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PBR’s livestock superintendent still runs toward the fire

As a livestock superintendent for the Professional Bull Riders tour, one usually can find Ted Groene behind the chutes and knee deep in a lot of bull at events such as this weekend’s Unleash The Beast Las Vegas Invitational at the MGM Grand.

Unless something untoward happens in the arena. In which case you’ll likely find him at the front and center of it.

Groene, who has made his home in Pahrump since helping the South Point open its equestrian arena, was a PBR bullfighter before he stared an angry beast in the eye in and wound up losing one of his in 1994.

“Like a policeman or a fireman — you always run to the (fire),” he says of what once was an occupational hazard and occasionally still is. Last year at Sacramento, California, Groene sprinted into the arena to protect an unconscious rider and wound up getting hooked by a indiscriminate bull horn.

“Swept me off my feet,” he said. “I got run over, but that wasn’t as bad as Chris Shivers years ago.”

Shivers’ wreck in 1997 was about as frightening as it gets.

The two-time PBR champion was knocked out and trampled by a Mexican fighting bull called Shorty. Groene, conspicuously clad in a black duster, bolted into the arena to tend to Shivers but also got stampeded by the little black bull with the evil disposition.

“Ted Groene, who has had about 20 operations, just laid over the top of Chris to try to keep him out of the way,” one of the announcers told his viewers after Shivers gestured to the crowd upon being taken from the arena on a stretcher. “Ted Groene in that raincoat probably saved him.”

Groene, 59, said the reason he started fighting bulls was simple: He wasn’t very good at riding them.

“They were having a (rodeo) school in Hayward, California. Rough stock cost $200. But it was only $125 for bullfighting and I said, ‘Heck, I’m gonna try that, because it was cheaper.’ ”

He got to be pretty good as it — so good that Joe Baumgartner, the Hall-of-Fame bullfighter, credits Groene for being his inspiration. “Most think of Ted as a guru of the stock, but this guy was one of the greatest bullfighters that ever tied his cleats on,” Baumgartner said upon receiving the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Groene said he was envious of his former understudy — not for all he achieved as a bullfighter but by achieving it by not straying far from his California home.

“It’s a hard life. It’s hard on family because I’m gone all the time — I’ve got one boy, he played baseball, and I missed a lot of his games and stuff,” Groene said about pro rodeo’s traveling circus. “But I met a lot of good people, saw a lot of places.”

He said he would probably watch the bull riding at the MGM on a TV monitor out back by the pens. Unless, of course, something untoward should happen in the arena. In that case he’ll most likely run toward the fire.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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