Lincoln County bull rider set for national rodeo competition

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Eight seconds.

Matt Deer holds tight as a 2,000 pound bull jumps and bucks,trying its hardest to send him into the air or ground, whichever ismore convenient for the bull. But Deer knows how to throw hisweight at the right moment to keep from losing his seat — or hislimbs for that matter.

Eight seconds.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Most of the time, Deer can stay on until the buzzer sounds. Hedismounts the animal with no hard feelings against its hostilityand walks away to await his score and standings.

Other times, he picks himself up off the ground, hopefullyretaining his mobility and body parts. Knowing he doesn’t receive ascore, he walks away to await his friends’ standings.

Sometimes he wins money, sometimes he loses his entry fee.Either way, his ride is over. It’s time to load up to go to anothercounty, or even across the state, just to enter a second or thirdcompetition for the day to do it all over again.

He does this every weekend.

Deer, 17, an upcoming senior at West Lincoln, rides bulls. Andhe’s good at it. He has won countless competitions and has a newstory to tell every week.

“It’s the biggest adrenaline rush there is. There ain’t nothinglike it,” he said.

His biggest ride is still to come. Deer, a member of theMississippi State High School Rodeo Team, has been selected as oneof four bull riders to represent the team at the 56th AnnualNational High School Finals Rodeo held in Gillette, Wyo., an eventwhich attracts teams from 39 states, five Canadian provinces andAustralia, according to its web site.

Deer hits the trail Wednesday to head to the competition, whichwill be held from July 19-25. The contestants will be competing forover $125,000 in prizes and $225,000 in college scholarships. Thetop 20 finishers will compete in the championship performance,which is scheduled to be nationally televised in August.

Deer said he started riding when his parents bought him a horse.He then started riding steers.

“After I rode steers for a while, I got on a bull and have beenriding them since,” he said.

But not without some setbacks. He was injured in his first bullride at age 15 at the Lincoln County Youth Rodeo.

“I finished the ride, but I went to get off him and he buckedand threw me and I landed on my arm wrong,” he said, adding that hebroke his left arm and had to have metal plates put in it.

Deer said he decided not to ride bulls again, but a year laterhe changed his mind when he was at the rodeo. Deer said he washelping a friend who was competing get on a bull when he decided hewanted to try it again.

And try it again he did. Now he travels all over the state, andinto Louisiana, Tennessee and Florida to compete, winning moretimes than he can remember.

His biggest win so far was a competition in Memphis that broughttogether 60 top riders from five states. Deer came out first.

“I’m glad I got good. I’m glad I came back,” he said.

Deer said he sustained a second injury in April of this yearwhen he was thrown from a bull. The bull stepped on the side of hisface and on his arm.

“I had a black eye and a swollen-up face,” he said. He recoveredfrom his injuries.

Deer said competitors in rodeo are a close-knit community. Heknows other riders across the state, and many others who come fromLouisiana, by name. He said they often car pool when going toseveral rodeos in a day.

“You know everybody,” he said. “We try to help each other outwhen we can, and we cheer for each other. There are no badattitudes against each other. It’s man against bull, not managainst man.”

Deer’s household family is no stranger to rodeo. Hisstep-father, Hugh Laird, is the vice president of the LincolnCounty Youth Rodeo Association, while Deer’s mother, Tammy Laird,is the secretary. His 12-year-old sister, Hannah Knouse, barrelraces at local events. Deer speaks highly of his family.

“I couldn’t ask no better. They support me 100 percent in bullriding.”