This is the obituary I wrote for Red Rock when he died in 1994. It was really difficult to write - as it is whenever you have to eulogize someone you love. Red Rock and I had done a lot of work together - including going to schools in the Bay Area where animal rights groups tend to picket the Cow Palace and he made friends with a whole lot of classrooms of kids. When he died and I had to sit at the computer and think about him and Lane and cried, but also had to giggle when I got calls asking if there would be services for him. ( Yes, and there will be burgers and ribs served afterwards... just kidding! ) There was no internet yet and I faxed all night to all the papers and news outlets who had covered the Challenge of the Champions and Red Rock over the years. When you grow up a beach kid like I did, riding waves, you never imagine falling in love with a bull - but I did. And I know he knew me. How amazing is that?
By Sue Rosoff - Red Rock, unquestionably one of the most famous bulls in rodeo history, died at approximately 11:40 am on June 8, 1994. He died and was buried at the Growney Ranch in Red Bluff, California, under the shade of a big oak tree. He was eighteen.
Red Rock, a red brindle cross-bred bull, was born on a ranch near Sisters, Oregon. His mother died when he was born and the family brought him in off the pasture and put him on the family milk cow. He was named Red Rock, after a rock formation near the ranch.
When he was two, he was sold to Mert Hunking, an amateur rodeo stock contractor. Mert knew right off the bat, Red Rock was different from other bulls - he was smart - somehow, he could sense just what a bullrider was going to do, and he would go the opposite way, throwing cowboys off, usually on the first turn out of the chute. And, unlike the other bulls, Red Rock wouldn't go after the bullrider, he would just turn around and head for the stripping chute. The first time co-owner Don Kish saw Red Rock was when he drew him at a rodeo in Silver Lake, Oregon. Don lasted only a few jumps and got bucked off so hard they had to go out and turn him back towards the chute, he wasn't sure where he was.
In 1983, there was a professional rodeo nearby, and Mert got permission to put him in the draw. Two of the top ProRodeo bull riders drew Red Rock at the rodeo and he bucked them both off. Mert knew that Red Rock was destined for the Professional Rodeo circuit. "Mert also found out he had cancer and he wanted Red Rock to have a good home." recalls Kish. He offered to sell Red Rock to Growney Brothers because he liked the way they took care of their livestock.
John bought Red Rock sight unseen. He knew Red Rock from his reputation as an unridable bull, as well as his being uncommonly gentle, but "we had no idea that he was quite this caliber a bull when we bought him," he said in a 1987 interview with Kendra Santos. The first time John set eyes on him was when they unloaded him in Red Bluff, and it was then, in 1984, that he became part of Growney Brothers Rodeo Company's bucking string.
From 1984 through 1987, Red Rock bucked off every bull rider who tried him - 309 attempts altogether. Among those were Cody Lambert, Wacey Cathey, Cody Custer, Charlie Needham, Gary Toole - all NFR qualifiers, as well as Charles Sampson - World Champion Bull Rider 1982, Cody Snyder - World Champion Bull Rider 1983, Ted Nuce - World Champion Bull Rider 1985, Tuff Hedeman - World Champion Bull Rider 1986, 89, 91 and of course Lane Frost - World Champion Bull Rider 1987. "Every bullrider wanted a chance to try Red Rock - because he was a great bucking bull and because they knew he wouldn't come after them. He won't step on bull riders or hook them once they're off, unlike most other bulls." said John Growney in a 1987 interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "He has so much character in him. He has all the character of a well-mannered person. At the ranch we put kids on his back. He's a friend. A good soul." " A phenomenal bull!" Ted Nuce was quoted as saying in 1987. "Loves to buck cowboys off. He's smart. Know's what hand a guy's got down on his back. More than likely he won't turn back into a guy's hand. He's gonna set you up and get you loose before he goes to spinning." Each of those four years he was chosen to go to the National Finals Rodeo. In 1987, Red Rock was awarded the title of Bucking Bull of the Year. At the end of the Finals in 1987, Red Rock was retired from competition. There had been much publicity about Red Rock's impending retirement going into the Finals, and that he was the 1987 Bucking Bull of the Year. An article on Red Rock by Kendra Santos in the Pro Rodeo Sports News before the Finals begins: "He may be Lane Frost's Tornado." He was.
Lane Frost and John Growney had visited at the Finals that year and early the next Spring it was decided that there would be a series of matches at seven different rodeos. It was called The Challenge of the Champions - Red Rock vs. Lane Frost - the two 1987 World Champions going one on one.
The first of the Challenges was in Red Bluff and the crowd was clearly routing for their hometown bull. Lane was promptly bucked off into the dirt.
The second match was in Clovis, CA, where again, Red Rock bucked Lane off. By the Redding Rodeo, Lane had studied videotapes over and over and had consulted with his bull rider friends on how he could possibly stay on. That Friday night there wasn't a seat left in the house, and when Red Rock blew out of the chute, Lane stayed with him. As the crowd held it's breath, Lane covered Red Rock jump for jump, and at the end of eight seconds, Lane Frost had ridden Red Rock. People in Redding still talk about that night. The night Lane Frost rode Red Rock.
The next match was at Livermore, California, and once again, Lane's studying and working out paid off. He rode him and the score was 2-2. The next day, when the next match was held in Sisters, Oregon, Lane again rode Red Rock and regained the lead. St. Paul, Oregon was the site of the next match, over July 4th and Lane was bucked off, so they went into the final match in Spanish Fork, UT with the score at 3-3.
