Stormy Wing is a man of few words. With a laid-back drawl and a healthy presence of “yes, ma’am”s, he doesn’t seem the type to get worked up about much at all.And that might be a good quality in someone who spends time on the back of a bull.
Wing is one of around 60 professional bull riders coming to the Lewiston Roundup Grounds this weekend to compete in the Professional Bull Riders Touring Pro Division. Each has one goal: staying atop a bull whose one goal is throwing them off. It’s a delicate partnership.
“It’s like dancing,” explains Wing.
You know, the type of dance where one wrong move can land you in the hospital. Which is why each move of the bull must be perfectly countered by a move of the rider. Together, they perform an intense 8-second dance of balance.
Both rider and bull are scored independently. According to PBR.com, the bull’s score is based on the degree of difficulty of his moves and the rider is scored based on control, which is his ability to counter the moves of the bull. Two high scores put the rider ahead in the competition.
It could be said that Wing’s career began at the age of 4, riding calves at the family ranch. When your dad rode bulls and both parents come from ranching families, that sort of thing just happens.
Calves led to steers and finally, at the age of 13 or 14 – he doesn’t remember which – Wing rode his first bull. He doesn’t remember because by then, it was a bit of a non-event.
“It wasn’t much different, I guess,” Wing said. “I’d been doing it for a long time, it was just something I was working on.”
It was at some point during his years in high school rodeo that Wing decided make the push to go pro. When he graduated, he joined PBR and, now 24, has been touring with them for four years. He’s on his way to his fourth PBR Final and is currently ranked among the top 30 riders. It’s a skill that takes experience and practice, though not always of the physical sort.
“With bull riding, a lot of it is mental,” Wing explained.
A lot of the practicing he does is inside his head. He goes back to a past ride, or maybe imagines a new one, and works on his response. This type of practice develops the split second reflexes needed to stay atop a bull.
“There’s no way on earth you have time on that bull to think about what you’re going to do,” he said.
These mental workouts have no defined beginning or end, so Wing is always on the job.
“Even when I’m not thinking about it, I’m thinking about it,” he said.
What’s the worst part of his job?
“Being away from my little girl,” Wing said.
His irregular touring schedule means he goes for weeks at a time without seeing his 7-month-old daughter back home in Texas. When he’s home, he’s usually there for a couple weeks before heading back out.
And the highlight of the gig?
“Conquering the beast,” Wing said. “It’s a pretty exciting job. It’s something I’ve always loved and it’s great to be able to make a living at it.”
For him, the most intense part of the ride begins about three riders before his turn. Anticipation can throw a rider off just as well as any bull can. His dad used to tell him that it wasn’t nerves, just adrenaline. As reasonable a response as it is, it’s something that has to be managed.
“You gotta decide how you’re going to handle it, if you’re going to let it affect you and not be focused, or get in the zone and be focused,” Wing said.
But then he shares the real secret to staying on that bull:
“Don’t let go.”
Schmidt can be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 305-4578.
-If you go:
WHAT: Professional Bull Riders Touring Pro Division
WHEN: Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Lewiston Roundup Grounds, 2100 Tammany Creek Road, Lewiston
COST: $20 general admission, $35 reserved seats, $50 box seats, available online at www.lewistonroundup.org