The only thing that is a given in bull riding is that a rider in the 140 pound class is going to be tied to a bull weighing over 1400 pounds. The rest of the equation is as unknown as factor “X.” Last Friday was no exception to the rule.

Most of the bulls and riders are regulars at the Longhorn. In a sport where anything can happen at any time, it usually does. After rodeo director Coleman Peveto made the introductions and Chipper Nance and Boar Hog presented the American Flag, “anything” started.

Rider number one was Dillon McNeil; a capable rider that has ridden at the Longhorn a number of times, but not this night. After the first move out of the chute, McNeil seemed to lose his seat, posture, and balance all at one time. The fifth move by bull 23 was enough to send McNeil off of the left side and onto the ground.

Tim Faul made a comeback appearance after four and half months recovering from an injury inflicted when he was stepped on by a horse. He is still having some effects from that injury. “I have been off long enough and I just want to see what will happen tonight. I may be able to ride and I may not; I just want to try,” said Faul before the show started.

He made a yeoman’s effort on bull 391, but the long layoff has affected his balance and timing. Coming out of the chute Faul looked good, but the hard landing from the blow-out was too much for him to cope with. Faul went off  the left side, but did not have too much of a wreck on landing. He was able to walk away, think about what happened and get ready for the next go-round.

Tim Murphy and Josh Smith did not do much better. Murphy drew bull 293 and Smith was aboard 636, but both bulls put the riders off in about the same length of time.

Bull 293 made his first move a high buck that carried all four hooves in the air. The hard landing caught Murphy unaware. He slid off the left side and landed on his left side in the dirt. Bull fighters Bubba Tacker and Shawn Palumbo moved in for the save.

Number 636 moved out flat and went into a spin right out of the chute. The first hard spin to the left caught Smith unaware and slid him off of the right side. The ride was short.

Cody Dotson and 593 were a good pairing. Bull 593 is an arena veteran. A bull that moves fast once his spins begin and can throw in a buck or two, to boot. Dotson was on his game this night. From the get go Dotson was able to hang tough. The bull moved out a little flat, but made up for it with a hard turn that led into a series of spins that would have wrung out laundry. When the buzzer sounded Dotson had earned 77 points. At about the six second mark Dotson began to lose his posture and lean hard to the right. This slight loss of control possibly cost him a point or two, but it was a good ride, putting him in second place, paying $324.

Brett LeJeune had a high-fly out aboard 316. That bull came out high and fast. All four hooves were clearing the dirt and LeJeune got bumped on the come down. He hung for about five seconds but ended up with an up-close and personal view of the dirt.

Bull 11X gave Alfred Mouton a tough time all the way around. He moved fast and stretched like a cat. With the stretching move he also kicked hard with his hind legs. Mouton could not last over that unusual move and rolled off. He was on the ground on all fours as 11X lowered his head and charged. If the bull would have connected with the bull rider the result would have been either a roll by the bull or a good hooking.

Suddenly, there was a flash of blue. Palumbo had moved in fast and distracted the bull. The move was similar to a matador’s. All Palumbo needed was a red cape. He proved more agile than the bull, Mouton got to his feet and was able to get away, 11X hung his head and headed for the exit gate and the smiling face of Mike Cormier, the gate man.

Joey Johnson lasted  two moves aboard D5 and his night ended.

Josh Barrentine drew 013; it would prove to be a good pairing. With a nod of the rider’s head and a pull on the rope the chute opened and 013 blew out like a rocket. With the first move the bull, who probably weighs close to 1600 pounds, brought his four hooves  nearly a foot off of the ground. That causes a “pile driver” of a landing. After the landing the spins started. Alternating a spin with a buck or two; 013 gave Barrentine a punishing time. There has not been a ride this fast and a rider showing this much control in a long time.

The ride was worth 83 points. That gave Barrentine first place and $486 for his performance; however, there may have been one clod in the churn. A bull that has been ridden a number of times learns that there is only so long he needs to perform. They develop an internal clock that starts the time the chute gate opens and stops with the buzzer. Number 013 has such a clock. He stopped a fraction of a second before the buzzer. It is almost comical when it happens. The rider has rivers of adrenalin flowing and is prepared for anything except the bull stopping. The riders face shows surprise and then a little disgust. The disgust comes from not knowing how far before the needed eight seconds the bull stopped and the fear that the loss of points may be major. No problem this night, it all worked well for Barrentine.

The last five riders, Keagan Labry, Greg Y’Barbo, Nathan Dupry, Dustin Tull and Alex Zaumbacher all came out and went down early.

Dupry is still riding hurt and in addition to that, drives from Carthage before the show. He works there and drives down after work to ride at the Longhorn. That cowboy ought to write a book about being tough. Through it all, he keeps a smile on his face and just gets ready for the next ride in the next arena on the next bull.

Round number three of “Listen to the Thunder” will be on April 2.