By JOHN McBRYDE
Brothers Luke and Houston Herbert do a good bit of traveling as competitors on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
Both compete in bareback riding, and the PRCA tour takes them as far as Oklahoma and Iowa to the west and a few stops in Canada to the north. Most of their travel is in the southeast section of the country.
And Saturday night, the only traveling they’ll do is from their home in College Grove to the Williamson County Ag Expo Park for bareback riding at the 70th annual Franklin Rodeo. Action got under way Thursday and continues at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Both Luke and Houston said competing before the home crowd has its pros and cons.
“The Franklin Rodeo is definitely one you grow up dreaming about winning, but it also carries the most pressure,” Luke, 26, said. “When you’re up in Quebec or somewhere where nobody knows you, it’s a lot easier compared to when you have friends and family there watching you. It seems like there’s a lot more pressure to do well. That can kind of work on your nerves a little bit.”
Houston, 23, said competing in the home arena causes a few more flutters, but all in all it’s a positive experience.
“You definitely have a few more butterflies than you normally would if you were somewhere out West, but it’s not too bad,” he said. “It’s just another chance your family and friends will get to see you ride. So we think of it more of a blessing that everybody gets to be there and share the experience with us.”
The brothers’ passion for life in the rodeo comes naturally. Their father, Joey Herbert, competed in bareback riding in his younger days. (Their mother is Judy Herbert, Williamson County Commissioner in District 2.)
“We grew up knowing about it and went to rodeos with him,” Luke said, “but I didn’t actually start competing in rodeos until I was 20.”
Houston, however, got started in rodeo when he was a junior at Page High School. He competed in the Tennessee High School Rodeo Association for a couple of years, and eventually earned a rodeo scholarship at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Luke had played traditional sports — football, baseball, basketball — growing up and in high school. But when he got to college, at UT-Knoxville, he recognized he wasn’t big enough or fast enough for the gridiron or the baseball diamond, so he decided to pursue the rodeo.
“I got bored with not having a goal to go for competition-wise, and rodeo was about the only thing I could think of that I could do,” he said. “It was kind of a transition to a different sport. I started off getting on a few bulls and I was honestly scared to death. Since my dad used to ride bareback horses, he obviously didn’t encourage riding bulls. So he said if I switched to bareback he could help me.”
In addition to spending time on the rodeo circuit, the Herbert brothers are partners in a fencing business. And to meet the demands of a very physical sport such as bareback riding, they hit the gym three or four times a week. They’ve been fortunate not to have had any serious injuries.
“We’ve been very blessed,” Luke said. “There’s going to be constant bumps and bruises. I’ve torn my groin twice and hurt my hand once, but that’s all. Houston has messed up his groin before and his knee, but considering what can happen, we’ve been blessed with a lot of good health.”