Lake Norman & Mooresville

He's not just an urban cowboy

Jason Brumley slaps a dusty pack on the back of the horse he just finished shoeing that morning.

"I used to shoe horses for other people; now I just do my own, 'cause that's hard work. That's real hard on the back."

Brumley, 38, knows a thing or two about work that's hard on a body.

As a cowboy, he's heard the crack of his own sternum, felt a bull's horn pierce his skin beneath his chin and lifted his head out of the dirt with a broken nose.

Guys like Brumley are a rare find in Davidson, known more as a small college town bustling with professors and students, coffee shops and a quaint main street. Brumley - wearing a weathered cowboy hat, faded blue plaid shirt and earth-dusted cowboy boots with spurs - seems more likely to be found on the prairies out West.

But turn off Shiloh Church Road, drive beneath the tall timber arch of a long dirt driveway, past the rusted farm plows, and you'll find his sprawling ranch next to rows of vinyl houses that belong to a subdivision called The Farm.

Brumley's land teems with horses and at least a half-dozen Catahoula, or cow dogs. The dogs press their noses in the dirt, shuffling through the maple leaves scattered outside the barn.

Rounding up the lost cattle of area farmers has become a steady part of Brumley's income; the Catahoula are the tools of his trade.

"They have a good nose on 'em. They can go find 'em, smell 'em, when you can't see 'em."

When a tractor-trailer carrying three-dozen cattle overturned in Concord in October, Brumley was called in to help find the strays.

"Me and another guy went over there and caught them on the interstate," he said.

When he's not herding cattle, he turns to the rodeo, something he's done for 15 years.

Brumley grew up around horses, but years ago, he said, the land that is now The Farm once held Twin Rocks Ranch Rodeo, where he learned to ride a bull.

"Bull ridin' was good to me," said Brumley of his years in the rodeo. "It took me a lot of places I'd never knew."

The words on his belt buckle - "World Finals Rodeo Champion" - reveal his past success.

He's ridden his 8 seconds, the time contestants are judged on a bull, in rodeos from Brazil to Canada and across the United States. He once made it into the Professional Bull Riders finals, a nationally televised event with prizes worth millions of dollars.

Most of the time he spent on the bull, but he wears the marks of old injuries from times he didn't stay on.

He rubs his chin with his finger, showing a deep, inch-long scar. "I got jerked down, split my chin open," he said of one bull's toss. "They call it a shaving scar. You'll sure enough bleed."

He's watched others leave the arena with more than a nick. Like the time a friend was trampled by a bull's hooves.

"I sat right there and watched (the bull) Tough Eatem just dish his face in," said Brumley. "That's bad. He don't look the same. He never goin' to look the same."

Brumley's son, Colton, 5, has taken to his dad's ways. He's been practicing for sheep riding at Stegall's Arena.

Bull riders from all over come to test their skill at the popular competition on Odell School Road in Concord, and Brumley himself has served as judge during events. There, they start kids off riding sheep, then move them up to calves.

"He wants to ride bulls like I did," he said of his son. "You got to start somewhere."

He won't stop Colton - or his youngest son, Connor, 3 - from grabbing the bull by the horns, like he did.

"If they want to," said Brumley. "It's kinda one of those deals; I don't really push 'em to do anything."

He can understand why they would want the life of a cowboy. "I mean, there's always something. The neat thing is, it ain't the same thing every day."