King of the Cowboys [NOOK Book]

Overview

The most famous rodeo champion of all time tells his amazing true story -- and opens a fascinating window into the world of the professional cowboy.

Ty Murray was born to be a rodeo star -- in fact, his first words were "I'm a bull rider." Before he was even out of diapers, he was climbing atop his mother's Singer sewing machine case, which just so happened to be the perfect mechanical bull for a 13-month-old. Before long, Ty was winning ...
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King of the Cowboys

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Overview

The most famous rodeo champion of all time tells his amazing true story -- and opens a fascinating window into the world of the professional cowboy.

Ty Murray was born to be a rodeo star -- in fact, his first words were "I'm a bull rider." Before he was even out of diapers, he was climbing atop his mother's Singer sewing machine case, which just so happened to be the perfect mechanical bull for a 13-month-old. Before long, Ty was winning peewee events by the hatful, and his special talent was obvious...obvious even to a man called Larry Mahan. At the time the greatest living rodeo legend, six-time champion Mahan invited a teenaged Ty Murray to spend a summer on his ranch learning not just rodeoing but also some life lessons. Those lessons prepared Ty for a career that eventually surpassed even Mahan's own -- Ty's seven All-Around Championships.

In King of the Cowboys, Ty Murray invites us into the daredevil world of rodeo and the life of the cowboy. Along the way, he details a life spent constantly on the road, heading to the next event; the tragic death of his friend and fellow rodeo star Lane Frost; and the years of debilitating injuries that led some to say Ty Murray was finished.

He wasn't. In fact, Ty Murray has brought the world of rodeo into the twenty-first century, through his unparalleled achievements in the ring, through advancing the case for the sport as a television color-commentator, and through the Professional Bull Riders, an organization he helped to build.

In the end, though, Ty Murray is first and foremost a cowboy, and now that he's retired from competition, he takes this chance to reflect on his remarkable life and career. In King of the Cowboys, Ty Murray opens up his world as never before.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This breezy autobiography is an excellent insider's glimpse into the roughshod world of the contemporary competitive rodeo business, of which Murray is undoubtedly a superstar. The youngest rider to win the world all-round championship, Murray is also the first to win it seven times, the first to win more than one million dollars in prize money, and the first to successfully market himself to a wider sports-world audience. Although Murray is only in his early 30s, he manages to cover substantial ground here, from family roots in the famous Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch in Arizona and riding his mother's Singer sewing machine-"the perfect mechanical bull for a thirteen-month-old"-to early professional success at age 19. Part of the book's charm comes from Murray's gleeful acknowledgment that he is living the life he has always wanted to live, "[f]rom the time I was old enough to walk." Murray also credits growing up in a family of riders, and gaining early support and training from legendary rider Larry Mahan-whose six-time championship record Murray would go on to break-and successfully recovering from serious knee and shoulder surgeries that he describes in unsparing detail. Murray's story embodies the substantial change in the rodeo-rider image from old Western movie cliches to its current incarnation in the slick but still entertaining Professional Bull Riders organization. Murray's sizable fan base is certain to rope this one in, but the book's engaging style has the ability to draw in readers unfamiliar with his story. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Seven-time All-Around Cowboy winner-and Jewel's boyfriend-Murray chronicles a life spent getting bucked off broncos. With a ten-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451604276
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 354,475
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Ty Murray was born in Glendale, Arizona, in 1969. By the time he was nineteen he had won Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's Overall and Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year. The following year, he won his first PRCA World All-Around Championship, and by 23 was the youngest cowboy millionaire the sport had ever known. In all, he has won a record seven all-arounds, as well as PRCA World Bull Riding titles in 1993 and 1998, and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo average crowns in 1993 (bareback riding) and 1998 (bull riding). In 2000, Ty Murray was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and he retired from professional rodeo in 2001. He lives in Stephenville, Texas.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Cowboy Way

"So," he said, "why do you do it?"

