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Trip of a lifetime: Minnesota bull rider ready for 1st NFR

Photo by David Samson / Forum Communications Brett Stall of Detroit Lakes, Minn., is in Las Vegas this week for his first trip National Finals Rodeo. The bull rider and cattle rancher started the season strong and it helped him earn a trip to the NFR.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- After Brett Stall won a bull riding competition in Rapid City, S.D., in January, he was pretty sure he'd be seeing the lights of Las Vegas in December.

He was right.

"I was really confident, especially coming off the first of the year, starting it out well in Rapid City," Stall said. "I was like No. 2 in the world right after that."

Stall, 23, will be competing in his first National Finals Rodeo, which begins Thursday in Las Vegas.

"I knew if I stayed healthy and kept going, I could make it," he added.

Now, with only a few days until competition, the Detroit Lakes man said it hasn't even sunk in yet that he's going to the biggest competition of his career thus far.

"I can't even put it into words really," he said.

The NFR is 10 rounds in 10 days where Stall will be riding "the best bucking stock in the United States."

The potential money to be won at this competition is pretty steep, too.

"This could set me up for my ranch someday," Stall said.

Between the Rapid City rodeo in January and the competition in a few days, Stall has been traveling throughout the United States. He competed in 110 rodeos this year.

The PRCA has set a cap of 125 rodeos contestants are allowed to compete in during a year. Stall said he and his traveling partner plan out their route, hit the higher payouts and fill in with the smaller rodeos along the way.

"Our Cowboy Christmas, we call it, is in July," Stall said. "Me and my traveling partner, we went to 12 rodeos in 10 days, or nine days or something."

That means a couple rodeos a day.

"They're close enough you just drive like heck to get there," he added. "It gets exhausting, especially when you got beat up on your first one and then you know you've got a bad (bull) drawn that a lot of guys don't like getting on because he's hard.

"You really got to start thinking positive about things, you know. That's what bull riding is about. You can't be negative in the rodeo world, in anything really."

Bull riding is all reaction, he said, so that's not the thoughts going through his head when he's sitting on the bull, waiting for the gate to open. Instead, he concentrates on good, positive thoughts to make it through his competition.

"I just pray to the good Lord upstairs -- pray we make it through it and then give Him the glory when we're done."

When he's not traveling and competing, Stall runs a cattle ranch with his dad just outside Detroit Lakes. They have several hundred beef cows and 30 horses, he said.

"I stay busy ranching, and I like to ice fish when I'm home in the winter," Stall said.

Stall said that he has more time to spend at home in the winter because he can pick and choose what rodeos he competes in and then hit the road hard in the warmer months.

Stall said he's either riding bulls or driving to the next location to compete, so he doesn't practice at all. Besides, why risk getting hurt for a practice ride?

And Stall has been hurt plenty. He said he's broken quite a few bones, but it's a dream come true for him, so the broken bones are just part of what's going to happen.

"I'm sure that somebody who's about to reach the dream they've dreamed of since they were a kid and stuck to it, I'm sure they know what I'm talking about," Stall said.

And it's a dream he has had all his life.

When he was young, his parents, Bradley and Sandee, sponsored rodeos and got him involved. He rode calves and ponies as a youngster.

"I was always getting on something that moved or bucked," Stall said.

And now as an adult, he gets to live out his dream.

"I have fun and I love doing it. I figure, do something while you can," Stall said.

But, that's not to say it consumes him and it's the only thing he plans to do with his life.

"For me, there's more to life than just riding bulls," Stall said.

He plans to ride professionally about five or six more years and then settle down on a ranch and raise a family.

Until then though, he's got another competition to win.

"It's something I always knew I wanted to do since I can remember," Stall said. "I knew what I wanted to be and I stuck with it."