Along for the ride

By Christina Calloway

ccalloway@pntonline.com

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Justin Lloyd of Tisdale, Oklak, failed to score on his bull Holy Train in the first go of L.J. Jenkins Invitational Friday at the Curry County Events Center.

Brant Atwood wants to drag his cowboy boots, wife and confidence to every Professional Bull Riders event this season in his journey to climb the ranks of his profession.

The 26-year-old from Pampa, Texas, ranks 33rd in PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series and has every intention to top the list and become world champion.

“In this sport, everyone’s got to be tough,” said Atwood, his words delivered with a twang and a smile.

His first stop this year was right here in Clovis at the L.J. Jenkins Invitational bull riding competition Friday night at the Curry County Events Center.

Atwood was one of 40 competitors from a field that includes riders from four countries and 12 states in PBR’s touring pro division.

His rural upbringing drew him into the sport. He watched his cousins ride bulls as a boy and thought, “that looks fun.”

But winning money for riding bulls is still the second best thing that has happened to him, Atwood said. First is marrying his wife two years ago, he said.

“She’s the one that’s supported me and my goals the last three years,” said Atwood, who recorded no score after being tossed from his bull.

Other competitors agree with Atwood that support is important to be successful in the bull riding business, including Justin Lloyd of Canada.

Lloyd, 26, has been riding professionally since he was 20. He said he doesn’t put much thought into preparation or routine; the preparation takes place in his head.

“You have to have a strong mental game. It’s something you just think about,” said Lloyd, who travels to events with his wife and children.

Lloyd also drew a no score and failed to advanced to Friday’s short-go comprised of the top-10 scores.

Clovis High School student Trevor Autrey was another person who sought focus to do his job Friday night.

The 15-year-old operated the spotlight used for the introduction of the show, tasked with shining the light on the American flag during a solemn moment of prayer, and on the competitors to amp up the crowd.

Working the lights is something he’s done hundreds of times in the last two years working for his uncle’s DJ company, but Autrey hopes to go professional in bull riding in the future. He was happy to be immersed in the environment Friday night.

“I like seeing who has the guts to ride the bulls,” Autrey said.

Watching the competitors fight to make it past the eight-second qualifying mark beats going to see a movie or any other Friday night family activity for Darren Hanson.

Hanson, 30, brought his wife Lindsey, daughter Harlow and son Rocky to watch the show.

“We like supporting the agricultural economy, said Hanson, a Curry County dairy farmer. “It’s fun, it’s entertaining and it’s good for the family.”

Hanson said his children couldn’t wait to slide on their boots and get to the show.

“They’re excited. They got dressed in a heartbeat,” said Lindsey Hanson. “This is a more upbeat thing to do.”

The two-day competition continues tonight.