I've been giving interviews most of my life, so this one was nothing unusual. We were outside the locker room at a Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event sitting on a stack of portable seats, the kind you'd find on an arena floor during a concert. The reporter asked some intelligent questions -- it's always nicer when these guys have done their homework -- but after a few minutes he asked that question, the one I'd heard more than any other since I'd begun riding.

The people who ask that question are always sincere. After several thousand interviews I expect it. But I still have a hard time answering it, not because I don't know why I'm a cowboy, but because the concept of the cowboy way is so foreign to some people that I have a hard time boiling it down to a simple sound bite.

"I'm a cowboy because I've always been a cowboy," I said to this reporter. It was the umpteenth time I'd used that line, but I wasn't sure my media buddies got it. "I was born to it."

The reporter's eyes glazed over, and I knew I needed to do a better job of explaining myself. As far as I was concerned, asking a cowboy why he's a cowboy is like asking a Frenchman why he's French. Still, I needed to give it another shot.

"A cowboy is a cowboy no matter how he makes his living," I said. "Not all of us wear chaps and hats. You'll find plenty of cowboys wearing Brooks Brothers' suits on Wall Street, or playing in the NFL. Those real estate developers who borrow millions to build big office towers, a lot of them are cowboys. The cowboy way is about how you approach things, whether you're talking about a businessman, an artist, or a housewife. Being a cowboy is in your DNA. You either have it or you don't."

I still wasn't sure I was getting through to this reporter, so I tried another tack. "Look. When I won my first all-around championship, I was twenty years old. Almost every reporter asked me if I was surprised by how well I'd done so early in my career. That seemed funny to me. They asked it as if I just woke up one morning and found a gold buckle on my belt. I'd been working to win that first all-around championship since I was two years old.

"Being a cowboy was never a conscious choice. I never considered doing anything in life other than rodeo.

"Why do I do it? From the time I was old enough to walk I've always known where I wanted to go with my life, and I grew up in an environment where if I worked my butt off every day, I knew I would get there.

"I do it because it's all I've ever wanted, and all I've ever known. Not a lot of people can say that."

My cowboy genes run deep. Riding and ranching have been my family's trade for almost a century, and our history mirrors the history of rodeo itself. Near the turn of the millennium I was given the nickname "the king of the cowboys," but at the turn of the last century, members of my father's family were blazing trails that make my life look tame by comparison.

The Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch, which at its peak was the largest working ranch in America, encompassed 110,000 acres near the town of Ponca City in northern Oklahoma between Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas. According to one of the brochures the Millers printed in 1910, "The 101 Ranch is the wonderspot and showplace of all the great southwest. Here is ranching in all its old-time picturesqueness. Here are the thousands of cattle and horses, the unblocked trails and cattle pastures, the unchanged cowboys and the Wild West cowgirls, the round-up camps, the corrals, and many tribes of primitive Indians living undisturbed in wigwam, lodge, and rough house."

The Millers also raised buffalo, ostriches, camels, elephants, sea turtles, and poultry. They grew wheat, apples, peaches, grapes, cherries, corn, potatoes, and oats. The ranch had its own oil wells that pumped fuel to run its vehicles, which included its own fleet of trains with 150 freight cars and Pullmans. They had their own bank with their own 101 Ranch currency called Miller Script, which could be spent at a general store with a tame black bear chained to the hitching post out front. The store advertised everything "from a needle to a Ford," but the bear was particularly fond of soda pop. Miller Script became so popular that it was accepted within a hundred-mile radius of the ranch (and was not infrequently used to pay off gambling debts).

The spread was so large it had its own power plant, oil refinery, phone system, post office, school, tannery, ice plant, laundry, saloon, café, woodworking shop, packing plant, cannery, and dude ranch. It also had some of the greatest and some of the most notorious cowboys in history working as hands.

George Washington Miller (the founder of the 101 and father of the brothers George, Joe, and Zack) had been through his share of scuffs with the law, a tradition he passed on to his sons. Joe was a convicted felon, and all the brothers were linked at one time or another to questionable activities. It shouldn't have surprised anyone that the Millers didn't check the backgrounds of their hands. Some of the cooks, cowhands, wranglers, and roustabouts were thieves, rustlers, and cold-blooded killers. But the Millers never seemed to mind. As long as you were a tough cowboy willing to work, you were welcome at the 101.

