It's all about the bull: Meyeraan raises stock for rodeo's grand event, the 8-second ride
FULDA -- Grandpa has been "out" about 400 times, which earned him the right to live out his days on the farm and sleep indoors.
Grandpa is a 16-year-old bucking bull -- the first one owned by Tyson Meyeraan of Meyeraan Bucking Bulls.
"He took me a long way," Meyeraan stated, crawling over the gate to drop a bucket of grain in Grandpa's pen. "The riders loved him and he put them into the money every time, but he's slowing down. He has proved himself enough."
Meyeraan started raising bucking bulls in July 2005, just a few months after graduating from high school. He currently lives in Westbrook, but keeps his bulls at his parents' farm in rural Fulda.
The pasture holds about 20 of his "babies," but Grandpa gets a pen inside, out of the wind and snow. Outside, Meyeraan's current pride and joy is McBride's Ride, a 2,300-pound, grocery-eating longhorn bull that stared calmly at Meyeraan as he spoke of bucking bulls. Of the 61 times McBride's Ride has been out, he's only been ridden the full 8 seconds once.
Another bull weighs in at a slight 1,100 pounds, but Meyeraan has high hopes for it.
"He looks like a little calf," Meyeraan stated. "But he is very athletic."
Out of the 20 bulls in the pasture, eight of them have yet to be tried, 10 of them are 2-year-olds and Meyeraan said maybe three or four will make the cut. Not all bulls are born to buck.
"People think we make them buck, but we don't," Meyeraan explained. "They either have it or they don't. If they aren't going to do it, they aren't going to do it."
Just as every stock car is set up different, every bull has his own personality, preferences and habits.
At rodeos, there are usually two doors a bull can exit into the arena. Some prefer to exit left, some right.
"I really get to know them," Meyeraan said. "I know their ages, who their mommy and daddy is and what they like."
Contrary to popular belief, all bulls aren't mean, Meyeraan said. They are worked with and handled on a regular basis, and used to human contact. The younger bulls full of testosterone can be a handful, but Meyeraan said they tend to settle down after being turned into a pasture with the more mature bulls.
But like any athlete, they gear themselves for a game. When they are loaded onto a truck and hauled to a rodeo, they know it is time to perform. Meyeraan said there is a noticeable difference in their demeanor when they are being unloaded.
"They're getting pumped up," he said. "They know what is coming."
While the instinct to buck is just that, there is training involved. Since Meyeraan tends to buy most of his bulls as yearlings, he is often given the chance to see the young bulls bucked with a dummy. They are too small to hold a rider, so a dummy is attached. After six seconds, a button is pushed and the dummy falls off. It gives a potential buyer a chance to see what stuff that particular bull might strut.
Meyeraan exercises his bulls in the spring and summer by running them.
"You want them to have a lot of energy, but you don't want them fat," he said.
Because he and his brothers own the Minnesota Extreme Bullriding Tour, his bulls are leased to it. Many of the riders use Meyeraan's bulls for practice, which is good for both rider and bull. Bucking the bulls helps them develop their individual technique.
Meyeraan puts on a bullriding school once a year for kids who would like to try the sport. He said it surprises him lately which kids want to try. Instead of the farm kids, he's seeing skateboard-riding town kids looking for the opportunity to sit on a bull.
"And a lot of them are really good," he admitted.
Sitting on a ton of bucking bull can be a daunting prospect, but Meyeraan said it is when the riders start worrying about getting injured that they get hurt. He's a firm believer in safety equipment such as shock absorbing vests and helmets.
"Something riders have to learn to accept -- it's not if they get hurt, it's when and how bad," he said.
His hope for the future is to see some of his own bulls "make it to the big time."
"I hope to get some into the PBR (Professional Bull Riders, Inc.)," he stated. "That can be tough for us little guys."
At a rodeo, the crowd doesn't really know that, along with the riders, the stock contractors are also competing. Bulls are entered into a competition, Meyeraan said, and are watched by four judges. Each judge gives the bull a score of 1 to 25 points based on their kick, speed and spin. The average bull, according to Meyeraan, scores around 19 to 20, but the ones that score 22 to 24 are the ones that can bring in the dollars.
"This business is starting to get huge," he stated. "Straws of semen from proven bulls can bring in up to $30,000, and now you can buy embryos also."
At one point, Meyeraan had cows to breed, but now buys his stock as yearlings. Online auctions such as www.buyabucker.com are popular, and provide links so prospective buyers can see the bull in action. The site lists the bull's bloodlines, with names such as Hells Bells, Outlaw and Gunslinger.
Some of Meyeraan's bulls start out with one name and end up with another. A prime example is Grandpa, who was named Red Man. As he aged, he got a new moniker.
"I had one that the cowboys hated to ride," Meyeraan said with a laugh. "Because they draw their bulls each time, he got to be known as Bad Draw."
He also has a bull called Mind Freak, and a bull that escaped from the pasture and was later recaptured is known as Convict.
Even though they do some indoor rodeos, which makes winter events possible, most of Meyeraan's bulls are riding out the cold months in the pasture, where they bulk up a bit. Come warmer weather, the exercise will start and the riders will start hanging around looking for a practice ride. The bulls will be put to the test, and those that don't make the cut will be sold. But for now, Meyeraan's goal is to keep them "full of groceries" and hanging out in the pasture, braving the frigid temperatures.
Except Grandpa, who is snug in his pen, having earned the right to hang out and watch the world go by.