Bull riding isn't for the feint of heart or for those not willing to handle pain.
That was obvious from watching the young men who rode twisting ton's of bull Saturday at the Crow Wing County Fair. And if you make if off safely without getting your arm hung up in the rope, additional challenges remain, like horns and hooves.
Eighteen bull riders lined up to try their luck at the grandstand Saturday. Several suffered injuries. One, John Dahl, was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd.
But Terry Pickar, a bull rider from Fort Ripley, said injuries won't keep him away from a sport he loves. He's been knocked unconscious numerous times, had a separated shoulder, a broken leg and smashed his cheek so convincingly he needed metal plates to put it all back together.
Ryan Schumacher of Stillwater was one of 18 bull riders who competed Saturday in the Extreme Bull Riding Show during the Crow Wing County Fair. The show was put on by the Great Frontier Bull Riding Company. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"The usual stuff," he said.
Pickar, 29, started riding bulls in 1996. First by entering rodeos. Later he went to a bull-riding school. His parents, he says, hate it. But he plans to ride as long as he can, as long as he stays healthy. Pickar's advice for staying atop a bucking bull? "Keep trying. If you look at the dirt, you are hitting the dirt."
The payoff for pain comes not so much in prize money, but in the feeling that goes with those eight seconds atop a twisting juggernaut.
"It's the coolest feeling in the world," Pickar said. "You can't describe it. It's just really cool. It's worth it. All the people you meet. All the friends you have."
Brainerd Fire Chief Fred Underhill could just stand and shake his head. After leaving the arena, a number of bull riders obviously struggled with injuries. A bull's hooves landed on one back. A previous ankle injury damaged again. But they shared a common thread of wanting to continue. Underhill said some should have gone on to the hospital, but they didn't want to go.
Children were invited to compete during a break in the action of the Extreme Bull Riding show Saturday at the Crow Wing County Fair. The goal: grab the ribbon off the tail of the calves running around the pen. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Across the arena on the other side of the fence, the fans were having an entertaining afternoon. A blustery breeze and overcast skies brought mild temperatures - a nice break from the hot days that started the fair's run.
Rodeo clown Randy "Slipknot" Scheidler brought extensive humor to the event.
"Watch out bull rider if he gets a hold of you, you're gonna look like a weenie on a stick," Slipknot said.
A person-like stuffed dummy was set up near the clown lounge. After a bull forcefully struck a man-shaped dummy set up in the arena - dislodging the head from the body - Slipknot had people laughing as he did chest compressions and then ran the short distance to the head for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Music also was used to tie things together from songs that included bull's names to others with mottos for riders like Chumbawamba's lyrics "I get knocked down, but I get up again."
Joyce Lunde, who has a Mille Lacs Lake home, was attending the fair for the first time.
Rodeo clown Randy "Slipknot" Scheidler entertained the crowd between bull riders Saturday during the Extreme Bull Riding show at the Crow Wing County Fair put on by the Great Frontier Bull Riding Company. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"They are brave men to get on there," she said. "I don't know how they can do it."
Tory and Randy Hayes, Swanville, enjoyed watching but weren't convinced to try it firsthand.
"I'm thinking not," Tory Hayes said. "We've got horses, that's enough."
The couple stood up to watch their two daughters join in a crowd of youngsters who stampeded through the arena after the prize - getting the ribbons off the tails of two calves. Randy Hayes said he worked with Terry Pickar years ago and remembers hearing stories about the bull riding.
"All I know is he's crazy," Randy Hayes said and smiled.
Dan Thesing, fair director, said whether the bull riding event returns next year will be up to the fair board. The bull riding event with two shows costs $17,000 to put on, including prize money for the intrepid riders. Sponsors helped the fair pay for the event, which was put on by Great Frontier Bull Riding Co.
"I think it's a great sport," Thesing said. "People love it. The fans love it. It's good entertainment."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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