Grabbing bulls, life by the horns; Servicemen join PBR stars in arena

By David Talley | Published Saturday, June 10, 2017
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RECOGNITION – WC Challenger Charities Co-founder Wendell Berry presents servicemen Curtis Randall and Troy Hall with plaques after the two rode bulls at the JW Hart PBR Challenge last weekend. Randall, Hall and about 20 other retired or active military members took part in two days of clinics put on by local rodeo stars. NRS and Scalco Bucking Bulls helped make the clinics possible. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Among the dozens of professional bull riders at last weekend’s JW Hart PBR Challenge, two followed an unlikely journey to the arena from the battlefield.

Thanks to the efforts of several local rodeo stars and the veterans service charity organization, Warriors And Rodeo, a pair servicemen – Marine Curtis Randall and Army Ranger Troy Hall – had the opportunity to ride bulls at the rodeo after taking part in a two-day clinic.

Wise County Cowboy Church Pastor Jeff Tackett, a former professional bull rider, helped conduct the clinic and provided space for bull riding and bull fighting at his church’s rodeo arena. A horse roping clinic taught by local cowboy Clif Cooper was held off-site.

Tackett said he and several other cowboys, including 2004 World Champion Mike Lee, taught the clinics, which were held for about 20 retired or active-duty members of the military. Tackett said some of the students jokingly described bull riding as therapeutic.

“Considering their training and mindset and what they’re made of, I get what they mean,” Tackett said. “I can’t imagine what they go through.”

Tackett said participants in the class were mentally prepared for the rigors of bull riding.

“I think what I like most about is when I think of a warrior or a soldier, I think of guys who are really mentally tough,” Tackett said. “It’s the same thing in rodeo, and bull riding especially. Bull riding is not a physical game. It’s 90 percent mental. It’s a mental toughness game. You really have to convince yourself you’re meaner than any of those bulls you’re riding and you’re able to ride any of those bulls. Somebody would have to convince me to run into a building where people are shooting at you. That would take some incredible mental toughness. I don’t think, except for learning techniques, as in any sport, that this was a very far step for them.”

Lee agreed. The clinics spent significant time focusing on issues veterans may face off the battlefield, like loneliness or depression.

“We worked with bulls and talked about God and other challenges they might have,” Lee said. “We had a lot in common because I’m a bullrider, and I fight my mind a lot.”

Tackett said the clinic, which was provided free to the veterans, had a big impact on several of the participants. He said three are even planning to move to the area.

Organizers are already planning a bigger event for next year. Tackett said he’s hoping to stretch the clinics over several more days and raise money for the charity. Lee said he’s in.

“As long as they’re willing to come out here, I’m willing to do that,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”

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