Friday, August 15, 2014

Mr. Roper Rides A Bull

I covered the older adults day at the fair yesterday and was getting frustrated after wandering around the grounds looking for someone (anyone!) who appeared to be old and enjoying themselves. 

I was shooed away by a couple of older ladies in big straw hats as they took in the crop museum in one of the barns. They were too busy, they said.

I was a little dejected, honestly. I was on my way to the FFA food booth the console myself with a friend twinkie when I heard a pretty loud commotion from one of the midway tents. I wandered up and saw this older gent seated on the mechanical bull getting tossed this way and that, whooping it up. 

There it was. I had my story.

Richard looks so much like Mr. Roper from Three's Company that he used to get into clubs and bars free in Branson, Missouri in the 80s when he and his wife would take the bus tours. He won a hula hoop contest in his 60s, beating out all manner of child and adult alike. 

He even told me he'd just taken his wife on the Ferris Wheel.

"We get to the top of the thing and you know what I say to her?" He asks me, accentuating the punchline with a squeeze of my arm. "I tell her 'put out or get out!' Looks like she didn't get out , right?"

I took a portion of the story that ran in today's paper and a couple of the photos I took that didn't run and shared them here. I figure everyone should meet Mr. Robinson.

HARRISONBURG — Richard Robinson Sr. of Lacey Spring had a crowd of onlookers gathered before the mechanical bull began moving.

Robinson, 76, gripped the rope by his knees and gave his wife of 60 years, Charlotte, a wink.

“He’s nothing but a recycled teenager,” Charlotte, 75, said, shaking her head. “You should have seen him during his Elvis impersonator days.”

With a whir, the bull began its spinning and bucking and Robinson held tight, lasting a total of 20 seconds before sailing off. He landed safely on the inflated mats, and gave his wife a thumbs-up.

The Robinsons attended the Rockingham County Fair on Thursday as part of Older Adults Day, where folks 60 and older paid just $2 at the gate.

“Older Adults Day is a long-standing tradition at the fair,” said Jeff Ishee, the fair’s general manager. “It’s always well-attended and makes for a fun day.”

For Robinson, it’s all about the adventure. Having seen a mechanical bull on television before, he always thought he’d like to try it someday.

“I have four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren,” he said. “I’m running out of good stories to tell them, so I have to stay interesting. I never back down from an adventure. I’m always on the lookout for a good time.”

“It’s never dull with Richard,” Charlotte said. “He’s the church clown, believe it or not.”

As Robinson sat tying his shoes on, the ride operator wrote his name on the record board. As of noon Thursday, he held the record for the 50 and older group.

“I’m going to keep swinging by here to check on this,” he said motioning to the board. “I get a free T-shirt to prove I won. How many people my age will have one of those?”