DULUTH, GA - JAN 24, 2009: Thousands of people crowded into the Gwinnett Center for an evening of energized violence and brutality. The Toughest Cowboy competition had arrived.
I shot from the rodeo dirt and focused my camera between the ring bars occasionally dodging hyper aggravated animals. I was so close I could hear the animals snort in Pain? Ecstasy? Revenge? Love? Death? I am not sure what they were feeling but they jumped and ran and kicked and screamed like beasts that had just been released from the gates of hell.
The cowboys themselves were a beaten and tattered bunch. Tough Cowboy Jared Green from Socorro, New Mexico had to drop out of Saturday's competition because of pain in his shoulder. Green's injuries from rodeo competitions have included breaking both of his ankles, two surgeries on his shoulder, a knee operation, broken ribs, a broken hand, concussions and a knocked-out tooth. Green is only 22 years old.
The whole event seemed to teeter on epic disaster with batshit crazy horses running directly into fences at full speed and cowboys being thrown face first into the ground over and over again inside an arena of 5000 screaming people from the suburbs in cowboy hats and real cowboys from rural Georgia. It was insane, beautiful and chilling.
Dusty Elkinton falls from a bull during the bull riding competition.