IRON RIVER - One of the bulls - might have been Whiteout or Wicked Troll but not Vertigo - nearly plowed Iron River's Jesse Westcott into the arena turf Saturday afternoon.
Westcott, a bullfighter-in-training, was learning from two other men in the ring and helping out bullriders when possible. The bull appeared to take a good shot at him.
"That's a little nerve-racking but the other two guys are there to help out," Westcott said during a break Saturday in the second annual Fantastic Damage Extreme Bullriding at the Iron County Fairgrounds. "It happens so fast you don't really know. But it's part of the job."
Burt Angeli | Iron?Mountain Daily?News
Iron River’s Jesse Westcott, a bullfighter learning the ropes, watches the action Saturday in the second annual Fantastic Damage Extreme Bullriding at the Iron County Fairgrounds. Iron River will be busy again next weekend for the 45th annual U.P. Championship Rodeo.
The bullfighters - didn't they use to have rodeo clowns out there? - distract the bulls after the riders finish their work.
Jim Storti, who teams with his wife, Terri, to run the bullriding event and Frozen Acres Cattle Co., offered Westcott the chance to work with the veteran bullriders.
"Jim asked if I would to do a little cowboy protection for him on the weekend, and I said sure," said Westcott, who prepared for the 2011 and 2012 shows in Frozen Acres practice pens.
Westcott won't be giving up his full-time job in the woods to round up bulls or leave Iron River for other events.
"I'm going to saw wood," said Westcott when asked if his bullfighting duties could expand. "This is just a part-time adrenaline jump."
The Fantastic Damage Extreme Bullriding brought in 21 riders with top credentials who hope to stay on a bull for eight seconds. The bulls won most of the Saturday afternoon session.
"You never know what to expect," bullrider Craig Sasse of St. Peter, Ill, said a few years back. "There's 20 different bulls and 20 different guys - and no one rides the same. You may see a good ride, you may see a wreck."
Vertigo, not among the bulls Saturday, did his damage Friday. He was excused for fracturing Jim Storti's leg on Friday.
"Vertigo looked for a way out and Jim got in the way of that," Terri Storti said of putting her husband up against a fence panel. "Jim keeps telling people to stop blaming him because he's just being a bull."
Jim Storti was undergoing surgery Saturday in Marquette while Terri and others directed the show.
"In order to rodeo you have to be able to take pain, if you can't take pain you will never make it in rodeo," said Barry Brown, author of "The Bionic Bullrider: My Life Story."
"You can't be afraid of them. You have to respect them knowing they can hurt you."
Although the Fantastic Damage Extreme Bullriding states "this is not a rodeo." But Fantastic Damage Extreme Bullriding does include calf scrambles, bull poker, sheep riding for kids and another daredevil of sorts in Scott Murray and Sick Air Freestyle Motocross.
Sheep riding, for kids under 60 pounds, or "mutton button" is also called "day care," according to the ring announcer.
Phillip Vesbach of Prairie DuChien, Wis., was the afternoon show winner while Wayne Mast of Seneca, Wis., triumphed that night before a full house at the Iron County Fairgrounds. One of the bullriders placed third in an Illinois program Friday night and traveled over 300 miles to be in Iron River on Saturday.
Terri and Jim Storti are planning for a third annual Fantastic Damage Extreme Bullriding event. I expect Jesse Westcott and some of the Midwest's best bullriders and bullfighters to be there as well.