ABOVE: Jerome Davis, former bull rider, takes 16X9 around his ranch in North Carolina. He and his wife, Tiffany, raise bulls for professional bull riding competitions.
In Archdale, North Carolina, the Davis Ranch arena is legendary. The scenery is right out of a western movie; 80 acres of land filled with animal feed, barn yard dogs and bulls as far as the eye can see.
As my cameraman Elias Campbell and I arrived the arena, the ranch’s owner Jerome Davis pulled up in his four wheeler, wearing a cowboy hat and greeted us with a “howdy.”
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Just like his ranch, Davis – a former professional bull rider, is also a legend.
Immediately Jerome offered to buck bulls for us. That means placing a weighted dummy on his calves’ backs to see if they have improved their speed, kicks, and spins – key components in raising the best bulls to ride. Jerome and his wife Tiffany breed bulls to participate in competitions, including the Professional Bull Riders league.
“That’s what we strive for is to have some of the best bulls in the world,” he says. “I think I took like over 100 bulls to the world finals.”
The process for bucking bulls was quite enlightening for a city girl who hasn’t spent much time on a ranch before. Jerome explained to me the qualities he looks for in identifying top bulls; the intensity of the bull’s kick, their speed and spins.
Once the bull is in place, the chute to the pen opens and the bull jumps out into the arena and violently bucks his hind legs to get the “dummy” off his back.
“Bulls … you can’t make them buck – they either got it in them or they don’t,” he explains. “It’s kinda like a racehorse; you can’t make a horse run fast. It’s either bred in him or they don’t – same with these bulls.”
It takes a lot of manpower to maneuver the bull into place. Jerome’s wife, Tiffany, and two local riders coax the one ton bull into the gate. During this process, it is hard not to notice how much they turn to Jerome for commands. While he is a very kind, personable and unassuming man, his knowledge of the sport is bar-none.
Jerome is not only a bull breeder but he was also a former professional bull rider. He spent years competing on the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) circuit and has won numerous titles. Jerome also helped create the PBR league back in 1992.
“There was 20 of us that just coming together that day and decided that bull riding could be a stand alone sport.”
Jerome told me the guys initially put up a thousand dollars each to start the league. That league is now worth millions. But for Jerome, it wasn’t about the money; it was about the growth of the sport and taking care of the athletes.
“We were the guys that were sticking our necks out,” he said. “I’ve had 3 of my friends get killed riding bulls.”
Jerome has had a few close calls of his own over the years. The worst was in March of 1998, when he was thrown off a bull during a competition and broke his neck. When he regained consciousness after the fall he couldn’t feel his body.
“I can remember the doctor coming back out of it and saying ‘hey, you’re not going to – you’re never going to walk again,” he says.
Jerome was 25 years old at the time. Bull riding was all he knew. Up to that point, he’d been on the road competing in various bull riding competitions. Now it appeared his career was over; he had no money coming in and his bills were starting to pile up.
Jerome had to make a fast decision about his future. So he turned to what he knew best– bull riding – and decided to start an outdoor competition at his ranch. With help from his dad, wife (his fiancée at the time) and sponsors, Jerome was able to make it happen.
15 years later Jerome is still heavily involved in the sport; he runs a PBR event outdoors and breeds top bucking bulls that compete at the world finals.
As we say goodbye Jerome has one more thought he wants to share with us before we go. “If I could walk today I would love to ride bulls. I would love to be right back in the middle of it.”
Don’t miss “Thrill Ride” this Saturday at 7pm on 16×9.