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September 22, 2017
Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon

Photo: Norma Lopez Molina

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Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon

Rodeo champion, Osceola County sheriff's deputy, Kenansville; age 45

Art Levy | 8/26/2016

» I can get along with anybody. It doesn’t matter what kind of person. Whether I want to or not, that’s a different story, but I can fit in.

» Mom was always nervous about me riding bulls, like any mom would be. Dad told me to go ahead if I wanted, but he always told me: ‘Them bulls will hurt you, boy. They’re made for eating, not for riding.’

» I was born in Holopaw, which is just around the corner from Kenansville, and then we moved to Deseret Ranch. My dad worked on the ranch, and I was pretty much raised on the ranch.

» When I was about 5, I went to the Silver Springs Rodeo in town, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to be a bull rider. Being on the ranch, they had a practice arena there, and they would buck bulls on Thursday nights, and some of the guys helped me get on a few — and I started liking it. I even wrote it on a kindergarten paper that I wanted to ride bulls.

» There ain’t nothing at the end of the road for a rancher if you don’t own your own land.

» I won the world finals in 2000. That was pretty much the highest part of my career. But, at the very beginning, I was just making ends meet. I mean there were times when I’d pay my entry fees and didn’t have enough money left to get myself a hamburger at the end of the night.

» When I travel, I like talking to people about Florida. Most people don’t know that Florida is always in the top five or 10 cattle-producing states in the country. We got more cattle in Florida than you can shake a stick at.

» The only thing my parents expected out of me was to be a good, upstanding citizen. The job didn’t matter. They said just be yourself and hopefully something’ll work out for you.

» No ifs, ands or buts about it. I loved riding bulls. I loved every bit about it. I loved the thrill of it. If you do it for the money, you’ll never make it.

» I’m a person who doesn’t take the easy road. Even if I don’t know how, I’m still going to go in with both feet. I’m not afraid to learn.

» My hours at the sheriff’s department are usually late in the evening, so I can work a half-day at the ranch practically every day. I’m still a working cowboy, which entails just about everything — working cows, patching fence, tractor work, mechanic, you name it — and I love every second if it.

» Nobody knows me as Dan. I was born Tater. My dad had a friend he really looked up to and respected, and the man’s name was Tater, so my dad named me after him.

» The bulls are bred to buck, but not all bucking bulls are aggressive. There are a lot of those bucking bulls, when you go in the back pens, you can scrub them on the neck and rub them on the head and pet ’em. There are some that you can’t. Bulls have a demeanor just like people. I don’t want nobody rubbing on me, so I’m going to be a little pissed off, but some guys, they like a little petting and rubbing.

» Everybody says, ‘Why did you go with the sheriff’s department?’ I like the adrenaline. You never know what you’re going to get. You pull over a vehicle, it’s like opening the gate on a bucking chute.

» Osceola County is growing so fast that it’s going to be hard to preserve what we have. The land is worth so much money. You can’t hardly raise a cow or raise an orange grove or sell your hunting rights for what they’re going to pay you to put a subdivision on your land. So the people who own the land — if it’s not locked up in a conservation-type easement — as soon as old grandpa dies, the kids this day and time who get ahold of the land are probably going to sell.

» My wife says I don’t have a sense of humor.

» To succeed in bull riding, you need attitude and confidence. It’s 95% mental and 5% ability. I could win the biggest rodeo today and, tomorrow, go to a different one and get my guts stomped out and end up in the hospital. One day you’re the champ. One day you’re the chump. You’ve got to stay confident.

» I’m still going strong. I have to. I have to stay in shape to chase the bad guys. I don’t work out near as hard as I should, like anybody else, but if I have to fight for my life today, I want to be able to whup somebody’s ass.

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