Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Life's roughest ride

...he's flung like a rag doll onto the dusty arena and all he can do to avoid the thundering hooves is scramble for the wall as the clowns rush in.

Story: Suzy Young
Photos: James McEwan

Life's roughest rideThe bull, an ugly mottled monster called GST, is rolling his red eyes, kicking against the steel gate with loud bangs that make you jump, and flicking his long, sharp horns with terrifying agility for a large animal jammed into a narrow stock race.

Drowning out the snorting and thumping of this grumpy mass of meat and muscle is a tidal wave of noise - the roar of the crowd, hungry for more action at the Mount Isa Rodeo, the wail of country and western music, and the booming voice of Darrell Eastlake, decked out in an even louder shirt, expressing his never-ending wonder and admiration for the bravery and talent of these boys from the bush.

It's the third day of this, the ultimate Australian rodeo competition, and we're down to the premier event - the finals of the bull riding competition. The competitors are some of the best in the country, for the toughest and most dangerous event in rodeo.

The vast arena is empty and all eyes are on the chute where the next bull and rider and getting ready to test which is the meanest - man or beast.

Perched on the rail above the chute are h alf a dozen young cowboys with string, deft hands, tying a rope around the middle of the bull, with a clanking cowbell hanging right under his belly to irritate him, and a flank strap around his hindquarters to make him kick out.

Life's roughest rideAt the head of the chute is a wiry man with a cattle prod, ready to give the bull a hurry-up out into the ring in case he doesn't perform when the time comes.

Working with the deepest concentration is rider Lee Kimber, 21 years old, but with the slender body of a teenager, dark, sparkling eyes and a sweet, shy smile.

Except he's not smiling now, his face is a mask of determination and concentration as he stretches his long lean legs one more time with a deep knee bend, straps up his smart turquoise blue leather chaps, and hops up to the top of the chute and onto the bull's heaving back.

He grimaces as he roughs up the surface of the rope with rosin so his one connection with the bull won't slip, jams his hat down on his head and braces himself for whatever the bull will do when the chute opens. Story end

Full story Issue 2, December 1998-January 1999

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