Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat

Billy Scharton stumbled into the world of Xtreme Bronc Riding by accident.

Three years ago, when the Randy Stewart Team's mugger was a no-show at the 2011 Mother Lode Round-Up, a team member approached Scharton and asked if he be interested in filling in.

Scharton, who grew up watching his father compete in the event, took a chance and from there, the 2000 Summerville High graduate's career took off.

As a mugger, Scharton's job was to hold the horse's halter and stop any forward movement to allow the rider to successfully saddle, mount and ride the horse to the finish line in under two minutes.

And in Scharton's first official appearance, he and his team succeeded.

"I volunteered and we took first, and won the rodeo," Scharton said. "I was very, very lucky."

He returned to Sonora earlier this month at the 2014 Mother Lode Round-Up, competing under Billy Scharton Team. With Serafin Robles as the shankman, and Ryan Nuckols as the rider, the trio took first and earned $1,651.50.

"It's awesome," Scharton said. "Hometown rodeos are always harder. To be able to do it in front of friends and family - knowing everybody - it was very awesome. It was surreal."

Scharton is in his third season competing for the Xtreme Bronc Riding Association, and through two events is in second place in the 2014 National Standings behind back-to-back champions TeamAgin.com, of Los Alamos.

After a runner-up finish at last weekend's Marysville Stampede, the Billy Scharton Team increased its total winnings to $2,245.50.

"I feel it's going great," Scharton said of the team's season. "To be able to go out and win my home rodeo was huge. To follow it up with a second place at Marysville was really good."

Xtreme Bronc Riding may seem like a thriving event, but cowboys are only paid when they place.

"It's not a PRCA event," Scharton said. "You can't really make a living out of it. Not every rodeo has the event. You have to have a day job that will give you time off. It's not an easy thing to do sometimes. We travel on our own dime, pay our own entry fees. You're not going to get rich by doing it."

Luckily for Scharton, competing in his hometown allowed his team to stay above the red this time around.

"In Sonora, we made money on the deal," Scharton said. "I didn't have to pay for a hotel room because I had a bed back home. Gas and entry fees were covered, plus we had a little extra money."

Despite taking second at the Marysville Stampede, Scharton said his team broke even when it factored in food, lodging and transportation expenses.

To make ends meet, Scharton, 32, works as a heavy equipment operator for N.A. Degerstrom in Nevada.

Although Xtreme Bronc Riding isn't a high-paying sport, it's the battle with the horse that makes competing worthwhile.

"I love it," Scharton said. "We usually go right after the national anthem. After you hear that national anthem, that rush, that feeling you get, it's just pure adrenaline. From the crowd watching it, it looks like a bunch of crazy people, but it's a more controlled chaos. You have a game plan. You know what you want to do. It's just a heck of a rush."

Scharton's team has only competed in two official rodeos, and with how well they fared in both, he has high expectations for the rest of the season.

Up next for the team is the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo in Santa Barbara County this weekend.

"The ultimate goal right now is to be in the top six to make the finals at the end of the year," Scharton said.