- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - When Will Ulery was in kindergarten in 2005, he told the Pharos-Tribune he wanted to “be a cowboy and ride bulls.”

Almost 12 years later, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

The 17-year-old Adamsboro resident was introduced to bull riding as a child by “8 Seconds,” the 1994 biopic of the late rodeo star Lane Frost.

“When I was little, I used to watch that every day,” he said.

In July 2016, Will said his friends told him about a bull ride at the fairgrounds in Rochester, so he decided to give it a try.

“What am I doing?” he remembered thinking before that first ride. “Am I seriously going to do this?”

He wasn’t just watching a movie anymore.

“When you’re sitting on them, it’s different because that’s a 1,500-pound animal of nothing but raw muscle,” he said. “It’s pretty neat.”

Will said he stayed on that first bull for about 4 seconds. Those 4 seconds would be the first of what have gone on to be about 25 bull rides.

He heard about a rodeo every Saturday night outside Celina, Ohio from friends he works with at Crooked Creek Trails, where he rides horses bareback to work on his balance for when he hops on the much livelier bulls. Will and his father, Bill Ulery, now drive about two hours to Mack Arena every weekend they can. He also competed in the Ultimate Youth Rodeo in Shelbyville, Tennessee last year, placing 11th out of the top 20 riders.

Bill said he’s proud of the way Will has been pursuing a goal he’s had ever since boyhood, when it wasn’t uncommon for him to fall asleep in the calf pen on their property.

As a father, he said he’s always concerned about his son’s safety but added he doesn’t get nervous or scared before a bull ride, explaining both are well aware of the sport’s dangers. The cowboy lifestyle is complemented by his parenting style, Bill said, which gave Will a childhood of being around animals, running barefoot around the yard, go-karting and hunting.

“I let him be a boy,” Bill said.

Pickup trucks, cutting wood and riding horses made up the bulk of the father and son’s conversation as country music played on the radio during their ride up to the rodeo Saturday night, Feb. 25.

The inside of Mack Arena was filled with the smell of livestock along with the sounds of music and jumbled conversations of spectators who packed the stands.

The rodeo offers two different kinds of rides - novice and jackpot. Novice is reserved for riders just starting out while jackpot draws more experienced cowboys riding rowdier bulls to compete for bigger cash rewards.

Will has thrown his hat in the jackpot ring before, but said he prefers to stick with novice in order to keep building his skills. He was one of 19 participants in Saturday’s novice ride, which granted riders two rides each on bulls assigned to them through a lottery.

Judges award points to riders based on the squareness of their chests and their ability to refrain from touching the bull with their free hand as they’re thrashed about, but only if they’re able to stay on their bull for at least 8 seconds, Will explained.

Shortly after arriving, Will headed to the back of the arena, where he threw black chaps on over his jeans and taped up his left wrist. He visited with fellow riders as he looped his rope around a bar spanning the back of a set of bleachers.

Then he took a handful of rosin in his gloved left hand and crushed the rocks against the bar before fiercely rubbing the powder down the length of his rope, enhancing his grip for the upcoming rides.

Eventually all the riders gathered at the center of the arena, where they knelt in a circle with their cowboy hats over their chests and their heads bowed in silent prayer. From there, an announcer introduced each of the participants to the applauding crowd before they all headed back behind the chutes to await their rides.

That’s where Will looped his rope around his bull for each ride as they made their way to the front of the rotation. It’s also where he threw on his chest protector and traded his black cowboy hat for a helmet before settling onto his awaiting bull.

After establishing his grip and readying himself, his nod gave the signal for the gate to come unlatched and be pulled open.

“It’s a lot of power in your hand,” Will said afterward. “They come exploding out of there.”

On each ride, the bull wasted no time leaping out and kicking up clouds of dirt as they bucked with Will hanging on before he eventually slid off.

He remained on his first bull for about 3.5 seconds and his second for about 4.5.

He’s covered, or remained on his bull for at least 8 seconds, on four or five occasions, he estimated.

Joe McQuillan, owner of Mack Arena and M&M; Ranch, which provides the bulls for the rodeos, has been hosting bull rides for 21 years. After Saturday’s event, he said he’s seen Will improve over the months he’s been participating.

“He’s come a long way just in the short time that he’s been coming here,” McQuillan said as spectators filed out for the evening.

On the ride back to Adamsboro, Will reflected on his rides as he snacked on a stick of beef jerky before dozing off.

Just as he did in kindergarten, he continues to see bull riding in his future, explaining he aspires to one day join the Professional Bull Riders circuit.

“I want to take it to the PBR,” he said. “I want to try and be the best.”

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Source: (Logansport ) Pharos-Tribune, https://bit.ly/2lZS3NF

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com


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