Ranching was a profitable business, but the brothers saw other opportunities. With the invention of the automobile, the Wright brothers' breakthrough at Kitty Hawk, the completion of the cross-country railroad, and the industrial revolution in high gear, a lot of Americans longed for a reminder of the old West. The Millers happily obliged. With so many great frontiersmen working and living on the ranch, Joe, George, and Zack began producing the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, a riding, roping, steer-wrestling, and trick-shooting extravaganza. The show was a big hit. Teddy Roosevelt came to the 101 to see it. So did John D. Rockefeller, William Randolph Hearst, General John Pershing, and Admiral Richard Byrd, who toured the ranch on an elephant not long after returning from the north pole.

These famous visitors and thousands of others like them paid to see the cowboys at the 101 do what they'd been doing in their spare time for free. After a day of working cattle, groups of hands would gather by the Salt Fork River and entertain themselves by riding bulls and broncs and wrestling steers. One of the most famous of these cowboys, a black man named Bill Pickett, got so mad at an uncooperative steer one day he jumped off his horse and bit the steer on the nose, holding on with his teeth like a bulldog. From that day forward Bill Pickett was considered the father of bulldogging.

It seemed odd to the cowboys that folks would pay to see them ride, rope, and shoot, but they weren't complaining. Bill Pickett became a star showman, one of the main attractions. The show got so popular that the Millers took it on the road, traveling from New York to California with cowboys, Indians, cattle, and horses in tow. When Hollywood started producing moving pictures with cowboys and Indians, the 101 provided the talent.

Just before the Christmas of 1911 the citizens of Venice, California, woke up to a surprise when they looked out their windows. There, perched on Venice Pier, were one hundred Ponca Indians with their tepees. The Indians, along with seventy-five cowboys and twenty-five cowgirls, were in town to film a movie, even though none of the participants had ever seen a moving picture show. But the new actors didn't stay ignorant very long. Hollywood silent-movie stars such as Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Hoot Gibson, and William Eagleshirt got their start as hands on the 101, and as performers in the Wild West Show.

The movies netted the Millers a fortune, but it was the live performances that drew the biggest crowds. In a 1929 Time magazine article, the show the Millers had created was described as "the incarnation of that vanished West in which cowboys had not become associated with drugstores and Indians were not graduates of Carlisle. Begun informally, casually, when the Millers permitted some of their cowboys to perform at a local fair, the 101 Ranch Show grew into a circus that netted the Millers a million dollars a year. Sideshows it had, and freaks, and many a Bearded Lady and Human Skeleton. But it was essentially a Wild West Show, with buffaloes and cattle, cowmen and cowgirls, pistols and scalping knives, and the sure-fire big scene of the Attack on the Stage Coach, with round-eyed, heart-pounding spectators writhing on the edges of pine-board seats." Little did the Millers know they had created what would become the modern rodeo, an American tradition that would outlast them all.

Buffalo Bill Cody rode in the 101 Show. So did a young Will Rogers, who did rope tricks on horseback. The U.S. army even allowed its most famous POW, the Apache chief Geronimo, to ride, shoot, and skin a buffalo in the 101 Show for the entertainment of the fans.

Among those who performed regularly were a group of cowboys known as the Schultz brothers. There were seven of them: Walter, Guy, Clarence, Troy, Will, Grover, and Floyd. Guy wrangled with Bill Pickett, rode broncs, and bulldogged buffalo. As part of the show he would jump from the running board of a Ford to bulldog a steer or a buffalo. He also rode the Hall of Fame bronc Midnight. Along with his brother Floyd, the two Schultzes were considered the best wild-horse racers and relay racers of their day. They were also great cowboys, something they never forgot even as they were traveling the countryside performing.

