POLK CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – “If it is in you, it will never leave you. It is you and the animal,” explained Billy Stokes. “That is what makes us successful is being able to compete against something where you are David and they are Goliath.”
He emphasized the intensity of the sport with the comment, “If your heart isn’t into this, you don’t need to be playing the game.”
Billy is referring to the game of bull riding. He spent more than two decades as a professional bull rider.
“I am 43 years old. I got on recently. I got wrecked out, hung up, dragged around for, I don’t know, a little while. Wrecked into the panels and popped my shoulder out of socket,” he said to 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley. “I am 43. I should not be thinking about getting on these things but I love it.”
Billy is the owner of Stokes Green Swamp Ranch Arena in Polk City. He opened the arena about five years ago.
“The sport of rodeo was kind of dying out and the heart of the kids was pretty much gone so we created it,” he said.
The 120-acre property is a piece of paradise for the riders.
“Would you trade this for the world?” Gabrielle asked Billy during the interview.
He responded immediately with the shake of his head, “No. No. We have kids coming up that will keep moving forward with it.”
Tripp Myers is one of those young riders. Although he is only 7 years old, he has already won four rodeos.
“I am going to ride bulls until I can’t,” he said. “You just have to do what you were taught to do, do what you were born to do.”
His coach, Mr. Billy, agreed that Tripp was born to be a bull rider as soon as he saw him ride a sheep.
“I was thinking, ‘We have a possible world champion in the making,’” said Billy.
Tripp is breaking the basic guidelines of bull riding.
“He started riding calves last year,” explained Billy, “and, now, he is already up to riding mini bulls. He is only 7. He is not supposed to move up until he is 8 or 9.”
“For some reason,” added Tripp, “there is something about me, on the harder bulls, I sometimes do better.”
We cannot overlook the fear factor.
“You got something that possibly could weigh up to 2,200 pounds and wants to kill you,” Billy said.
We also cannot overlook the fact that it has never crossed Tripp’s mind. Why?
“Just how God made me,” he said.
Tripp hopped on five different mini bulls during one practice and he received a round of applause for his final ride. He chose to ride one of the more thrilling bulls and he did it exceptionally well.
“I do not do good on the ones that hop out of there,” Tripp said after the ride, “but, the ones that actually buck really good, I ride them.”
“This is what he wants to do,” said Billy. “This is him, you know, a superstar in the making. You know somebody will look back on this ten years from now and say, ‘There is this kid, Tripp Myers, that we heard about as a 7-year-old and he is 17 years old and he is at the PBR World Finals and he is riding and making millions of dollars.’ It is not the money. It is not about any of that. It is about the love of this sport and the bond that you have between you and what you love to do.”
You can easily tell that Tripp has fallen in love with the sport of bull riding.
“I have fun. I get to meet new friends, get to meet old friends and just ride,” he said.
If you would like to visit Stokes Green Swamp Ranch Arena to watch the bull riders in action or to participate in one of the other events, you can register on their Facebook page.
Gabrielle Shirley is always anxious to tell the special sports stories from our area. You can contact her at her email address, email@example.com.