Dirteater takes bull by the horns
By Wesley Mahan
Cherokee citizen and professional bull rider Ryan Dirteater tips his hat after riding at the July 31 Kayak Rodeo Series in Sallisaw, Okla. (Photo by Wesley Mahan)Sports WriterSALLISAW, Okla. – Being a professional bull rider can be a tough way to make a living. However, 19-year-old Hulbert resident and Cherokee citizen Ryan Dirteater has been doing exactly that.Dirteater, so far in 2008 has more than $36,000 dollars in earnings and is one of only 800 people in the world to have a Professional Bull Riders card.Dirteater travels around the country riding bulls and makes a living doing what he loves. His father, Randy, was a bull rider before an injury cut his career short. However, it was his dad who introduced Ryan to the dangerous sport.“I grew up around it. My dad did it when I was a baby, when I was 1, 2, he rode. I started when I was 9. I rode calves. When I was 10, I got my first junior rodeo card…and the next year after that I went and I bought another junior card, OJRA, Ozark Junior Rodeo Association and I won my first saddle….I started (with) calves, steers, junior bulls and I went up to senior bulls. And now, I’m riding with the big boys.”He said the excitement and the thrill of being on a wild animal attracted him to the sport.“I just watched it when I was small, and I told my mom that I wanted to be bull rider,” he said. “I did. It’s just fun. It’s just being a cowboy. It’s a cowboy sport.”Now Ryan rides with the big boys in the PBR. But being in the PBR is not given, it’s earned, he said.“When you’re 18, you can buy your permit. You got to win $2,500 to fill your permit. When you win $2,500, you’re called a card holder,” he said. “After you do that, you win at the Enterprise, the Discoverer – the challenger tours – you go to those, and when you win enough money they give you a call to go to the Built Ford Tough series, the ones you see on TV.”Ryan said making it to the highest level requires mental and physical preparation.“When I’m at home, I run a mile and lift weights three times a week. I ride horses bareback a lot which helps me. It’s the closest thing to riding a bull without actually getting on one. I go to church as well, because a lot of it’s mental,” he said.Even with practice and training, no bull rider can escape injury.“I broke my jaw, the right side of my jaw like three months ago. I broke it and I was off for about a month,” he said. “I’ve broke my arm a couple of times, just little injuries like that, not really any serious injuries.”But Ryan hasn’t had to go through the bumps and bruises alone. And despite the injury that stopped his career, Ryan’s dad backed his son’s decision to pursue bull riding.“It was his decision to be a bull rider. But me and his mom have backed him 100 percent. He’s wanted to do this since he was a kid, and he has set goals and achieved them,’ Randy said.Having a father who is a former bull rider is a luxury most riders don’t have. However, it’s an advantage for Ryan when he needs to tap into the knowledge his father can provide.“Being honest with yourself and staying healthy are the most important parts to being successful. I tell him staying in shape and treating your body right makes all the difference because it’s such a dangerous sport,” Randy said.On July 31, Ryan competed in the Kayak Rodeo Series held in Sallisaw. He rode a red bull and outlined his strategy.“This bull has been turning back to the left lately. He tries to drop you down in the well. You know he’s going to buck, so you’ve got to stay down and be small, dance with him,” he said.But riding a bull is easier said than done. However, Ryan managed to stay on the bull for the full eight seconds and finish first in the event.“Yeah, he bucked and turned back to the left, just like they said. I hung on and thank God I got him rode,” he said.At 19, Ryan has his sights set high in the bull riding business – a world title.“I want to make the PBR world finals in Las Vegas this year, but my ultimate goal is to win the world of PBR,” he said.