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“This is a tough book to walk away from. The icon of book-length sports journalism, John Feinstein, would be proud to include it in his body of work. It's that good.’’ – Booklist, See Complete Review

“A buzzing introduction to the world of professional bull riding, from New Orleans Times-Picayune sportswriter Peter.’’ – KIRKUS, See Complete Review

“Thrilling.’’ – ESPN The Magazine, See Complete Review

“Author Josh Peter’s amusing, and disturbing, look at professional bull riders introduces a lifestyle (actually several of them) with which many people aren't familiar. … Cheers.’’ – Fort Worth Star-Telegram, See Complete Review

“The tour was filled with suspense, humor, anger, booze, buckle bunnies, prayer, and burning desire for the members of the PBR and Peter didn’t miss a thing. … It is a quick read because you won’t be able to put it down.’’ – Gail Woerner, author and rodeo historian, See Complete Review

“…a colorful read, and not only because of the personalities and eccentricities of the riders. There are also the managers, the breeders of the bulls, the animal rights activists who oppose the whole business, and the riders’ families, girlfriends and “buckle bunnies” (groupies).’’ – The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, See Complete Review

"For readers who have never thought of bull riding as a sport, Josh Peter's
book is going to open a new world. For readers who already think of bull
riding as a sport, Peter's book is going to take them inside that world in
ways probably unimagined.'' The New Orleans Times-Picayune, See Complete Review

"...a richly detailed and highly entertaining introduction to the fascinating subculture that surrounds this high-octane and testosterone-fuelled all-American sport.'' Blackwell Online, See Complete Review

"Peter puts faces under those cowboy hats that nod for the opening of the
chutes. He tells the personal stories of the riders, why they do it, how
badly they hurt and their escape from personal demons.'' The Springdale (Ark.) Morning News, See Complete Review

"Josh Peter is a hell of a journalist, and the access he’s been provided to
his characters...and his ability to semi-fictionalize certain thoughts and
reflections, makes for a compelling, near-novelistic narrative. The writing
is skilled and the personalities are as big as the bulls they ride. Coming
out of the gate, it’s a successful mix.'' New West Network , See Complete Review

"Josh took the time to take us into the lives of the riders, he took the
time to take us behind the scenes and show what really goes on. ...it'll
captivate you and you won't regret picking it up.'' WorldofRodeo.com, See Complete Review

"(An) enthralling tale. ...Mr. Peter deftly steps out of the way and allows
answers to emerge from his finely drawn portraits of the star riders."
Dallas/Fort Worth GuideLive.com, See Complete Review

"The details are so good that at times readers may flinch in pain.'' The
Itinerant Librarian
, See Complete Review

"If you love to watch extreme sports, if you’re a bull riding fan, or if you
just want to read a good book with a small humorous Twinkie-twist, then get
“Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies & Bull Riders.” I think you’ll enjoy every
second of it.'' The Pahrump (Nev.) Valley Times, See Complete Review

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Josh Peter really put himself inside the sport of professional bull riding and has done a fantastic job capturing the distinct, hilarious, inspiring and bizarre personalities of the riders. Which is something that made it enjoyable to me not only as a rider but also a fan.’’ – Ty Murray, seven-time world all-around champion rodeo cowboy.

“Josh Peter’s grip on his subject is as sure as that of the extraordinary men atop these astonishing beasts. Come discover an American fiesta: The Riding of the Bulls.’’ – Gary Smith, writer, Sports Illustrated.

“Peter has thrown the chute open on a wildly entertaining sport…crafting an ambitious, riveting, balls-to-the-wall ride right to the finish. And that’s no bull…’’ – Armen Keteyian, CBS and HBO Sports.

“Richly detailed and deftly told, Josh Peter’s chronicle of life on the Professional Bull Riders Tour is a rollicking, ribald take on the 8 most dangerous seconds in sport. You come away grateful that Peter has brought his considerable skills to the subject – and relieved that your own workday doesn’t entail trying to stay on top of a bull.’’ – Wayne Coffey, bestselling author of The Boys of Winter.

"I just received and devoured Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull
Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour. ...Peter's a great,
grit-under-the-nails sports writer. ..." Lily Burana, author of "Strip
City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America," named one of the Best
Books of the Year (2001) by Entertainment Weekly, Salon, Newsday, and The
Rocky Mountain News.

"...a reservoir of unusual characters and information, and a dang fine
read.'' -- Garth Woolsey, Toronto Star sports columnist.

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Booklist complete review:

Booklist
The argument can be made that the Professional Bull Riders Tour may be the most dangerous, least financially rewarding of all sporting endeavors. Skull fractures, punctured lungs, and destroyed knees are all relatively routine injuries. At least now there is a million-dollar payout for the overall champion each season, but even that is in deferred dollars. Peter, a sportswriter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, spent the 2004 season with the PBR tour and offers a penetrating portrait of a sport that stands at that awkward stage between minor league and national acceptance. The riders represent many nations besides America -some say Troy Dunn, an Australian, was the best ever-and Peter gives a glimpse into many of their lives.

