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21st century cowboy is a whole new breed

Magic Man kept turning, tighter and tighter circles, in hopes of finally bucking Chad Eubank off his back. Eubank kept throwing his weight back, to keep his balance.

In the eight seconds that Eubank rode Magic Man on Thursday night at the Caldwell Night Rodeo, it was hard to decipher much more than that in this man-against-beast competition, the man was holding on for dear life and the beast looked like he was winning.

But as Eubank slowed down the action, frame-by-frame on his video camera, it became clear that in this delicate ballet, man was doing more than just holding on. There was a reaction for each of the bull's actions.

And, though he couldn't hear the timer beep over the near-capacity crowd at Caldwell Night Rodeo Arena, Eubank knew exactly when he reached the eight-second mark.

The ride was good enough for an 81, which puts Eubank in sixth place and likely to reach Saturday night's finals. The CNR continues tonight with the fourth performance at 8 p.m.

Before dissecting the ride on his camera — going through it in super-slow motion for the uninformed questioner — Eubank had slipped off his riding pants, unwrapped the Ace bandage from his upper right thigh and slipped on his designer jeans.

Video cameras and designer jeans.

Welcome to the rodeo, 2006-style.

"We're in a new millennium. I think there ought to be some change," the 27-year-old Eubank said.

And he's not afraid to say it. He doesn't dress like an old-school cowboy and doesn't sound like one. He knows few of them would welcome him.

"I think a lot of them look at me like I'm a hippie. Like back in the '70s when cowboys and hippies didn't get along because the hippies had long hair and wore earrings. I think it's like that," he said.

"I wouldn't dress like that. I like wearing designer jeans, designer shirts. I don't want to dress in old-ass Wranglers. Nothing against Wranglers."

Wrangler, of course, is a prime sponsor of the Caldwell Night Rodeo.

"People judge you by what you wear. That's life. But I want people, if they judge me by what I wear, maybe they'll gain a little respect for me," he said. "I see guys in the airport, wearing shorts and a T-shirt and a cowboy hat. We want people to respect us, not think we're rednecks. I don't want to be thought of as a redneck at all."

Eubank, who began riding at 12 and considers himself a horseman, is embracing the change. His camper is outfitted with advertising decals. He enjoys the money and the exposure that television coverage has brought to rodeo and bull riding, in particular.

"Rodeo has a lot of older fans, but we also have a lot of younger fans," he said.

Unlike many older riders — but like many of the sport's younger set — Eubank attended college, riding at Tarleton State and Hill College. He earned two degrees, one in marketing and one in welding.

"I wanted to get into real estate because they ain't making no more land," he said.

Eubank, who lives in Cleburne, Texas, feels for the old cowboys, the ones struggling to make a living as land and water become sparse (and expensive) commodities.

"They're the real deal. We're feeding off something that they started, which is rodeo, and nowadays, if you're good enough, you can make a living at it," Eubank said.

Eubank is doing exactly that. He's won more than $115,000 in career earnings and took first in the Southeastern Livestock Expo Rodeo in Alabama earlier this year. Monday, he's headed for an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in a rodeo in Brazil.

No doubt when he heads to the airport, he'll be decked out in those designer jeans, a designer shirt and his cowboy hat.

"Girls like the way I dress, and I like it when girls like the way I dress," he said.