10/01/08 — Eight seconds to honor his dad

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Eight seconds to honor his dad

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 1, 2008 1:53 PM

Ethan Barnett says a prayer.

He sets himself, grabs hold and signals that he is ready.

The gate opens and Whiskey starts to buck.

Ethan's ride lasts less than eight seconds, but that doesn't matter.

The 17-year-old wasn't there to earn a prize in the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair's bull riding competition Tuesday.

He was there for his dad.

Ethan did not have to compete Tuesday evening.

Had he decided not to show up at the Wayne County fairgrounds, those who knew him would have understood.

The day marked the anniversary of the death of his father, Randy.

But for Ethan, climbing on that bull was part of a grieving process that began on a similar night just a year earlier.

And when the gate swung open, he "knew" Randy, one of those on the receiving end of that prayer, would keep him safe.

Ethan was among those who endured close calls with sharp horns and plenty of bucking for a shot at being named champion of the fair competition.

But for the Pikeville resident, it wasn't about the cash prize.

It was a way to connect with a lost loved one.

"My daddy would want me to," he said.

In fact, Randy always encouraged his son to ride.

"He liked it a lot," Ethan said. "My daddy wanted us to go everywhere."

So forget about the cowboy hats and boots.

Don't ask Ethan about the packed grandstand or the thrill of taking home third place in front of his hometown crowd.

For this particular young man, none of that really seemed to matter.

He had come to let "the ride" take him away -- as he did last year, just hours after his father's death.

And ride he did.

"The adrenaline rush gets you going," Ethan said. "Once you have had a good ride, doing it again, it's all you think about."

Well, that and the person he did it for.

"He was looking down," Ethan said. "Yes sir, he was watching."