The Daily Gamecock

Bull riding tour charges city

National division takes Colonial Life Arena Saturday

While Zac Brown Band fans were snug in their beds after a long night of singing and dancing, Colonial Life Arena was being prepared for another country culture event.

With the help of 32 dump trucks full of dirt, over 38,000 pounds of steel and plenty of man-power, the arena was turned into a large corral complete with pens stocked with 45 of the toughest bulls in the country.

The Professional Bull Riding Touring Pro made its stop Saturday night, welcomed by a surprisingly large crowd that was anxious to see cowboys thrown to the dirt, bulls charging and Funny-Man Shawn Thompson acting a fool.

The PBR Tour Pro division is the minor league baseball of bull riding. The highest level of riding is done with the Built Ford Tough tour, which is made up of the best riders and bulls in the country. The cowboys riding Saturday were trying to qualify to break into the big league — but just because they aren’t at the highest level yet doesn’t mean they’re not tougher than nails.

“I guess the worst injury I’ve ever had is when a bull stepped on my head and cracked my skull,” recounted cowboy Cody Campbell. “I was back after about six weeks, but they made me wear one of those helmets. I hated it.”

Campbell also added nonchalantly that he no longer sports a helmet, but does wear a mouth guard. He said it “don’t always keep the bulls from kicking the riders’ teeth out”.

For any of you that are more worried about the treatment of the bulls than the riders don’t let it keep you up at night. The cowboys, rodeo producers and stock companies take more pride in the condition of their animals than they do themselves. The livestock are viewed and cared for as professional athletes and they know how to play their part in the big show.

The bulls did play that part Saturday night with many bucking and colliding into the chutes before the gates opened with the rider tied down tightly on their backs. After throwing each cowboy many of the muscly animals pranced and threw their heads, chasing the rodeo clowns and charging at the roper causing his roan gelding to baulk and roll its eyes.

Not a single cowboy managed to ride a bull to the eight-second buzzer for a qualifying ride until Elliott Jacoby managed to stay on 2,000 pound Calico Jack in the third flight.

Between flights the aforementioned Funny-Man Shawn Thompson interacted with the audience and cracked jokes about wives and Walmart that appealed to the southern crowd that would be just as likely to be found at a NASCAR race. Thompson continued his stint by throwing a slightly unwilling blonde woman in a belly shirt over his shoulder and proclaiming in a Larry the Cable Guy accent, “What can I say? She makes me feel like Tiger Woods!”

After the end of the last flight only three riders had stayed on their bucking, snorting bulls for eight seconds, propelling them into the top of the final “short round.” The final seven spots were filled by cowboys who had stayed on the longest, even though they didn’t make it to the buzzer.

In the end, Cody Martin took home the gold, followed by Jacoby — losing by only one point — and Lindomar Lino who finished in third.

“I wish I had done better, but I feel pretty good,” said Jacoby, who stands at 5 feet and 8 inches and weighs 140 pounds. “I had a pretty good ride and I’m not hurt, so that’s what I’m thanking God for.”

It was a true cultural event with music blaring the redneck national anthem “Sweet Home Alabama,” kids clothed in chaps, hats and boots covered in glitter and in every legal hand a cold Bud Light. As far as the riders and seasoned rodeo producers went, the atmosphere couldn’t have been more friendly as they smoothly removed their cowboy hats in one hand, greeting patrons with the frequently and sincerely repeated drawling phrase, “It’s so nice to meet you, ma’am” as they toured the ring signing autographs.