Memories last longer than 8 seconds

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Exeter educators reflect on bull rider’s legacy

Few names in the pint-sized Barry County town of Exeter brought as much pride to the residents of the community as Mason Lowe. 

Exeter's Mason Lowe looks to corral bull named Speckled Demon during the L.J. Jenkins Bull Riding Tour event in May 2017 in Cassville. Cassville Democrat photo

Lowe was the typical All-American boy. He grew up in the small town, played sports at the high school and had a dream that burned inside of him that no amount of water could extinguish.  

That dream was to become a professional bull rider.

Exeter’s Mason Lowe rides the spin of Lucas Oil Air Up There during a PBR event in Springfield in September 2017. Jared Lankford/

“I always ask my students what they want to do when they grow up,” said Christy Hermansen, who taught Lowe English and Communication Arts during high school. “I always had those students that wanted to be professional football players or wanted to be professional basketball players. So, as a teacher, you want to support them in those dreams, but you also ask ‘What is your Plan B? What are you going to do if that doesn’t work out?’ For Mason there wasn’t a Plan B, it was always, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’”

As official word began to spread Wednesday morning of the 25-year-old’s passing from injuries sustained in a bull ride, tributes from thousands of people began pouring out.

“Mason was crazy, genuine, intense and hilarious,” said Jay Allen, who taught and coached Lowe at Exeter. “He was like gravity. People were just drawn to him. He was a popular kid. His friends were fiercely loyal. Mason was a good young man.”

Despite Lowe’s drive to make it big in bull riding, his personality is what made this southwestern Missouri cowpoke different.

“I just remember how down to earth he was with everybody,” Allen said. “He could be an intense competitor, and he was quick to have the back of his friends and teammates. He was a huge supporter of everyone else, and like I said, people gravitated to him. Personally, I liked having Mason around.”

While at Exeter, Lowe was a two-sport athlete, playing basketball and baseball.

While Allen said Lowe would admit to not being good at either when compared to his passion and preparation for bull riding, he was still a great athlete to coach.

“I think that was one of the things that was his strong suit,” Allen said. “At least with me, he was extremely coachable. I remember a game we played at Chadwick and he was pitching. I told him that when he was hitting that day he was going to have to help himself out and that he probably should do that earlier rather than later, meaning I wanted him to swing earlier. The first pitch he saw was a ball above his eyeballs and he took this axe-swing-ugly-chop attempt at it and ended up hitting a home run. It was a pitch no baseball player had any business swinging at. As he rounded third, he looked at me and said, ‘Something like that kind of help?’ and I said ‘Yeah, something like that.’ From a coaching position it was an ‘Oh god, don’t swing.’ and that turned into ‘Oh my god, it’s a home run.’ But, that was Mason.”

In the classroom, Hermansen used that passion to help further Lowe’s education.

“He was always about horses and the rodeo,” Hermansen said. “Anything along that line he was interested in. He got along great with the students and faculty. He was a young man that knew what he wanted to do. I always admired that about him that he knew what he wanted to do, and he followed that. As a teacher, you always want to find things students are interested in to help them learn. Take writing an essay. If I wanted Mason to write an essay, all I had to do was tie the assignment to horses or the rodeo. When I was able to do that, I could get him to easily write an essay.”

Lowe’s rise to the Professional Bull Riders Association (PBR) was meteoric. 

“There is no way to explain the rush you get bull riding,” Lowe told the Cassville Democrat in 2017. “You don’t have much time to think, you hold on until you hear the horn, and hope you earn enough points to take home some pay.”

By age 18, Lowe began his quest for a home on the prestigious circuit of the top 35 bull riders in the world.

He competed at his first PBR event on Oct. 21, 2011, at the Touring Pro Division (TPD) event in North Little Rock, Ark. Less than 10 months later, he qualified for his Premier Series debut in Tulsa, Okla., on Aug. 10, 2012, and posted the first qualified ride of his career with 87 points on Super Cool Kat.

Lowe competed in 69 total Premier Series events, reaching the PBR’s top level of competition full time in 2015.

He made it back to the Premier Series by finishing an unprecedented first, second and third at Poplar Bluff TPD in March 2015.

“Whenever you have a person who goes after their dreams and has success, it is something a whole community can get behind,” Hermansen said. “The community of Exeter was immensely proud of Mason’s accomplishments. There is no doubt about that.”

Once Lowe made it inside the PBR Top 35, there was no turning back.

The Barry County son participated in 192 PBR events in his career, riding 141 of the 350 bulls he was pitted against (40 percent) and earned almost $400,000 in his career.

He won 12 PBR events, with 43 top 5 finishes and 67 top 10 finishes, and he had four career rides score 90 or more points. He climbed as high as No. 11 in the world rankings and was ranked 18th this year.

On Jan. 15, the ride ended for Lowe, as he succumbed to injuries after Hard Times, a bull weighing about 1,700 pounds, landed on his chest at the end of a ride. 

PBR spokesman Andrew Giangola said Lowe was wearing a mandated protective vest.

“It’s devastating,” Allen said. “I think as coaches, we aren’t supposed to have favorites. We work hard at treating everyone the same. But, Mason was special. We kept in touch after he graduated and I moved away from Exeter. When I would have a big win up here, Mason would reach out to me. When he would win on the PBR circuit or have a big ride, I would reach out to him. The fact we maintained those connections makes this loss cut a little deeper. It hurt the most because I knew he was a great man, who had just married and was living his dream and it feels like it was all cut too short.”

Hermansen echoed Allen’s sentiments.

“I was heartbroken,” Hermansen said. “I followed him on Facebook, I know that he also rode around here locally, and I always had hoped that I could go watch him ride. When someone has a dream like that and it gets cut short, it is just heartbreaking.”

For several people, Mason held a special place in their hearts, if for no other reason than just being that small-town kid that they could identify with when his dream came true.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I can put it into words, and I honestly don’t know if I am qualified to describe that,” Allen said. “Mason was a champion for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. He was a local kid that made big. He had a dream, he could define his dream, he attacked his dream and he achieved his dream.

“In that sense when a local kid makes it big, it is something that everyone can rally around and have pride about.”

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