Guy was billed as a "champion bronc buster," and he toured Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Cleveland riding bareback and saddle broncs for folks who'd never seen a real cowboy. In the summer of 1915, Guy toured the country with boxing champion Jess "the Great White Hope" Willard, who had won the heavyweight title by knocking out Jack Johnson in the twenty-sixth round of a fight in Havana, Cuba. Willard joined the show and was billed as "a cowboy from Kansas," even though he was a boxer first and a cowboy second.

Walter Schultz was a well-known mugger on the ranch. In those days there were no bucking chutes, so the mugger's job was to hold the bronc while the cowboy got on him. It was a tough job for a serious cowboy, and Walter fit that bill. While his brothers traveled, he stayed on the ranch, which suited him better. A young Potawatomi Indian girl had caught his eye, and Walter wasn't too interested in hitting the trail, even if it was for places like Chicago and Hollywood.

When the girl, named Josephine Papan, turned fourteen, Walter married her and moved her into his tent along the banks of the Salt Fork River. Life was hard, but simple. Walter continued to work as a mugger, while Josephine strung trotline across the river, sometimes catching catfish that weighed over a hundred pounds. She would string the fish up from a nearby tree and clean them like you would skin a buck. They bathed and drank from the river and cooked on an open fire. For the Schultzes, the Wild West wasn't something you had to see in a show. It was the way they lived every day. In time they had a daughter they named Georgia. And Georgia is my grandmother.

My great-grandfather and his brothers were the original rodeo cowboys before anyone knew what a rodeo was. By 1932, the Millers were mired in financial problems brought on by the Great Depression. People were struggling to feed their families. Entertainment luxuries like Wild West shows were well down on most folk's priority list, so the ranch was no longer profitable. That same year Bill Pickett died of his injuries on the ranch when a bronc kicked him in the head. Later, with the debts mounting and the Depression raging, the great 101 Ranch went bankrupt. Now all that's left are photos, a few scattered buildings, Pickett's grave, and a cowboy legacy that has touched every one of us.

Georgia Schultz, my grandmother, grew up and married Harold Murray, my grandpa. In 1941 they had a son they named Butch. He is my dad.

Dad never lived on the 101, or The One, as the hands called it, but he grew up with the same cowboy values that his grandpa and great-uncles had learned on the ranch. When Dad was nine years old, his grandpa Walter and his great-uncle Guy took him out on a broncy colt. As Dad was getting the colt broke, a school bus full of football players rode by. The kids, being too full of themselves for their own good, started beating their hands on the side of the bus trying to spook the colt.

"Hey. You boys cut that out," Walter shouted.

All of a sudden the bus slid to a halt on the gravel road and the football team came filing off. It seemed the coach had told his team to go teach those two old men a lesson. They might have succeeded if it hadn't been for Walter's loyal old dog named Jim. According to my dad, "All he had to do was say, 'Get 'em, Jim,' and the dog would latch onto an arm and drag one of them off." The two aging, gray-haired ranch hands (with the help of Jim the dog) whipped an entire football team that afternoon. Nobody ever messed with the old men again.

Two years later at the ripe old age of eleven, Dad began work as Walter's free jockey, riding in match races in Oklahoma and Texas. Once again Walter was there, toughening him up every step of the way. "He had me riding racehorses without touching the reins," Dad said. "That'll sober you up pretty quick, especially when you're eleven years old and going thirty-five to forty miles an hour on a horse. But I figured the hurting I'd get from falling off was less than what I'd get from him if I touched those reins."

Dad's not a big man, but by the time he was a teenager he was too big to ride racehorses. That's when he started breaking colts for a living, honing the horseman skills he would use for the rest of his life. By the time he was twenty, Dad was breaking fifty horses a year, working all week in the breaking pen and riding in rodeos on the weekends. He loved to compete in rodeos, even though he spent all week breaking horses. Horses were his life, and his passion. He loved them more than anything, with one exception.

