An exhilarating first rodeo experience

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Friday night I had the great opportunity to get up close and personal with the sites and sounds of the Shelby County Cattlemen&8217;s Rodeo.

A packed house was on hand as over 50-plus cowboys and cowgirls took to the arena for events such as cattle roping and bull riding.

It was the bull riding, however, that

caught my attention the most.

This was the first rodeo I had ever had the pleasure of seeing live, and I feel like now I can safely say that ESPN&8217;s occasional coverage of rodeo events falls well short of doing the sport justice.

I can only imagine the feeling that bull riders must get when they take a seat on the back of 2,000 pounds of sheer muscle and anger.

I was intimidated just staring at the animals through the bars of their pens.

While a number of fans seemed disappointed that only one cowboy was able to stay on his bull for the minimum time of eight seconds, as a newcomer to watching the sport I was impressed that they were competing in the first place.

Let&8217;s think this through for a second.

First, bull riders strap themselves to an animal that would like nothing better than to buck them off their back and give them some extra ventilation with their horns.

Second, once on the bull the riders are oftentimes thrown upward as much as 10 to 15 feet before falling back to the ground &8212; right underneath the steer&8217;s smashing hooves.

It&8217;s a sport that obviously takes great courage and skill to master. I&8217;m unsure which of those characteristics you need more to become a successful bull rider, but I know one thing is for sure &8212; I don&8217;t have near enough of either.

I look forward to next year when the rodeo once again comes to Columbiana, and thank organizers like Tony Berry, Dr. Stancil Handley and John Jones for all their hard work towards making the 2006 Shelby County Cattlemen&8217;s Rodeo a resounding success