Much space is devoted to defending champion Justin McBride, a media Darling with his boyish good looks who is only now realizing that the Toughest part of being a champ is staying a champ. The book's title? Fried Twinkies are a genuine but rare concession delicacy, and buckle bunnies are the young ladies who curry the favor of the young macho men who ride the bulls. This is a tough book to walk away from. The icon of book-length sports journalism, John Feinstein, would be proud to include it in his body of work. It's that good. -Wes Lukowsky

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Kirkus complete review:

Kirkus
If you’re not one of bull-riding’s millions of fans, here are the finer points of trying to stay atop a whirling ton of animal flesh. The rider must remain on the bull for eight seconds, never touching it with his free hand, or dropping his rope. (Women have yet to break into this muy macho profession.) He can ride underneath as long as he doesn’t touch the ground, though he won’t win any points for artistry. Judges award points for the rider’s (and the bull’s) performance. After a half-dozen rides or so, the man with the most points wins. The author describes the origins of modern bull riding, rooted in liquor, gambling and bragging rights. He depicts the riders’ nocturnal rituals and outlines the sport’s financial incentives: The top rider gets a $1 million bonus, while others are guaranteed not one cent. He focuses on the 2004 season, a hotly contested series populated by a number of very different individuals, each smartly profiled. That season featured a square-off between the Professional Bull Riders’ president, an enormously popular ex-champ looking out for the riders’ interests, and the PBR’s CEO, whose eye was always focused on the bottom line. The competition was almost halted by a boycott—a sure indication that bull-riding has entered the big time. There were uncounted injuries, some serious, most of them ignored, and the season saw the flicker of a movement to ensure that the bulls weren’t mistreated by the riders, who occasionally used devious and injurious tactics to weaken the animals. All that action keeps the writing spirited throughout.

A portrait of a sport boasting tremendous ferocity and mayhem that may soon give NASCAR a run for the money.

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ESPN Magazine complete review:

ESPN Magazine
“Mama, don’t raise your babies to be bull riders. First, it’s dangerous. (The sport averages about one fatality a year.) Second, it doesn’t pay much. (Some sleep two to a bed to cut costs.) And third…did we mention it’s dangerous? No matter, these are the brave souls who hang on for dear life (and glory) in Josh Peter’s thrilling “Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour.’’ A few riders earn six figures, but as Peter explains, bowel perforations and separated shoulders are the true coin of this reckless realm.’’

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram complete review:

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - By Bryan French
In essence, their workday is eight seconds instead of eight hours.

But don't even think about trading jobs with them.

Author Josh Peter's amusing, and disturbing, look at professional bull riders introduces a lifestyle (actually several of them) with which many people aren't familiar.

Peter is able to put us in touch with riders who compete for buckle bunnies (aka groupies) and shows how they have to compete with bull riders who are fighting to stay in touch with God.

He shows the tour's wild side of Wild Turkey, wild nights and wild rides.

And he shows the touching side of friendships and love lives and coping with failure and pain.

He brings us a picture of Tuff Hedeman's special show in Fort Worth , known as the " Fort Worth Massacre," and Hedeman's brawl later in the year with the PBR bigwigs.

For any rodeo fan, this is a must read.

And anyone who likes stories about life should at least look at Peter's stories. How else would you find out that there was something bodacious featured in Penthousemagazine -- and learn that it was a bull.

And don't forget the fried Twinkies. The only place listed in the book to find them is Las Vegas , but there are other treats -- from crab cakes with crawfish to Cuban sandwiches to Bananas Foster -- available at other tour stops.

Fort Worth features $5.25 cocktails with whiskey, scotch, bourbon or vodka and the comment, "Unless it goes down easy with a mixed drink, they don't have it."

Cheers.

GRADE: A-

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Gail Woerner complete review:

Gail Woerner
Author, Josh Peter, picked a ‘doozy’ of a year to document during the reign of Professional Bull Riders (PBR). There was more controversy within the organization that year, not to mention the perpetual injuries that happen when a 145 pound cowboy tries to ride a 2,000 pound menacing bull.

The tour was filled with suspense, humor, anger, booze, buckle bunnies, prayer, and burning desire for the members of the PBR and Peter didn’t miss a thing. His interviews and personal feelings of some of the top 45 bull riders will make you understand the passion they have for this extreme sport. These young men, no doubt, could have reached ‘the top of the heap’ in numerous other venues, but bull riding, and only bull riding, was what they chose to do, despite the pain and tough odds of collecting the million dollar bonus, gold buckle and world title.

The award winning sportswriter from New Orleans also captured the feelings of the stock contractors, that supply the ‘other’ heroes – the bulls. Some fans root for the cowboy and some root for the bull. Hauling those four-footed buckers from one end of the nation to the other takes careful attention to their needs. It is most important for the bulls to stay healthy. Peter explains how the owners have put much cost and time in to their livelihood and sometimes they have paid big bucks just to own them.

The author minces no words when it comes to the conflict within this successful organization. A President resigns and the riders consider a boycott. Cowboys are known for doing things in unconventional ways. The resulting outcome will keep the readers in suspense, not to mention how the tour will end and who walks away with all the ‘gold’.

As a historian of rodeo I am aware this is the first organization that has reached success and drawn bull riders from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The PBR does not consider they are in competition with PRCA, but PBR did deplete the number of top level PRCA bull riders, as the best riders flocked to the PBR, for more money and more prestige. After all bull riding is one of seven different competitions in the PRCA. PBR is bull riding only. PBR was started by bull riders for bull riders and addressed all the complaints current competitors had about the sport. Number one: Money, number two: not enough good bucking bulls, and number three: prestige, which PBR promoted and satisfied the riders. Peter has written an indepth account of all aspects of the sport, which is like no other. He has covered the intense danger, the thrills, the pain, the hangovers, the family concerns, the different personalities in the riders, the bulls, and the fans. It is a quick read because you won’t be able to put it down.