Three days after Joy Myers turned eighteen, Butch Murray married her. Mom knew what she was getting into when she married a cowboy. She was a two-time world champion girls bull rider in the Little Britches Rodeo. In fact, she won the National Little Britches all-around title thirty years to the day before I won it. She also came from a great rodeo family. Her brother, my uncle Butch Myers, was a world champion steer wrestler.

Mom and Dad moved to Arizona, where Dad gained a good reputation for being able to break the toughest colts. Owners would send colts in by the truckload, because they knew Dad was the best. He worked from dawn till dusk every day, always giving it everything he had. There was no other way, because if you weren't giving it your all in the breaking pen, you were crazy and soon to be laid up with an injury. This was not a job where you could ever mail it in. But it would never have occurred to Dad to give anything other than all he had, whether he was working in the breaking pen or rodeoing on the weekends. That right there was the cowboy way. It was a lesson he had learned by watching his grandpa and his great-uncles, and one I learned by watching him.

The family home in Glendale, Arizona, was a singlewide trailer with corrals, a breaking bin, and an arena out back. In the summer, Dad and Mom would move to an old adobe house on a ranch in Peña Blanca, New Mexico. Dad worked as race starter at The Downs at Santa Fe, Ruidoso Downs, The Downs at Albuquerque, and the Albuquerque State Fair.

Mom rode horses every day until 1962, when she discovered she was pregnant. My sister Kim was born that year, and a year later they had my other sister, Kerri.

I came along in October of 1969. If there were any doubts that I'd been born a cowboy, they were removed when my parents took me home from the hospital wearing a diaper, a T-shirt, a blanket, and a pair of cowboy boots. Two days out of the womb and I was ready to ride.

Because I achieved so much success at such an early age, questions have come up about my parents. Did they push me? Were they overbearing? When they realized I had a talent, did they turn into stage parents? The questions are natural given some of the horror stories I've read and heard about with other athletes in other sports. But in my case the questions are almost funny. My parents never pushed me toward rodeo a day in my life. They never had to. If anything, they had to make a conscious effort not to hold me back.

Before I was out of diapers, I was climbing on top of Mom's Singer sewing machine cover, the perfect mechanical bull for a thirteen-month-old. I'd grab the plastic handle with my right hand, palm up just as I'd seen Dad doing, then I'd raise my left arm high in the air and rock and spur that case until I wore it out. A few months later I progressed to the arm of the couch, a bigger (or at least taller) challenge. Mom swears that my first words were "I'm a bull rider." When I could finally walk, I would chase my dog, Freckles, around the yard trying to rope her. And by the time I could talk, I was begging my parents to let me ride. It didn't hurt that I saw my dad breaking colts all day, every day, and that we spent our weekends at rodeos, but to say that my parents pushed me toward being a cowboy is a joke.

I once heard someone say to my mother, "Joy, when Ty was little, was he ever scared to get on a calf? Did he ever cry or anything before he rode?"

"Oh, no," Mom said. "The only time he cried was when he couldn't ride. I felt like crying a few times, especially when he was really young. Ty was fearless. He scared me to death more than once, but I never saw him scared. If he had been, I'd have told him not to ride."

I must have been a pistol, because I begged my dad to let me ride a calf when I was two years old. He and Mom both thought I was too young, and in hindsight, I would never recommend sticking a two-year-old on a calf. But I was a strong-willed kid, and I knew what I wanted. I begged and pleaded until, finally, Dad took me out to the corral and put me on the smallest calf he could find. With my free hand on Dad's back, and his right hand securely around my belt, we ran around the pen with Freckles leading the way to keep the calf ducking and diving. Dad swears he never held me on -- that he was just there to break my falls -- but he was there, and that was all that mattered.

Every day I'd beg Mom and Dad to let me ride, and most days they obliged. Mom would open the gate and count, "One alligator, two alligator, three alligator..." -- all the way to eight before blowing an imaginary whistle. When it looked like I might not make it through the full eight seconds, she would speed up the count. I was two years old and didn't know any better. I thought I never fell off before reaching the time. No sooner had Mom tooted her make-believe whistle than I was saying, "Can I go again, Dad? Pleeeease. Just one more." Dinner was on the stove and my sisters were waiting, but more often than not he would say, "All right. One more."

