Rodeo cowboys live a strange life. Many of them come from ranching families in tough parts of the country, and they spend their years driving 12 to 15 hours at a time between events where they risk great bodily harm for relatively small paychecks. Few people pay attention, and many riders end up broke while carrying on the pageant and theater of the old West. Some, though, are skilled and fortunate enough to reach the sport’s World Series, the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas. The difference between these two worlds couldn’t be more stark: one’s full of dust, the other, bright lights and free drinks. These images, shot while producing a story for The California Sunday magazine about Oklahoma bull riding wunderkind Sage Steele Kimzey, illustrate both universes in up-close detail. The boredom, the thrill, the adrenaline, the dust, the Coors in the training room—it’s all there.

-Abe Streep

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