The prospect of riding a 2,000 pound bull has never frightened 23-year-old Skeeter Kingsolver.
Fear, the Kansas native said, has no place in the mind of a professional bull rider.
"Every time you get on the bull, there is a chance of injury, or even death," Kingsolver said in a phone interview. "There is so much adrenaline, it's hard not to think about that stuff. The one thing you have to have is a clear mind and be mentally focused at the task in front of you."
Kingsolver has been playing the game professionally ever since he was 18, and he joins the Professional Bull Riding Touring Pro Division in Lynden on Friday, April 19, at the Northwest Washington Fair and Events Center to compete against 35 other riders. The event begins at 7:30 p.m.
Kingsolver's unlikely road to becoming a professional bull rider started, on of all things, a bike. Riding around his small Kansas town, Kingsolver came across a flyer advertising a local bull riding school.
"I took my mom by there and asked if I could try," he said, "and being a mom, she looked at me funny and then said, 'Yeah.'
"It came to me pretty easy. I fell for it from the first time I got on (a steer), and it was like it was a God-given talent."
Riding steers didn't last long for Kingsolver, who rode his first bull at 14. Kingsolver recalled the moments following it, saying what only a 14-year-old could say after such an experience.
"It was cool," he said, although he admitted the ride itself evades his memory. "It was the most nervous I had ever been. It's a big jump coming from those little, tiny steers to getting on a bull that weighs 1,500-2,000 pounds, and you are a 14-year-old kid that weighs 110 pounds."
Kingsolver just had a way about riding bulls, his long-time coach and friend Gary Leffew said.
Leffew, a staple in the bull-riding community with his school, Gary Leffew Bull Riding School, first met Kingsolver when he was 14 and still very raw.
"He was a skinny kid, and he had a lot of try," Leffew said in a phone interview.
The next time Leffew saw Kingsolver was in Nebraska at an after-school riding event. At first, Leffew didn't even realize it was him riding.
"This kid came out, and I'd been pointing out some of the flaws in some of the other guys' riding styles, and then Skeeter came out," Leffew said. "He won the round, and I said, 'Now this guy rides perfect,' and it turned out to be Skeeter."
Overcoming the fear of riding a bull, just as Kingsolver alluded to, has been a part of Leffew's teachings as a bull-riding instructor. Although Kingsolver bears an uncanny ability to set it aside, Leffew taught him a few tricks of the trade at a young age.
"The more you think about yourself, the smaller the bull looks in your mind," Leffew said. "The more you think about the bull, the bigger he will look in your mind."
Riding bulls typically doesn't come without a price, though - something Kingsolver has already become all too familiar with after having reconstructive shoulder surgery.
The fear of injury, just like the fear of a bull, hasn't deterred Kingsolver from becoming one of the top riders in the PBR, and his showing in Lynden will likely be one to watch.
He has earned $288,597 riding over the past six seasons and already has won $15,753 this year. This year he's ridden 75 times on 207 career outs (36.2 percent) and has an average score of 85.74.
"(There's) just something like riding a bull you can't explain," he said. "It is such an adrenaline rush - you can't explain because it is all a blur."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2271.
TIME TO RIDE
PBR TOURING PRO DIVISION EVENT AT LYNDEN
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 19
Site: Washington Tractor Arean at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center, Lynden
Tickets: Start at $23
Information: nwafair.com or 360-354-4111