Whether it's the rolling hills or something in the water, Payson City boasts some talented bull riders.
"There's getting to be quite a few bull riders from Utah that are (good)," said 21-year-old Steve Woolsey.
Woolsey was one of three Payson cowboys who rode during Thursday's second night of the Days of '47 Rodeo at Energy Solutions Arena, including defending world champion bull rider Wesley Silcox.
Twelve of the 14 entries in Thursday night's bull riding were from Utah, with three of those from Payson. And while half of them didn't manage to stay on for the required eight seconds, all three of the Payson cowboys made the whistle. Woolsey tied for third place with a 73-point ride. Dustin Larsen, of Manila, also scored 73 points.
Silcox earned 69 points riding Mr. Aloha, while second place went to Payson's Chris Roundy, who scored 78 points. The night's winner was Roy's Brody Hamblin, who had to ride two bulls as the first one didn't perform, and judges offered him a re-ride. Hamblin rode after the show was over and fans were leaving.
Woolsey said he felt good enough during the ride, but was disappointed with the way the bull performed.
"I thought he could have bucked more," said Woolsey. "I spurred him a little bit, but that's about all you can do."
It takes a unique individual to ride bulls for a living, and most get into it because it's in their blood. "I was just raised in it," Woolsey said. "My dad did it; my older brother still rides bulls."
He said he's never thought about quitting, not even when a bull knocked him out.
"We hit heads twice and then the third time he hit me and knocked me into a post," Woolsey said. "I didn't wake up until I was in the hospital."
He said he had trouble with his equilibrium for nearly a year due to brain swelling. Still, he never even looked for another way to make a living. "I'd rather die doing what I love than sit at a desk all day," Woolsey said.
Rob Smets knows how Woolsey feels. The former bull fighter, who was a five-time National Finals Rodeo champion, saved a lot of cowboys while doing a lot of damage to his own body. But after retiring from bull fighting, he's found a new career announcing at rodeos, including the Days of '47 Rodeo. He credits his last few years in the Professional Bull Riders Association as one of the reasons he can still make a living at rodeos albeit in a much less risky fashion.
"It opened this door for me of announcing," he said. "I do five rodeos now. It keeps me doing what I know and love."
And how does one know he's arrived as a bull rider or bull fighter?
Well, when the PBR packages your likeness in a little plastic doll and fans buy it, that's a pretty good indicator that things are going well. Smets was one of four rider/bull fighters featured in doll form, and his action figure sells with a miniature of a bull named Hammer. The action figures have been around for about five years. He takes the attention in stride and said his wife, Carla, makes sure fame doesn't go to his head.
"I was in Abilene, Texas, and Carla had somebody who wanted one," Smets said, grinning. "I went to the Wal-mart and couldn't find one. The lady said, 'Oh, we're sold out of the Rob Smets.' So I got to throw out my chest and say, 'Sorry, they were all sold out of the Rob Smets doll.'"
Smets even did a bit of bull fighting Thursday night, although he took his reading glasses off to play with the bull. He said his next big endeavor will be to help his daughter, Dylan, get started as a professional barrel racer next year.
"I got to live the dream," he said. "I'm going to try to help her as much as I can."In other events, Justin McDaniel won the bareback riding with a 77-point ride. Cash Myers won the night's steer wrestling with a time of 4.2 seconds, while Jaren Arave won the tie-down roping with a time of 8.2 seconds. Heith DeMoss, who is currently eighth in the world standings, earned the night's top score with 77 points. Heidi Meuwissen earned the fastest barrel racing time with 13.45 seconds. Brady Siddoway and R.D. Abplanalp won the team roping with a time of 5.6 seconds.