CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
He lowers himself onto the fierce, muscular animal. He takes a few seconds to prepare himself, wrapping the rope tight around his hand. He gives a nod, signaling he’s ready to go.
The gate swings open and 5.5 seconds later the rider loses his footing and is bucked off the ferocious bull.
This was the scene at the Hang’n Tree Ranch in New Bern, N.C. March 5, when Cpl. Christopher Skeeters, a motor transportation operator with Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, took on one of the toughest bulls in the rodeo.
Commonly known as the most dangerous eight seconds in sports, bull riding consists of a rider mounting atop a large, bucking bull tethered only by a piece of braided rope wrapped around a gloved hand.
Skeeters has been riding bulls for about three years. He was first introduced to the intense rodeo sport by a fellow Marine back in 2008 and has been an avid rider and rodeo participant ever since.
“It takes a lot of discipline and hard training to get on the back of a bull,” he said.
The riders are scored on their ability to control the bull and their rhythm. If a rider is bucked off before the eight second buzzer, no points are awarded.
While the rider is struggling to earn points, so is the bull. The bull is scored on its overall agility, power and speed. The harder time the bull gives the rider, the more points are awarded.
“My favorite bull [at the Hang’n Tree Ranch] is Doc Holiday, also known as Powerstroke Kid,” Skeeters said. “He’s a small, wiry bull that turns back quick and likes to get up high and roll around. He’s a tough bull to ride, but if you can make the eight seconds he’s good for high points.”
Skeeters spends many of his weekends at Hang’n Tree Ranch where he rides almost every week and has won first place in two of the weekly rodeos.
“[My most memorable experience with riding] was when I won my first rodeo, then turned around and won again the very next week,” he said.
Whether he places first or gets bucked off before the eight second buzzer, Skeeters enjoys the challenge of riding a bull and plans to continue participating in the sport.