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Bulls give cowboys short rides, big thrills

August 21, 1998|By DON AINES

WILLIAMSON, Pa. - Atop half a ton of beef named Backdraft, Joshua Benshoff of Chambersburg, Pa., waited behind chute No. 3 for the stopwatch to start on what he hoped would be an eight-second ride.

Benshoff's girlfriend, Kever LaBrush of Frederick, Md., admitted to some apprehension Thursday night, moments before the gate opened. The former barrel racer said Josh took a bad fall in a practice ride two months ago.

"Basically, his nose was taken off," LaBrush said, leaning against the steel rail fence surrounding the arena at the Chambersburg Rod and Gun Club. He suffered a cracked jaw, some facial cuts requiring about 30 stitches, and a separated shoulder.

LaBrush said he was also worried about his cowboy hat, but that problem was taken care of before his ride when a friend handed him another.

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"The only hat he had to ride in was the one he had the accident in ... It's very psychological," she explained.

Despite the change of headgear, Benshoff's ride lasted just three seconds before he hit the sawdust. That was about twice as long as the rider before him.

Benshoff, who sprained both wrists Tuesday at a rodeo in Newcastle, Pa., emerged unscathed from his encounter with Backdraft at the Franklin County Fair. He said it hadn't been a great week.

"I think every bull I had was like that one. No one's ridden that one all season," he said.

Thursday night the Rawhide Rodeo Company provided a crowd of several thousand people with some thrills and an opportunity for cowboys like Benshoff, 23, and Lester Long, 19, of Greencastle, Pa., to sharpen their skills.

"I think I wanted to ride bulls ever since I was in third grade," Benshoff said after his abbreviated ride. He's been riding more than a year and got his American Professional Rodeo Association card last fall.

"We're basically like farm teams" in baseball, he said. Like many a bronco or bull rider, he'd like to move up to the majors - the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

"It's an adrenaline rush ... I love being around the people and the bulls," Long said as he waited for his ride. He started riding in February and has suffered only bumps and bruises.

Benshoff said riders wear protective vests and some even wear football helmets, but that's no guarantee against injury.

"It's not if you'll get hurt, it's when and how bad," Benshoff said.

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