Jeff Robinson may never understand the unfortunate passing of Rango.
The World Champion Bull contender was in the prime of his career when he died this past fall. His untimely death was not only a loss to Robinson’s bull pen, but it also took an emotional toll on the four-time Stock Contractor of the Year.
At the time, Rango’s death left him at a loss for words.
It’s was like losing a family member and, during the grieving period that followed, it was a blow to his passion for the sport.
“It was tough,” Robinson recalled. “I love all of them, really, but two of them I really connected with and were special to me. That was Chicken (on a Chain) and Rango because they weren’t really anything when we got them and they became something and they had a distinct personality. I don’t know? It’s been tough. It was a tough deal.”
At home in Mars Hill, North Carolina, Rango was playful.
He was energetic and mischievous and Robinson recalled having to always tie the gates or Rango would find a way to get out.
“I think he knew he was special,” Robinson said. “You don’t replace those bulls. It’s hard to find them. I don’t know how many times they were 90 on him in the last year, but it was a bunch.”
For the record, the Top 35 riders in the world recorded four qualified marks on him of 90 points or more, in 2014, and three others of at least 88 points or more.
Since making his Built Ford Tough Series debut in 2011 there were three other scores of 90 or better and he’ll be featured in the upcoming motion picture “The Longest Ride.”
“You don’t expect stuff like that and you don’t want to lose a bull like that in their prime,” Robinson said.
However, Robinson will be in Baltimore, Maryland, next weekend when the 2015 season gets underway.
It will mark the 150th consecutive BFTS event, including the World Finals, in which Robinson will have hauled some of the top bulls being used in a pen arranged by longtime PBR livestock director Cody Lambert.
It’s only fitting Robinson would set another milestone in a city like Baltimore.
Cal Ripken Jr., played for the Orioles during his entire record-setting Major League Baseball career in which he played in a staggering 2,632 consecutive games and was named to the all-century team.
The PBR is entering its 22nd year of competition and Robinson has established himself among the greatest stock contractors in PBR history along the likes of Dillon and H.D. Page and Chad Berger, who was named Stock Contractor of the Year this past October for the fourth time in his career.
Robinson’s stature has less to do with his stout 6-foot-2 frame and everything to do with being the only contractor to have kept two separate trailer loads of bulls on the year for the past five BFTS seasons.
“It’s tough, but we’ve managed,” said Robinson, who is expected to haul all 16 of the bulls he had in Las Vegas for the World Finals at the Baltimore event. “I think they’ll be pretty strong.”
Through the years, Robinson has relied on great help – drivers Casey Robinson and Clint Haas – and partners to develop a pen deep enough to make it work, but he said this coming schedule doesn’t look like it will be as difficult as some of the past seasons.
During the opening stretch from January through May there are no two BFTS events in Eastern and Pacific Time Zones in back-to-back weeks.
“Every year you’re facing new obstacles and new struggles to make it work,” Robinson said. “You just play the hand that’s dealt.”
He added, “Some years it was east coast, west coast, east coast, west coast.”
Robinson doesn’t intend to slow down.
In fact, he plans to hit the road as hard as he’s gone.
“It’s been a good run,” said Robinson, who has been the top hauler of Built Ford Tough Championship Round bulls for the past five years. “We’re always looking. We’re trying. I don’t know if it’s possible to put together the kind of bulls we had 2010 or 11, but we’ll keep trying.”
When asked about his unmatched feat, Robinson replied, “That’s consistency. Quality.”
In addition to the 16 bulls he had in Vegas, he’s also planning to bring a couple new bulls to Baltimore that hopes will eventually find their way in the short rounds.
Last year, he recorded 306 outs – 40 more than Berger – and 63 of which were in the Championship Round, which was also 18 more than Berger.
“Even though we didn’t win I thought we were just as good as the year before,” said Robinson, who plans to show up week-after-week in 2015 with the best bulls he has.
The past three years – 2013, 2012 and 2011 – he crushed the competition from the standpoint of total numbers.
He recorded 1,160 total outs compared to 740 by Berger, while he tallied 218 in the short round. Berger was second during that three-year stretch with only 91.
However, looking back, Robinson referenced 2010 as a watershed moment for his program.
He had 495 total outs, of which a PBR record 117 were in the Championship Round.
Those numbers don’t even account for the number of World Champion Bull contenders he’s hauled. Chicken, who won a title, was a four-time contender, while I’m a Gangster (3), Voodoo Child (3), Major Payne (2), Rango (2), I’m a Gangster Too (2), Gunpowder & Lead (1) and Highway 12 (1) have all contended.
In fact, he’s had at least one contender every year since 2007.
“I think 2010 would rival anybody’s top bulls,” said Robinson, who was hauling Chicken, Voodoo, Gangster, Major Payne, Highway 12 and Gunpowder & Led that year. “Then you have bumps in the road with a bull like Rango. He was a two-time bull of the year contender and he passes in a freak way.”
Robinson will once again look to reload and – with Baltimore on the horizon – he simply concluded, “I’m just constantly looking.”
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