If you want to buck the system, talk to Maggie Parker.
The 19-year-old cowgirl is doing something very few women do: ride bulls.
In a sport known for physical toughness, she’s put on spurs, picked up her bull rope, and is riding the huge bovines.
As soon as she got her driver’s license three years ago, each week she would drive her 1972 pickup truck two hours from her home in Shaftsburg, Mich., to a practice pen, to get on bulls.
It was something she always wanted to do. Two years ago, she left home and moved to Oklahoma to be closer to rodeos.
Now, she’s competing on the professional level in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, and she’ll ride a bull at the Hamel Rodeo on July 7.
Why choose such a male-dominated sport?
"I guess I’m kind of crazy," she said. "I think this is part of my greater purpose. I feel like I’m meant to do this. It’s what I love to do."
At first, the bull riders didn’t give her much respect. "When you first start, and buck off, you’re not very good and you get a lot of criticism for it." But the guys have changed. "I think now that I’ve proven myself, and they know I can ride, they treat me like one of the guys."
A high pain tolerance has to be part of the composition of a bull rider, and Maggie thinks she has that. "I don’t think a lot of girls have a high pain tolerance, because when they were growing up, they were told, ‘you’re a girl,’ and it gets in their head that everything hurts," Parker said. "I was never told that. I’ve always had to be tough."
Is her strategy any different, being a girl bull rider? "No," she laughs. "I don’t think the bulls know the difference." The bulls "are going to do the same thing. I smell a little better, but other than that, I don’t think they know."
And her biggest motivation, right now, is her job. She’s living on a ranch in Ft. Gibson, Okla., and doing lots of manual labor. "I’ve been digging postholes in 95 degree weather. I was always told the best motivation to being a good bull rider is to have a crappy job," she laughs.
Parker, along with 63 other bull riders, will compete at the Hamel Rodeo July 5 through 8. Parker will ride in the evening performance July 7. The rodeo takes place each night at 7:30 p.m. and at 1 p.m. July 7.
For more information, visit www.HamelRodeo.org or call 478-6611.