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Remembering Lane Frost vs. Red Rock

25 years ago, two legends brought bull riding into the mainstream

PUEBLO, Colo. (March 11, 2011) - [The story of Lane Frost and Red Rock is one of the most documented in western sports history. It is a tale that has been told in print, film and television — yet it still captures our imagination and thrills us 25 years later. As time has passed, though, it is often Frost’s tragic death that is remembered and discussed rather than his amazing accomplishments in the sport.  Frost’s legacy is his character and talent. He has inspired so many people to chase their dreams and live life to the fullest. Frost and Red Rock were ambassadors for our sport — they were responsible for a series of events that brought bull riding into the mainstream consciousness and helped take it to the next level. During that time, there were no bigger stars in rodeo than Lane Frost and Red Rock. –S.B.]
 
In 1987, Lane Frost was crowned World Champion Bull Rider, and John Growney’s unridden bull Red Rock was named Bucking Bull of the Year. Red Rock had bucked off Frost at the 1985 and 1986 NFRs. Frost would have been 10-for-10 in 1986 if not for Red Rock.

Growney Brothers Rodeo Co. decided to retire the champion bull after his title win and 309 unridden outs. But then Growney thought another match between the champions might help cement his bull’s place in history. Ultimately, it was determined the two athletes would face off seven times at rodeos across the western states. This  event was billed the “Battle of Champions.”

The bull got the best of the cowboy in Red Bluff and Clovis, Calif. But on May 20, 1988, history was made when Frost rode the unridden bull. Don Kish, who co-owned Red Rock, said at the time, “That was one of the greatest bull rides by one of the greatest bull riders you’ll ever see.”

Frost and Red Rock battled each other back-to-back June 11-12. The first event in Livermore, Calif. went to Frost. On June 12 (after both cowboy and bull had traveled all night to Oregon), the fight continued in Sisters, where Red Rock was originally from.  It was the last ride of the night, and the adrenaline and anticipation was thick by the time Frost nodded. The crowd cheered them both on.  

It was an atypical left-hand delivery for Red Rock, but Frost hung on and fought the bull all the way to the whistle. The cowboy described it as one of the best rides of his life. “I’ve made a couple of 91 point rides in my life,” said Frost at the time, “and this one felt a good three or four points higher.”  

But Red Rock won their next Oregon battle in St. Paul, tying their epic matchups at 3 each. Bragging rights would come down to who could win in Spanish Fork, Utah. Frost not only covered Red Rock, he rode him for 9.63 seconds.

That was the official end to Red Rock’s career.  He died in 1994 at age 18 from an apparent stroke. He is buried on Growney’s Ranch.

Barely a year after Frost went 4-3 in the Battle of the Champions, the great young cowboy would be dead. After an 8-second ride on Bad Company Rodeo’s SO Takin’ Care of Business at Cheyenne Frontier Days, Frost dismounted, only to have the bull turn around and come at him. Frost’s ribs were broken by the bull’s horns, severing a main artery. Frost is buried in Mt. Olivet cemetery in Hugo, Okla., next to his dear friend and mentor Freckles Brown.

Read the complete story in the March/April issue of ABBI’s The American Bucking Bull magazine. For more information on the ABBI, visit abbinow.com.

-By Susan Bedford


[Linda Rosser took this photo of Lane Frost on Red Rock. It has appeared in many publications, including USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, Western Horseman and PRCA News. It has also been used in films and documentaries about Lane Frost and Red Rock.]