If there's ever a sport in which you don't want to look your foe dead in the eye, it's bull riding.
It's one thing trying to hang on with one hand to the back of a bucking ton of muscle, and quite another to have that same hand tangled in a rope on the same animal, which now has an eyeful of what's bothering it.
That was Grant Fatzinger's plight Friday - eye to eye instead of seat to back with a bull at the Broken Horn Rodeo at the Seneca County Fair.
"I looked him straight in the face and my hand wasn't out of the rope," he said. "It's not a good feeling. Your heart just kind of sinks and you just wonder what's going to happen next, and either you get lucky or you don't."
Luck was with Fatzinger, along with some bullfighters, who helped untangle and separate the pair.
Theirs is a job the 2008 Mohawk graduate truly appreciates. Before he began riding bulls four years ago, he trained to be one of those keeping the riders safe from them.
"I just always wanted to do it since watching the fair and the bulls, and nobody thought I'd do it so I went and did it," Fatzinger said.
He took a three-day course in Van Wert at the Sankey Rodeo School in 2007. But after a year on the ground, he switched to riding.
It was part whim and part safety.
"I just jumped on and started riding. I pretty much learned from bullfighting," Fatzinger said.
"Bullfighting is more dangerous than riding. Bull riding, you're in there for eight seconds," he said. "If you're fighting bulls, you're in there for a long time, you're in there until everybody's done, and if somebody gets hung up, you've got to save 'em."
He's seen a lot of both since getting involved. Fatzinger said he's competed in about 20 rodeos so far this year and expects to be in at least 30 before the season ends, competing in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
And it's an expensive sport.
He's always on the lookout for sponsors to help cover costs such as transportation, equipment and entry fees, which can range from $65 to $100. The payouts, meanwhile, can go from $1,000 to $4,000, he said, depending on the number of competitors.
And then there's injuries.
That bone-jarring - and sometimes breaking - work can lead to career changes, and Fatzinger said he's thinking of soon trying his hand at team roping.
"Trying to get into that; a little bit longer career. I'm about done with the bull riding," he said. "It's getting pretty rough on my body. It takes a while for me to get up in the morning sometimes."
But he'll stay in rodeo, and that's important for people such as Kevin McElroy.
He handles the livestock for Broken Horn Rodeo, which has been owned and operated by his parents, Jim and Sandy McElroy, for the past two decades.
And he knows the work involved. Before taking over the livestock portion of the family business, he competed professionally in steer wrestling and team roping.
"I'm just trying to get the younger generation to do what we did. That's the key to rodeo, to get your younger people involved in it," said the 38-year-old. "Without the younger group, rodeo's going to die, so you've got to get your younger people coming up and get them going."
Broken Horn Rodeo is helping with that. The Ripley, Ohio-based company is now on its third generation in McElroy's family - his 6-year-old daughter is on the younger end of that most-recent generation - and takes its show on the road all over the country.
Tiffin is a familiar spot, with last year's Seneca County Fair being named the 2011 Mid States Rodeo of the Year. But it can be a grind for the family and competitors.
Broken Horn Rodeo puts on 35 to 40 rodeos each year, with hundreds of competitors following along the way. Friday's rodeo brought more than 400, McElroy said, adding that's not uncommon.
"Most everybody that's here follow me. Most or all of the contestants that are here, they usually follow us from rodeo to rodeo," he said. "It's just because they know the money's good and they don't have to worry about the stock or getting good stock.
"That's all I do for a living, is rodeo," McElroy added. "I got a few other things going in, things in the fire, but that's just side jobs.