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Bull riders battle rank steers and bad rains, but not fear

Collin Smith

Lane Frost Challenge scores

Jory "Montana" Markiss: 79, 86.5

Brady Sullivan: 82

Jeremiah Dillie: 75

The public address system was a loud, scratchy and random assembly of country, classic rock, hip-hop and techno.

It was raining and cold, and the arena was filled with clay mud a foot thick, as sticky as concrete that has just begun to set.

Amid it all, at the start of the Lane Frost Challenge bull riding competition Saturday night at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, cowboys prayed.

“I pray every time I get on,” said Troy Vernon, who turned 18 a few weeks ago and graduated from Moffat County High School that afternoon. “Just to ask Him to protect me, to be there with me. I say the same one each time.”

Vernon has been hurt a lot, he added, but he’s won a lot, too.

Whatever happens, he gets the same rush of adrenaline.

The prospect of a broken leg or a more serious injury doesn’t worry Vernon’s grandfather too much.

When Darryl Steele steps into the backstage area of the Fairgrounds arena, he’s not thinking about safety like one might expect of an elderly family member.

“Every time I come here, I want to get back onto one of these guys,” Steele said. “I’m not worried about Troy, no. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been doing it a long time.”

Both Vernon and Eric Fleming, who is also 18 and received his high school diploma Saturday afternoon, made it to the short round of champion contenders. However, neither was able to last the eight seconds needed to score.

Which is all right, Fleming said.

“Sometimes you fall off,” he said. “You got to keep going. You can’t look back. It’s not about the other competitors and what their score is. It’s you and the bull.”

In that sense, Fleming would rather ride seven seconds on the angriest bull he can find than eight seconds on a bull he knows he can tame.

“I want the rankest bull there is every time,” he said.

Both of the Moffat County graduates will have plenty more bulls to ride in the future. Each received a full athletic scholarship to be on the rodeo team for Northwest College in Powell, Wyo.

Partially because of the day’s heavy rains, all the riders Saturday had trouble keeping grip on their ropes.

Only three managed to score, and only one rider hung on to both his bulls. Jory Markiss – a 20-year-old from Utah who is known as Montana for reasons he can’t explain – scored a 79 and an 86.5 and won his first competition Saturday.

There is no trade secret to winning, he said.

“Riding bulls is just riding bulls,” he said from beneath his black cowboy hat in between handshakes and fist bumps. “If you’re going to be around them, you might as well ride them.”

Even if he didn’t win, Markiss said he’s not going to quit. He likes the adrenaline rush too much.

Craig’s event was the fifth and possibly last stop for the Lane Frost Challenge tour this year.

The promoter, Eldon Monsen, owner of EMJ production, is a close friend of Lane Frost’s family, whose life story was dramatized in the 1994 Luke Perry vehicle “8 Seconds.”

He said he doesn’t feel at all awkward about promoting the same kind of event that led to Frost’s death in 1989, when a bull charged the rodeo legend and gored his side.

“It’s honoring him to do this,” Monsen said. “We’re honoring his life as a bull rider. He died doing what he loved. Because of the movie ‘8 Seconds,’ everybody is under the impression that Lane spent his whole life in Oklahoma. That’s not true.

“He grew up part of his life in Utah. When we started the memorial challenge there, it’s like his mother said, it was like bringing him home.”

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.


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