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[The Oxford Project]
When I was thirteen, my mom, dad, and me drove to a rodeo on Highway 151. It cost me six dollars to ride, and I was hooked.
Hooter Brown, Joe Marvel, Marty Wood (an Indian from Utah), Money Hawkeye Henson, Red Lemmel these guys were the guys I wanted to be when I grew up.
In 1984, I was in the top ten in the United Rodeo Association in the Bareback Riding category. Jo-Jo Booth was what they called me.
I had a horse kick me in the face. I had my front tooth knocked out. I broke my nose, busted my sternum, and had knee surgery. Once I got bucked right out of the arena. You gotta have a strong right arm and a sense of balance. And you gotta want to do it. You gotta be rodeo-smart, too. I seen guys spend all their money on pints of whiskey, steaks every night, craps and poker.
If you're worried about gettin' hurt, then you better stay home. If it was easy, then girls and young children would do it. It's like a chicken riding a windmill. You just let her go and hang on for dear life.
I never liked riding bulls. I've been run over by 'em and I've been hit by 'em. With bulls you have less of a distance to fall, but with horses, they don't come back looking for you. Dick Moore said it best: Bulls are meant to be eaten, not ridden.
In 2001, I made $22,000, but I was paying for my own gas, food, motels, entry fees. There wasn't much left over. I was good enough to win around here, but not in Cheyenne or Calgary. In 2002, it was time to call it quits. I was thirty-eight, and I was tired. It got to be sorta like jump-starting a car in the morning.
These days, I deliver doors and windows for a lumberyard. I'm a delivery-truck driver.
From The Oxford Project. Welcome Books. Photographs © 2008 Peter Feldstein.
Text © 2008 Stephen G. Bloom. www.theoxfordproject.com