Exploring the challenges and rewards of life and love, Nicholas Sparks’ novel, The Longest Ride, gives readers all over the country a glimpse into the world of North Carolina cowboys and the art of bull riding.
And no one understands the delicate balance between courage and endurance—and cowboys—quite like Jerome Davis. It’s been 17 years since the World Champion Professional Bull Rider’s world was changed in just six seconds.
They Called Him Danger
Was it the time he flipped a six-wheel ATV, or was it when some buddies had to pull him out of a Bobcat that was stuck in a pond? Or maybe it was when he was left hanging from a buggy stuck sideways in a fence? Jerome Davis is not sure when it happened, but at some point everyone started calling him “Danger.” It was early on when this daredevil discovered his passion, “I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a cowboy,” says Jerome. “My first grade teacher asked what I was going to be when I grew up and I said, ‘A bull rider’.”
He finished high school and hit the road, bound for Texas as a virtual unknown—after all, riders didn’t exactly hail from North Carolina. “There had never been a World Champion from East of the Mississippi when I started riding bulls,” remembers Jerome. “And I wanted to be the first.” And was he ever. The day after leaving home, he won the 1992 Intercollegiate Bull Riding Championship in Bozeman, Montana, hopped back in the car and drove to Reno, Nevada to turn pro.
In fact he was one of the original shareholders of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) organization—and the youngest too. At the time they asked everyone to contribute $1,000, but Jerome only had $500, so he promised to give them the money the following week after he had won his next event—and that’s just what he did, “it all worked out,” he said. “I didn’t even know how big this would turn out but I knew all my heroes believed in it, and they had asked me to be a part of it.”
The Carolina Cowboy
It wasn’t easy on this kid from North Carolina; most events were centered in the west, which meant a lot of driving and many sleepless nights. “My wife laughs and tells everyone that is why she got to travel with me so much, because I couldn’t find anybody else crazy enough to stay on the road with me all the time,” says Jerome. “We pretty much lived out of a van.” But it was all worth it because by the age of 25, Jerome was one of the best pro riders in the world and engaged to the love of his life, Tiffany.
It was 1998 and they called Jerome “The Carolina Cowboy” as he rode Knock ’Em Out John into the ring. Six seconds later, the bucking bull had knocked him unconscious and tossed him, soaring like an arrow head first, into the air. The accident paralyzed him from the chest down and put him in the wheelchair he is still in today.
After being told he could no longer ride, Jerome did two things that changed the course of his life. He came up with a plan to continue making a living following his dreams and told his dream girl that it was OK if she wanted to leave. “Not an option,” Tiffany answered. And in a few months time, he was married to his love, companion, partner and friend. And had hosted his own rodeo at the family farm, the first-ever Jerome Davis PBR Invitational, which has grown into an annual premiere riding event, attracting talent from all over the country.
The Tar Heel Rider Takes the Bull by the Horns
It was then that this cowboy started a new career—raising the very breed of animal that nearly killed him. He nurtures bulls from birth, training them and turning them into bucking broncos. Right now the couple has 60 bulls and another 70 head of cows. “It’s a very consuming lifestyle and you really have to love it, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says Jerome. “Now, if you ask me this next week and five of our bulls are in the neighbors pasture I may not sound quite as excited, but least there are not many dull moments for us.”
He explains that he and Tiffany are living a “stock contractor’s dream,” raising their own bulls and training them for their moment in the ring. “It’s a very special feeling. It is a lot of hard work but perseverance pays off.”
And it’s that philosophy, that ability to endure that so clearly defines this man, this mentor who also loves helping riders. “I’m glad to help anyone that asks for help but I never give my opinion unless they do so,” explain Jerome. This year will make the 24th that he opens his doors to put on a Bull Riding School at the Davis Rodeo Ranch. “We’ve got a whole bull riding training ground set up right here beside my house with bucking barrels hanging out of trees,” he says. “That practice barrel was given to me by a gentleman that helped me get started riding when I was 11 years old and we still use it. I would love to know how many World Champs have sat on that thing. It’s got some history.”
From the Ring to the Silver Screen
During the making of the film, The Longest Ride, Jerome and Tiffany were the proud stage parents to some pretty important cast members—about 90% of the bulls used in the movie are from the Davis Rodeo Ranch. “It was an experience of a life time,” says Jerome. “They really worked hard to make the bull riding scenes authentic,” Tiffany adds. “We are very passionate about the sport of bull riding and the cowboy culture lifestyle, so it is very exciting to see someone take time to showcase this with such sincerity and quality.”
In the novel, the main characters Luke and Sophia meet in McLeansville, NC at a PBR event, which Jerome found fantastic. “What is kind of funny is that we actually produced the first and only PBR event that was ever held in that town,” he says.
And They Still Call Him Danger
He continues to look for the best, no matter what life throws at him, which might be why everyone still refers to him simple as Danger. “Always give 110% and believe in the good,” Jerome says. “It is important to stay happy and positive toward people. I laugh and say that nobody wants to hang out some ol’ grouchy guy in a wheelchair.” And he truly believes that he will get out of that chair one day.
Keeping himself in good shape and staying on top of the latest research, Jerome is encouraged by what he sees. “I don’t sit around waiting for a cure,” he says. “But you better believe when they figure it out, I’m jumping on the wagon and not sitting on the side.” And when that time comes, we’re betting on Jerome “Danger” Davis to rise to the top, as he continues to do each and every day. “Bull Riding has taken away a lot from me but I would still have to say it has given me more than it took from me.
Get In On the Action
Ready to join the fastest-growing sport? Now is your chance.
Partner in a Bucking Bull. In March, the Davis Rodeo Ranch will be selling partnership opportunities—they keep, feed and haul the bulls while you have the chance to win prizes and money with your bull.
Check out The Annual Jerome Davis PBR Invitational every Labor Day weekend at the Davis Rodeo Ranch Arena in Archdale, NC. Visit JeromeDavis.com to learn more.
Most Dangerous 8 Seconds in Sports
Facing down a two-thousand pound, snorting, angry bull is all about balance, coordination, an uncanny ability to hang on and oh yeah, a heaping dose of raw courage. Jerome puts it pretty perfectly, “Bull Riding is a lot like a NASCAR race, you don’t wish to see a wreck, but you sure don’t want to miss it if there is one.”
Still want to learn the basics. Here you go:
The Cowboy. This is the rider. His goal is simple, stay on as the bull tries to buck them off.
The Gear. Riders wrap a thickly braided Bullrope, with a cowbell attached as a counterweight, around the bull and their hand to better secure themselves to the bull.
The Technique. Riders ride with one hand, and the free hand cannot touch themselves or the The Score. 1–25 points are awarded for the cowboy and 1—25 points for the animal’s performance: 100 points is declared the perfect ride—and there’s only been one in the PRCA, Wade Leslie in 1991.
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