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A cowboy's broken record

By MIKE WILSON
Published February 4, 2005


  photo
Tater Porter   photo

The stories of professional bull riders are written in emergency rooms, in black and white.

This is an X-ray of the ankle of Florida bull rider Tater Porter, 33, of Kenansville, south of St. Cloud. He'll compete at the Professional Bull Riders event tonight in Tampa.

In October 1997, at the Professional Bull Riders World Finals in Las Vegas, Porter was settling onto the back of a bull, tightening his rope, when the animal started bucking in the chute.

The bull's name was Wild Turkey.

"He was a young bull, and he was just wild," says Porter, who speaks in a clipped drawl, as if he were holding a bullet between his back teeth. "His name kind of fit."

Cowboys will tell you that getting onto the bull is almost as dangerous as getting off. Just as Wild Turkey began to buck, Porter's boot got caught in the gate and his left ankle snapped. His knee was pointed forward but his foot was pointed backward.

"That steel don't give much and neither does the bull," Porter says.

It took nine screws and a strip of metal to put him back together. The hardware is still in his ankle and always will be.

Porter has had several other serious injuries. Two years ago in Tampa, a bull named Superstition stepped on his head and "about scalped me." A doctor urged him to start wearing a helmet, as some riders do, but Porter won't do it.

Ask him why and you get a terse explanation.

"It's not a cowboy thing."

TATER PORTER

Age: 33

Years riding pro: 10

Career earnings: $671,539.54

Worst injuries: Broken femur, broken ankle, broken ribs, punctured lung.

Don't call me Dan: His father called him Tater when he was born and it stuck.

Mrs. Porter's take: "She dated me riding bulls and she married me being a bull rider. She wouldn't change it no other way."

If you go

The Professional Bull Riders compete in the Built Ford Tough Series at 8 tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $16.75-$101.75. Tickets through Ticketmaster; information: 813 301-2500 or www.stpetetimesforum.com

[Last modified February 3, 2005, 10:16:03]


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