by Charlie Coon
Joe Frost and I chatted at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper last month a few days before he was crowned national champion bull rider. While we spoke of the present-day my thoughts drifted back to 1989 when I walked up some steps behind the chutes in Cheyenne and ran into a cousin of Joe’s he would never know. Lane Frost was heading down the stairs with a couple of cohorts. He looked tired and didn’t wear his usual ear-to-ear smile but other than that the lanky world champion bull rider from Oklahoma seemed fine. I nodded and said ‘good to see you Lane.’ He responded in kind and kindly, as always.
It was the final Sunday of ‘The Daddy of ‘Em All’ and few, if any, have compared. The legendary bareback rider Bruce Ford flailed out on the maiden bareback voyage of Khadafy Skoal – a horse that would one day earn a spot in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. Ford and Khadafy won the bareback riding.
A bucking bull like no other that had never been ridden to the whistle, would be, and Lane Frost was killed.
You sometimes hear the only way for a niche sport like rodeo to gain mainstream popularity is to put a face to it. Lane Frost was our sports’ face in the mid-1980s. NBC’s George Michael brought his nationally televised “Sports Machine” to Cheyenne every year in those days. He and his wife Pat loved horses and rodeo. George loved Lane Frost and so Lane was on national television regularly talking bull riding and rodeo. (George Michael died in 2009)
It is presumptuous to say there won’t ever be another face that becomes ProRodeo’s leading entrée to a national audience of potential fans. After all you’d have to say Ty Murray has made considerable inroads. It is completely true however to say there will never be another Lane Frost. We’d like to share this video tribute:
Being a writer means you have to put words on paper. Maybe someone else will read them one day but that doesn’t matter. A writer has to write. Here’s a verse from a poem called ‘Lane’s Last Ride’ I stowed in a drawer the last 25 years:
When word came back that Lane had died, I went out to be alone.
The great Mr. T stood by himself. It was the first day he’d been rode.
I said, “Ole T, Lane died today, not long after you lost your race.”
Then that bull he blinked his eyes and two tears ran down his face.