Rodeo comes to Ag Expo

August 03, 1997


Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - Judah Sliker, 18, and three other rodeo riders bent down on a knee and prayed together in a circle Saturday night before Sliker climbed into the rodeo chute on top of a massive, angry looking bull.

Sliker, who works for the man who supplies the rodeo bulls, Dave Martin, had driven all night to get the animals to the show.

He then spent the day working to set up the metal pens where the bulls wait until they are put in the chutes.


Before riding, he helped set the bulls up into the different pens.

He planned to sleep in the truck before breaking the pens down this morning and rounding the animals up to take home.

The work can be bone-breaking, exhausting and extremely dangerous.

Sliker said he can't imagine doing anything else.

"It's a free life," Sliker said. "You're not really tied down."

Other jobs may be safer and pay more, he's told.

"Not as much fun though. You're living a life most people dream of in the audience," Sliker said, smiling.

As his bull shot out of the chute, Sliker's free hand shot up into the air, while his other hand clung tightly to the rope.

"Your heart gets pumping and you feel invincible," he had said earlier as he described what it was like being on a bucking bull.

Between the strength of his right arm and his legs wrapped around the bull, he held on for about eight seconds before the bull flicked him off and he landed in the dirt with a thud.

"Whoo!" he shouted as the crowd applauded.

Another of the cowboys high-fived him as he walked through the gate. As soon as he stripped off his chaps and a Kevlar vest he wore for protection, he immediately went back to work getting other bulls ready to go.

An estimated crowd of more than 2,000 people attended the Bullride Mania Saturday night at the Washington County Ag Expo.

Chris Walters, 33, of Hagerstown, said he's been to a few rodeos before Saturday. "You can see some teeth get knocked out," Walters said.

Kathy Boyer, 23, of Sharpsburg, said she's watched rodeos on television, but it was the first time she'd seen one live.

She had been at the stands away from the chutes, but could not see as much of the action since the riders were bucked off shortly after leaving the gates.

"It's really interesting," Boyer said.

"You never know what's going to happen next," said her friend, Brenda Curry, 29, of Hagerstown.

In between bull rides, the rodeo clowns "bull fought" where they tried to get as close to an aggressive, charging bull as he could without being trampled.

A group of local volunteer youngsters also rode a large sheep.

Garrett Hamby, 7, of Williamsport, hung on the longest to win the event.

"It was fun," Hamby said as he waved to the cheering crowd.

"I hanged on by the bottom of him," he said of his strategy.

The boy is showing sheep and steers at the ag expo, said his father, Ralph Hamby, 37.

When asked if Garrett Hamby planned to ride the bulls when he was older, he nodded his head in a broad no.

"I don't think so," he said, grinning.

In the rodeo, the bulls appeared to be winning considerably.

Matt Kauffman's bull left the chute and he hung on for about four seconds before he was smashed into the metal rail fence, crunching the back of his skull hard.

Instantly the clowns and rodeo judges surrounded his prone body as the bull looked around for something or someone to charge.

At one point, the bull looked ready to charge into the huddle at the fence with the cowboys in front of Kauffman like Secret Service agents. But the rodeo clowns were able to wave the bull back into a holding pen.

After medics examined him, Kauffman, 27, of Hustontown, Pa., managed to walk off the field, but was later put into an ambulance for further examination.

"I had a good time," Kauffman said without a trace of irony. "The rush keeps you going. The desire to come back."

"It's the world's most natural rush," Kauffman said.

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