Pauls Valley Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
Of all the things one looks back on later in life, the moments most cherished are those positive influences which shaped the very character within.
The results are still a work in progress for 14-year-old Pauls Valley resident Kelby Harper, but there’s no mistaking how much the dirt and grit of a rodeo arena is making an impact. It has not only provided a regular outlet and activity for the 8th grader, there’s also no denying the role models helping influence what may one day be a career path as well.
The path, which Harper makes rather clear, is that of a bull fighter, though not to be confused with either a rodeo clown or the Spanish guys with capes. It’s something he also considers much more than a hobby, involving quite a bit of travel, with arena stops in places like Ada and Kellyville.
It’s a passion born out of influences from his mentors, Frank Newsom, a friend of the family and active member of the Professional Bull Riders organization and Cody Webster, a regular competitor with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. It also goes back to growing up and getting to know ranch animals from horses to cattle.
What Harper does has some things in common with what rodeo clowns do like a little bit of paint makeup and distracting the bull to lure it away from a bull rider, but for him more serious than comedy. It is his mission to protect those riders, while still keeping himself safe which he learned from Newsom, part father figure and Webster, a brother in the sport.
There’s even a competitive side to the sport, with Harper competing for jackpots in 5-15 rodeos a year against 12 or more others close to his age. He’s placed as high as second, with goals to be at the top in free style events already and added how important it is to learn how to read the bulls when it doesn’t take much to go wrong.
“You’ve got to know when to make the right move at the right time,” said Harper, who has a phrase he uses to keep focus. “It’s just chin up, feet down and twist em in the ground.”
However, though Harper’s mom Lori may never completely be able to get rid of the nerves attached to her son’s dance with fate, she has confidence the right people are there to make sure the kids are taken care of. They aren’t going into the danger zone unprepared and even get a chance to hone their skills in distraction through events like the Camp for Champions, where they can build their way up from calves to steers.
In the mean time, Harper plans to stay in shape in order to reach his goal to one day be a professional like those who have paved the way before him. He doesn’t plan to give it up any time soon and said once the adrenaline rush gets ahold of one’s self, it’s not hard to understand why so many find it exciting.
“We pretty much put our lives on the line,” said Harper. “They’ll either make you or break you.”