This is what L.J. Jenkins knows:
Bulls, airports, stretches of highway, broken ribs, punctured lungs, arenas, ranches, cowboy hats and boots.
At age 23, it’s practically all he knows, but it’s been enough. More than enough.
It’s taken him to every state in the union except Hawaii. It’s put some money in his pocket and given him something to look forward to when he retires at the ripe old age of 30.
Jenkins is a professional bullrider, and beginning tonight he will compete in the Ty Murray Invitational at the Pit.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Jenkins who grew up in Texico, having moved there before the eighth grade. He played a little basketball, did some high school rodeo, stuff like any kid from a small New Mexico town.
But he was into rodeo even before he got to New Mexico before his eighth-grade year. It was part of his dad’s life and the first time young L.J. competed, he rode a calf and won a title.
When he turned 18, he got a PBR permit and that same night won an event in Gillette, Wyo.
A year later, in 2006, he won the World Finals and pocketed $288,567.
Yes, it’s been a good life.
“Not many 23-year-olds get to do what they want, what they love,” Jenkins says.
Not many 23-year-olds actively court danger as a living, although Jenkins is quick to dismiss it.
“Naw,” he says when asked if he thinks about the danger of his chosen profession. “You could get hurt walking across the street.”
He does acknowledge there’s risk, but the idea is to “go with every bull.”
Of course, the bulls have other ideas. The PBR bills itself as the toughest sport on dirt, and a bull named Voodoo Child had become the rankest animal on the circuit.
Only one cowboy had managed to ride Voodoo Child, only one had managed to cling on for dear life for the mandatory eight seconds.
Many cowboys would steer away from such an animal, but Jenkins did not.
“I knew I could ride him,” Jenkins says. “I didn’t know when, but I knew I could. Nobody gave me chance in the world. But a bullrider knows, and it was something I knew.”
In an event in Glendale, Ariz., last year, the time came. Jenkins was down in the standings entering the short go round (final day) and the only way to make up ground was to have a successful ride on a tough bull.
For the short go, the top 10 riders are allowed to draft their bulls. The leading rider gets first pick. That day, Jenkins had the fourth choice, and Voodoo Child was there for the picking, and that’s what Jenkins did.
“That’s a good bull,” Jenkins says. “It took me a few tries, but that day I had a really good trip. I was on the top of my game.”
The ride gave him the victory — his first since 2008 in Albuquerque — and a bit of PBR history.
The Albuquerque win was another highlight.
“That was awesome,” Jenkins says. “Not everybody gets a chance to win in one’s home state with everybody there. If there’s one event you want to win, it’s that one.”
Albuquerque is the 12th stop in a 28-city tour that began in January in New York and will end in October in Las Vegas, Nev. Traveling, Jenkins says, is the toughest part of what he does.
In 2008, the PBR held an event outside Madison Square Garden and the cowboy from Texico found himself riding a bull with the Empire State Building in the background.
“That was pretty cool experience,” Jenkins says. “The only negative was that it was 3 degrees outside. But getting to ride on the streets of New York City, where most of those people probably never heard of bullriding, was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Jenkins figures he will ride until he’s 30, then settle on his Oklahoma ranch and raise bucking bulls.
It’s what he knows.
Capsule – PBR: Ty Murray Invitational, the Pit; today, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 5:50 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.
Photo Credit – creditline