Several famed cowboys call Wise County home.
The legendary Trevor Brazile roots his national fame in a nook of Decatur’s countryside, just down the road from the Cooper brothers – Clint, Clif and Tuf – and their father Roy.
Professional bull rider Mike Lee lives in Alvord, opposite his colleagues in Boyd, the rising Brazilian riders Renato Nunes – last year’s Professional Bull Riders (PBR) World Champion – and Valdiron de Oliveira – currently atop the Build Ford Tough Series (BFTS) and PBR qualifier standings.
In that vicinity also resides rising-fame bull rider Ben Jones.
Distinguished by his signature celebratory dance and a wide smile characterized by a missing incisor, the New South Wales, Australia, native has most recently attracted attention by his rapid escalation in success despite a plethora of obstacles.
Neither fractured ribs nor the cutting of longtime friend and travel partner, Jason O’Hearn from the tour (both occurring within a month) deterred his climb to seventh in the BFTS standings and eighth in the PBR World Championship qualifier rankings.
“I can’t let the obstacles slow me down,” he said. “I have to get right back up and do what I need to do.”
That includes continuing his winning streak.
With the exception of claiming a PBR event title, his successes this year trump his accomplishments of years past in American PBR.
He has obtained higher rankings – including a week-long grasp of the top spot – and has held on to them longer than in the past.
Moreover, his riding percentage of 52.78 is an increase of more than 20 percent from his career average.
“I’m 32 and riding the best I’ve ever rode,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better circumstance. I really like where I am right now in my career.”
In addition to enjoying his recent success, Jones also embraces his relatively new locality.
For almost two years, he has nestled in the quiet, secluded, supportive and familiar charm of Boyd.
“I really like the community – everything about it,” he said. “The people that I know have been real behind me. It’s a great place to live a good life. It reminds me a lot of home. I don’t see myself going anywhere. I really like it here.”
In his most recent three-year tenure, Jones has lived nearby in Sunset and Bowie and as far away as California. But a friend from his native country introduced him to the area he now calls home.
“A fellow I knew from Australia, Logan, who works in the oilfield brought me here,” he said. “It’s all thanks to Logan that I’m here.”
Before his return three years ago, Jones lived in the United States in 1998. But his stay lasted only a year before visa trouble sent him back to Australia for 10 years.
“But I came back in 2008, and I’ve been back ever since,” he said. “I love it here.”
Coordinating his journeys back and forth and serving as his strongest backbone of support through his endeavors has been his fianc e Christy Rigby.
“She’s behind me 110 percent,” he said. “She handled all the lawyers during my visa mess. She books my flights and keeps me on track. She’d be the one to thank as far as anyone.”
After a long-distance relationship, Rigby joined Jones in the United States in the middle of March. The two plan to marry in Vegas later this month.
Although reunited with his love, back home is his family – who he visits for about a month-and-a-half every May.
“Sure I miss them,” he said. “But I know they support me. And I look forward to that visit each year.”
In addition to his family, past success that established his career remains in his homeland.
He began riding in Australia at the age of 13.
“I’ve always rode bulls,” Jones said. “If you want to be the best, it’s what you do. People down the road had bulls. I got on one, and that was that. Once you get on, it’s pretty hard to lose interest.”
His interest has led to several titles.
Jones is a four-time Australian Bull Riding champion, and he also won the PBR Australia championship title.
He reveres all of his accomplishments the same.
“Just my whole career,” Jones said of his biggest accomplishment. “My titles in Australia, winning my first event in the Nashville tour in 2001 – I couldn’t ask for a better life.
“There have been some ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change anything that’s for sure.”
Alongside the other bull riders who represent the county, Jones hopes they can all continue the path of accomplishment they have developed and followed.
“(We) just (need to) finish what we started and that’s riding bulls, and winning when we are riding bulls,” he said. “I’d like to thank the community and fans for their support.”
Jones and other local riders will saddle up at the Built Ford Tough Invitational Powered by F-150 EcoBoost in Tampa, Fla., this weekend and will compete in as many as 13 events before the World Finals at the end of October.
“When you go to an event doing what you love, it’s hard not to feel good,” Jones said. “I hope we can do Wise County proud in 2011.”
Look for more “A Picture’s Worth …” photos and features of local residents in upcoming editions of the Wise County Messenger.