Bull Rider

( 22 )

Overview

All it takes is eight seconds . . .

Cam O'Mara, grandson and younger brother of bull-riding champions, is not interested in partaking in the family sport. Cam is a skateboarder, and perfecting his tricks—frontside flips, 360s—means everything until his older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq, paralyzed from a brain injury. What would make a skateboarder take a different kind of ride? And what would get him on a monstrosity of a bull named Ugly? If Cam can stay on for the ...

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Overview

All it takes is eight seconds . . .

Cam O'Mara, grandson and younger brother of bull-riding champions, is not interested in partaking in the family sport. Cam is a skateboarder, and perfecting his tricks—frontside flips, 360s—means everything until his older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq, paralyzed from a brain injury. What would make a skateboarder take a different kind of ride? And what would get him on a monstrosity of a bull named Ugly? If Cam can stay on for the requisite eight seconds, could the $15,000 prize bring hope and a future for his big brother?

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Told in clipped, first-person narrative, this first novel makes the sports details of skateboarding and bull-riding part of the powerful contemporary story of family, community, and work.
The Bulletin
Williams keeps a tight hold on her plot, and the book instead offers a moving portrait of a loving and realistic family faced with a painful lifelong legacy of their commitment to serving their country. Characterization is credible and family and neighborhood dynamics quietly authentic . . .
Children's Literature - Phyllis J. Perry
Cam O'Mara comes from a line of bull riders. His grandfather, father, and older brother have been champions. Even though Cam lives on a ranch, he is devoted to riding skateboards, not bulls, and he is tired of being in shadow of his older sibling. Everything changes when his teenage brother Ben, a marine, is badly wounded after returning to Iraq for a second tour of duty. There is a huge disruption in the family, and the entire household must make countless adjustments to support Ben and help in his recovery from traumatic brain injury. After hospital visits and therapy, when Ben finally comes home, confined to a wheelchair, having to re-learn how to walk and talk, there are periods of progress and periods of depression. During one of these low periods, when Ben appears to have given up on himself, Cam makes a bet that eventually leads him to ride Ugly, a fierce monster of a bull. In this story, Williams manages to convincingly combine bull riding, skate boarding, the trauma of brain injuries and their effects on soldiers and those close to them, sibling rivalry, and, above all, the strength and commitment of family. The characters of Cam and Ben emerge clearly but so do friends like Darrell Wallace who helps Cam with his algebra as well as his bull riding techniques, and family members like Grandma Jean, the prankster, always trying to raise family spirits, and Grandpa Roy, the stubborn, rock-solid foundation of this Nevada ranching family. This is a highly recommended first novel. Reviewer: Phyllis J. Perry
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9

Cam O'Mara, 14, has never ridden a bull in his life and doesn't want to, despite coming from a family of prizewinning riders in Winnemucca, NV. But when his older brother comes back paralyzed from Iraq, he gives up skateboarding for bull riding, much to the dismay of his mother and skater best friend. Partly, Cam is rebelling to get attention, but ultimately he is trying to help with the family's finances, needed to pay for travel to and from Ben's extensive rehabilitation in Palo Alto, CA. When Cam secretly enters a $15,000-prize competition using a fake ID, the family somewhat unrealistically joins together to support him afterward. Williams does an adequate job of capturing the small-town sense of community and pride and explains the rodeo lingo well enough. However, the narrative and dialogue fail to involve readers on more than a rudimentary level. Despite the timeliness of the topic, the audience for this book is limited to those with a real interest in the sport. For an emotionally charged read with a 14-year-old male protagonist, a strong sense of place, and gripping account of how a family copes in the aftermath of tragedy, suggest Gary D. Schmidt's Trouble (Clarion, 2008).-Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
In this Nevada ranching community, riding the bulls is the community sport. Grandfather, father and big brother have all excelled, but Cam prefers skateboarding. At 14, he has immersed himself in his chosen recreation, with family, school and ranch work lagging behind. When elder brother Ben, a Marine, suffers a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan and is shipped home, he becomes top priority for the whole family. Cam's discovery that the intensity required for bull riding is appealing sets off a chain of events that leads to an attempt to ride "Ugly," a bull that no one has ever stayed on for the requisite eight seconds. The details of recovery from debilitating injury are vividly portrayed, as well as the cost to the family of supporting their son. As Cam's world changes, the adrenaline highs balance with introspection, revealing Cam pondering his place in the world and trying to honestly deal with the results of the war. Our current military entanglements are seldom presented for teens, and this currency lifts an otherwise pedestrian effort. Surprisingly G-rated and accessible. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442412521
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 126,786
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Folks in Salt Lick say I couldn't shake bull riding if I tried. It's in my blood, my family. Around here, any guy named Cam O'Mara should be a bull rider. But if you've ever looked a sixteen-hundred-pound bucking bull named Ugly in the eye and thought about holding on to his back with a stiff rawhide handle, some pine tar, and a prayer, well, you'd know why I favored skateboarding. My grandpa Roy, my dad, my brother, Ben, they could all go as crazy as they liked, sticking eight seconds on a bull for the adrenaline rush and maybe a silver buckle. But me, I'd take my falls on the asphalt. I'd master something that I could roll under my bed when I was done with it. Or so I thought.

