James Cole, 12, is the veteran among the children at Stegall’s Arena who are gaining experience to become professional bull riders.
A rider since the age of 3, on April 5 James was heating up rosin and rubbing it on his rope beside the grandstands, the opening day of the bull riding season at Stegall’s in Concord.
The rosin makes the rope sticky, so your hand won’t slip when you ride.
“You don’t want to lose your grip,” said James as he helped a younger rider learn how to work his rope. James, from Lowell, in Gaston County, moved to steers three years ago and came to win.
Riders of all ages come on Sunday evenings to compete with and learn from the professional riders for cash and bragging rights. Those who want to ride bulls or do chute dogging – wrestling a steer to the ground – pay a $30 entry fee; steers and calves riders pay $20, and sheep riders pay $10.
The younger riders start on sheep, move to calves and then advance to steers to gain the experience needed to ride in the amateur division for bulls.
The evening started with the open division bull riders, the more experienced riders who are competing for the big money. Among this group was Joel Ross, 45, from Gaffney, S.C. He started riding bulls in 2011 after his son, Tezlar Ross, began in 2010.
“I couldn’t stand it, just watching him, trying to ride the bulls. I had to try it, and now we come about every Sunday,” said Ross. It was harder for him to watch as Tezlar drew the first ride and was thrown before the qualifying time.
Five more riders failed to qualify before Kristian Jones cinched his rope tight on a bull named 48 and gave the signal to open the chute. The bull exploded from the gate and gave him a good ride. Jones lasted the 8 seconds for qualifying and much more before the rodeo clowns helped him dismount.
Realizing he was the first to qualify, Jones took his helmet off, climbed the fence in front of the crowd and did a back flip to celebrate. He earned 80 points for the ride, which was later matched by Jacob Dunning, which made it a tie for first place, earning each rider $362.50.
After the first round of open division bull riding, the children’s events began. The mutton busters – sheep riders – and calf riders competed before James got his chance in the steer division.
Once the rope was cinched around his steer, the animal began to move about in the chute. James gave the signal and the chute was opened. Bouncing and jumping, the steer could not throw James, and he had a great ride.
Once he made the 8 seconds to qualify, he tried to dismount, but the rosin was too sticky, trapping his hand on the back of the steer. After a few tense, bucking jumps by the steer, James pulled free and give the crowd a thumbs up as he was declared the winner in the steer division, scoring 77 points and winning $55.
For the nonriding children, there was the traditional calf scramble, where all the children ran around the arena trying to snatch a ribbon from the back of a calf for a prize. There were also several Easter egg scrambles for different age groups – children ran the length of the arena to try and collect the Easter eggs – with one egg holding a ticket for an Easter basket prize for each scramble.
After the children’s events, the amateur and professional riders went back to busting bulls into the evening hours.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
Bull riding at Stegall’s Arena, 3601 Odell School Road, is held at 7 p.m. every Sunday through October. Admission is $8 for adults and free for children 10 and younger. For details, go to http://stegallsarena.com/index.html