As a kid you never fully appreciate those moments. As an adult, I realize what wonderful parents I have, and I thank them every day for the sacrifices they made for all of us.

During that time, I also rode an old Appaloosa named Doc. He was the perfect horse for a little squirt like me, calm enough not to cause any trouble, and smart enough to teach me a thing or two. At age two, I couldn't remember the barrel-racing pattern, even after my mom had drawn it out for me in the dirt. But Doc remembered. When I tried to steer him the wrong way, he would shake his head and stick to the right pattern. I would yell at him and spur him, madder than a hornet, until Mom pointed out that Doc was right and I was wrong.

Everything I did was geared around becoming a rodeo cowboy. I don't remember ever wanting anything else, even for a day. There was never a moment I said to anyone, "Maybe I'll be an astronaut," or, "I'd like to be president someday." I never even thought it. I arranged the sheets on my bed so they would hold my feet flat with my toes pointed out, a key position in bull and bronc riding. I convinced myself that if I slept that way while I was growing, I would be a better rider.

When I was seven, I watched the Montreal Olympics on our grainy RCA television, and I took particular interest in the gymnastics. "That's the kind of athlete it takes to be a great rodeo champion," I told my parents. "If I could balance like that and get strong like those guys, it'd sure help my riding." So, I took gymnastics; I learned to ride a unicycle; and I learned to juggle, not because I had an interest in being a gymnast or a circus clown, but because I knew those things were going to make me a better rider.

Everything I ate, drank, said, and thought centered on being a cowboy. And my family supported and encouraged me every step of the way.

Our family outings were trips to rodeos. Dad rode every weekend, and Mom's brother continued to compete and win the whole time I was growing up. Oddly enough, I remember attending rodeos as a toddler where my dad was riding, but I can't remember seeing him ride. Maybe I was too caught up in the surroundings to pay attention, or maybe I couldn't see that well, but I don't remember watching Dad at a rodeo.

I do remember my uncle Butch winning his first steer wrestling championship. When he showed me that gold buckle, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. "I can't wait to get mine," I said to him. At the time everyone thought that was cute. There was no "if" or "maybe."

Before I could win my first championship, I had to win my first rodeo. That day came when I was five years old. By then, I'd been riding calves for three years. While other kids my age were taking the training wheels off their bicycles, I traveled with my family to Camp Verde, Arizona, where I competed against twenty other kids in calf riding. Like most rodeos, there was a long round, then a short round for the contestants who qualified. The first night I was the only kid who stayed on until the whistle, which meant I won the event in the first round. That night my dad told me I had won, but I would have to ride the next day anyway. "Why can't they just give me the buckle now?" I asked. Today, of course, I understand. It would be like calling a football game at halftime because one team had a hundred-point lead. The event had to go on even though the outcome was decided. But at the time it seemed like a good question to me.

I made it to the whistle in the short round, too, even though it didn't matter in terms of the win. I couldn't have cared less. Every ride was important to me, and I kept that attitude throughout my career. Whether I was so far down in points that I had no chance of winning, or so far ahead that nobody could catch me, I rode the same way every time -- all out, leaving nothing in the chute.

Later that afternoon, the rodeo organizers presented me with my first buckle and a $39 check. I tried to give them the check back, because I was sure it must have been a mistake. Why would anybody pay me to ride? I would have paid them every penny I could scrounge to do it all over again that day. That $39 must have been for somebody else. All I wanted was the buckle. Later, when I realized that I had, indeed, earned my first check as a rodeo rider, I gave it to my dad and said, "Here, Dad, let's go buy a Winnebago and a CB."

