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North Platte cowboy Mason Ward competes for 1st time at Buffalo Bill Rodeo
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North Platte cowboy Mason Ward competes for 1st time at Buffalo Bill Rodeo

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North Platte cowboy Mason Ward competes for 1st time at Buffalo Bill Rodeo

Jennifer Driver competes in the WPRA Barrel Race during the first night of the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte on Wednesday.

Bull riding has been a part of Mason Ward’s life since he was young. His dad did it, so it was only natural the 19-year-old from North Platte followed suit. He even continued the sport at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma, where he competes on scholarship.

One thing Ward hasn’t done yet was compete in the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. After the first night of this year’s performance, that’s no longer the case.

“I’ve always been at other rodeos. I’ve never been able to enter this,” Ward said. “This is my first time and it’s a different atmosphere for sure. It’s kind of cool competing in front of your hometown.”

On a night where no one put up a qualifying score, Ward struggled to get out of the gate. His bull, Hometown Homicide, wasn’t cooperating, and Ward couldn’t get anything on the board.

“It would’ve been a lot better if I rode him, but it’s cool for sure,” he said on competing at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo for the first time. “It’s different riding in front of people you know and stuff. I like it. I can’t wait to come back next year. Hopefully we do a little better.”

Ward said he has been competing in professional rodeos for about a year and a half. He got his pro card when he turned 18, but he said he has been riding bulls for much longer than that.

His dad was a professional bull rider and had made the PBR (professional bull riding) finals. He grew up around bulls as a result, as his family raises bucks and bulls. It was hard for Ward not to pick up the sport. When asked how he practices bull riding, his response was simple enough.

“You get on them,” Ward said. “I got on some practice bulls yesterday before this deal. You just get on bulls and you workout. A bunch of different stuff, but at the end of the day, getting on live cattle.”

Ward said the coolest part about competing at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo was looking up at the stands and seeing a packed crowd. The cheers were a little louder for him as he geared up to start.

While Ward may be from North Platte, the bull riding has him going all over. He leaves for Odessa, Texas, on Thursday morning, which is roughly an 11½ drive. When he returns, he will pack up some stuff and head back to Oklahoma for school. The search for the next rodeo continues once he’s there.

“There’s some in Wyoming I’m going to go to,” Ward said. “I’ll keep rodeoing for sure.”

It’ll be easy for the business management major to stay in rodeo shape, as he competes for the school’s rodeo team. There are 10 events throughout the year, but he focuses on bull riding. Just like in any other college sport, he earned a scholarship to compete.

For Ward, the feeling of competing in an event where you are trying to best an animal and stay on for as long as possible is nearly second to none.

“It’s one of the greatest challenges. It’s man vs. beast,” Ward said. “You (are) hanging on to an animal that doesn’t want anything to do with you for eight seconds. The feeling that you get when you ride it is above none. It’s better than any drug out there.”

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