Previously Josh Peter has won numerous awards and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. He may not receive a Nobel Prize for this book, but he gets the “NO BULL” award for his excellence in covering a very unique sport and giving his readers a front row seat.

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The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle complete review:

The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle - By Leon Cohen

Bull riders and first time author confront fears in order to achieve

If the prime illustration of the Yiddish word chutzpah (presumption-plus-arrogance) is the teenage boy who murders his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan, then perhaps the prime illustration of the word mishegoss (insanity) is to be a competitive bull rider.

But to Milwaukee native sportswriter Josh Peter, successful bull riders in fact have to have some chutzpah and mishegoss, but also more — “burning desire and passion,” “love for riding and a sense of connection to the animals,” and the capacity to confront and vanquish their own fear.

“I’ve read and heard that the best way to overcome your fears is to face them head-on,” Peter said in a telephone interview. “I know [riding bulls] must bring an incredible exhilaration and sense of power, the way it does when we face a personal fear and conquer it.”

How does Peter know this without ever having himself attempted what the riders must do — sit on the back of a one-ton bull with one hand gripping a rope and, despite the bull’s serious objections, stay there for eight seconds?

Peter followed the Professional Bull Riders season across the country from January to October 2004, and chronicled it in his first book, “Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour,” recently published by Rodale (246 pages, $24.95).

In fact, Peter said the process of writing a first book and bull riding are both “terrifying … I felt like I was on a bull, and it threw me, and I was stupid enough to climb on again.”
And he did this while “juggling fatherhood and husband-hood” and working his regular job as a sportswriter at the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Seeks the off-beat

The result is a colorful read, and not only because of the personalities and eccentricities of the riders. There are also the managers, the breeders of the bulls, the animal rights activists who oppose the whole business, and the riders’ families, girlfriends and “buckle bunnies” (groupies).

The bulls also are important and colorful characters; as one rider put it, “These guys are athletes as well.” They have such delicious names as Ugly, Bodacious, Little Yellow Jacket, Tornado; and they are themselves in competition for the title of Bull of the Year.
And there is beginning to be sizeable money involved in this “extreme sport.” Beginning in 2003, the champion rider of the year took home a $1 million prize; and the number of viewers has grown from 12 million in 1995 to around 100 million today.

Peter came to this subject the same way he came to much of his career. “I’ve always been attracted to the off-beat, enjoyed finding stories in places other people weren’t going,” he said.

While born in Milwaukee, Peter was raised in southern California with many trips back to visit grandparents Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz, and Ruth (now of Denver) and the late Manny Peter. Once he learned in high school that he couldn’t hope for a career as a professional athlete (having been cut from the soccer and basketball teams), he joined the school newspaper and began transforming a love of reading good stories about sports into a career.

Even then, and later as a journalism major at Northwestern University , he was eager to write about subjects others might disdain — freshman and sophomore football in high school, women’s basketball in college.

After six years working in South Carolina – where this Reform Jew found himself being “an ambassador for the religion. People would say to me, ‘I’ve never met a Jew; tell me about Judaism’” — he joined the Times-Picayune in 1997, becoming “sports enterprise and investigative writer.”

Then came the day in 2000 when he was walking by his boss’s desk and saw a press kit for a bull riding event. “It would have ended up in the trash,” but “I knew it had to be an interesting story,” Peter said.

Peter, his wife Vanessa and 16-month-old daughter Nora came through Hurricane Katrina with only mild damage to their home. Still, out of “concern for Nora’s future as much as our own,” Peter is contemplating leaving New Orleans , possibly for southern California .

He is also thinking about writing another book, the true story of a young New Orleans man “from the projects” who faced charges of crack possession; but who stole a school bus and evacuated some 60 people from the city before Katrina hit.

“What I love about this story is what it says about how we define people and view them,” Peter said. “This kid, who was largely seen as a hoodlum and of no use to the community, in the face of a crisis acted heroically…. It’s amazing.”

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The New Orleans Times-Picayune complete review:

The buck starts here - By Steve Weinberg

TP sports writer Josh Peter travels the bull riding circuit, profiling
people seized by the promise of eight seconds of triumph in the ring Sunday, November 06, 2005 By Steve Weinberg Contributing writer For readers who have never thought of bull riding as a sport, Josh Peter's
book is going to open a new world. For readers who already think of bull
riding as a sport, Peter's book is going to take them inside that world in
ways probably unimagined.

Peter, a Times-Picayune reporter, followed the bull riders, their families,
their fans, the breeders of the bulls and others involved in the circuit
from competition to competition month after month. Inside Louisiana, that
meant watching from the stands in Bossier City and Thibodaux. Outside
Louisiana, that meant journeys to Las Vegas, Reno, Nev.; Atlanta, Fort
Worth, Texas; Oklahoma City, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Kansas City,
Indianapolis, Nashville, Tenn.; Greensboro, N.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Grand
Rapids, Mich.; Mandan, N.D.; Anaheim, Calif.; and even outside the nation to
Brazil.

To a previously uninitiated reader, bull riding seems most akin to boxing --
where the athletes wear little or no protection, intentionally undergo a
pummeling, and so usually end up seriously injured more than once during
their professional careers.

