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PBR bulls housed at Flying U Rodeo ranch
The penned bulls on either side of him don't care for company.
Showboat's grumpy, his trainer says. And Jack Daniels After Party?
"He don't like anybody," says Gene Melton, who manages Circle T Ranch & Rodeo of Keatchie, La.
But Asteroid, the 2012 World Champion Bucking Bull, a boarder at the Flying U Rodeo ranch south of Marysville, likes to have his back scratched.
"He'll go to sleep like this," Melton says from the confines of the champion's pen. "He's just as laid back as he can be. I've never seen him mad about anything."
Professional bull riders know him from a different angle.
"You just can't get any steeper than that," said one PBR commentator after Asteroid tossed his rider off like an empty sack at last year's Professional Bull Riders Association competition at Sleep Train Arena.
This year's bull riding competition at the Sacramento venue finishes tonight.
The contest represents Asteroid's second stop in his quest for a repeat championship in Las Vegas late this year.
His primary rival for the season, Bushwacker, who beat him for the 2011 title, was born and raised right here on the Flying U, under the watchful eye of Cotton Rosser and his son, Reno Rosser.
"It was like a NASCAR race with only two drivers," says Melton of the 2011 showdown.
Melton's role as trainer, he says, is a misnomer.
"You can't train him to lay down or roll over. And you can't train him to buck. He's got to want to do it," he says with a thick, panhandle drawl. "I just try to spoil him all I can."
Melton talks to his bulls every day. Even the cranky ones.
Asteroid and a dozen less congenial companions travel on a thick bed of sawdust in a climate-controlled truck. If Asteroid doesn't like his food, his trainer finds something else to feed him.
"He has to like his job," says Melton.
Bucking bulls of this caliber fetch as much as $130,000 for their sellers.
Asteroid, a relatively petite dark chocolate-colored specimen, was born on a no-name ranch in Kansas and was sold twice prior to showing his true value.
Melton won't disclose what he was worth when he came into his owner's possession, or what he's worth now.
"We'll sell semen out of him. Don't know if his calves will buck, but that's what everybody's hoping for," he says.
Reno Rosser wants to answer misinformation associated with the sport of bull riding.
The cotton rope tied around the animal's flank is intended to encourage kicking. That rope, contrary to some animal rights groups' literature, is not used to constrict the bull's reproductive anatomy.
"If you know what those testicles are worth, well, you sure wouldn't harm 'em," Rosser says.
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.