From that point on, my life revolved around rodeo. Not all of the experiences were as picture-perfect as that first one in Camp Verde. I was bucked off more than a few times. One bad weekend in Nogales, Arizona, the sun beat down, it was 110 degrees and dusty, and the dust didn't taste very good. I knew, because I ate more than my fair share that weekend. Amateur stock that wasn't as tough as what I'd ridden at home bounced me off the fence, then slammed me and hooked (or head-butted) me. It was frustrating, and I got angry. But I never gave up. Getting bucked off and hooked was part of the sport. I didn't have to like it, but I had to learn from those experiences.

I rode my first bull when I was nine years old, which is way too young for anybody to get on a bull. Usually junior rodeos have age brackets. Nine-to-twelve-year-olds ride steers, thirteen-to-fifteen-year-olds ride bulls that are old and don't buck very hard, and sixteen-to-eighteen-year-olds ride the big bulls. This gives a kid an opportunity to stair-step his way into the sport. But on occasion things don't work out. Dad and I went to a junior rodeo in Phoenix that had advertised steer riding. When we got there, all they had were bulls. "Sorry, Ty," Dad said. "We'll have to sit this one out."

"Pleeeeeease, can I ride, Dad?" I begged. "I can do it. I know I can."

Not in a million years was my dad going to put a nine-year-old on a bull. But I was persistent. Finally, the contractor got involved. He assured Dad that this was a gentle old brindle that was essentially harmless. "Well...," Dad said. "If you think it'll be all right."

"He'll be fine," the contractor said.

Sure enough, I was fine. The big old brindle had horns that looked like tree limbs, but, as promised, he just loped along, occasionally darting and dipping, but not doing much. I made the whistle easily, which was the worst thing that could have happened to me. When I jumped off, I was convinced I was a big-time, full-fledged nine-year-old bull rider. It wasn't that hard. I could probably beat some of the big boys.

Later that year, still full of myself from that earlier ride, I got on a young bull that wasn't quite as understanding as the first one. I stayed on about seven seconds before being thrown onto my back. When I hit the ground, the bull stepped on my face and I heard something pop underneath my ear. It sounded like a firecracker had gone off. As soon as I stood up, my dad was at my side asking me if I was all right. I realized I couldn't speak. My face hurt worse than it ever had before.

Mom took me to see a local doctor. He took one look and said, "Uh-oh. Looks like you've broken your jaw, Ty."

Mom groaned. "Wires?" she asked.

The doctor nodded. I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to have my mouth wired shut. Then the doctor knelt down to break the news to me: "Now, Ty, we're going to take you back here and give you a little something to put you to sleep."

He was trying to explain the procedure in kid-friendly terms, but I grew up around animals. Putting something to sleep had a totally different meaning. I jumped straight up out of the chair and started for the door, shouting, "It's not that bad. I swear, it's not that bad." Surely, I thought, they would keep me around for breeding or something.

The doctor had no idea what I was doing, but Mom knew. "No, Ty," she said. "Not that kind of sleep."

Two weeks later, with my mouth wired shut and a helmet perched on my head, I won the junior rodeo finals. Pain and sacrifice were part of the price of winning. Even at nine, it was a price I was more than willing to pay.

My formative years couldn't have been better. We weren't rich by any means, but we were closer than most families. During the week I'd ride Doc in the round pen, then, as the sun was setting, Dad and I would play cowboys and Indians with squirt guns. In the winter I would go with Dad to the racetrack, where we would exercise the horses that had bad histories in the gates. We would start so early you couldn't see the dirt beneath your feet, galloping the tough horses side by side, trying to beat each other in five-hundred-yard races. We would ride all day, then spend our nights with Skoal in our cheeks and rodeo videos or The Outlaw Josey Wales on the television.

Every weekend we loaded up the family and traveled to rodeos. Our first mode of transportation was an old green horse van. We'd shovel the manure out and make beds for everybody. Then we upgraded to a small camper. Mom and Dad had one single bed, and my sisters and I shared the other. Later we progressed to a motor home. Mom would save $15 out of her weekly grocery money every week for entry fees. Sometimes in the summers, Dad would have to stay home and work extra so we could afford that week's rodeo. Plenty of times he worked all day, then drove all night to watch my sisters and me compete before turning around and driving all night again to be back at work. Dad would tell us stories every night about the old West, and I would lie in the middle of the small bed and imagine myself riding with Buffalo Bill, Jim Shoulders, and, my idol, Larry Mahan. We were all from different generations, but that didn't stop a kid from dreaming.