It was June and my big brother, Ben, was home on leave from the Marines. He started in on me about the skateboarding. "Cam, I'm gonna break that thing and then you'll have time for something really extreme." Ben's five years older than me, which is enough difference to mean he didn't beat on me the way some older brothers do, but he wouldn't leave me alone, either. "When are you gonna stop being some wannabe skater punk and do rodeo?"

"About when your head pops off and rolls down the street like a soccer ball." I jumped toward him like I was going to knock his head across our room with my knee. He faked right and punched me in the stomach. I smashed into him with my shoulder, and we both fell on the floor to wrestle. It took Ben about four seconds to pin me and press my face into the rug. I spit wool hairs out of my mouth.

"Give? Give? Skater wimp?"

I never give, and he knew it, so he held me down until he was tired of it, and then he slapped me on the back and let go.

"You coming in early with me to the rodeo?" he asked.

"Sure," I said, getting up and trying not to favor the shoulder he'd had a lock on. It was weird to have Ben home again. I'm not saying it was bad, it was good. It's just his hair was buzzed from being in the Marines, and without his cowboy hat, he seemed stiff and different. Maybe the year overseas had changed him. But when he pulled the hat on, well, there he was, my brother, Ben, again.

See, Ben's a cowboy and so am I, I guess. I mean, I help out on the ranch with the cows. But Ben's a cowboy. That's his thing. He was Nevada State High School Bull Riding Champion and all. And I really was glad he was home. The timing couldn't have been better. School was out, and the rodeo at the Humboldt County Fair was on. Grandpa Roy'd put in the money for an entry — it was enough for a new skateboard for me, but that wasn't in his plan. "I know Ben doesn't have much time at home, but what else would he want to do but get in the bull ring? He's an O'Mara, and we'll give him the best we can while he's here."

So, Ben was bull riding again — like he'd never been to Iraq at all. Even my six-year-old sister, Lali, knew that was big. She'd been bouncing around all day, asking when we were going. It was almost time, and now that Ben was done squashing me, he rummaged in his drawer for his lucky socks. He'd worn them the first time he won at bull riding, and now he wore them every time there was a prize on the line.

"You don't need those socks, you know," I said.

"You're sounding like Mom. And what makes you the expert? Did something change when you turned fourteen?"

"You can ride any bull, just like Grandpa. I'm just saying you don't need luck."

"I can always use some luck." He grinned at me.

Now that was funny. I'd never known anyone as lucky as Ben. He got the good looks and the bull-riding gene — there has to be one in this family — and, geez, he was already grown-up. That counted for something. Me, come August, I had to face Mr. Killworth, "the knucklecruncher," in ninth grade. That's my luck.

Ben found his socks and pulled them on. They looked regular enough — gray work socks — but he'd worn the fuzz down to a shine on the bottoms. That's what happens when you wear lucky socks enough times. Next came the boots. Those took some serious tugging. Then he reached for his belt with the champion buckle.

"Remember when you won that?" I asked.

"Well, yeah."

"I carried your bull rope."

"And I wore my lucky socks," he gloated.

I threw a cushion at him.

"Watch the hat," he said.

At the fair, Ben's luck just kept flowing. Even the weather was good. The thunderstorms that had been predicted held off, and the stands were full. Dad bought pop and ice cream for us, and Lali about jumped out of her skin, waving at the girls in their satin shirts and bright new jeans who galloped in carrying the flags. I was wired up, counting the minutes till the bull riders and Ben's go-round.

His first bull was young and wanted to run around the ring instead of bucking. But he got a reride. The second time he drew Son of Ugly. Now, that's a bull to score you some points. 'Course he wasn't as mean and nasty as his sire — they say no one's ever rode Ugly. But the offspring gave Ben a wicked ride, hopping and twisting and kicking up a dust storm. Ben made his eight-second time and sailed off.

The high school girls covered their eyes and shrieked when Ben landed. The guys slapped him on the back, and he disappeared behind the chutes, king of the bull ring. It was almost enough to tempt me onto a bull, but not quite. Ben was the champ. He was the one Dad and Grandpa bragged on to their friends, not me. He could have it. I wasn't him, and I wasn't going to try to be.

I pushed my hair out of my eyes and spotted Mike Gianni, my skateboarding buddy, and Favi Ruiz in the stands. I jumped a rail to get over to them.