At least bull riders risk their well-being during a briefer interval than
boxers. If a rider, using just one hand to grip, can stay atop the bull for
eight seconds, that is considered a victory. The best possible score for a
bull ride is 100 points, but judges award no points if the athlete is thrown
before eight seconds -- or if the rider remains atop the bull but touches
the animal or his own human form with the free hand. Half of the 100 points
are directly in control of the rider who qualifies, especially based on body
position and whether constant control has been maintained. The remaining
points relate to the performance of the bull; the more difficult it is to
ride, the better the rider's score. Judges seek bulls with power, speed,
direction changes, body rolls, a drop in the front end, and a kick in the
back end.

The riders profiled by Peter are unforgettable in one sense -- they harbor
vastly different riding styles, personal relationship styles and family
backgrounds. In another sense, they meld together: All of them are driven by
a passion for those eight-second rides that might be difficult for readers
to understand because it seems too foolhardy.

All the main characters who ride the bulls are male. Females populate the
book almost exclusively as mothers, wives, girlfriends and groupies, the
"buckle bunnies" of the title.

Peter places each prominent rider on the circuit within the context of the
sport's meteoric growth during the 1990s and into 2005. The tour champions
can earn more than $1 million annually because of nationally televised
competitions and larger arena crowds.

At the end of each chapter about the individual competitions, Peter lists
the standings of the riders -- how many points they have earned, how many
dollars they have earned. At the end of 2004, the grand champion is Mike
Lee, with 12,138 points and $1,417,592. Because the grand champion receives
such a large bonus, the second-place earner took in significantly less --
$253,921. Adriano Moraes finished second. In many ways, he is the book's
most memorable rider, partly because of his outsized personality, partly
because of his Brazilian roots.

As for the "fried twinkies" of the title, Peter mentions them at the end of
each chapter, too. He had heard about fried twinkies served on the bull
riding tour, but had never seen or eaten one. So, at each arena concession
stand, he asked if fried twinkies could be ordered. The answer each time:
no. But Peter eventually found an eating establishment serving fried
twinkies, and so puts one in the book's photograph section. Peter's fried
twinkie quest is harmless enough, but at times seems to marginalize further
the sport that has found it difficult to remove itself from the margins of
society.

That fried twinkie criticism is a quibble, though. Peter is a dogged
reporter, a keen observer and a clear writer. He has taken the exotic and
skillfully turned it into the quotidian.
. . . . . . .
Steve Weinberg is a journalist in Columbia, Mo.

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Blackwell Online complete review:

'If the PBR doesn't get your fire going, your wood is wet'. In 2004 journalist Josh Peter spent ten months trailing the jingling spurs, WWF-style pyrotechnics, colourful costumes and blaring rock music of the Professional Bull Riders tour from Jacksonville, Florida to the final two-stage showdown in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The season started like any other: 800 cowboys risking torn muscles and busted bones as they battle for the chance to grab the million-dollar end-of-year prize. At each event success is measured in seconds - the eight most dangerous in sport. Climb on top of your bull and cling on till the buzzer and you register a score. Most riders fail. For these bulls, loaded into their chutes like missiles, are
cross-bred monsters, one-ton beasts chosen for their ability to buck, whirl, rear and drop. Against the backdrop of an ever-changing leader board, Peter weaves the dramatic story of the 29-stop tour with those of the tour's personalities: the top riders and minor-league wannabes, the wives, fans, groupies, breeders, agents and, of course, the monster bulls themselves. "Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies and Bull Riders" is a richly detailed and highly entertaining introduction to the fascinating subculture that surrounds this high-octane and testosterone-fuelled all-American sport.

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The Springdale (Ark.) Morning News complete review:

Reporter Puts Faces Under Cowboy Hats - By Laurinda Joenks

Hang on to your bull rope! The top 45 cowboys of the Professional Bull
Riders meet this weekend and next in Las Vegas for the World Finals and a $1
million bonus check.

The event is televised on the Outdoor Life Network, but for those fans
jonesing for an adrenaline fix in the interim, "Fried Twinkies, Buckle
Bunnies and Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour"
(Rodale, 2005) might make this season better than July's "Cowboy Christmas."

Josh Peter, a sports writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, hit the road
with the top riders of the PBR for what proved to be much more than an
eight-second ride. Peter follows the circuit for the entire 2004 season,
stopping with the cowboys in most of the 26 cities on the tour.

And at each arena and stadium, he searches for a delicacy: fried Twinkies.
During the 2003 season finals in Las Vegas, Peter is tantalized by a
billboard.

"'Deep-Fried Twinkies,' it advertised, competing for attention with flashing
neon lights and towering casinos dominating the skyline in a city overrun
with buckle bunnies, as female rodeo groupies are known," he writes. "Bull
riding and the Twinkie, both quintessentially American."

PBR fans will appreciate the play-by-play Peter offers of individual rides
during the season and the standings list at the end of each event and
chapter. The detail in his reports puts even the greenhorn readers in the
chutes with the cowboys.

"Climbing into the 6-foot-deep, coffin-shaped metal chute, Chris Shivers
lowered himself onto the back of Silver Select, a 1,600-pound bull," the
book opens at the 2003 finals in Las Vegas, where Shivers won the
championship and pocketed a $1 million bonus check.

"He wrapped a custom-made bull rope around his left hand and, with his right
hand, pounded his gloved fist. Then he tightened his legs against the bull
and called for the gate with a shout of 'Go.' The chute gate swung open, and
out they burst, man and beast."

Peter puts faces under those cowboy hats that nod for the opening of the
chutes. He tells the personal stories of the riders, why they do it, how
badly they hurt and their escape from personal demons.

