Bulls Not For Riding, But Cowboys Keep Trying

Rodeo bull riding accidents always send shrills down our spine.

Two bull riders being killed on the same Saturday at two different rodeos stunned us again. Both cowboys were young, one a teenager in Missouri, and the other 20, at a finals in Topeka. Such tragedy can happen to any age and to the very best. Bull riding is the most dangerous sport participated in by man.

Unlike their predecessors, today’s bulls are bred for bucking. Rodeo producers used to often buy sale barn culls or make buckers out of ornery farm bulls, preferring Brahman influence. Every bull in pro ranks now has lineage of top stock for generations.

Successful bull riders are about as much gymnasts as they are cowboys, and they’re certainly elite athletes. Still, all professional competitors sustain injuries at some time.

Three bull rider fatalities stick out in our memory. First is of a student killed at a Jim Shoulders RodeoSchool in the late ‘60s. That proves there is no safe place to ride bulls. Deaths of champions Ronnie Rossen and Lane Frost are also readily remembered.

Our bull riding education came in the “school of hard knocks.” We just crawled on and rode the hair off them “until some fool opened the gate.” Those cows and steers we had at junior rodeos we could win on, but success rate deteriorated with the real thing.

Oh, we made the whistle riding Lubert L, Clyde, High Pockets and others, but no big checks. “Almost” was our evaluation of efforts on Rainbow, Charlie and even Airplane. After attempting 34 bulls and falling off the last one, we appreciated another’s thinking: “If bulls were supposed to be ridden, Paul Revere would have come in riding one.”

Never seriously injured, we “hung up” on Little Red at Concordia, but our worst deal was with Far Krey at Eskridge. Specifics, we don’t know, but after nodding for the chute to be opened, what we remember next is being stretched out on a car hood with our parents looking down at us. We regained consciousness, got up and went back to college.

Despite many years gone by, we sometimes have the urge to get on. Three main reasons we don’t: wide yellow streak down our back, no guts (even though our potbelly defies that) and we haven’t spit out all our marbles. Philosophy is that to be a bull rider one can’t have any marbles (brains) left.

Bulls were among those creatures named by Adam at the beginning of time, and they are mentioned throughout the Bible for sacrifices, plowing, treading grain, pulling wagons and eating. Nothing quoted about riding them.

God may not have intended bulls for riding; nevertheless cowboys keep climbing on and facing danger boldly with God’s strength. Thus indicated in Second Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” Despite sensibility of cowboys being questioned, bull riding will continue.