Sport: The Suicide Circuit

The scrawny cowpoke draped over the bars of the end stall looked like anything but a big money man. His ancient riding boots were scuffed and patched; the brown leather chaps over his faded Levi's had seen better days. But he had the casual swagger of a champ. He ran a cool eye over Gold Dollar, a mean-looking palomino, and climbed aboard. Outside the chute, San Francisco's Cow Palace echoed to the voice of the announcer: "The first three-time all-around cowboy champion in history—Jim Shoulders!"

Gold Dollar bucketed into the glare of the arena. For eight frantic seconds the wild-eyed animal whipped...

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