At Spanish Fork, July 25, 1988, Lane again rode Red Rock to win the Challenge of the Champions 4-3. Lane said of the Challenge "I was glad it was over. I'd do it again, but I sure was glad it was over. Out there in the arena after I got off I thought 'One of the greatest things in rodeo is over.' You know, it was something everyone could understand. The general public could understand it and knew what was happening all the way through. Everybody can understand one on one. One of the greatest things that's happened in rodeo in a long time had just happened. Me and Red Rock."
The Challenge had been covered by more media than any other event in rodeo history. Among those were The George Michael Sports Machine, ProRodeo Sports News, USA Today and Sports Illustrated, not to mention countless regional publications. Lane Frost and Red Rock became heroes across the country.
Lane Frost tragically died in the arena at Cheyenne Frontier Days from an injury sustained after he rode a bull named SO Taking Care of Business in July of 1989.
In 1990, both Lane and Red Rock were inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. Red Rock was the third bucking bull ever to attain that honor. The others were Tornado and Oscar. Red Rock attended the induction ceremonies.
Soon after Lane's death, the Frost family was approached about doing a movie about Lane's life. The movie "8 Seconds" made it's debut in February of this year to favorable reviews. In it, Red Rock was portrayed by several bulls and the Challenge sites were moved to Texas and pared down from seven to three, but John Growney got to play himself - for about a minute.
After retirement from competition, Red Rock had another job to do. "Our objective when we bought him was to make him a herd sire, " Don Kish said in a 1987 interview. "Winning bucking bull of the year is such a long shot - we had raising calves to be bucking bulls in mind." Because of that breeding program, Red Rock will live on in his prodigy, among whom are 624 Wolfman - the only bull ever to score a perfect 100 point ride, 625 Outlaw, 601 Dodge Ram Tough Glamour Boy, 637 Rolling Thunder, 620 Bailey's Black Magic, 633 Wild Thing and the up and coming three-year-olds: the Wolfpack and the Outlaws.
Red Rock served as a great ambassador for Growney Brothers Rodeo Company and for the sport of rodeo. He made appearances at numerous functions, schools and fund-raisers all over Northern California, he was the spokesbull for a local radio station, he has graced T-Shirts and had songs written about him like "Red Rock" by the Smokin' Armadillos from Bakersfield.
In his last years, Red Rock reigned over his own pasture, was pampered by his neighbors, Clarence and Diane, who regularly curried him and made sure he got his grain, and he received visitors from all over the country. Clyde Frost, Lane's father, said today " He was a great bull and he had a great life. I know he's in a better place now - but he had it pretty good here too."
For one of the brochures I did for Growney Brothers Rodeo Company, I gathered the information below - if anyone has any more information, let me know so I can add it - thanks!
An incomplete list of bullriders who tried him:
- Butch Kirby
- tried him at St. Paul in 1984
- Cody Lambert
- Tried him in Ellensburg shortgo 1984 and Cedarville in June 1987.
- "I was the first one of us guys to draw him. I had a good horse and a good bull at Elk City and drew Red Rock at Ellensburg. I decided to go ride him to make all the people in the Northwest shut up about him. He made a pretty good hole with me. I couldn't get up. The second time I had him I stayed on about 6 seconds and got so excited - he planted me - I hit so hard I needed help getting up again."
- Charlie Needham
- Tried him at Livermore in June 1984 and Redding in May 1987.
- He told reporter Craig Claver in Redding " I'm trying to figure out a game plan to ride him. He always gives you a fair shot. I think I can ride him this time, but he's so smart you just can't figure him out."
- Wacey Cathey
- Tried him in Reno in 1985.
- In 1987, journalist Tudy Woolfe asked him if the name Red Rock rang a bell. "Yeah, he's rung my bell. Reno, year before last. He won. He definitely won." When asked if he knew Red Rock's secret Cathey replied "He just bucks - just does whatever he has to."
- Charles Sampson - World Champion Bull Rider 1982
- Attempted him at NFR 84 OKC
- Cody Snyder - World Champion Bull Rider 1983
- Attempted him at NFR 84 OKC.
- When asked by Woolfe about his Red Rock try, Snyder replied " Didn't fare too well, like everybody else that's had him. I'd sure like to get on him again. I don't know what it'll take. Just have the mixture right and do nothing wrong, 'cause he won't."
- Ted Nuce - World Champion Bull Rider 1985 -
- Attempted him at the 1986 NFR in the 10th go
- Red Rock kept him from being the World Champion in 1986 - if he had ridden him, he would have won the Finals. At the time he said "I'd like to be the first cowboy that rides him. If I could have ridden him at the Finals, I could've won my second World Championship."
- Tuff Hedeman - World Champion Bull Rider 1986, 89, 91
- Attempted him in Portland in 1985 - a World's Toughest Rodeo
- Lane Frost - World Champion Bull Rider 1987
- Tried him twice - at 1985 and in the 6th go at the 1986 NFR
- Red Rock kept Lane from riding all 10 bulls and from being the world Champ in 1986, when Tuff was. He did win the average in 1986
- Gary Toole
- Tried him at the 6th go of the 1987 NFR and at a Reno ProTour.
- He was interviewed in 1987 by journalist Tudy Woolfe and had this to say: "He's a bucker. Very, very smart strong bull. Doesn't try to cheapshot you. Just psyches himself up as the cowboy's psyching himself. He knows where you are when you're on him."
- Ricky Bolin
- Reno Pro-Tour
- Cody Custer
- Was the last person to have Red Rock in pro competition - it was in the 10th go at the 1987 NFR.