"Man, Ben is great. You don't ever want to go up on a bull and do that, do you?" Mike asked.

"Naw."

"Cam's smarter than that," Favi said.

"Bull riding's not about being smart; it's about being gutsy," I said.

"That's my point." She looked at me like she'd won something. Favi's father was foreman on our ranch, and they lived next door to us in the Old House, where my Grandpa Roy was born. I'd known her all my life — like a sister, almost.

"You don't need bull riding. You're better on a skateboard anyway," Mike said.

"Best around," I said with a grin.

"Except for me. How much longer is Ben in town?"

I blew some air out of my mouth and shook my head. "A couple more days."

"Man that's harsh," he said.

"Yeah, it is," I agreed. At my house no one talked about when Ben was going back to Iraq. But now I'd said it. Two more days.

On the way home, I rode with Ben. The windows were down and the air blew around us, warm and sweet smelling from the sagebrush.

"You ought to start riding," he said.

"It's not my thing."

"Well, it should be. You could be one terrific bull rider."

"Naw," I said. "Not like you and Grandpa. You almost won and you haven't been on a bull in a year. Second isn't bad."

"It's the socks."

I laughed and pinched my nose. "Yeah, it's that lucky smell."

"Man, those socks smell lucky and sweet," he said, and we laughed until I snorted. When we settled down, the night seemed extra quiet. The tires hummed on the pavement, and after a while a pack of coyotes got to yipping as we drove by.

"So, why do you have to go back?" The question stretched out between us. O'Maras don't talk about uncomfortable stuff. The coyotes wound themselves into a frenzy — howling and yelping till my skin bumped up.

Ben ran his hands up and down on the steering wheel. "They extended everybody. You know that. I've got three more months."

"It's not fair."

"Lil' bro', I might sign up for another year in Iraq after this. I'm thinking about it."

"Why?" I stared at him. "I thought you were coming home. You're gonna win big money on the pro circuit and take it and raise bucking bulls. That's what you've always said." Ben had run on a hundred or so times about his plan to me and Dad and Grandpa. O'Mara Bucking Bulls — that was his dream. So, I hadn't one clue as to why he'd want to forget all about it, about us, and be gone for more time over there.

"There's guys that need me. They're short on replacements."

"Somebody else can do it. You're a bull rider."

He looked at me like I was just a little slow. "I'm a Marine, and like I said, guys need me."

"Well, make them give you some extra armor or a desk job or something."

"Don't need it. My guys got my back." He put a stick of clove gum in his mouth and held the pack toward me. "So what'd you think of that Son of Ugly?"

"He looked like a Sunday picnic kind of a bull to me."

Ben reached over to grab me, but this time I ducked. The truck swerved and Ben swung it back and forth a couple times across the empty road, and we laughed till it hurt.

Two days later, Mom and Dad drove Ben in to Reno and he flew back to Iraq. Mom started marking the ninety days off on the kitchen calendar. Dad ran the video of Ben's high school championship ride again. There was Ben hanging on out of the chute, hand up, bull spinning. You can't exactly see his face on account of the hat, but I knew what it looked like. It looked just like it did when he whooped me at wrestling or when he beat me racing our horses and looked backwards over his shoulder and grinned a long, long time. I knew that look by heart, so I slipped outside with my dog, Red, and my skateboard.

Copyright © 2009 by Suzanne Morgan Williams

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2013

    I ride bulls

    Im not afraid to ride them either. Im very good at it and just 8sec can gt you some cool prizes and some serious $$$

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2013

    Dang

    I LOVED IT..... I RECOMMEND EVERY ONE TO READ IT!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Bulls

    I want to be able to learn how to ride a bull and ant kill myself in the process. I thik it will be a good book for peope who LOVE bulls and bull riding. My older sis sat on a bull and it started to move so she had to get off . My sis was only lie 12 years old and she thougt it was the coolest thing besides riding a awesome horse that loves everyone.

    - Josh

    P.S. my name is not really Josh

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    Awesome book

    It is an awesome book love it

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    One Heck of a ride!! Inspirational, Meaningful, Touching

