The white knuckle, gut-wrenching sport of bull riding is not for the faint of heart. The men who try to tame the spitting, snorting beasts for the longest eight seconds you’ll ever see, appear to have nerves of steel.
With nothing but one hand and the strength of your legs clinging to the bull, these cowboys lay it all on the line for a shot at a couple of thousand dollars. Best-case scenario, you walk away with some change in your pocket. Worst-case scenario, you’re stretchered out of the arena and are headed to the hospital.
It’s a high risk, mostly low reward sport according to many who follow it and was listed as one of the world’s most dangerous sports in Forbes magazine’s July 2002 issue.
In recent times, bull riding has become more than just a rodeo according to Brinson James. James is the entertainer for the Professional Bull Riders Inc. Canada (PBR) and hails from Reddick, Florida. James has been involved in the rodeo scene since he was two-years-old after following in his bullfighting father’s footsteps and has been in love with the gritty sport ever since.
“The PBR is a show. PBR is built for the bull riders and the spectators. When they come it’s just kind of like a dinner show to sit down and watch and have your mind blown for two hours and sit on the edge of your seat,” says James.
One thing becomes clear when walking around the arena. It’s a family sport. There are kids running around wearing their dad’s Stetson hats with their little cowboy boots and plaid button down shirts. Wives and mothers are chatting and laughing in the hallways as their husbands and sons prepare to tame the unforgiving beasts.
Bull rider Tyler Pankewitz has his whole brood attending the rodeo. His wife Megan is watching their 3-year-old son Tayze and 13-month-old daughter Breely run around backstage. The rodeo is definitely a family affair for the Pankewitz’s. Pankewitz points out the kids playing at the feet of her husband and fellow riders.
“The loud (boy) is ours and that’s my nephew’s boy, and my brother-in-law also rides and my other brother is a stock contractor here,” says Pankewitz.
When asked how she would feel if Tayze took to riding, Pankewitz gave a confident response.
“Yes, I’d support him, but that would be scary to watch!” says Pankewitz.
Back in the stands, James’ grandparents, Ed and Maureen Wetherly travelled from Great Falls, Montana to see their spirited grandson entertain a sold out show at the Enmax Centre. It’s the one time of year that they get to see James and love to watch him work.
“He just seems like he’s enjoying it more than the fans. He’s just a crazy kid.” “He’s always been the class clown, even around our other grandkids, he’s always been the entertainer.”
Whether you’re a fan of bull riding or not, one thing is for sure. It’s a tight knit, supportive community that involves the whole family.