By David Howell
COFFEEVILLE – Summer months find many college students involved in a number of activities, working, traveling or just taking it easy. For Northwest Mississippi Community College cowboy Ross Burney of Coffeeville, his summer looks a little different. Burney, 23, will pursue his passion on the back of bucking bulls, eight seconds at a time.
His summer work starts this weekend after earning a coveted spot in the College Nationals Finals Rodeo (CNFR)in Casper Wyoming, a week long event in which 39 cowboys from colleges across the nation will compete.
Burney was listed in second place in the Ozark Region standings coming into the rodeo at the Northwest Multipurpose Arena April 17-19.
Burney was ranked third in the Ozark Region standings, qualifying him for the college finals. He is the only cowboy from Mississippi to compete in any of the events at the CNFR and this will be the last college rodeo in his career.
Burney will leave Friday, flying to Wyoming after working diligently through the week to harvest his wheat crop on the family farm. Upon arrival, he will hit the ground running, after drawing the first ride in the bull-riding event, which will be Sunday.
Each competitor draws three rides, and the top 10 or 15 best scores will make it to the “short go” and ride again Saturday night.
The bulls the college cowboys will compete on are the same ones “on t.v.” according to Burney and the competition will be fierce.
“It’s fun, not much to be nervous about,” Burney said.
After the college rodeo finals next week his work really begins. Burney will travel to Las Vegas, Idaho and other western states to compete in a process he likens to a baseball player working through the minor leagues in hopes of the big leagues.
And this isn’t the first summer Burney has spent on the bull-riding circuit. He has been on the back of a bull over 400 times, earned several $5,000 purses and is currently ranked in a handful of regional bull-riding associations.
Burney has his share of bumps and bruises to attest to his hard work. He has sustained two broken arms, a ruptured disk in his back requiring surgery and numerous blood clots.
As more than one old country song attests, it takes hard work and costs big bucks to travel from state to state, entering and competing in rodeos.
An Expensive Proposition
Burney, who is a member of the Professional Bull Riding Association, is currently soliciting corporate sponsors, and is even enjoying support from many Yalobusha business to offset the anticipated summer’s expenses.
Family friend Ginny Sosebee has taken the lead on the fundraising effort to help fund Burney’s summer competition.
“My ultimate goal is to seek big corporate sponsors and to help him year-round,’ Sosebee said.
Anyone interested in contributing to Burney can contact Sosebee at 601-457-9372.
(Editor’s Note: Ross Burney is the son of Daryl Burney and Janet Caulder.)