    Powerful. Poignant. Uplifting. Emotional. Beautiful. Told with authenticity and sincerity, Bull Rider makes a very bold statement that will last much longer than the requisite eight seconds in bull riding. Suzanne Morgan Williams is truly a masterful storyteller when it comes to understanding and capturing the dynamics of a family, especially when faced with hardships. Never taking away from the honor, dignity, and bravery of serving one's country, Bull Rider provides a touching and impeccably realistic outlook on the life of an injured soldier and the extraordinary extent that a family will go to, to try to help him recover. Bull riding plays a very special role in trying to help heal Ben, the injured soldier. This deeply moving story is something that many people can relate to, not just families of war veterans who have faced difficult circumstances due to a war injury or people who are familiar with bull riding or are fans of it. The author meshes two honorable yet dangerous actions - serving in the Iraq war and bull riding - to create a one of a kind story that is thrilling, adventurous, suspenseful, heartwarming, and full of hope. I thought the comparison of trying to ride a bull, which is very difficult to do, to trying to ride life's challenges and see them through, was very touching and relevant to the storyline. This book gives light to the unfortunate reality of how a serious injury can devastate a family, but at the same time, also bring them so much closer together in order to pull through as a family. You get to see the stages, both the ups and the downs, that their family goes through when dealing with Ben's brain injury and paralysis. It shows how having a supportive family is essential when trying to overcome something like this and how hope, faith, and sometimes luck in the most unlikeliest of places is needed (if you read the book you'll find out what the unique lucky charm is!). The plot is paced well and the characters are well put together. Both Ben and Cam are strong characters full of courage and heart. Cam is really an inspiration to his brother Ben through bull riding and tries to motivate and encourage him when he's down. Cam's mom is tender yet stern. His grandmother provides much needed comic relief at all the right times. And Cam's father and grandfather keep the strong backbone of a rancher's life alive. I loved Bull Rider! Satisfying and meaningful from beginning to end, Bull Rider is sure to capture your heart, as it did mine. This book is one heck of a ride! I savored every minute of it. This is one of the best inspirational stories I've read in a while!

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  • Posted December 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Realistic Portrayal

    This book is not something I would typically read because, I'll confess, I am not a lover of anything rodeo, but I was interested in reading it because it looked like something fresh and different from the usual book for middle grade students.

    I really enjoyed reading it because of Cam's perspective. His emotions were portrayed perfectly for a boy of his age, realistically mixing his worry for his brother with his worry for himself. He has to overcome living in the shadow of his semi-famous family members, and to do so he has always avoided riding bulls. Now, though, in his mind, he feels he must "fix" the tragedy of his brother's injury and the strain it puts on their family by winning a riding competition. His single-minded determination causes other problems - he now has to deal with his friends that do not understand why he is no longer focusing on skateboarding.

    This book did give me a deeper appreciation for the kind of talent and athleticism that bull riders and others who participate rodeos must have to do what they do. I also became more aware of the situations that many war veterans find themselves in. They are often not appreciated fully or are misunderstood completely. This was really brought home to me by seeing how Ben's injuries affected him emotionally.

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  • Posted November 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    the best bull riding, brother bonding book i've ever read.

    this book is about a kid who's a skater and his family is all into bullriding well most of them.But when his older brother get hurt in Iraq he finds out how bull riding is in his blood.
    I recomend this book to middle school age kids on up.

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    BULL RIDER by Class of 2K9 author Suzanne Morgan Williams offers a unique combination of topics - rodeo bull riding and the Iraq War.

    Young Cam O'Mara comes from a ranching, bull riding family, but his interest leans more toward skateboarding. Bull riding has never really held any attraction for him, at least until now.

    The O'Mara family gets the dreaded news that their oldest son, Ben, has been wounded while fighting in Iraq - and life changes for everyone. The explosion of an IED caused brain trauma and paralysis. Ben returns home but is in for months of hospitalization and therapy.

    Cam always looked up to his older brother, and seeing him in such a weakened condition, he is at a loss about how to help his brother or provide the encouragement needed for a successful recovery. One thing does occur to Cam - he could honor his brother's name and maybe provide needed money for the family if he took on the challenge of riding a massive bull named Ugly.

    Readers are in for a bit of a wild ride as Cam explores his newfound interest and at the same time tries to keep up his grades, hang on to friendships, and do his work on the ranch.

    BULL RIDER reveals a family facing difficult times as they work to support an injured family member and keep the family business from being destroyed by financial hardship. There is a strong message of the determination and sacrifice required to hold a family together through tough times.

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  • Posted November 13, 2008

    How real cowboys "cowboy up"

    Fourteen year old Cam O¿Mara is a ranch kid from the sage brush country of central Nevada. He is a skateboarder, not a champion Bull Rider like his brother Ben, but when Ben joins the Marines and is seriously injured in Iraq, Cam turns to his family traditions and in particular bull riding to overcome his grief and to give his brother hope for a new life. <BR/>------------<BR/>I was lucky enough to get a preview of BULL RIDER and I loved it. Suzanne Morgan Williams knows todays West and it shows in each bit of dialogue and description. Williams juggles bull riding scenes full of humor and excitement as easily as she does characters like Cam and his no-nonsense grandfather to make BULL RIDER a clear-eyed examination of the costs of war after homecoming<BR/><BR/>Terri Farley<BR/>Phantom Stallion author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2010

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    Posted March 2, 2011

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    Posted January 6, 2011

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    Posted February 13, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2011

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