Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Bionic BullRider

Born and raised in Michigan, USA, Barry Brown got his start when an older brother put him on his first bull at a Wild West show in Saginaw. He was 15 years old. Later, in his professional rodeo career, Barry met and married a barrel racer from Alabama. Due to a rodeo mishap in December 1970, Barry had surgery to his chest that made medical history. Eight months later he was named the first recipient of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Comeback Cowboy of the year award.
In 1973 he finished the year as the top bull rider in the state of Florida. He also finished the year as the 17th ranked bull rider in the world. 1974 Barry finished among the top 15, earning him the right to compete at the National Finals Rodeo held at that time in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Barry was the first man from Alabama to compete at the National Final Rodeo (NFR).
Barry has written an amazing memoir of his fascinating life entitled
The Bionic BullRider. I was so captivated by Barry’s story that I read the entire book in one day. I highly recommend this book; it is witty, wise, and full of life lessons.
Welcome Barry!
Why rodeo?
Lorayne, an older sister, would take me with her during the summer to watch her ride bucking horses and trick ride. I was nine years old the first time. Then, brother Ronnie began letting me travel to rodeos with him when I was 12, I really enjoyed the rodeos but also the different States; sights and sounds.  Many rodeos are held at County and State Fairs. What a life for a kid. I got to thinking how one day I to would become a rodeo cowboy.
Describe the toughest bull you’ve ever ridden…
This is tough to answer as there were so many. My first rankest, was a bull named Wild Man #84, of the Harry Knight Rodeo Company.  The 1963 World Champion Bill Kornel had ridden Wild Man in the short round at the Daddy of ‘em all, Cheyenne, which was televised and I watched Bill ride him from a motel room while at an armature rodeo in Michigan. After the ride Bill was interviewed by ABC Sports Spectacular. When asked what was the rankest bull he had ever ridden Bill responded, “You just seen it.” The first time I seen Wild Man in person was during the Dallas Texas Rodeo, December 1965. I was sitting on the back of the buckin' chutes watching the bull riding along with a few other bull riders.
After watchin' Wild Man buck and nearly hookin' his rider, soon as he was thrown off, I remarked, “I would like to have him at San Antonio.”  
“Are you crazy?” said one of the cowboys. “That's Wild Man!!!”
“I don't care who he is," I replied. "I believe I can ride him!”

I didn't draw #84 at San Antonio but the following week I did draw him at the Houston Rodeo. This was my first year to compete at the large RCA Winter Rodeos. By January 1965 I was ranked 7th in World Standings, and rodeoing out of Michigan, I wanted to make a run for my first National Finals rodeo and be the first from Michigan to qualify for the NFR. At Houston I remember hearing the announcer say as it was my turn to ride..."Well folks, the further we go, the ranker they get. This next bull is the famous #84 Wild Man, and we have a kid from Michigan going to try and ride him."  Well I rode 'em all right but one of the judges claimed I touched the bull with my free hand. After Houston I changed my address and never entered another rodeo from Michigan. Wild Man had changed directions so many times he was the first and only bull I wasn't able to describe what all he had done and how he bucked.
What goes through your mind when you’re in the chute?
After setting down onto the bulls back, the only thing going through my mind would be the things I needed to do to make a qualified ride. Such as turn my toes, get a holt with my spurs, keep my chin tucked, watch the back of the bulls head, bow your chest out.   
What is the key to a perfect bull ride/perfect score?
First off, I do not believe a perfect ride can be made on the perfect bull. When you have a 50 point bull, which by the way is the highest score a bull can be marked between the two judges, there is no way the rider can make the perfect ride. At some point during the ride the rider is going to get on tilt out of shape. There is not a bull rider going nor has there ever been who could ride the perfect bull!
What’s the best part about being a bull rider?
Best part of being a bull rider I suppose would be the challenge. Of course winning first would be right up there, and being the first to ride an unridden bull.

