Considering how dangerous bull riding can be, you’ve got to be pretty much made of steel to survive this as a job. the AU’s Larry Heath had the opportunity to talk with cowboy Wesley Silcox at last year’s iconic Calgary Stampede. He’s one of the most successful bull riders in the world, and here he shares details on his bull riding experience and how it became a career for him, despite how risky the sport is. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Silcox is fulfilling his dream as a rodeo superstar.
I’m from Australia and it’s my first time at the Stampede. How many years have you been coming to this?
Not sure but I’ve been to the stampede about eight times competing.
Has it changed much from that time or does it seem pretty steep to tradition?
It’s an old rodeo and it’s been the same for a long time and I don’t know, the money has stayed the same ($100,000). The hospitality and the fans are great I mean, that’s counted on the stampede.
Do you drive up from Utah? I mean it’s not that far away I guess.
Utah and my house are about fourteen hours [apart] but I was already in Montana – going to some rodeos and stayed here for a week and so it was nice.
I imagine this event is now part of your run around of other events before and after. It’s kind of situated themselves on either side.
Oh yeah, there’s lots of rodeos to go to – we could go to a rodeo in July if we wanted to. In June/July and quite often in August, you just go to many events as you like.
So let’s go back to the beginning. Do you remember your first rodeo where you were an actual participant? Not just a viewer spectator.
Yeah I remember the first bull I got on, I was about fourteen or fifteen and I thought it’d be a pretty cool thing. I hit the ground pretty hard – that’s all I remember. I couldn’t breathe and then got on again and I happened to stay on.
What kind of precipitated that in the first place? Did you just like the idea of it?
My dad and brother rode bulls so I kinda grew up into it and I didn’t wanna ride bulls when I was little but it just started getting awesome and then I just kept going when it was fun.
You realised it was in your blood [laughs]
And you haven’t looked back ever since?
No. I’ve been doing it a long time now. I’m thirty and been after and been on the trail a long time. Haven’t had the chance to get a job yet so it’s been good.
[laughs] This is a job though.
We’re definitely busy and it’s a pretty neat life.
I mean you mentioned July is a busy time. Does that mean December is a pretty quiet time?
December is the National Finals in RCA and that’s what I’m going for.
You’ve won that before?
Yes. i won the National Finals a while ago in 2007 but there’s lots of money down there.
It never stops. It’s year round.
Yeah, it’s year round. October’s kind of slow but other than that, it’s just non-stop. If you wanna make it slow it can be.
Have you changed the events that you do along the way? Did you do any different sort of events in different rodeos?
I pretty much go to the same events every year – the ones with the most money out of it. You go to the big ones and you win more and it pays off.
It’s got to or else you won’t be able to do it [laughs]
So from here, what does the rest of the year look like? You’re working towards the nationals in December.
Just working for the NFR and try to go to many rodeos and stay on as many bulls as I can.
Stay on and you win.
That seems to be how it works. Have you had many injuries over the years?
Yeah I did. Definitely had many injuries – broken leg, broken face, broken arms, collarbone, wrist, teeth knocked out, pulled muscles – I don’t know, I just love it.
Nothing ever has made you think, ‘oh, maybe I won’t do this much longer’.
No. Not if I get hurt. When I go to the doctor and I ask them, ‘When can I ride again?’
Well I guess the first time you rode on a bull, you fell off and knocked yourself out and that didn’t stop you then. You set the precedent early.
[laughs] Yeah. Just hit the ground early and that usually proves if a guy wants to do that – you get back up.
There’s a lot of great events around the world. How do you rate Calgary Stampede amongst them?
Besides the National Finals, Calgary’s the best rodeo there is. I’m just happy get invited here and happy to be here and ride in front of everybody.
Are there any other events that you enjoy watching while you’re here? Do you stick around and watch the miniature horse exhibition? [laughs]
No I don’t. I just pretty much go in the rodeo and head out by the time the rodeo is over and go rest for the next day.
What is an average day when you’ve got to jump on a bull. How does that day work?
It’s just kind of laid back and I take it like any other day, you know. I have breakfast and usually we’re driving but here, it’s nice that we get to hang out for a little while and have a few drinks after the rodeo and go to bed.
How many times have you been out there this year? Do you do it everyday?
Our Pool B started yesterday so we ride today, tomorrow, Friday and Sunday.
I imagine you’re usually on the Sunday crew.
Yeah I try to be.
But it’s also dependent on the group.
Yeah there’s some really tough guys here. This is probably the toughest pool and If you win – you’re doing something right.
And to anyone who wants to follow your line of profession, the other fifteen year olds out there, looking at the bull and going, ‘Oh I want to jump on that’. What’s your advice?
I mean, if you want to do it. Make sure you do it right and stick with it.
For more info on the Calgary Stampede, which returns this July, visit their official website: http://www.calgarystampede.com/. Air Canada fly daily to Calgary via Vancouver from Brisbane and Sydney.
Larry was a guest of the Calgary Stampede and attended with the support of Calgary Tourism, Alberta Tourism and Canadian Tourism. Transcription by Jana Angeles.