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Rookie bull riders following their hearts

The movie was a biographical drama starring Luke Perry, and while it might not have caught the eyes of the academy, it did of a young boy in the small Oklahoma town of Slick, a speck on the map between Tulsa and Oklahoma City whose total area is a 0.4 square miles.

Population: 131.

“I loved that movie more than anything,” Garrett Tribble said. “I would come home from school every day and watch it. I knew at a pretty young age it’s what I wanted to be, and here I am.”

If it’s true mamas shouldn’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys, I would think such reasoning is suggested in an even more aggressive tone for the rodeo event where one of its chief mottos is that blood washes off and bruises go away and bones heal and scars show character and pain is temporary and victory lasts forever.

So you want to ride bulls, huh?

Try something a lot more tame.

Like football.

In the film “8 Seconds,” Perry played rodeo legend and bull riding champion Lane Frost, who died at age 25 at the 1989 Cheyenne Frontier Days as a result of injuries sustained after riding Takin’ Care of Business.

Frost dismounted the bull after his eight-second ride and turned his back on the animal, which then rammed him in the side and severed a main artery. Lane weighed 145 pounds; the bull weighed 2,000.

It wasn’t a fair fight.

In seven seconds, one fewer than how long Frost lasted on what would be his final mount, the cowboy died on an arena floor before he could be transported to a hospital.

Tribble is a little different from most bull riders in that he didn’t grow up around a family of rodeo competitors. His father didn’t ride bulls like that of fellow Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rookie Roscoe Jarboe.

Tribble just kept watching that movie over and over.

Jarboe says you have to crave the life like you’re starving for a mere taste, that even if your body holds up to the broken bones and other inevitable punishment bull riding presents, it’s no use dropping down onto a beast that weighs close to a ton and whose purpose is to hurl you to the ground unless you absolutely love every wild, crazy, treacherous second of it.

“It’s pretty difficult to find this kind of high doing anything else, at least legally,” Jarboe said. “If you don’t have that craving for it, you will never be successful. I had a choice to do this, and yet I didn’t have a choice. When you wake up every day and follow your dad and his friends to rodeo after rodeo, you want to follow in their footsteps.

“Most of us are from small towns, where those in rodeo are our heroes. You get that adrenaline rush, and there is nothing like it. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I want to do this as long as I possibly can.”

Jarboe and Tribble are among a record 39 first-time qualifiers for the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center, which include seven in bull riding. When the finals began Thursday, the two also were competing in a race within the race, each chasing coveted Rookie of the Year honors in the event.

Things have gone better for Jarboe, who sits fifth in the world standings after the sixth of 10 go-rounds, while Tribble is 14th. Neither placed Tuesday night.

They both played football and wrestled in high school, Tribble in Oklahoma and Jarboe in New Plymouth, Idaho, whose population of near 1,600 makes it seem a virtual metropolis compared to Slick. They also believe this: That of those two sports, wrestling most prepared them for bull riding, for the strength and balance and precision and toughness it demands.

Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. I would think bulls qualify.

Tribble is 19 and has been somewhat fortunate — if you can call it that — with a list of injuries that include a fractured sternum and nerve damage in his hands. Jarboe, 20, broke his back playing high school football, but gives the taxing physical challenge of bull riding its fair share of blame for that mishap.

They’ve both been knocked unconscious more than any human should have to endure.

“I think whoever does this is always a little scared and nervous,” Jarboe said. “If you’re not, you’re going to lose focus and get thrown off. But there is also nothing like it.

“My heart just can’t strip it away.”

And maybe that’s it, really, whether you grew up watching your father and his friends compete at one rodeo after the next or fell in love with a movie you spent every day after school watching about the life of a bull riding legend, whose cousin (Joe Frost) is fourth in the world standings this year.

It’s perhaps the best way to describe why some cowboys ride bulls, maybe the only sensible reason for dropping down onto that beast that weighs close to a ton.

Their hearts just can’t strip it away.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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