Thousands of people crowded into the Gwinnett Center Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, for an evening of energized violence and brutality. The Toughest Cowboy competition had arrived at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth.
The contest involved 12 cowboys competing in the triathlon of cowboy chaos, bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. The Gwinnett stop is part of a multi-city tour with the Toughest Cowboy being awarded a Rocky Mountain ranch near Laramie, Wyoming at the end of the three-month contest.
I was allowed to photograph from the rodeo dirt and focused my camera between the ring bars occasionally dodging hyper aggravated animals. I was close enought to hear the animals snort in what I can only describe as a combination of pain, ecstasy, revenge, love, and death. I am not sure what they were feeling but they jumped, bucked, kicked and bellowed like beasts that had just been released from the gates of hell.
The cowboys themselves were a beaten and tattered bunch. Tough Cowboy Jared Green from Socorro, New Mexico had to drop out of Saturday's competition because of pain in his shoulder. Green's injuries from rodeo competitions have included breaking both of his ankles, two surgeries on his shoulder, a knee operation, broken ribs, a broken hand, concussions and a knocked-out tooth. Green is only 22 years old.
The whole event seemed to teeter on epic disaster. Batshit crazy horses ran into fences at full speed and cowboys were thrown face first into the ground, while 5000 suburbanites in cowboy hats and real Georiga cowboys screamed.
It was insane, beautiful and chilling.