Argonia: Bull riding a test of nerve, skill

By Sam Jack

You need a license to drive a car, but you don’t need one to ride a bull. Maybe that’s because there’s no “bull rider’s ed” – no good way to prepare for the first time the gate opens.

“It’s all reaction, because when (the bull) goes to make a move, if you have to think about it, you’re already too late,” said Marcus Jackson, an Argonia native who has competed in rodeos since he was 12 or 13.

In May, on the weekend of Argonia’s spring rodeo, Jackson partied with a trucking crew that came through town. Some of the truckers tried their hands at bull riding, though not with any great skill or success.

“They showed up, we asked if they wanted to get on, and they were like, ‘Yeah,’” Jackson said.

Afterward, the truckers were still upright to congratulate one another on their bravery, but whether it’s a lark, a dare, or a serious sporting pursuit, bulls do not cooperate with anybody’s plans. You can always get hurt.

“I’ve had my eye socket shattered this year. I’ve had my shinbone broken. Last weekend, I got my shoulder ripped out. … I’ve got the Chanute rodeo tonight,” Jackson said on Saturday.

Bull rider Jake Head, another Argonia native, got slammed by a bull at Argonia’s spring rodeo and left the arena on a stretcher. That was his lowest moment in nine years of rough stock competition, but he has kept coming back, too.

“You’ve just got to take the pain, work the pain out and just get back on. Never get anywhere if you don’t keep trying,” Head said.

Jackson likened bull riding to an addiction.

“That’s my drug of choice. It’s just an adrenaline rush,” he said.

Head described the experience in similar terms.

“I’m not big into heights, so I don’t do skydiving, but I get on the back of that bull and I’m in my own little world. It’s kind of just me and him,” Head said.

The seconds atop a bucking bull are mostly free of conscious thought, but that isn’t to say that the sport doesn’t require thinking and strategizing.

“You do a lot of stretching,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to keep your line in the middle of the bull. When you’re on the bull and come through the gate and come out, you better have your stuff together, or you get chucked off pretty quick.”

During the ride, you have to keep a laser focus on the bull itself.

“If you starting looking out from the bull, that’s where you’re going to land,” Jackson said.

Both Jackson and Head will be among the competitors at the Bronc Kraft Memorial Rodeo, 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Argonia Rodeo Grounds, a mile south of town near the Chikaskia River.

Jackson, at least, will be out for revenge.

“There’s just one bull that I’ve been on twice, and that’s the one that’s messed me up both times,” he said. “I drew him again. Curly Balls is what they call him. I’ll get him rode again.”

Bronc Kraft Rodeo this weekend

The annual Bronc Kraft Memorial Rodeo, sponsored by Plains Church, will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Argonia Rodeo Grounds.

Admission is $5 per person per night, and children 4 and under are admitted free.

The gates open at 5 p.m. Those who would like up-front arena parking should plan to arrive early.

The Argonia Youth Group will run the concession stand both nights, raising funds for their yearly mission trip.

A saddle will be awarded to the top winner in each category, for a total of nine saddles given away. For information on how to compete, call Kraft Rodeo Company at 620-286-5428 or 620-200-4081.