Who would enjoy reading The Bionic BullRider?
One reader posted on facebook..."You don't have to know anything about rodeo to enjoy The Bionic BullRider!".....Lyle Sankey says "Anyone who enjoys reading real life adventures will enjoy reading The Bionic BullRider."...I wrote the book to be suitable for all ages. I have heard from Girls young as 8, who say they used my book for their school book report. Teens have told how the book inspired them. Most adult readers tell me they have read it multiple times. Many say they read it in one day as they couldn't put the book down.
The Bionic BullRider is much more than rodeos and bull ridings. There are several great stories about my dog Rod who travelled the rodeo trail with me. Readers say after just the first page they are hooked.
What’s it like to be a cowboy?
I have been a cowboy nearly all my life and wouldn't trade it for any other life. There are several different types of cowboys. I first choose to be a rodeo cowboy. Only rodeo people who choose to rodeo for a living can truly understand the rodeo cowboy's way of life. The freedom he has travelling across America and Canada whenever and wherever he chooses to go. Rodeo is an individual sport where the contestant makes all the decisions as to where, why, and how he will get to the next rodeo; sometimes going without sleep, driving all night to the next rodeo.
A ranch cowboy is another great life to live. As cowboys/cowgirls we get to work with animals and or ride em' on a daily basis. Factory life will never work for us.
What makes you Bionic?
The Orlando Sentinel had dubbed me The Bionic Bullrider, after an interview, during the Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida, February 1972. In June 1968, I took a terrible hookin' from a ragin' bull at a rodeo in Wisconsin, which broke my sternum completely in half, causing the top half of my chest to be completely disconnected from the rest of my body. The top half would wiggle back & forth. Two months later I was back competing in Pro rodeo riding bareback broncs and bulls across the United States and Canada. The chest never healed. After x-rays at the Wisconsin rodeo I was transferred to a Duluth, Minnesota hospital for surgery. The very next morning a doctor entered the room to tell me he had decided to cancel the surgery giving me no reason as to why. More than two years later with the chest flopping around more and getting looser I checked myself into a Veterans hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  After telling a doctor about my chest, he says "let's see it." with that I opened my shirt exposing my bare chest, I then pressed both hands against the top half of my chest causing it to move back and forth. Then the Doctor shook his head and said, “I have never seen a chest like yours and I don't know how to fix it.” That's when I realized why the Minnesota Doctor had decided not to operate, he didn't know how to fix it either. This is all explained in the book as well and is one amazing story.
I also have a collar bone wired together from a separate accident; thus the reason for the Orlando Sentinel naming me The Bionic BullRider.
What horses do you currently stable?
I currently have two horses, one a 13 year old mare who was born on a ranch I use to have in Lee County, Alabama, called the Bar 5 Ranch, where I owned and bucked my own rodeo bulls weekly. My mare whose registered name is Ina Zing Zane Wonder, aka Zing, is a barrel racing horse that I trained and run barrels on when I get the chance. Most weekends are spent doing book signings at rodeos and other places. Most times I take the horses with me. Their like family and I enjoy having them with me. The other horse is a five year old gray gelding whose registered name is Eyesa Inzane Wonder, aka Izzy, who is Zing's only baby. So obviously I have had him all his life as well. Due to cancer and the treatments I had to undergo in the fall of 2012 through January 2013, Izzy is at least two years behind on his training, but I do have him started on barrels now. 
Where is your favorite place to ride?
My favorite place to ride is in the rodeo arena at a barrel race or in a pasture working cattle. I have been on only one trail ride and thought it was one of the most boring things I had done. Perhaps it was mainly due to the place we rode. But I believe it is due to working cattle or on horseback in the arena working and training horses instead of just walking along or behind others on a trail.
Do you have advice for novice riders?
For a novice rider it's like anything else the more you do the better you get. Find a ranch or place with horses that needs riders and get in the saddle and ride all day if possible. Of course it helps to get pointers from a professional. I had to learn and figure it all out by myself, which usually is the best way, my opinion. If you enjoy horses, love ‘em, you gotta hang in there. If you want it bad enough you will!
Novice bull riders should get all the practice you can, but be smart about it. You won't learn anything except how hard the ground is when you practice on bulls that throw you off right out of the chute. When I began, I went to work on the Wild West shows and I picked which bull I would attempt to ride. I had already seen ‘em buck so the spinners and really strong ones I knew I wasn't ready for them. I would get on the one's which went straight down the pen without a whole lot of buck. Once I got to where I could ride that bull, I would then move up to one a little better.  Concentration is the key.
I would also ad for those who are getting on a bull for the first time, if after that first one you didn't like it or are still scared, then find you something else to do. Bull riding isn't for you!
What does horsemanship mean to you?
Horsemanship to me is being experienced, and knowledgeable in the equine industry. It is also knowing how to care for the horses you have and being able to doctor on them when needed.  
Connect with Barry…

Barry’s Email

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