I’m back out on the rodeo trail, but in a less dangerous way

When I was younger – much younger – I threw a riggin’ bag in the truck and hit the road, trying to make my name in rodeo. It didn’t go well. But now I’m trying it again, but with a different approach.

I may have been the world’s worst bareback rider. In my college days, I bought a bareback riggin’ and a pair of chaps, and I gave it a go. I entered rodeo after rodeo, and I proved fairly quickly that I was never going to make it to the National Finals Rodeo. In fact, I proved that I would never make it to the pay window, either, or even to the pick-up man, in most cases.

Even though I was stupid enough to keep trying for a year, I was just smart enough to realize that I wasn’t getting any better. Knowing they don’t give out buckles for the worst rider in the event, I decided to hang up my spurs. But I never quit wishing I were back out there in that arena.

It turns out I do have some skills that allow me to return to the arena, though. I spent the last few years earning my PRCA photography permit, then last year I filled that permit and got my full-fledged PRCA photography card. If I’d only known that option existed, maybe I wouldn’t have beaten most of my brains out on the backs of bareback horses in those early days.

Now that I have my card, I’m back out on the rodeo trail. I still get the adrenaline rush a few times each rodeo I used to get from riding roughstock, when a bull or a bronc comes running straight at me as I’m kneeling in the arena dirt. I get to go see great rodeos nearly every weekend, but I don’t have to pay an entry fee. And better yet, I get paid every time I get a photo somebody wants. I’ve made far more money taking pictures of rodeos than I ever made riding in them. Of course, that’s not hard to do, since I never won any money at all while I was riding.

So if you’re looking for me between now and hunting season, you’ll probably find me at the nearest rodeo. I’ll be the guy in the arena with a camera in my hands, grinning like an idiot.

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