I also dreamed of what life must have been like for my great-grandpa and his brothers on the 101 Ranch. It couldn't have been better than this, I decided.

"You know," I said to the reporter as the crowd noise from the PBR event echoed through the corridor, "a college kid was driving me back to my hotel at an event I was attending and we struck up a conversation. She said she was a senior in college, so I asked her what she wanted to do once she graduated. She said, 'I have no idea.' I know that's more common than you'd think, but it always astounds me. Here's a girl in her twenties who's about to graduate from college and she doesn't have a clue what she wants to do with her life. I can't comprehend that. I've always known what I wanted from the day I was born."

There was long moment of silence, the kind of pause reporters use to see if their subjects have anything more to say. "I love everything about the cowboy life," I said, filling the void before he turned off his tape recorder. "I've always loved it. There's no feeling in the world like making great rides on great animals. But my goal has never been to be a good roughstock rider. I've always wanted to be known as a great cowboy, a good, tough cowboy whose word still means something, and who lives his life in the cowboy way. I don't care about going down in history as a great bull rider or bronc rider. I just hope that when people think back after my career's over, they'll remember me as a great cowboy."

The reporter nodded and turned off the recorder. "Thanks, Ty. That just about covers it."

Copyright © 2003 by Ty Murray
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2003

    Knowing Ty, it'll be real!

    As Ty's college counselor his first year in collegiate and pro competition, I can assure readers....this book will be real. He always had one speed, his best. I'm thrilled to see others get the chance to meet him through this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not only the king of the cowboys but the king of all men.

    The book King of the Cowboys is an autobiography about the rodeo star Ty Murray. In the book, Ty describes his life in Rodeo and his journey to being the best bull rider in the world. He explains the ups and downs of bull riding, and the close encounters of his career ending because of injuries. He shows his life in great detail. There were many messages in the book such as always following your dreams no matter what. Ty was telling people not to lose themselves while achieving everything they want. When he became the world champion, he explained that he was still a cowboy and still had the same values. The major message of the book, however, was to never give up no matter what. I personally really enjoyed the book. Growing up around rodeo, I could really relate. I also liked the voice in the story. It was very easy to understand what Murray was going through and I could almost feel his pain and joy in any exact moment in the book. I saw the movie 8 Seconds and I understood the pain that Ty Murray must have gone through with the loss of his friend Lane Frost, which he describes in remarkable detail in the book. The constant action and ups and downs in his life would leave me speechless because I could never move on with my life the way he did. I felt as if I was in the front row of every rodeo and right in the center of his journey to the top. I disliked how long some parts of his life were explained. I found the story somewhat repetitive with all the injuries and success but I still was never bored reading the book. I personally believe that this was an awesome book. It was very inspiring and I think that it would be wise for people to read it. It is definitely something interesting to read because most people do not know about rodeo and how hard it is to make it "big" in the career. Ty's persistence and strength in his times of loss and injury in 1998 were truly something I did not expect. After the death of his friend, I did not know how he could continue his career knowing that at any moment in time a bull could also kill him. Ty Murray has not written any other books, but I would highly suggest his autobiography. His life is very interesting and the book was definitely a five star book. I actually loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2004

    Turning around opinions

    Well before I read this book I didn't think very highly of Ty but now that I¿ve read this and gotten to see everything that¿s happened to him I can't help but feel stupid. As I speak I have just gone through heart surgery at the age of 17. I am also a rodeo competitor. I thought not being able to ride for 2 weeks was bad, I don¿t think I could ever not ride for 3 full years. This book has been a huge inspiration to me. This book has made me want to get back to my sport that I love so much, that much more

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    Posted December 20, 2010

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    Posted February 15, 2011

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    Posted June 17, 2011

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