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Chris Wilson doesn’t ride bulls anymore.
“You have to be a special person to ride a bull,” the 37-year-old husband and father of four said over the phone Monday. “I’ve been stepped on. I’ve been rammed into the ground. And I’ve been sat on.”
The sport of bull riding is a young man’s game, Wilson said. “ I’ve seen guys get thrown 50 feet into the air.” He said he has a brother-in-law who is paralyzed from the neck down from bull riding.
Still, along with Wilson’s acknowledgement of the danger involved with straddling 3,000 pounds of adrenaline and fury, comes a fond description of his days as a rider.
“I loved how I felt when I was on top of a bull. I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic, up on the front.”
It gave him focus, he said, but he was only able to do it for about a year. His dreams of professional bull riding were derailed one night about 14 years ago at a bull riding club in Orlando called 8 Seconds. He said he’d had too much to drink. He staggered out of the club and wandered too close to some train tracks a couple of blocks away. A train was coming. It smashed into his body.
“I died four times on the way to the hospital,” he said.
He was in a morphine-induced coma for two out of the five weeks he was in the hospital. He had 17 surgeries just to reconstruct his face.
“My head was swelled up so big it was like a basketball.”
Wilson said he was in physical rehabilitation for about five months after getting out of the hospital. Four months later he tried to get back on a bull.
“I was already on a bull when I was still on crutches.”
But the physical pain was too much for Wilson to bear, and he didn’t attempt to ride for another bull for 10 years. In 2006, while Wilson was living in Archer, he got in touch with Eugene Carter of Carter’s Arena in Chiefland and worked out a deal to ride some bulls.
“Eugene is an awesome guy,” Wilson said. “He gave me an opportunity that no one else would give me.”
A documentary filmmaker, Gabriel Tyner, heard about Wilson’s story and what he was doing at Carter’s Arena. Tyner grabbed a camera and headed to Chiefland, filming in a day footage for what would become a 7-minute short called “Chiefland". The movie, featuring Wilson in four separate bull rides throughout the day, documents Wilson's urge to conquer his disabilities.
“It’s an American Story,” Tyner said recently in a phone interview. “It’s bull riding. It’s the U.S.A. It’s a story about getting back on the bull.”
The movie, costing about $2,000, took four years to make it out of production, Tyner said. In April, the movie kicked off the Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, S.C.
“It’s a huge, huge honor. We pretty much set the tone for the whole festival.”
Other films at the festival included “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “American Jihadist”. Tyner’s movie was also featured on the International Documentary Association’s web page—next to films like “Food Inc.”.
Tyner, who’s been making documentaries for about 10 years, said he’s heard good things from people who have seen the movie.
“It’s all about storytelling, finding a way to keep the audience engaged,” Tyner said. The movie is inspirational.
Tyner is currently working on a documentary called “Chasing Ghosts: Fighting Gangs in Schools”.
As for Wilson, he said he’s content, for now, to stay off the backs of bulls. He and his family recently moved to Palm Coast. Wilson is taking classes at Daytona State College, though he admits he is unsure about what field to get into.
The one thing he is sure about, however, is that he was meant to be alive. Wilson said he’s not a church-going man but believes God has some purpose for him to fulfill.
“I’ve got something to do, and I’m not leaving until I do it. I’m not gonna’ quit. I’m gonna’ live to be a ripe old age. The funny thing is, I’ll probably get hit in the head by a dragonfly one day and die.”
For more information or to see a trailer for “Chiefland the Movie,” go to www.chieflandthemovie.com.