He cracks wise with No. 2 rider Justin McBride -- despite the threat of
being called a "fart stick" -- as the bull rider tries to change the number
on his back that lists his ranking and his shortfall of the 2003 season. He
listens to the prayers of the reclusive Mike Lee, who finishes the season as
the world champion. And he visits Adriano Moraes at his home in Brazil while
he recovers from an injury that could hurt his chances at winning his third
world title and becoming "the greatest bull rider that ever lived."

"Bull riders are no ordinary men," Peter writes. "To see that, one need look
no further than the beasts they attempt to stay on for eight seconds. The
bulls, weighing up to 2,200 pounds, go by names like Dippin' Rampage,
Tombstone and McNasty -- and have dispositions to match. ... But the riders,
if not as strong as the bulls, were just as tough."

But the PBR is not just the cowboys -- it's also those bulls, which account
for half of the score given by the judges on each ride. Peter shares the
struggle of Joe Berger, the owner of Little Yellow Jacket, hoping his son's
pet could win his third Bull of the Year honor in his final season before
retirement.

"Little Yellow Jacket weighed about as much as most NFL offensive lines --
1,800 pounds, give or take a few helpings of alfalfa and oats," Peter
writes. "On all fours, he stood 5 feet 3 inches tall, and when he bucked,
his hind hooves stretched to almost the top of the 6-foot-tall chutes.

"With brown eyes the size of half dollars, loose skin sagging beneath his
chin, and a reddish brown coat, he blended into a pen of bulls. The key to
picking him out of the crowd was the horns. The right one extended parallel
to the ground and his left one curved down, as if it were borrowed from a
ram.

"What separated him from his four-legged colleagues became clear when a
rider climbed on his back and the chute gates swung open. Little Yellow
Jacket unleashed a wicked combination of speed, power and determination. As
long as the rider was on his back, he never quit -- like the man who had
bred and raised him."

The cowboys competing in the Built Ford Tough Series -- the top level of
competition -- made a stop in Springdale that year; apparently, Peter did
not. But the Penzoil Invitational, May 15-16, 2004, sponsored by the Rodeo
of the Ozarks, is mentioned in the book. It was during this event that stock
contractors demanded new rules for the riders to protect the bulls.

"It went beyond animal rights," Peter writes. "The stock contractors
supplied the PBR with the country's best bulls, and they wanted their
investment protected, because the value of the bulls and the cost of
business was skyrocketing." (Berger received an offer of $130,000 for Little
Yellow Jacket before the 2004 season was over.)

Peter also looks at other facets of the PBR, the bull fighters, the medical
team and even the business and politics of the sport in this the year
renowned bull rider Tuff Hedeman resigned as president of the organization
he helped found.

"Peter gives us a rare inside look at the world of bull riding, introducing
the major players -- the stars of the PBR, the fans, the groupies and some
of the angry bulls ...," reads media information provided by Rodale. "...
and exposes the realities of life on the road -- the camaraderie and
competition, the drinking, the injuries, the prayers and the loneliness of
being away from home."

Back in Las Vegas, at the end of the 2004 season, a new cowboy is crowned
king, a veteran bull becomes a legend and a bull riding fan finds his
Twinkies.

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New West Network complete review:

A New West Book Review - By Allen M. Jones, 11-18-05

Rodeo. It’s hard to imagine a sport more freighted with American symbolism.
Forget for a minute the whole cultural, Clint Eastwood romantic
undercarriage. Six shooters and sunsets. That sort of thing. Instead, hold
it up alongside our few other national pastimes. Like baseball, it’s a sport
(arguably) born on American soil. With football, it often asks for a token
sacrifice of cartilage and tendon. Next to boxing, it cultivates, in its
fans, a remnant of coliseum, Christians-versus-lions schadenfreude, a
screaming for blood. Unlike these sports, however, rodeo has its roots in
practical hard work, in western capitalism, in utility. No lazy afternoons
swinging a bat around a green diamond. No absurd eighteen holes with a
crooked stick and caddy. Rodeo started out as a cowboy amusement, an
exhibition of the practical work-a-day talent that allowed a guy to do his
job. With the notable exception of bull riding (and maybe, on the county
fair level, nanny slamming, greased pig catching, sheep riding) every aspect
of rodeo seeded out from the business of raising beeves. Breaking horses,
twisting steers, calf roping, it all began as an exhibition of talent, an
attempt to establish bragging rights. Turn er loose, open er up, grab some
leather and roll your spurs. Here’s how you do it, fellers.

But then there’s bull riding. Nothing practical here. No good, utilitarian
reason in the world to strap yourself to an 1,800 pound slobber-slinging,
horn-hooking, pissed off Brahma cross named Tender Kisses. No, bull riding
is all about cojones, jewels, huevos. Who’s got the biggest. Being tougher’n
a shelled cob. Getting hooked in the ass then buying a round, showing off
your scars to a whole ‘nother set of hookers. Also, money. Making a hobo’s
railcar living, sure, but with the elusive, unlikely possibility of a huge
payoff at the end. It’s about entertainment. Ours more than theirs. The
point could be argued, but seems like most people watch bull riding for the
same reason they watch Nascar. For the wrecks.

