Decked out in the customary garb, the cowboys competing in the bull riding event Thursday, July 10, at the Madison County Fair looked the part. Wearing the traditional cowboy hat, denim jeans, chaps, big belt buckles and leather cowboy boots with the spurs they all had the right look.
But behind the scenes during a break in the action, just outside of view from most of the hundreds of fans jammed into the grandstands, you could find those same tough, rugged, scruffy looking guys who make a living getting on the backs of 1,500-pound beasts, doing what your average 15-year-old girls would be doing — texting.
Meet the cowboy of the 21st century.
Make no mistake about it, today’s cowboys are just as tough, still a tad bit crazy and love what they do as much as those who have come before them, but they’re just young men trying to make a living doing what they love to do.
“We get up in the morning and put our pants on like anybody else,” said Farmland, Ind. native Jason Tinsman. “We just like to have fun riding bulls I guess. It’s a lot of fun, we’re trying to make a living doing it.”
Tinsman, 26, was one of a handful of bull riders from the state of Indiana who were competing in the Triple-H Rodeo at the Madison County Fairgrounds.
There’s a serious danger that comes from getting atop an angry wild animal. Every bull rider puts his body and life on the line every time he attempts to stay on the 8-seconds needed to register a score.
“I fractured my pelvis a couple three years ago that was a wake-up call,” Tinsman said. “You know the risk going into it and just kind of accept it and go on.”
Keith Miller, another rider from Indiana, said it’s about putting what could happen to you aside and enjoying what you’re doing.
“I love it,” Miller said. “It’s a lot of fun and there is this rush you get. I haven’t had a feeling like that ever doing anything else. It’s just a burst of adrenaline going through your body, it’s like a basketball player in the closing minutes of a game. They make the game-winning shot and that’s what they live for, that’s what we get when we have a good bull ride, it’s a great feeling.”
He too lives with the inevitable fear that something bad is going to happen the longer you ride.
“It comes into your mind, but you’ve got to block it out,” the 21-year-old Miller said. “It’s a dangerous sport and we all know that and we all know we’re going to get hurt at some point in time, but I’m willing to get hurt for it.”
The bull riders travel from city to city throughout the Midwest year round, but when it gets to the summer months, there are very few days off.
“During a summer month like July we do between 20-25 events,” Tinsman said. “In wintertime, it’s 2-3 times a week. When you get a group of guys that live close, you can travel together, split fuel, split hotel costs, it works out.”
The bull rider gets a chance to see many different cities and venues, but some like the hometown feel of competing at a county fair.
“I enjoy it all, the fair has kind of a different atmosphere than an arena, but I enjoy it,” Tinsman said. “At the end of the day you’re riding bulls and it doesn’t matter what county, what state or what city you’re in. Your goal is to ride all your bulls and hopefully have fun doing it.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.