Country singer Garth Brooks in his song Rodeo describes the sport as "it's bulls and blood/It's dust and mud ..."
For 17-year-old professional rodeo star Cody Waters, it's just a way of life.
For those of you who were reared on this side of the Mississippi River, rodeo is a series of events that consist of seven categories: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing, bull riding and team roping.
"Texas and Oklahoma kids and teenagers rope and rodeo just like kids play baseball and football here," Cody said.
Cody, a senior at Aiken High School, said that he grew up traveling and staying on the road weekends hauling to rodeos. Having been involved in the rodeo lifestyle since he was just tall enough to reach the stirrup, Cody became interested in the sport in middle school. He now competes in tie down (calf roping), steer wrestling and team roping. His main event is calf roping.
Cody was just 13 when he won the tie-down event at the International Professional Rodeo Association's event in 2002 in North Augusta. Winning that competition is Cody's favorite memory.
Since then, he has represented South Carolina at the National High School Finals Rodeo for the past three years.
Riding rodeo, however, isn't all glitz and glam. There's a lot of travel involved and it's not easy to keep the horses happy and healthy or, as Cody puts it, "tuned up."
"With horses costing as much as they do now, you can't afford not to make them your No. 1 priority in life," he said.
It's also a physically demanding sport.
In his less serious "horse wreck," Cody was lucky enough to walk away with only a broken arm. The more serious injury?
"One time it slit my eye and tore my ear off," he said.
Although he experienced great pain at the time, he says, he now reflects on the accidents and finds them funny.
Whether he's holding up yet another rodeo trophy or applying Neosporin to his cuts and bruises, Cody is a true cowboy who knows how to work hard and play even harder.
"It's a very lucrative lifestyle that keeps one yearning for more," he said.
Kimberly Jump, 17, is a senior at Aiken High School.
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