The new book by New Orleans journalist, Josh Peter, Fried Twinkies, Buckle
Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour,
wants to show us the personalities and corporate machinations behind these
wrecks (one out of every 15 rides, we’re told, results in an injury that
needs treatment). It’s a skillful, often ironic glimpse behind the star
spangled facade. Using the 2004 PBR tour as an armature, Peter follows a
handful of last year’s most talented cowboys from church to saloon, locker
room to prayer meeting, steel chute to hospital, traveling from Jacksonville
to Anaheim to Las Vegas, building along the way a portfolio of fleshed out
character studies that are by turns fascinating, endearing, and
objectionable. These enormous, homespun personalities packed into 150 pounds
of cocky, beat up muscle. Imagine McEnroe traveling town to town, sharing
motel rooms with Connors. Think about Elroy bellying up to the bar with
Montana.

Here’s a world in which your fiercest competitor can be your best friend, in
which your every success is tainted by the awareness that your buddy hasn’t
made the grade. There’s two time champ, thirty-four year old Brazilian
Adriano Moraes, self-proclaimed as “the greatest that ever lived.” In the
hunt for an unprecedented third PBR title, Moraes fights through knee
surgery, a cracked eye socket and fractured jaw (courtesy of the right horn
of a bull named Smokeless Wardance), and finally a ripped tendon in his
bicep. There’s Mike Lee, overtly religious (on the edge of self-righteous)
and reclusive. “Outside a handful of devout Christians, he rarely talked to
other riders.” There’s two time champ, 5' 5" Chris Shivers, “the Tiger Woods
of our sport,” who has been profiled in Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and USA
Today. There’s Justin McBride, who was set on his first bull when he was 2 ½
years old. “His father had ridden bulls. So had his grandfather, who had
been killed in the ring when a bull punctured his lung.” These are the
little guys who stand awkwardly introduced in civic centers and football
stadiums across the country, flanked by fountains of fireworks and barraged
by looping Motley Crue. Think about it like an idiosyncratic conflation of a
Kiss concert and livestock sale, the superstars puffed up with the blandly
arrogant personalities of your average high school wrestling coach.

Like everything else with the least dram of entertainment value, it turns
out that bull riding has gone corporate. Between portraits of the riders,
Peter digresses to trace the economic arc of the PBR, from the first motel
meeting, in the early nineties, with rodeo legend Tuff Hedeman and a dozen
other bull riders (each chipping in $1,000 to get the ball rolling), to
Hedeman’s 2004 resignation. ‘“I’m a cowboy,” he said. “I’m looking out for
the best interests of the cowboy. I’m no politician.”’ Peter also makes it a
point to talk about the bull fighters, those heroic, self-sacrificing
athletes whose job it is to distract the bulls after the cowboy’s bucked
off. And, perhaps most interestingly, he talks to the owners of the bulls,
discussing the value placed on a good bucker. There’s Little Yellow Jacket,
who in 2004 was named three time “PBR Bucking Bull of the Year” (co-owned
by, among others, song writer Bernie Taupin). In discussing a potential sale
price, the owners placed a value on Yellow Jacket in the neighborhood of a
cool mill.

The book has its weaknesses. Peter’s inexplicable emphasis on a search for a
“fried twinkie” (every chapter is punctuated by a price list of food items
at the various concessions stand, none of which – as it’s endlessly pointed
out – includes a fried twinkie) does an enormous disservice to the subject
and to the writing, trivializing both, presumably in the interests of
providing a catchy title. But the book’s considerable strengths finally
overshadow the occasional slip. Josh Peter is a hell of a journalist, and
the access he’s been provided to his characters (he visits Moraes at his
home ranch in Brazil, for instance) and his ability to semi-fictionalize
certain thoughts and reflections, makes for a compelling, near-novelistic
narrative. The writing is skilled and the personalities are as big as the
bulls they ride. Coming out of the gate, it’s a successful mix.

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World of Rodeo complete review:

World of Rodeo Review - By Hank Wilson

Looking for something for the dye-in-the-wool bull riding fan? Then check
out Josh Peter's book 'Fried Twinkies - Buckle Bunnies & Bull Riders' Hank Wilson

In a day and age where folks are mostly only satisfied by instant
gratification, where if we can't watch it happen we don't believe it took
place, where in order to satisfy the enormous appetite we have developed for
the sensational; it's tough for folks to get noticed.

As the publisher of this web-site I am flooded with videos, books,
articles all purporting to give the reader, viewer, listener the absolute
'inside look' at bull riding, bronc riding, roping, barrel racing and for
the most part whatever I'm looking at falls far short of the mark. That's
why on this site, we only sell 1 Bull Riding DVD and that's why (although we
have links to Amazon.Com) we don't offer books, I just haven't run into that
many things I'm comfortable endorsing.

About 8 months ago I was contacted by Rodale Press and asked if I'd be
interesting in taking a look at a new book. The book was titled 'Fried
Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies and Bull Riders' by someone I had never heard of.
But I said yes and thought no more about it. Then a couple of months ago I
received the book in the mail. Now, I must admit to having some trepidation
about reading the book, especially with the title, because I know what
'Buckle Bunnies' are and I'm the Pastor of the Llano Cowboy Church.

Then I opened the book and found that Josh Peter had captured the sport of
bull riding better than anyone else I had read. From the PBR World Finals
in 2003 through the PBR World Finals in 2004 Josh took the time to take us
into the lives of the riders, he took the time to take us behind the scenes
and show what really goes on. He didn't try to glamorize it, he stayed out
of the gutter, he showed the Christian Cowboys and he showed the Beer
Drinking side, or in the words of the Johnny Cash song, he walked the line
and he did it very well.

