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  • Paul Cooley


GERRY – Are rodeo cowboys perhaps the world’s greatest athletes? Most people would say “No” as they think of the NBA’s Lebron James and his 35 million per year salary or the Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw with his 34 million per year. Or maybe Tiger Woods with his notoriety and 40 million per year. But how do we define greatness?

Consider an athlete who has no guaranteed paycheck, travels the country at his own expense, faces injury every performance, pays an entry fee to compete, doesn’t get any money unless he places in his event, and has to have another job to pay the bills, yet does it solely for the love of competition in his sport. That’s a picture of the average rodeo cowboy, including two bareback bronc riders who will be competing at the 74th annual Gerry Fire Department’s PRCA rodeo, August 1 -4.

Tim Palmer age 26, makes his home in Russellville, Arkansas, and has been around rodeo since his teenage years when an older friend encouraged him to take up the sport. He tried riding bulls and also tried the roping events, but bareback bronc riding became his love. Surgery on a compound fracture of his leg when a horse stepped on him in 2012 forced him out of competition, but he returned just three months later only to break the same leg, requiring more surgery.

He took three years off as a result but is slowly working his way back to full time competition. This year he will compete in more than 70 rodeos, travel more than 100,000 miles in 30 states while living most of the time out of a mini-van. Some of the rodeos require that he fly, including his trip to Gerry as he will be coming from Cheyenne, Wyoming. He then flies Kansas City, and finishes his summer with rodeos in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Missouri.

Injuries continue to be a part of his sport and include a broken collar bone, two broken ankles, broken hands, broken ribs, and a dislocated hip. However, he has no plans for quitting and says his ultimate dream is to be a world champion, a goal which he says is not for himself but to bring glory to God. He dedicates each ride to his best friend, Coy Lutz, who was killed when a bronc landed on him two years ago at age 19. And to make ends meet when he is not on the rodeo circuit, he owns a tree service and spends his “off time” climbing trees as well as training horses.

Tim Kent of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, at age 32 is a veteran of the rodeo circuits. His journey to pro rodeo began at age 12 when an older cowboy friend took him to the First Frontier Circuit Finals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to see his first rodeo. He immediately “got the bug” for rodeo, but, because his parents didn’t approve, he had to wait until he was 18 to attend a Sankey Bull Riding Clinic in North Carolina. He got on his first bull competitively when he attended a rodeo and they needed a bull rider. He says he wasn’t very good on the bulls and found his that bareback riding was where he belonged

Today most of his rodeos are up and down the East Coast here in the United States and eastern Canada, where he will compete in about 70 rodeos. He was married three years ago, and he and his wife are expecting their first child, an event which he says will change some of his priorities. His wife travels with him most of the time and will accompany him to Gerry.

True to his profession, he, too, has suffered a number of injuries including two broken wrists, and surgeries on both knees and a shoulder. His most serious injury was a ruptured spleen. He nearly died from loss of blood and had to be airlifted to a hospital.

He says that his reason for loving this sport is hard to explain, but there is a thrill or “rush” from getting on the back of an angry bronc that is out of control and being able to put on a great show for the fans. His biggest reward, he says, comes on those rides when his timing is “right” and the eight-second ride seems “effortless”. He has no plans at the present to stop competing. He, too, has a couple of other jobs as he is a skilled stone mason and owns a small sawmill.

So when you go to see a rodeo the next time, whether in Gerry or elsewhere, remember the rodeo cowboys’ dedication, sacrifice, and love of his sport, a passion not exceeded by competitors in any other sport, and perhaps you will agree that they rank well up the list of the world’s greatest athletes.

The Gerry rodeo has four performances, Wednesday through Saturday, at 8:00 each night August 1 -4, in their arena six miles north of Jamestown, New York, with more than 200 of these dedicated athletes competing for 45,000 in prize money. The event also features the famous beef barbeque dinners served at 5:00 each evening, and a lighted midway with more than 20 vendors. Additional information is available at the rodeo website or by phone at (716) 985-4847 or 1-888-985-4847.

Photo: Bareback bronc rider Tim Palmer is one of more than 200 athletes who will be competing at the 74th annual Gerry PRCA rodeo.

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