Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz: Bull rider's mom holds on tight

As parents, I think we've all asked ourselves how we would react if our son came to us with the following news:

"Dad (or mom), I've decided I'm going to ride really big, mean, snorting bulls for a living."

I would politely ask my son to get his brain scanned to see whether something had been knocked loose. I'm not sure what you would do.

Skeeter Kingsolver, a 20-year-old Kansan from McLouth, near Lawrence, decided a few years back he was going to ride as far as some nasty bulls could take him. The news shocked his parents; neither his father nor mother has any background in bull riding and, honestly, neither had given it so much as a thought. They were typical Little League parents — Skeeter played football, baseball and basketball as a kid.

Bull riding? He might as well have told them he was interested in jumping motorcycles over the Grand Canyon.

When I talked to Skeeter (is there a better nickname than Skeeter?), I asked him about his parents' reaction to the news, sure as I could be that he would recall a time when he had to talk his mother off of a ledge.

"No, they were really supportive,'' he said. "They supported me like they did in every other thing I did as a kid.''

Oh, really?

It was hard for me to buy what Skeeter was selling. So I called Sue Kingsolver, Skeeter's mother, to get the rest of the story.

As I suspected, she claims to have been dumbfounded when she learned of Skeeter's desire to ride bulls. She knew he was interested in rodeo, but though eventually he would want to settle into something more passive, like showing horses.

Instead, Skeeter does something 180 degrees from showing horses. He gets on the back of fire-breathing bulls and attempts to hang on for eight seconds, the longest eight seconds in sports.

He'll be one of the 40 riders at the Professional Bull Riders event at Intrust Bank Arena on Friday and Saturday nights.

Sue Kingsolver will be there, watching when she can bear.

"We didn't know Skeeter's interest in rodeo was going to turn into this,'' she said. "You should see me now. I have gray hair and I'm more wrinkled than I think I should be.

"I think all parents of bull riders need to form a support group.''

Bull riding is exciting, entertaining and so, so dangerous.

Skeeter Kingsolver is unaffected by the sport's perils and instead focuses on the adrenaline rush and competitive juices it produces.

"We had a few steers and bulls on our farm and my older brother (Blake) would always be pushing me, telling me I needed to get out there and learn to ride them instead of just sitting in the house doing nothing.''

Although Skeeter was content to sit in the house and play video games, he eventually decided to try bull riding after going to a rodeo camp when he was 12, a camp his parents approved of.

After all, what was the worst thing that could happen?

Deciding to ride one-ton beasts, they discovered, is the answer to that question.

"I love this sport, I love everything about it,'' Skeeter said. "I want to be the best and I'm pushing myself to be the best. The PBR has the best of the best and I definitely like being pushed by these guys.''

Skeeter hasn't won a PBR event but he's on the verge, considered one of the sport's rising stars.

His brother, it turns out, has become his biggest fan and spends much of his time doing research on bull riding, then passing along his knowledge to Skeeter. Blake is Skeeter's de facto manager.

Meanwhile, Sue just tries to hang on, much like Skeeter when he's on the back of a bull.

"Over time, I've learned that I can't walk around totally stressed out all the time because I lose a lot of friends when I'm like that,'' she said.

When the PBR shuts down in a few weeks for about a month, Skeeter is headed to Australia to ride bulls there. Mom and dad can't go and the events will not be televised here.

"I don't like that,'' Sue Kingsolver said.

She's a mom, remember, and Skeeter is still her baby. A baby who happens to ride big, angry creatures.

As for Skeeter's nickname, it stuck shortly after his birth. His given name is Keith Randall.

"But when he was born, he just looked like a bug,'' Sue said.

Oh boy, the guys on the PBR Tour are going to have fun with that one.

"But a cute little bug,'' Sue continued. "Make sure you mention that.''