Local Man Pursues Love Of Bull Riding
Often referred to as the "most dangerous eight seconds in sports," bull riding and rodeos first emerged as competitions between neighboring ranches in the Old West. Over the years the sport has expanded to include riding associations, hundreds of competitions worldwide and a high risk of injury to both riders and clowns.
Choosing to overlook a previously sustained riding injury as well as the additional risks, Mc- Connellsburg Borough resident Larry Franco returned to the arena earlier this month to again try his hand at the sport that seems to have taken root throughout his extended family.
Franco's uncle Rocky Powell holds the 1979 U.S. Rodeo Champion title and the Clown of the Year for 1989. Powell, a resident of Okachobee, Fla., hosted Franco's March visit down south and stood by his side during his three rides.
"I used to ride. I figured it was time to get back into it before I get too old," joked Franco, a 38- year-old constable and security officer for the Fulton County Sheriff's Office. His last ride occurred 17 to 18 years ago and resulted in a traumatic injury that took him away from riding.
During his recent trip to Florida, Franco participated in two different riding events - at a county fair in a neighboring county as well as a Sunday rodeo at the R&R Ranch. The results of those events netted Franco the coveted "eight-second" ride and more importantly the respect of his uncle and fellow cowboys.
Franco said he "got stomped" by an 1,800-pound bull named Stomper, who was later renamed by its owner The Pennsylvania Stomper due to the rough ride out of the chute. In a follow-up ride with Terminator, a 2,200- pound bull, Franco held on for eight seconds and garnered an overall score of 72.
According to reports, each ride receives a score of 0 to 100 points, and both the rider and the bull are awarded points. Two judges are normally responsible for the awarding of points. Each judge scores the bull from 0 to 50 points and the rider from 0 to 50 points. The combined point totals from both judges make up the final score for the ride. Scores of zero are very common for riders who lose control of the bull straight out of the bucking chute. However, more experienced professionals are able to score 75 or higher.
Even though Franco indicated his age would keep him from taking up bull riding as as profession, he did state he is interested in keeping active in the sport as a sideline interest. He is planning a return trip to Florida three months from now, but in the meantime his uncle is urging his participation in a large rodeo with an anticipated 40 riders scheduled for May.
"I love riding. I've never been so happy," recalled Franco. "For 30 seconds nothing else matters in this world from the time you walk up, get down on one knee and pray and mount up for the ride."