from being stable enough for me to be competitive) Interestingly enough, exactly 5 years before…on August 12, at the same rodeo a bull had hit me in the right shoulder, tore the main ligament, requiring surgery and ending my season.

It sounds strange and probably doesn’t make sense to most but I had a tremendous sense of relief as I boarded my plane in Omaha the next day. An unfulfilled dream was hard to reconcile but the reality of knowing that I was going home to Julie and Clint, for good, sure did feel good. It has bothered me some down through the years that I didn’t make the NFR. It does feel good to have the respect of the guys I rode with and against….but I never regretted coming home to be a Husband and a Dad! 

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