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Former bull rider wore broken bones as badges

5:54 PM, Feb 15, 2011   |    comments
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"Every single one of us knew you could get killed," Abe Morris said. "People know if you ride bulls, you're going to get hurt."

Morris is a former bull rider now. But when he was still doing it, he says broken bones were like badges.

"I broke my leg twice," he said. "I broke four ribs. My shoulder's been out a couple times."

Few bull riders look like Morris, but he is used to standing out in a crowd.

"My cousins were the black cowboys. I didn't see a lot," he said.

Especially as a kid growing up in New Jersey, but that is where his love affair with rodeo began.

"The first time I rode a junior bull, [I] won $7.50," he said.

By 1974, he was riding for a team at the University of Wyoming.

"After I got there, I was told that I was the first black cowboy to ever attend the University of Wyoming," Morris said.

That is when he found out that being one of the few was not always good.

"There were these old school judges," Morris said. "Those were the guys who were really tough on me."

But his teammates, amazed by his skills, always scored him high.

"They embraced me. I saw no prejudice whatsoever as far as the University of Wyoming rodeo team," Morris said.

They are stories he is now proud to share with his son, Justin.

"I look to look at my dad and see that he did it and was really successful," Justin Morris said.

Many others have also read his stories.

"I've written two books. My first one is 'My Cowboy Hat Still Fits,'" Abe Morris said.

It includes the tale of how he hung up his chaps.

"I had a serious injury in '84 that caused me to quit riding," he said.

He moved on to bigger things.

"I became a PRCA announcer. I was the first African-American issued a card to announce rodeo," he said.

Those achievements recently got him inducted into the National Multi-Cultural Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame.

"It was really an honor," he said.

Abe Morris says he is not sure how many other black bull riders will get those honors.

"I kind of see the black cowboy as a dying breed," he said. "I thought there would be more black cowboys... but to be honest, there's less."

"Now, there's maybe five guys you see on a regular basis," Morris said.

For him, what matters more than color, is just being a cowboy.

"It was tough, but I enjoyed it," he said.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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