BELTON — There are few men or women who can claim that climbing on the back of an angry, bucking animal weighing roughly 800 pounds isn’t one of the most frightening experiences they have gone through.

Ross Sherrod is one of them.

Sherrod, admittedly, still gets nervous when he rides in a rodeo but the 31-year old has seen far worse. The Conroe native spent four years in the Marines, serving as an explosive specialist on two separate tours in Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged in 2005.

During the first day at the 89th Annual Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo held at the Belton Expo Center, Sherrod led the charge once more, scoring a 67 in bareback riding.

“I could have rode that horse a lot better, she was a great horse,” said the three-year PRCA pro. “I’m glad to be in first place. I’ve ridden here a lot but have never won – here’s hoping right?”

“It’s just fun – I have a great time doing it,” he added. “It’s what I love to do.”

Sherrod said he felt no pressure performing in front of a crowd so close to Fort Hood. He only wanted to perform well and to put on a good show on the Fourth of July, saying that he didn’t believe in a rivalry between Army and Marines.

“We are all brothers in arms,” he said.

Australia native Travis Edwards scored a 79 to lead in the saddle bronc competition on the back of Holly Bucks. Edwards said he always dreamed of coming to America to compete on the rodeo circuit and now is getting to live that out.

“I get to rope during the week and rodeo on the weekend – this is the life,” Edwards said. “I grew up watching my family rodeo so I’ve been doing it my whole life, but I’ve been here 9 years now and haven’t done what I set out to do.”

Sam Powers holds the opening-day lead in steer wrestling with a time of 9.2 seconds. Two cowboys are tied for the lead in tie-down roping. Aubrey’s Clint Akins and J.D. McCuistion of Collinsville each finished in 8.8 seconds during slack time Thursday morning.

Team roping, barrel racing and bull riding weren’t completed by press time. The rodeo resumes tonight at 7 p.m. at the Expo Center.

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