From one of my favorite magazine writers, Jeanne Marie Laskas, here's her 1999 Esquire story, "America is Bull":
"Bull riding? Okay, bull riding is 90 percent mental. Anybody tells you any different, they're lying. Because when you get on your bull, you have to, just, be on your bull. And that's all that matters. Because bull riding is not a natural human behavior. Bull riding is 99 percent practice. Basically. Because it all comes down to timing. Riding jump for jump. Because these bulls here have been on TV. They've been to the PBR on TV. Yeah, you've got a rank pen of bulls here. And every one of them has a different bucking style. Like Achy Breaky, that red-and-white Braford right there? A pretty little bull. He lunges. Feet out this far, he lunges. And then Skywalker over there? He gets air. Just reaches out forward and stretches out like he's walking on air, like he runs on the air, front feet out. It depends on the bull. You've gotta more or less, just, whatever he's doing this second, that's what you have to be doing. Just trying to say, Hey, bull, I'm here, I'm with you; my hips are square with your shoulders, and my shoulders are square with my hips. Just a straight line. Because bull riding is 75 percent balance. Basically. That's why it's gotta be feel. Because it's, well. It is. Bull riding is 99 percent feel."
He's got his vest on. His hornproof vest. It's brown and matches his chaps. Which are plain. At least comparatively. There are boys here with bright-blue chaps adorned with stars and stripes and their initials in shiny red. There are boys here with fancier chaps than that, chaps you would imagine only Liberace or maybe Elvis wearing—all shimmer and glitter and pink and purple. Chaps that say, glory to god in letters as big as a thighbone. Chaps that say, ridin' with jesus. But Billy's chaps are plain. Buckskin-brown with a subtle navy-blue design element. He's got his plaid shirt on and a white hat with a turkey feather in it, which, he wants to point out, is just like the one 1987 world champion Lane Frost had in his hat when he got killed by Taking Care of Business in 1989. But Billy has never been, well, killed. Worst that ever happened to Billy was a few broken bones and an hour or two unconscious. Which is a whole nother story.
He's ready to ride. He's draped over the pen, his lower lip holding a good wad of Copenhagen. Watching bulls. Spitting. Watching bulls. Spitting. He could spit and watch bulls all day. Plenty of days he does.
"Did you see Organ Donor? That little white-faced brindle right there? He's wild. He'll get that high and then just roll over one side or the other. And that little black bull, that's CX-101. Oh, I love CX-101. All them CX-ers are buckers. But 101, I'd say he's the meaning of bucking bulls. No tricks. No snappy turns. No slinging his head. He just bucks. When the gate opens, he just bucks. He may make only five jumps in eight seconds. He's in the air that high off the ground every jump. But you never know. You come to a show, you draw a bull, you say, That's my bull. That's why you never know. Because bull riding is 90 percent luck. You just gotta ride the bull. Jump for jump. Hanging on with your legs. Bull riding is 75 percent legs. Your arm just gives you a balance point. A teeter point. You ride bulls with your knees and your feet, more or less. You get set up in the box. Because bull riding is really made in that box. Getting set. If it's wrong, everything is going to be wrong when they open that gate. But if it's right? Awesome. I mean, it's just, the power. I don't know. Something that strong, but smooth at the same time. It's . . . I don't . . . There are not words. I mean, adrenaline. That's all it is. Bull riding is 99 percent adrenaline. I've been shot at, I've jumped out of airplanes, and nothing comes close to nodding your head and callin' for that gate. You won't do it and you won't continue to do it and you won't get to this level if you don't love it. Because it has to be love. More or less, that's it. I mean, if you want to know what bull riding is, bull riding is love."
[Photo Via: HOSSedia]