If you're a fan of bull riding and you want to know more about Chris
Shivers, Adriano Moraes, Justin McBride, Mike Lee, Jody Newberry and of
course the real stars, Little Yellow Jacket, Pandora's Box.

If you want to know what went on and why Tuff Hedeman left the PBR's board
of directors then this is the book for you. It's easy to read, it'll
captivate you and you won't regret picking it up.

Oh, and if you want to know were the fried Twinkies are, you really do have
to get the book. You can check it out here.

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Dallas/Fort Worth GuideLive.com complete review:

Who's afraid of the big bad bull?
SPORTS: Neither sprains nor strains nor broken ribs will stay these riders from their task

By Sarah Bird/Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

The Professional Bull Riders tour is like an action movie with everything
removed. Nothing left but the car crashes and explosions.

Bull riding, long the most popular event in rodeo, was traditionally saved
for last place in the show since its potential for gore kept spectators
glued to their seats through calf roping, bronc riding, steer wrestling and
other events with links to ranching, however remote. The birth of the PBR in
1992, featuring whole shows consisting entirely of this most dangerous
event, changed all that. The PBR tour goes straight for the money shot: tiny
men atop an enraged bull that, unlike the frightened calf or the bucking
bronco, wants to kill them.

Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the
Professional Bull Riders Tour is sports writer Josh Peter's engaging account
of the 2004 season in the sport that dreams of replacing NASCAR. In profiles
thick with telling detail, Mr. Peter focuses on the year's top four
contenders: former champ Chris Shivers, Brazilian rider Adriano Moraes,
perennial runner-up Justin McBride and eventual champion, devout Christian
Mike Lee.

These are the stars among the 800 or so young men who like to think of
themselves as cowboys as they attempt to stay on board for the required
eight seconds. The big prize is $1 million (in deferred money) that top
finishers compete for. It's a winner-take-all format with one man taking
home the bonus money and the rest hobbling away with only their injuries.

And, with one out of every 15 rides requiring medical treatment, there are
always plenty of injuries. By Page 2, Mr. Peter has inventoried a partially
collapsed lung, broken rib, skull fracture and emergency brain surgery. Only
one rider every season wins a championship buckle, but every kid (and bull
riders tend to be surprisingly young and surprising small) who climbs onto a
ton of homicidally inclined bovine eventually ends up being awarded bruises,
scars, stitches, casts and metal plates. If they're lucky. Arguably the most
famous bull rider was Lane Frost, who was immortalized in the Luke Perry
film Eight Seconds, and he died in 1989 after being gored at Cheyenne
Frontier Days.

With pain and physical harm virtually guaranteed, hardly a page of Mr.
Peter's enthralling tale goes by without medical mention: a dislocated leg
tendon, concussion, Vicodin, blood, death, stomping hooves, torn cartilage,
broken shoulder blade, tibia, fibula, cracked eye socket, fractured upper
jaw, severed spinal cord and a $1 million dollar hospital bill for an
uninsured rider. The last two were endured by Jerome Davis, a top contender
for the 1998 national championship. His spine was snapped, leaving him
paralyzed from the waist down.

In spite of the physical mayhem they wreak, the villain of Mr. Peter's story
is not the bulls with names such as Satan's Twin and Crossfire Hurricane.
Nor is it the PBR, which has yet to make protective masks or helmets
mandatory, even though that group's adoption of the Kevlar vest after Mr.
Lane's death dropped the incidence of serious chest and abdominal injuries
tenfold. No, in general, it is doctors who are the force that our heroes
struggle to overcome. Doctors are the ones who sensibly tell broken riders
that they'll never, ride, walk or drink without a straw again. Whereupon,
acting out this sport's essential drama, the young men defy doctor's orders.
They leave hospitals and emergency rooms, then wander around for days with
concussions they later proudly recall not recalling. They cut off casts or
stick spurs on them, deaden pain with a 12-pack and some horse pills and, in
rituals of stoicism that are the sport's truest link to any real cowboy
heritage, they limp back into the arena.

All of which leads the noncombatant to wonder: "Why?" Asked this question
directly, 99 out of 100 rodeo cowboys will respond, "Just crazy, I guess."
Crack New Orleans Time-Picayune reporter that he is, Mr. Peter deftly steps
out of the way and allows answers to emerge from his finely drawn portraits
of the star riders.

Readers peek into the world of home-schooling and Christianity ruled by a
stern father that made young Mike Lee both a champion and an enigmatic
recluse on the circuit. They glimpse the closest thing the book offers to a
true American cowboy, Brazilian Adriano Moraes. Visiting Mr. Moraes at his
working ranch in Brazil, Mr. Peter captured a fascinating portrait of
another son of another stern father who rode his way out of dirt-floor
poverty by teaching himself at the age of 12 to stay on a bull named Rubber
using a motorcycle glove and a flank strap.

Possibly the best answer, though, comes not from a rider but from Joe
Berger, owner of Little Yellow Jacket, voted PBR's Bull of the Year.
Sixty-seven years old, health failing, 50-year marriage already failed,
relations strained with his five children, Mr. Berger said of the
diamond-encrusted gold championship buckle crowning his ample gut, "I don't
have a Learjet. I don't have a ton of money. But I've got the buckle."

As for the author's own personal Holy Grail, the fried Twinkie of the title,
Mr. Peter had as much luck finding one of those hydrogenated delights as a
bull rider does of staying unbroken. It's probably just as well he didn't.
Clogging your arteries with creamy filling doesn't stand up here as one of
the more macho ways to wreck a body.

Sarah Bird's The Yokota Officers Club won the 2001 Texas Institute of
Letters' Jesse Jones Award for best novel.

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The Itinerant Librarian complete review

Booknote: Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull Riders

What little I knew about bull riders I pretty much caught watching
television. I have been caught flipping channels and watching the OLN
broadcasts of bull riding competitions. Therefore, when I came across this
book, I was curious, and I picked it up. I am glad I did. Josh Peter spent a
year with the PBR Tour, getting to know the riders and their stories as well
as the politics and folklore of the PBR organization. In the process, he is
on a quest to find a deep fried twinkie, a treat in some concession stands
at fairs and other events.

This book is a moving and at times humorous account of the lives of the
riders and other people involved in the PBR. By other people, I mean the
contractors who provide the bulls, the safety people who distract the bulls
to keep riders safe (formerly the rodeo clowns, but they do not wear white
faces or clown outfits anymore), the administrators and officers of the PBR,
the fans, and the buckle bunnies, who are the groupies that follow the
riders. We also learn about the bulls themselves, and they are as important
to the event as the riders. You can't have one without the other. In fact,
the bulls compete for a Bull of the Year Award, which nets some financial
bonuses for the owner. The riders compete for a one million dollar purse and
the championship buckle, but it is a long and arduous journey to even get to
the finals.

The book is interesting and engaging. It gives good details of the events
and the rides, and it also tells the stories of the riders in the tour.
Riders from around the world come to the United States to compete in the
PBR: Brazilians, Australians, and Canadians amongst others. They compete out
of passion. Some compete out of college; others never went to college. When
compared to other sports, the pay is extremely poor, and the risks are
extremely high. Risks range from bad injuries to paralysis to even death.
Peters provides details of the various injuries the riders endure, and very
often the riders ride with lesions or injuries. The details are so good that
at times readers may flinch in pain. As for the riders, they are all looking
for a good 8 second ride. I learned in reading this book that 8 seconds may
not be a long time, but it can be an eternity for the riders as they strive
to stay on their bulls. What emerges from the narrative is a very human
portrait of these folks from the riders who are very spiritual to the ones
who are, shall we say, more worldly. We also get a glimpse at their families
and what they endure as the riders chase their dreams. Often they have to
pay out of their pocket to travel to the competitions, and if they do not
win, they barely make enough to make it to the next event.

This is one of the best books in nonfiction I have read this year. Readers
do not have to be fans or even know much about professional bull riding to
enjoy it. However, I think that people who do follow the PBR will likely
enjoy this book as they read about stars like Justin McBride, Mike Lee, and
Jody Newberry. It has a good pace, so the book moves along. Before you know
it, you are done. As for the fried twinkies, he did find them, in a very
interesting place.

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The Pahrump (Nev.) Valley Times complete review

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, bookwormsez@yahoo.com
December 14, 2005

Eight seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, does it?

Professional singers can hold a note for much longer than that. You probably
read these three sentences in less than eight seconds. Eight seconds isn’t
even enough time to warm a cup of coffee in the microwave.

But imagine jumping astride a bull that wants you off its back. You’re only
allowed to hold on with one hand, you need to stay put for eight seconds,
and you have to look good doing it. Eight seconds, in this case, is an
eternity.

With that in mind, author Josh Peter followed an elite corps of athletes who
willingly jump astride up to 2,200 pounds of muscle and fury. In his book,
“Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the
Professional Bull Riders Tour,” those athletes might win big bucks if they
can avoid getting bucked off.

The cowboys are mostly young; a man in his 30s is considered to be nearly at
the end of his career. They are mostly Americans, but they also come from
Brazil, Canada, Australia, and Mexico. They are all men, although women
groupies called “buckle bunnies” play a big part of this story. Sportswriter
Josh Peter followed the bull riders of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders,
Inc.) for their 2004 season, including the bone breaks, the heart breaks,
and the heart-stopping action.

There was the crowd-pleasing Chris Shivers, who was small in physical size,
but a giant in the arena. Justin McBride, an Oklahoman who hated wearing the
number 2 on his back, because it signified the reason he was jokingly called
“McBridesmaid.” Brazilian Adriano Moraes, whose two PBR championships were
followed by two years of bad luck. Mike Lee, who was running from lustful
thoughts and sin while he was chasing a million dollars.

And then there were the bulls: Little Yellow Jacket, two-time Bull of the
Year, whose bad temperament brought his owners back from the brink of
bankruptcy; Pandora’s Box, also a contender for the title; and the legendary
Bodacious, whose name still puts a dose of fear into riders.

Eight seconds on a one-ton mean-spirited creature with horns and sharp
hooves. Why do the riders do it? For the adrenaline. For the money. And for
a gold diamond-encrusted buckle. Not necessarily in that order.

For most people, jumping on a bred-to-be-nasty bull is kind of like keeping
an elephant in the back yard: it’s an interesting thought, until you
actually have to do it. I liked this book because it’s a peek into a world
that only a few rugged athletes will ever see, and because author Josh
Peters reports rather than opines, which will give you much more of a “you
are there” feel while you’re reading it.

If you love to watch extreme sports, if you’re a bull riding fan, or if you
just want to read a good book with a small humorous Twinkie-twist, then get
“Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies & Bull Riders.” I think you’ll enjoy every
second of it

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